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A rugged backpack is great for most travelers, but if you’re taking a more extreme vacation, or spending a lot of time outdoors, it may be wise to invest in a dry bag.
As the name suggests, the best dry bags are waterproof sacks that keep your contents organized, secure and — most importantly — dry. Made from waterproof materials (think industrial-grade PVC that has a thick, rubbery texture), dry bags are an essential part of any outdoor kit, great for camping and hiking, and especially great if you’re going to be out on the water. The best dry bags will completely seal out moisture (and dust and dirt and debris), and they’ll actually float on water too. Going paddle boarding or planning a lazy day tubing down the river? Attach these versatile dry bags to your board or innertube and let your stuff float alongside you.
We like picking up smaller dry bags for our emergency kits as well. Stash your important documents, family heirlooms and other valuables inside a dry bag to keep everything safe, say, in a storm or natural disaster. These waterproof bags are also great for storing food and tools — great for a car or home survival kit.
We’ve found some popular dry bags that offer a ton of storage space, with spacious main compartments for larger items (think shoes, books and electronics) and smaller pockets for your keys, ID and accessories. The main compartment in dry bags either seal shut with locking plastic strips (kind of like a Ziplock bag) or fold down and clip shut with a roll-top design and locking buckle. Keep in mind: you’ll want to squeeze most of the air out of the bag and then fold down 2-3 times along the top of the bag to get a tighter seal. The more tightly it’s folded, the better its waterproof performance. The smaller pockets on dry bags zip shut, and all the seams of these waterproof bags are thermowelded to prevent any water from seeping in.
1. Earth Pak Waterproof Dry Bag
One of the best dry bags in the market, we like this Earth Pak Waterproof Bag for its rugged construction, super strong D-rings, reinforced seams, and roll-top closure, which seals out any water, dust or debris.
Earth Pak produces their bags using a thick 500D (500 denier) PVC material, which is scratch-resistant and waterproof. PVC also has a longer lifespan than a traditional PE material (the stuff tarps and tents are often made from). The company says the seams are then thermowelded shut to provide a watertight seal.
This bag has a main zipped compartment along with an outer pocket, that’s great for storing small accessories like keys, sunglasses, ID and wallet. The outer pocket zips shut and is completely splash-proof, to keep you valuables dry and secure.
The Earth Pak Waterproof Bag is available in four sizes, with 10L, 20L, 30L and 40L capacities.
PROS: Super well-constructed bag that can really take a beating. This set comes with a bonus waterproof pouch for your phone or camera.
CONS: Only comes with one strap, which limits how you can carry the bag; other options on our list come with two straps so you can wear it like a backpack.
2. Boncas Waterproof Dry Bag
This dry bag is made from heavy-duty PVC tarpaulin, with plastic buckles and D-rings that hold up to water, wind, snow and all other extreme weather conditions. Its lightweight design is comfortable and easy to carry, and the bag comes with two adjustable backpack straps. Use the straps to carry the bag over your shoulders, or to attach the bag to your kayak, raft or innertube.
The wider base of this bag lets you pack in a ton of stuff. A back pocket keeps your valuables close by, while a mesh pocket in the front is great for stashing your outdoor gear and for keeping damp items separated.
PROS: Choose from six different colors. Set includes bonus waterproof phone pouch.
CONS: The mesh pocket is a nice touch but it doesn’t stretch out that much to fit a lot of stuff.
3. arteesol Waterproof Bag
With a ton of bright colors available and a sleek, modern design, you’ll never lose or mix up your dry bag again. This bag comes in four sizes (5L, 10L, 20L, and 30L) and promises to completely seal out water, dust and dirt.
The company uses an industrial-grade polyvinyl tarpaulin (a.k.a. PVC tarp) to create a lightweight yet durable bag. The material is fully air-tight and waterproof.
Carry it using the top handle, or with the two adjustable shoulder straps.
PROS: Available in a 5L capacity for when you just need a small day bag for your everyday carry.
CONS: The material is a little thinner than other bags on our list, so this may be better suited to less aggressive adventures. Some say the zippers need a little time to break in.
4. Freegrace Waterproof Dry Bag
Protect your gear — no matter the size — with this well-made set from Freegrace.
The set includes a large dry bag, a waterproof pouch (say, for your camera and wallet), and a waterproof phone case. The phone case is touch sensitive, so you can still talk, text and take photos with the phone fully sealed inside.
Unlike the the other bags on our list, which use a roll-top design, this bag features double zip-lock seals that offer better protection if your bag is accidentally submerged in water.
Carry the bag using the top handle or shoulder strap. The pouch has an adjustable waist strap as well.
What we like: a clear front panel lets you see what’s inside the bag.
PROS: Ten different colors available. Set includes three different-sized bags to give you more options for holding your stuff.
CONS: The double locking seals can get stiff in the winter, and will need to be oiled to close smoothly and securely.