The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of gear

How We Tested Dry Bags

By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Saturday June 6, 2020
Off we go for another day of testing dry bags at the beach!
Off we go for another day of testing dry bags at the beach!

Here at GearLab, we pride ourselves on pushing our gear to the limits. From standard use cases to fringe one-offs, we try it all with gusto and thoroughness. Following is a discussion about how we tested the four metrics we used to test and score each of our dry bags.

Waterproofness


The ability to keep water out and your gear dry is the most important job of a dry bag so this metric was weighted the most heavily. To test each product's capacity in this metric, we first exposed them to regular recreational use. We used them for paddle boarding, beach days, backpacking, and river trips and took careful notes about the level of water exposure they received and how the internal contents fared. We then subjected them to more rigorous testing. We sprayed them with hoses and held them under running faucets. Each product was filled with towels, closed according to the instructions, and held underwater for 30 seconds. The towels and inside of the bag were then evaluated for water or even slight dampness. We also filled each bag with water and upended them to see what leaked out. And last but not least, we attached each bag filled with dry towels to a leash on the back of our watercraft and dragged them through a lake for 30 minutes.

Each model was dragged through the water for 30 minutes.
Each model was dragged through the water for 30 minutes.

Ease of Use


We set out to determine how each product packs, how it carries, and how simple it is to retrieve contents during an activity. We weighed them and measured them and compared that to their capacities. We evaluated closure methods and carry contraptions and lash points for their usability and convenience. We accessed contents in kayaks and backpacks and on beaches. When all was said and done, we'd used each model for a wide variety of adventures and packed everything from clothes to cameras to sleeping gear inside.

One of the criteria for this metric was how the product carried.
One of the criteria for this metric was how the product carried.

Features


Certain models are best suited for specific objectives. In order to tease out the specialists, we thoroughly investigated and used the individual features of each product. We paid particular attention to the closure system and the lash points and made note of any unique characteristics like backpacking straps and pockets.

Models built for specialty purposes often have unique features.
Models built for specialty purposes often have unique features.

Durability


To best assess durability, we spent months subjecting these products to regular use and abuse. We judged each on the material of the main body and the features, such as clips and straps. We scrutinized seams and special features. We evaluated closure-systems and how well they stay sealed during use. And to be thorough, we also scoured the internet for other user complaints and tried to root out potential weak spots of each model.

We investigated how easily a product was damaged with casual use.
We investigated how easily a product was damaged with casual use.