Dry Bags for Kayaking: What You Need to Know

Dry bags are one of the kayaker’s most convenient and useful gear items whether you’re on the water for a couple of hours, a full day or a multi-day trip.

bikerafters on the water

Dry bags are a must for paddle trips (photo courtesy of @fourcornersguides)

A dry bag, as its name implies, keeps things dry. When your chosen activity is on the water, that’s important! Dry bags come in different sizes, materials and styles. Here’s an overview of what’s out there and how you can use them.

Materials Dry Bags are Made With

A couple of different materials and coatings are used in making waterproof and water-resistant dry bags:

  • PVC/Vinyl—is a naturally waterproof material used in many dry bags of all sizes and styles. These are the most durable, the most watertight but also the heaviest. If you’ll be portaging quite a bit, consider using a combo of vinyl and the lightweight nylon bags when you can. Vinyl dry bags usually come in various solid colors, but can also be clear, which can be handy to keep your packing organized.
  • Nylon—Dry bags made from lightweight nylon use a waterproof coating. Combined with taped seams it can still be mostly waterproof, although look at the fine print. Dry bags made from nylon are very lightweight and easy to pack. Be careful with sharp objects, though, so you don’t puncture a hole through it.

When choosing the colors of your dry bags, consider high-viz colors if you’ll be portaging. You don’t want your bag to blend in with the surrounding environment too much, lest it get left behind (speaking from experience here!).

Some dry bags will float, especially if they’re not filled to the brim. A handy benefit in the unfortunate event that it ends up in the water.


Whether you canoe, kayak, paddle board or packraft you can use dry bags! (photo courtesy of @hikkaidowilds)

How Dry Bags Close

Most dry bags close through a roll-top and D-ring system. When filling them with gear, be sure to leave enough room to roll the top down at least three times to ensure watertightness.

Some dry bags compress to save space—great for storing clothing, sleeping bags and other soft items. You’ll see a couple options in the list of manufacturers below.

Some dry bags use a zipper closure, especially duffels. When doing your research, be sure that zipper is fully watertight if you plan to pack it on a paddle board or other spot where it’s exposed.

Other dry bags have zippered side pockets that aren’t watertight. So, again, read the fine print so you know what you’re getting.

Dry Bag Sizes and Uses

Dry bags come in all sizes from 2-liter to 110-liter and more. A set of smaller waterproof dry bags (5 to 35 liter) work well for combining gear and apparel inside a larger pack. That way your larger pack doesn’t necessarily need to be waterproof.

Or you can go with a large watertight backpack for portaging. Combine that with lightweight nylon dry bags and you have the same ability to keep your things organized and dry.

Smaller bags are great for storing small items like your keys and ID, a First Aid kit, sunglasses and snacks for the day. Larger bags are great for clothing, extra shoes and general gear. A dry bag works great as a food pack, too, the size depending on how many people in your group.

dry bags and tents at a packraft campsite

There are dry bags and packs of all shapes and sizes (photo courtesy of @thewildindiangirl)

Dry Bag Manufacturers

There are many companies worldwide that make dry bags. If there’s a local paddlesports retailer you already shop with, start there to see what brands and styles they sell. That’ll give you a chance to feel the material, see how big each size really is and how heavy each one will be to carry.

Here are some dry bag manufacturers you can check out online, too:

  • NRS—From small nylon bags to oversize vinyl packs. Their 110-liter Bill’s Bag is perfect for a personal canoe pack.
  • Sea to Summit—A wide variety of sizes, materials and uses. They’re very well known for their dry bags and sacks, including a couple models of compression dry sacks.
  • Seal Line—Offers a couple sets of clear dry bags for easy organization, plus a few sets of colored bags. They also sell a vinyl dry bag repair kit.
  • Dry Case—Small dry bags from 1.5 to 10 liters plus 20-35 liter backpacks suitable for day packs or multi-day waterproof packs.
  • Earth Pak—Makes a half-dozen different styles of vinyl dry bags and backpacks that each include a waterproof phone case.
  • Unigear—Each dry bag comes with a waterproof phone case. Lots of color choices.
  • Skog A Kust—Extra colorful options, even beyond the standard solid colors. Dry bags, day packs and backpacks.
  • Ultra Dry Adventurer—Each dry bag comes with waterproof phone case. They also offer a waterproof waistpack, great for keys, ID and cash.
  • Watershed—Of special note for paddlers are the backpacks and kayak bags. They use a military-grade waterproof fabric.

sea kayakers on Lake Superior

All the gear for a multi-day kayak camping trip can fit in dry bags inside the sea kayaks (photo courtesy of Sharon Brodin)

Do you have paddle questions our friendly Customer Service Team can help you with today? Content them: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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