The Best Dry Bags of 2020
Best Overall Dry Bag
Watershed Colorado Duffel
You can expect your gear to stay dry no matter how rowdy the water gets with the Watershed Colorado Duffel. This bag is built with performance in mind. Its innovative ZipDry seal closure combined with its classic duffel design makes it perfect for overnight river trips. Unpacking is a breeze when you are ready to set up camp, and the comfortable neoprene grip makes hauling it to shore an easy task. Six heavy-duty, Duraflex D-rings provide numerous options for attaching it to your craft, and its heavy-duty material holds up to the wear and tear of regular use no matter your watersport of choice.
At 75.5 liters, this bag is a little big for day trips and takes up quite a bit of space in a kayak or on a paddleboard. It also carries a hefty price tag. For the serious river adventurer, however, the Colorado Duffel is worth the investment, especially if you plan to carry expensive hydrophobic equipment like electronics. This model is the perfect bag for the diehard river goer and is our favorite product in this review.
Read review: Watershed Colorado
Best Bang for the Buck
Sea to Summit Big River
The Sea to Summit Big River features a classic roll-top design and is made out of 420D nylon, making it both lightweight and durable. Its material also lends to flexibility, so it's easy to stuff into any available crevice on your rig. It features four welded TPU lash patches and two plastic D-rings, which allow you to easily fasten it to your watercraft of choice. It has high scores across the board and a low sticker price.
While it may not be 100% waterproof, the Big River keeps items completely dry when splashed and only lets in a minimal amount of water when fully submerged. It may not be your ideal bag if you know it's going to spend a lot of time directly in the water, or you plan to carry a camera or tablet inside. If you plan to use it "just in case" and store it on-board your paddleboard or kayak, however, this is the perfect balance of quality and price. We love this product for casual days out on the water.
Read review: Sea to Summit Big River
Best For a Tight Budget
Outdoor Products 3-Pack All Purpose
The Outdoor Products dry sacks are a set of three bags of varying sizes to keep your small items organized. This multipack comes with a 2, 4, and 10-liter bag all for one very low price. Coated with polyurethane, these ripstop bags are lightweight and very useful when you just need to bring a few little things in your boat or keep sunscreen from exploding all over the inside of your luggage. Though not intended for submersion, these sacks are fairly water-resistant, easily protecting your belongings from storms or quick drops in the lake. They're simple and straightforward to use and are almost ridiculously inexpensive.
However, they're not the most intensely protective bags we tested. All three work just fine against water droplets, but none are airtight. Prolonged submersion does eventually let water into the bags and leaves their fabric slightly damp. They aren't the most impressively constructed bags either, and probably won't be the last dry bags you ever purchase. The 10-liter bag is also very long and skinny — though still totally functional, this can make packing and finding things difficult. While these three little pouches aren't without their flaws, they offer impressive value for what you pay and are a great addition to add some light protection to your belongings without breaking the bank.
Read review: Outdoor Products 3-Pack
Best for Traveling
YETI Panga 50
Yeti products are known for their durability, and the Panga does not disappoint. It's made out of thick, laminated, high-density nylon and closes via an innovative HydroLok zipper. This practically bombproof construction not only keeps water out but traps air in. With comfortable shoulder straps and a fairly rigid shape, this bag is an excellent travel dry pack.
Exceptional durability and travel-ready design come at a cost. The Panga weighs 5.2 pounds when empty and costs an arm and a leg. However, these drawbacks are minor if you are transporting electronics in a super wet environment, or you are looking for a seriously waterproof, airplane-ready, cover-all-your-bases pack for your next international adventure.
Read review: YETI Panga 50
Best Sleeping Bag Stuff Sack
Sea to Summit eVent Compression
Headed on a backpacking trip to the Pacific Northwest or somewhere else with high annual rainfall? The Sea to Summit eVent Compression is a must-buy for your sleeping bag. This stuff sack is remarkably waterproof and will keep your down water-free and lofty. The eVent allows air to escape so it can easily be compressed but prevents water from getting sucked back in. It is also really lightweight, so you can leave your extra-ounce worries at the trailhead.
The eVent Compression looks just like a stuff sack and is thus best treated as one. With no D-rings or other lash points and thin, lightweight material, it belongs inside another bag and doesn't function well as a multi-use model. While it may not be incredibly versatile, it excels as a waterproof stuff sack and is an excellent addition to any backpacker's kit. After all, who doesn't want to crawl into a dry sleeping bag at the end of a long day hiking in the rain or floating down a river?
Read review: Sea To Summit eVent Compression
Best for Long Hauls
NRS Bill's Bag
If you're headed out on big waters for a long adventure, the NRS Bill's Bag has got you covered. It's the same simple design as any little roll-top bag but with some upgrades and a whopping 110-liter capacity. A flexible storm flap along the opening helps to seal this behemoth bag better while a single velcro strip inside makes lining it up for rolling it down even easier. With four straps to hold the top closed and cinch it down tight, this oversized bag becomes a much more manageable size. Comfortable backpack straps help you easily haul it out of the raft and up to camp each evening and back down the bank every morning. To pack it into your craft more easily, the entire backpack harness easily comes off in a few seconds with the same kind of handy clips used to close it. And unless you plan for your bag to become trapped under a rapid for prolonged periods, its thick TobaTex construction with double sewn and welded seams will keep your things dry through most misadventures.
With that being said, the Bill's Bag will leak if really under duress. It does much better packed completely full, so if you don't have 110-liters of stuff to bring with you, you might consider the 65-liter size instead. Its exceptional size also makes it difficult to stay organized, as it is just one large compartment. You're practically forced to use additional organization sacks — fumbling around inside a wide-open 110-liter cavern without any sort of system is likely to make you more than a little frustrated. But with some extra tricks, the added space can easily encompass your regular travel bag, backpack, or camera bag in its depths. If you've got a summer's worth of clothes and gear heading into the Amazon rainforest or on a small fishing boat, the capacity and easy-to-use design of the Bill's will help keep your life drier.
Read review: NRS Bill's Bag
Best for Emergency Preparedness
Matador Droplet XL Packable
Matador specializes in making great performance gear that's absurdly packable, and that's exactly what they've done with the Droplet XL. The larger cousin to the 3-liter Droplet, the XL version provides a full 20 liters of space and protection for whatever is inside. It's a handy oval shape, making it easier to find things and slip them in and out along the sides without needing to empty the entire bag. This is a great answer for packing sleeping bags and extra layers into a backpack or keeping a full wetsuit from dampening the rest of your duffel contents. We're impressed by how well the super-thin material holds water at bay and we love that the whole thing folds easily into a silicone droplet keychain the size of an apple.
The Droplet XL is more of a barrier than an intense dry bag. It's not rated for full submersion and is definitely not airtight. However, its biggest flaw is the exceptionally narrow top strip holding it closed. Though it keeps weight low, the requested minimum of 3 rolls of this thin strip easily pops open under even mild pressure. This issue is largely solved by adding more rolls, but the thin strip also easily becomes deformed in the silicone droplet and should be handled with care. Even inside the keychain, this whole thing weighs just under 4 ounces — the 20-liter bag by itself weighs only 1.4 ounces — leaving you no excuse to not have this super handy sack with you everywhere you go.
Read review: Matador Droplet XL
Why You Should Trust Us
Our expert team is led by water-loving gearhead, Maggie Brandenburg, and her friends. Maggie has been an adventurer of waters big and small since she was a child. From wild whitewater to serene seas, she has kayaked, rafted, canoed, and sailed all around the world. She recruits a variable army of friends and family to help test gear both on and off the water. Maggie also leads our inflatable kayak and paddling PFD reviews. Her background in science guides her to take her skills of inquiry and apply them to the testing of gear.
Testing dry bags isn't just fun; it's also objective in nature. We stuffed them full of clothes and other water-phobic things, dragged each through the water, and deliberately submerged them to see which truly did stay "dry." We even filled them with water to see how they hold up and carted them on all our water adventures. We used them while testing SUPs and kayaks, on lakes and down rivers. Our tests push the boundaries of each bag, defining the true limits of each.
Related: How We Tested Dry Bags
Analysis and Test Results
There are a variety of important factors to consider when you are on the hunt for the perfect dry bag. We put these top-of-the-line models through an onslaught of testing to best assess where each model shone and where it failed to meet expectations.
Related: Buying Advice for Dry Bags
We scored these bags purely on their performance characteristics. This way, buyers can consider bags that fit within their budget specifically, then opt for the best performance or features they can afford. Among dry bags, a higher price tag will generally get you a better bag, but price differences are moderate until you get to the high-end. While those models will cost you a pretty penny, you can be sure they'll keep your gear bone dry no matter what you go through. Some other options offer solid performance under all but the most extreme circumstances for a less-extreme price tag, like the Sea to Summit Big River. Also notable is the Outdoor Products 3-Pack, which for one low price gets you three small dry bags. They're not perfect sacks, but they offer exceptional value for what you'll pay.
The primary purpose of all of these products is right in their name — to keep your stuff dry. Therefore, waterproofness is by far the most heavily weighted metric in this review, and the winners in this category took home the greater share of our awards. You might assume anything carrying the name "dry bag" is intended to keep your stuff 100% dry 100% of the time, but performance in this category varies widely. While some products are designed to keep water completely out, others are meant to be splashproof and aren't rated for prolonged submersion. To assess each model's waterproofness, we exposed them to various wet conditions. We used them for our favorite water sports and subjected them to specific tests designed to push their limits. Some products lived up to their name, while others didn't fare quite as well.
Two models tied for top dog in this metric. The Colorado Duffel kept our stuff bone dry throughout all testing. And the Panga is so watertight, it even trapped air inside the bag. Whether faced with splashes, full-on submersion, or a 170-pound man using it as a flotation device, these two models never let a drop of water inside and no escaping air bubbles were ever visible when being submerged.
The eVent Compression surprised us with its exceptional waterproofness. This bag is lightweight and looks like your average sleeping bag stuff sack, but even after submerging it for over 30 seconds and dragging it through a lake, there was no moisture on the inside. Tons of bubbles escaped through the eVent, but this unique design feature worked great to let air out but prevent water from getting in. The similar style Outdoor Research AirPurge is also impressively waterproof, with an air-permeable but water-impermeable strip. It impressed us with its ability to keep water out, despite very thin fabric. However, when submerged for long periods of time, it began to soak up a tiny amount of water into the bag's fabric. While the contents stayed dry during our testing, we're not confident that after hours and hours of submersion we could say the same thing (let's hope that doesn't happen!) But for splashes and brief dunks, it performs impressively.
The Big River scored well above average in this metric as well, but a small amount of moisture did seep inside when it was held under for a prolonged period. Considering this bag is not intended to handle submersions, it exceeded our expectations. Only a small corner of our towel inside was wet after being fully submerged, and a coaster-sized portion was wet after it was dragged behind a kayak for 30 minutes.
The Bill's Bag is also worth mentioning in this category. Made of super-thick, 21-ounce TobaTex with both sewn and welded seams, it's well-built to keep moisture out. A hefty and unique storm flap along the top helps to make this bag watertight, though, during our testing, we discovered it also matters how you pack it. The fuller the bag is packed with gear and clothes, the better it keeps water from entering. When not totally full, the extra space inside works against this bag. Pressing against air, the Bill's closure system is much less secure but pressed tight against 110 liters of contents, the seal is watertight. It's something that requires a bit of trial and error to get it right, but finding that sweet spot is worth it.
Ultralight bags are generally not designed to be completely waterproof, but the Osprey Ultralight does a remarkable job of keeping stuff dry. While the contents of this model did get a bit moist after submerging and dragging this bag around a lake, that's really not what ultralight bags like this one are made for. Instead, this bag provides a great added layer of protection if used inside a backpack in inclement weather. The Matador Droplet XL is similar in its protection. The 15D nylon shell offers great protection against water, though you'll need to roll the top several more times than the recommended minimum of three to ensure it won't pop open under pressure.
Ease of Use
Whether you're in the middle of the river or bustling about camp packing or unpacking your gear, accessing your stuff should be facilitated, not hindered, by your carrying vessel. We set out to evaluate how easy it is to pack each model, how quickly the stuff inside can be found while the product is in use, and how each model carries from one location to another.
Once again, the Watershed Colorado Duffel is at the top of the pack. When it is unrolled, this model has a huge opening that makes it resemble a giant Ziploc bag. This shape makes it easy to pack and organize the gear inside. It's wider than it is tall, making it easy to reach the bottom and find what you're looking for without having to rip everything out. It is also simple to open and carries just like a duffel bag, with a neoprene grip on the carrying straps that is comfortable to hold even with soggy wet hands.
The Big River and Osprey Ultralight also do well in this category, with simple designs that are easy to use. Neither has any additional straps for carrying, but both have a good shape and are straightforward to pack and close. Though they are taller than they are wide, they both have good proportions that help them not be too tall and skinny. Along with the Droplet XL, these bags have oval (or rounded rectangle) bottoms that are much easier to use than strictly skinny cylinders. That being said, any bag that's taller than it is wide is a bit more challenging to root around in and pull out something hiding in the bottom. Organization and strategic packing are key, though the Matador, Big River, and Osprey are all easier to dig through than many other similar-styled packs we tested.
The eVent Compression is just as easy to stuff a sleeping bag inside as a traditional stuff sack. It has all the classic design features of your ordinary comperession stuff sack, with the bonus of keeping water out. It is an easy-to-use, waterproof model with a compression specific design.
The Sea to Summit Hydraulic features a removable backpack-style harness that makes for a tremendous hands-free carrying option. Sling it over your shoulder and free up your hands for portaging your kayak or transporting your paddleboard to and from the parking lot. The harness is also super easy to remove in-case you are looking for a more standard design. The Bill's Bag features removable backpack straps, though it lacks a full backpack-style harness. Its 110-liter capacity is less comfortable to carry without a waist belt, but the straps are much easier to remove and replace than those on the Hydraulic.
Specific features are what makes each model unique, and the manufacturers of these products have adorned them with all kinds of creative and sometimes subtle additions. We evaluated the functionality of each bag's features and kept track of the included lash points, backpack and other straps, closure systems, and any other unique additions and attributes. This metric is important to consider when trying to determine the perfect model for your specific needs.
The YETI Panga has the most impressive bells and whistles in this category. It's built like a duffel bag, but also has removable backpack straps that make for comfortable hands-free carrying. It features two internal zippered mesh pockets that help make it easier to store and find small items. The closure system is also the most unique of any of the products we tested. A large HydroLok zipper runs down the midline of the top of the bag. The zipper is heavy-duty, easy to close, and is simple to confirm that it has been completely sealed. Last but not least, the Panga boasts six lash points made of webbing for easy attachment to any craft.
The Colorado Duffel also boasts a unique and inventive closure system called a ZipDry. It looks just like a giant Ziploc baggie. Line up the grooves and press to seal. Then roll the top a few times and easily buckle it into place. This model stays securely sealed unless you perform the very specific series of actions required to open it. With the right technique, it's easy to accomplish, but definitely takes a thorough reading of the directions and some practice. The Colorado Duffel can be easily attached to a craft using any of the six included D-rings. You'll find a small one on each end and two large ones on each side. This model narrowly missed another metic with top marks due to the lack of small inside compartments. One big cavern can help small items to get lost.
The Big River has a more common design but features four welded TPU lash patches, two on each side, and two plastic D-rings at the top. With such beefy lash points, you can be confident the Big River will stay attached to wherever you fasten it to as long as your knot-tying skills are equally matched. The lip of the bag is also reinforced, which helps make a more complete seal when rolled and secured. And one of our favorite features of this bag is the white interior, which makes it so much easier to see what you're looking for than inside a dark and cavernous bag.
The Droplet XL is another noteworthy contender here. It comes tucked into a silicone case shaped like a droplet and about the size of an avocado. This entire 20-liter dry bag easily rolls up from the bottom and folds back into its little keychain container anytime you don't need it. And even including the weight of the silicone droplet, you'd be hard-pressed to find any reason not to have this ultralight, high capacity dry sack with you at all times. No other bag we tested combines this impressive capacity with such featherweight, yet effective, construction.
The Bill's Bag, Hydraulic, and SealLine Boundary all have comfortable backpack straps that can be removed when you don't need them. Both the Boundary and the Hydraulic have useful additional straps like a sternum strap and webbing waist belt to help you cart your gear easily from place to place. The Bill's Bag also has these features, but the sternum strap is so low as to be basically useless for anyone shorter than 6 feet. The Boundary's backpack harness is very involved to remove and reattach, with straps that have to be unthreaded and several straps and buckles that are left behind on the bag after the harness is off. In contrast, the Bill's Bag and Hydraulic harnesses are both easily removed by aluminum buckles, making it a matter of seconds to turn your dry bag into a backpack when you need it.
The eVent Compression is noteworthy for its unique stuff sack style design. Similar to the AirPurge, the eVent has a special panel at the bottom of the bag that allows air to escape when the bag is compressed. This allows you to easily stuff a sleeping bag inside and compress it down small enough to earn a spot as part of your ultralight backpacking kit. We like the eVent better than the AirPurge for its better compression functionality. The eVent has a lid over the top to help compress the contents, just like a regular compression sack. The AirPurge has no lid. Rather narrow compression straps to crank down on your gear combined with an exceptionally tall and narrow shape means the bag bends as you compress. This makes a fairly awkward package and also covers the daisy chain on the side, rendering it basically useless.
The Outdoor Products 3-Pack is also neat because for one of the lowest prices of any model we tested, you get not one but three dry bags. They're a little lacking in some other departments but are very convenient sizes for keeping small items contained within larger bags. The 2, 4, and 10-liter pouches give you the option to choose what size you need that day all for one minimal price.
The Earth Pak Original comes with the unique bonus of a separate waterproof phone case. We really enjoyed this added feature for pressure-sensitive phones (not electronic signature-sensing models, as the plastic is too thick) and found it useful even when we left the main bag behind.
You can't expect your stuff to stay dry if rips and tears provide unwanted water channels. To excel at its job, these products need to be tough enough to hold up to thrashings of your chosen adventure. We evaluated the (in)destructibility of the main compartment's material and the features of each model, such as clips and straps.
The YETI Panga takes the crown in this metric. Made out of super thick laminated high-density nylon, the body of this model is built to handle rocks, tree branches, and river debris, and can even stand up to the rough handling of airline baggage claims. The backpack straps are fixed with metal carabiner type fasteners that are secured to 2-ply webbing so you can have confidence that the whole package will stay in one piece no matter what conditions you journey into. We have a hard time imagining a more durable option than the Panga.
The Colorado Duffel also offers particularly impressive durability. Its polyurethane-coated nylon is resistant to tears and scratches and has the advantage of a flexible and lightweight profile. The webbing is thick single-ply nylon, and the D-rings are made out of a beefy Duraflex™ polymer that puts other plastic rings to shame. The Bill's Bag is made out of intensely thick TobaTex, with beefy straps and aluminum clips designed to see you through the worst of it. And the Hydraulic is similarly built, with impressive durable fabric and aluminum buckles.
The Osprey UltraLight is the only model to sustain a full-thickness tear during testing. Albeit a small hole, the material of this product was fragile enough to tear without us even noticing during casual use. On the plus side, even with a small hole, it still managed to keep our gear fairly dry.
From paddleboarding to whitewater expeditions, dry bags are an essential part of any water person's gear arsenal. Whether you are trying to protect expensive electronic equipment, need backpacking specific gear, or just want to avoid waterlogged clothes for the drive home from the lake, this review covers the in's and out's of the best models on the market. We spent months learning everything there is to know about these products, so you don't have to, and when it's time to pull the trigger and buy your own, you'll know exactly what to get so you can leave the water in the lake.
— Maggie Brandenburg