January 29, 2023 18 min read

The best dry bags for kayaking

Kayak with loads of accessories

Dry bags are one of the most important and useful pieces of equipment that will be on your kit list in order to keep your gear dry. On almost all kayaking and paddling trips, it is vital that you keep some stuff dry and gear organized, such as spare clothes, electronics, and medical supplies. Many of you will already know the misery of putting wet gear back on the next morning!

A dry bag allows you to relax, knowing that these items will be dry, and protected and if lost overboard, the dry bag will assist to keep them afloat and therefore saved. A reliable dry bag not only keeps your outdoor gear dry, but also protected with its unmatched durability, when resting them against rocks, stuffing them inside of your kayak, and dragging them through bushes as you get stuck into your multi-day kayaking trip.

How does a Dry Bag work?

A dry bag usually uses a very simple design to keep your stuff dry and protected. For this to be achieved, the material of the bag must be waterproof and durable. Most dry bags use the 'roll top' method to seal the opening and keep your bag shut, which requires the user to roll the top of the bag down a number of times, then secure it, often with a quick-release buckle to stop it from unraveling. A very simple, yet effective design! Some bags use extra features to ensure no ingress of water is possible, such as a waterproof zipper, but it is important to note that most dry bags that rely on only a 'zipper', are merely water resistant, not completely waterproof.

Are dry bags completely waterproof?

Dry bags are designed to be 100% impervious to water. However, like all things, there is a catch. Dry bags are waterproof, but only to a certain depth. The increased pressure felt on any object when going to greater depths, caused stress on materials and weak points such as seams and zip locks.

Eventually, the materials will be degraded, or ultimately fail, even with high-quality gear. It is therefore important that you check what depth to which your bag is considered waterproof. Naturally, for paddling trips, this should not be of any concern.

Not all dry bags are made to be equally durable

Large orange dry bag

This article focuses on great quality, reliable dry bags. However, if there is a particular bag that you really like that we have not discussed below, then take care to study the quality of the bag. The bag's ability to remain waterproof over time will greatly depend on the materials used for its construction, as well as how it has been cared for in its previous life (if buying second-hand).

There are a few different methods to test if your new bag is truly waterproof, but we recommend trying this as it will also check to see if your bag is reliable under pressure, which simulates greater underwater depth.

  1. Ensure that the outside of the bag is dry.
  2. Pour water into the bag until it is about half full (it doesn't need to be exact).
  3. Close the top of the bag, so that it is completely shut.
  4. Note: You should not have a mix of both water and air inside the bag.
  5. Now simply apply some pressure with your hand on the bag and do so for a couple of minutes. This applies force on the bags' materials, but more importantly on the seams.
  6. If there is no leakage visible on the outside of the bag, you're good to go!

Why do I need a dry bag?

It doesn't matter how advanced you are at kayaking, or how calm the water is, it only takes one mistake, or that one rogue wave to flip you over and it's game over for any loose electronics. Dry bags can be used to contain anything from sleeping bags to mobile phones. It all comes down to your own personal preference.

A dry bag allows you to take your camera or even a laptop, something you may otherwise not even consider taking on a potentially wet paddling adventure. In terms of comfort and practicality, it is strongly advisable to pack a spare, dry set of clothes and some warm clothes, just in case the weather takes a turn for the worst on overnight trips.

Packing a Dry Bag

Blue gili waterproof roll top dry bag

Packing a dry bag is as simple as you need it to be. If you want, you can just pop in all the items at once, however you may cause some damage to fragile items, especially when you place the bag down on a hard surface. Therefore, it is advisable to place the larger and softer items at the bottom of the bag and surround your smaller fragile items nearer the top.

Remember, there is only one way to reach your belongings (through the top) so ensure that items that you will frequently need and without delays, such as medical supplies and mobile phones are at the top. You can easily protect these items by wrapping them in your spare set of clothes.

What is the best dry bag size for kayaking?

There are various sizes of the dry bags which typically range from 5L to 110L capacity. A 5L dry back is an ideal day bag, which can house your smaller, important items such as your phone, keys, spare set of clothes, etc. When not in use, a 5L dry bag takes up hardly any space in your kayak or inside another backpack when rolled up.

Larger bags, such as a 110L capacity bag are more suited for a multi-day kayaking trip, which is very useful when you need to take cooking and camping equipment. When loaded up, these larger dry bags look like bergens (large hiking backpacks), which are much more cumbersome, and a bit more thought needs to go into how you will store this inside, or on top of your kayak which can really affect the center of gravity of the kayak, and therefore its overall handling performance. It is advisable to place these larger loads near the center of the kayak, just behind the cockpit.

Perhaps, the most versatile dry bag size is the 30 L bag, which is big enough for you to store a multitude of equipment, yet still small enough for you to stash it within your kayak's internal space and keep your essentials dry, an important point for multi-day trips.

Dry Bag Options

There are loads of dry bag options out there on the market which are big, small, lightweight, durable, and transparent, bags with double shoulder straps or just a single shoulder strap, bags with mesh external pockets, zippers, valves, or those with no features at all, and so on. With all of these dry bag features, finding the perfect bag can be a confusing task. Ask yourself: what am I going to use this bag for?

If you are going to be using your bag for long hikes as well as water-sport adventures, then a lightweight bag with double shoulder straps is a good place to start. If you just want durability and maximum protection and you're not concerned about comfort, then go for a heavy-duty, tough material.

Note: Generally, dry bags which are lightweight and use more sophisticated materials and construction methods, are at the upper end of the price scale.

Dry Bag Applications

Orange waterproof roll top dry bag on a paddle board

Dry bags can of course be used to keep absolutely anything dry. However, there are some interesting alternative useful applications that we've discovered. When keeping things dry, most people think of electronics and spare clothes, right?

If you are a keen angler, then a dry bag is a great way to keep your fish enclosed and stay fresh! The dry bag also separates fish from other items that you do not want to be contaminated. We will look at one dry bag in particular within this article which is specifically designed for kayak fishing.

Another awesome use for a dry bag which is simple, yet effective is to keep stuff cold. In order for the dry bag to really excel at this, a thick material that is durable and insulating is key. Simply fill the bag with ice and cool water, chuck in the beers, and enjoy cold beverages on the go.

A dry bag not only keeps items dry and cool but is a great way to protect other items from sharp objects. A common item that is used in kayak fishing and SUP boarding is a small folding anchor. Ideally, you want to keep this separate from your precious boat and fragile electronics. Check out this link for a great anchor dry bag.

Dry bags do not have to be limited to kayaking & SUP boarding. You can use dry holdall bags which incorporate shoulder straps on motorbikes, walking adventures, and cycling for example.

If you are using your dry bag for camping excursions, it may also be used to fetch water, much like a bucket, collect firewood (careful not to tear the bag), transport laundry to nearby facilities without leaving a trail of your clothes behind you and even use your dry bag as a cushion, simply by stuffing some clothes or a sleeping bag inside of it.

Dry bags may also be used within commercial activities in wet environments, especially in the offshore sector. This could include use on the upper deck of fishing boats, on oil rigs, and on wind farms, perhaps to keep the rope and other essentials dry.

Dry bags have also proven themselves to be effective for motorbike riders. A lightweight dry sack would be ideal due to its flexibility and simplicity. A bag intended for use on a motorcycle should be able to conform to the shape of the rear seat and easily be secured with bungee cords. Due to being lightweight, yet durable, they do an excellent job of not affecting the balance of the bike and keep your belongings protected from the elements and small debris from the road. Dry sacks with backpack straps are another great idea for motorbike riders and cyclists as they can be worn like a traditional rucksack, without reducing the space available on the bike and keep your gear dry.

Mobile Phone Dry Bags

This article is more focused on larger dry bags, however, it is important to note that a mobile phone dry bag is one of the most useful, and important in your water sports kit arsenal. Mobile phones are fragile things that are dear to most of us. More importantly, a vital piece of safety equipment. Mobile phone dry bags have enabled phones to be taken on wet adventures, keeping you connected to the world when you most need it.

Check out this link for a great mobile phone dry bag.


The roll-top style dry bag from GILI Sports is a fantastic bag to add to your kit list. With a 15L capacity, it is capable, yet not a burden to carry on foot or when it is strapped to the external surface of a kayak and still small enough to stuff within the internal cavities of your kayak. Unlike many other dry bags on the market, GILI always goes the extra mile and has constructed this bag with great features and build quality. GILI Sports offer various awesome dry bag options, check out this link to see what they have.

Waterproof roll-top dry bag

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • Pinch grip quick-release clip.
  • Shoulder strap with quick-release clips.
  • A great-looking print 'Save our reefs'.
  • Lightweight zipper pocket on the outside of the bag, perfect for your phone or keys!

What we like:

  • Colors available are Blue, Yellow, Turquoise, green, black, pink, or orange.
  • Gili Sports even offer a four-month payment plan which is interest-free!
  • Lightweight.


  • Only available with 15L capacity.

Cressi Dry Bag (5L, 10L, 15L, 20L)

'Cressi' is a well-known and high-quality brand that produces a wide range of water sports gear. When it comes to dry bags, sometimes you need more than just waterproof. Dry bags can protect your belongings, but this capability really comes down to the construction of the bag. This Cressi dry bag is constructed from thick PVC tarpaulin, making it tough and durable, allowing you to throw it around and remain free of anxiety about your belongings. These types of dry bags are great for heavy and sharp items such as anchors, camping equipment, and so on.

Cressi dry bag red (5L)

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • Heavy-duty material offering both protection against abrasion and excellent waterproof qualities.
  • Available in the following sizes: 5L, 10L, 15L, and 20L.
  • Single, detachable shoulder strap.

What we like:

  • Various capacity sizes are available.
  • Multiple color options are available.

What we don't like:

  • Does not have any external zip pockets for easy access items.

Dry Tube 20 Liters - Overboard

'Overboard' have produced a 20L dry bag that rivals the Cressi dry bag we looked at previously. Also made from heavy-duty PVC tarpaulin, making it waterproof, versatile, and durable. Its simple roll-top closure design makes opening and closing a stress-free operation.

Dry tube red 20 Liters

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • High strength, quality seams to ensure long life and extra leak resistance.
  • Height: 17.3“, Diameter: 9.8“, Capacity: 1200 cubic inches, Weight: 0.47kg
  • Material constructed from 600D nylon-coated PVC tarpaulin means the bag is highly durable and tough, perfect for a wide range of applications.
  • Included: Shoulder strap and carry handles.

What we like:

  • 100% waterproof and resistant to dirt and dust.
  • The PVC material can be easily wiped clean and folded away when not in use to save space.
  • A carabiner clip is included as part of the standard package.

What we don't like:

  • Unlike some other PVC-free bags, 'Overboard' has used this as the primary material for this product, which is no longer deemed as particularly environmentally friendly. Check out his article for more information on what we can do to help reduce our environmental impact.

Seattle Sports Roll Catch Cooler 32 in. Deck Bag

If you are a keen angler, this could be the bag for you!  This is a high-quality dry bag that is both heavy-duty and lightweight. Its ergonomic and efficient design means it can be easily accessed when paddling and does not change the profile shape of your kayak due to its tapered design. Its advanced construction method includes dual-layer insulation to keep your catch fresh and your gear nice and cool due to a reflective exterior to keep the sun off.

Seattle Sports Roll Catch Cooler Kayak Fishing Cooler

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • Reflective vinyl exterior with a sleek-looking color scheme.
  • RF-Welded seams ensure maximum durability and give you confidence in your waterproof bag.
  • A simple roll-top closure design provides simplicity yet high effectiveness.
  • The bag includes four simple attachment points, useful for both kayaks and SUP boards.
  • Maximum capacity: 22 L
  • Bag dimensions: 32 x 19.5 x 5 inches. Note: This is a tapered design.
  • Total empty weight: 2 lbs

What we like:

  • Shaped to fit the natural shape of your kayak, avoid snags as you pass by trees and rocks.
  • The dual-layer internal lining material is easily removed and wiped clean, especially important for kayak fishing.

What we don't like:

  • Specifically designed to keep anything from freshly caught fish to beers nice and cold... However, this tapered design reduces its capability to store cumbersome items.

Itiwit Kayak, SUP or sailing adjustable volume waterproof deck bag 15 to 25L

'ITIWIT' has produced a bold-looking, simplistic, snag-free design with an adjustable capacity from 15-25 L, providing enough space for your small essentials, as well as slightly larger items such as first aid kits. Unlike many other dry bags, we have previously looked at, this does not use a roll-top closure design, it instead uses neat-looking zippers with a smooth, rounded profile. Similar to the 'Seattle Sports cooler bag', this bag is also tapered, making it ideal to be attached to the deck of your SUP board or the stern of your kayak.

Itiwit kayak, sup or sailing adjustable waterproof deck bag

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • A smooth rounded profile shape, with minimalistic extras, such as an upper and lower carry loop and zippers.
  • Comes in a striking orange & gray color scheme which looks great and is highly visible in the water.

What we like:

  • The main fabric is 100% Polyvinyl Chloride providing durability and excellent waterproof qualities. The material is rated as'IPX7': waterproof for 30 minutes up to a depth of 1 meter.

What we don't like:

  • This is one of the more expensive options, retailing at £94.99 from 'Decathlon' online store.

Palm First Aid Carrier Drybag

The Palm 1st aid Drybag from 'Northeast kayaks' is a different, yet highly useful type of dry bag. It may not win any prizes for flamboyant color designs, but when the chips are down and you need something quickly, this is exactly what you want. Ideal for keeping medical supplies close to hand, dry and visible, or for keeping essential electronics dry.

Palm first aid carrier drybag transparent

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • Total Empty Weight: 85g
  • Dimensions: 18 x 15cm
  • Constructed from transparent PU-coated 420D waterproof material, giving it has durable, yet lightweight qualities.
  • Taped and welded seams ensure ultimate water resistance even when fully submerged.
  • A basic, yet highly effective roll-top closure design provides simplicity and efficiency.
  • A D-ring attachment point on its' external surface means you can clip easy-access items such as a set of waterproof speakers.
  • A carry loop positioned at the bottom of the bag enables you to grab it with ease in the water or hang it up when not in use.

What we like:

  • If you have ever started your paddling adventure and got that nagging thought in the back of your mind that you've left something important behind, then you will probably be familiar with having to go back inside your dry bag, and digging around. This dry bag removes that annoyance as you can quickly and easily peer into the bag without having to waste time and energy.

What we don't like:

  • Due to being transparent, should the bag become lost overboard, it may be harder to spot than a brightly colored bag.

Sea to Summit Hydraulic Dry Bag - 35L

'Sea to Summit has created another high-quality waterproof dry bag that is big enough to keep your medical supplies, sleeping gear, and dry clothes all in one place! Its 35L capacity provides plenty of room to be generous with your load, yet can still be rolled down into a tiny space when not in use. 'Hydraulic' dry bags are designed to take some physical abuse. Their tough and durable heavy-duty material will give you the confidence to go where you haven't ventured before.

Sea to Summit Hydraulic Dry Bag

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • 'Hydraulic' dry bags not only have superior waterproof protection, but their TPU-laminated 600-denier polyester material is also UV resistant and provides some insulation and protection in very low temperatures.
  • The natural shape of the bag is oval, which when placed on the ground, provides some natural support for it to remain in the upright position. This is very useful if you have fragile items and liquids inside.
  • Total empty weight: 1 lb
  • Dimensions:28 x 13 x 8 inches

What we like:

  • Multiple colors and fantastic quality.

What we don't like:

  • A more pricey option, but this comes with assured quality and great features.

SealLine Discovery View Dry Bag - 10 Liters

This little 'SealLine Discovery' 10L lightweight dry sack is another well-thought-out design that uses translucent material so that the user can identify items without having to rummage around. We consider this one of the best drybags for kayaking, as it can be easily stored in the small internal spaces within your boat. A purge valve enables the user to squeeze any trapped out of the bag, greatly reducing the bags' volume.

SealLine discovery view dry bag 10L

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • A single purge valve for trapped air to escape.
  • Translucent sidewall material for easy kit identification, perfect for first aid kit storage.
  • Although double-stitched seams are highly popular, this dry sack actually uses fully welded seams, for even further upgraded durability and waterproof qualities.
  • The construction of this lightweight dry bag uses PVC materials, reducing nasty waste for the environment.
  • Total internal capacity of 610 cubic inches.
  • Dimensions:14.5 x 8.5 x 5 inches
  • Total empty weight:6.5 ounces

What we like:

  • The bags' side walls are made from a translucent material, allowing you to view the items inside, whilst simultaneously providing an element of privacy.

What we don't like:

  • Unfortunately, the only capacity available is 10L, which is ideal for smaller trips, but you may need a much larger bag if you are going on longer paddling trips.

NRS 65L Bill's Bag Dry Bag

'NRS Bill's Bag' has brought a rugged, 65L waterproof dry sack to the market which is highly useful and reliable both when hiking and kayaking, ideal for multi-day kayak camping. This roomy dry bag has enough space for camping gear, kayaking gear, and everything else! Its heavy-duty TobaTex lining makes it a very durable bag and should ensure it has a long life.

NRS Yellow Bill's Bag 65L Dry Bag

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • External compression straps allow you to minimize the dry sacks' surface area when fully loaded, or to shrink the entire bag if it is only partially full.
  • Total Empty Weight:3.80 lbs
  • Dimensions:14" (Diameter), 24" (Height)
  • Not only are the sidewalls made of 21 oz TobaTex material providing excellent waterproof protection and durability, but the base of the dry sack is constructed from an even thicker 34 oz TobaTex material, making this one of the most durable bags on the market when compared to other bags.
  • Adjustable shoulder straps provide comfort and stability when hiking your bag across rough terrain. A removable backpack harness is fitted, enabling you to remove this when jumping into your kayak to avoid snags.

What we like:

  • A capacity of 65L offers brilliant potential for the size and amount of items you can pack for the trip.
  • Carry straps allow you to wear this bag like a rucksack, making it versatile and practical both in and out of the water.

What we don't like:

  • It is not the lightest dry bag available, resulting from its increased durability due to the thick TobaTex material used all over.


🏆 How do I repair a puncture on my dry bag?

Just like puncture repairs on SUP boards, you can also save your dry bag. Simply apply a material puncture repair patch over the bags' perforation, and follow the instructions to ensure a well-bonded repair. A few small steps can really make the difference here - Clean the area before applying any glue and remove any loose debris such as dirt or torn strands of material, which will create an air pocket and a vulnerable point for future leaks. 

To aid the bonding of the two materials, forming a light 'key' on the material will help. Simply sand the material of the dry bag to rough it up ever so slightly, which can be done with fine sandpaper. Remember to clean away the dust and debris before applying your patch. After applying the repair patch, it's a good idea to perform a leak test. Simply fill the back halfway up with water and roll down the top, slowly applying more and more pressure on the repair area - if there is no leak, job done!

👍 How should I store my new dry bag?

Dry bags are usually hardy things and you do not need to worry about how to store them. Naturally, avoid storing sharp objects in, or around your dry bag as they may be durable and tough, but are not impervious to punctures. If left in one place for a long time, you may find that creases begin to form in your dry bag which are natural weak points, similar to creases in worn leather shoes. To avoid this, simply trap some air inside your bag as you enclose the top, which will apply some internal pressure on the bag, causing it to expand and iron out any creases in the side walls. Furthermore, it is advisable to clean the outer and inner lining of the dry bag to remove contaminants and potentially corrosive substances, such as salt water. Give the dry bag a quick wipe and leave it to air out for a short period of time, prior to storing away.

🏝️ Should I buy a lightweight bag or a heavier, more durable bag?

This really depends on what type of activity and purpose you are using the bag for. If the dry bag is going to contain small essentials and be tucked away in a small cavity within your kayak, then a small 10L transparent dry bag would be ideal. You can easily see the contents and have quick and easy access to your items. If however, you are planning on dragging your kayaking dry bag, full of bulky camping gear, sleeping bags, and various other equipment, then you're going to need to choose a more tough and durable option. This is where the heavy-duty larger capacity dry bags come into their own domain. A duty bag that is around the 30L capacity size and has external mesh pockets can be the perfect compromise as it is not too heavy that it's a burden, yet it will protect your gear and keep them dry. The external mesh pockets will allow you to view and access essential items just as you would with a transparent dry sack.

❓ What is the main difference between water resistant and waterproof?

Waterproof dry bags are completely impervious to water penetration for a specified amount of time and to a certain depth when fully submerged. Waterproof materials tend to be thicker and heavier than water-resistant materials. The typical waterproof material is PVC, Tarpaulin, and Nylon. In contrast to this, water-resistant materials are designed to prevent and resist water penetration but will not be able to stop water from passing through for a prolonged period of time and will certainly not keep internal belongings dry of submerged. Typical water-resistant materials include Polyester, Gortex, and Oil cloth.

📦 Do dry bags float?

This depends… How heavy are the items you have packed? Did you purge all of the air from the bag? Generally speaking, yes dry bags do float. However, it is wise to consider the questions mentioned above before throwing your dry bag into the water, packed full of your valuables. To ensure your bag floats, initially check that your bag is, in fact, waterproof and not just water resistant. Otherwise, not only will the bags' contents get wet, but the water will slowly enter the internal space and the bag will eventually sink. A waterproof dry bag, on the other hand, should not allow water in at all, providing the seams and lining is in good condition, and the aperture has been correctly closed. 

Remember, waterproof dry bags are only able to be submerged to a certain depth and for a specific amount of time! An easy way to ensure your bag will float is simply to trap as much air inside, as possible. This will greatly increase its buoyancy and therefore could even be used for extra stability when trying to cross rivers for example. For more bag options for expeditions, check out this best waterproof duffel bags article.

📦 Are dry bags environmentally friendly?

There are a few different factors that can affect a bag's environmental impact score. The most prominent factor is what material the dry bag is constructed from and the subsequent manufacturing process required. If possible, avoid bags that are primarily constructed from PVC material as this manufacturing process creates toxic waste products. Although this factor is indirectly helping our precious planet, you can check a company's website to see what their process is with the proceeds from sales. For instance, GILI Sports states this on their website: “Every Paddle Board purchase helps save our oceans, reefs, and endangered sea creatures. A portion of every SUP purchase goes to one of several charities we work with”. You can read more about GILI Sports here.

Jay Regan
Jay Regan

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