The Best Dry Bags for Kayaking, and Multi-Purpose Use

Image of some dry bags being tested

If you plan on bringing any sort of item with you on your kayak, you’re probably going to be concerned about how to keep them dry. This is especially important if you plan on doing any sort of camping.

Food, electronics, camping gear — all of these are things that need to be protected.

This is part of why dry bags are so essential, being made from waterproof materials (generally vinyl or nylon) to keep your items dry.

But there are many different ways to kayak and many different bags on the market. This means that finding the best dry bags for kayaking is a process that requires a lot of thought.

Let’s begin with the basics.

Image of the Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack

Our Top Picks:
Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack

A lightweight dry bag that comes in all sizes. The best choice when looking for smaller size dry bags for kayaking!


Image of the OXA Roll Top Closure Dry Bag

OXA Roll Top Closure Dry Bag

A cool easy to use bag with a comfortable strap. The best choice when looking for a 20L dry bag for kayaking!

What Makes A Good Dry Bag?^

Size^

Perhaps the most important thing about choosing a dry bag, especially for kayak camping, is its size.

In general, multiple smaller dry bags are easier to pack in a kayak than one larger one. If you are using a sea kayak, this is especially the case.

A rule of thumb is to buy your bag based on the kind of items you are packing.

5-liter bags are designed for smaller personal items, while a 20-liter bag may be able to carry a small sleeping bag or several sets of clothes.

Different kayaks have different storage options, so don’t buy anything until you look over your boat and see how much space you have to work with.

Color^

Image of a color palette shown in pencils
Normally, color is the last thing you think of when it comes to items unless you are trying to make a fashion statement.

However, there may be a good reason to choose different colors if you plan on buying multiple dry bags: organization.

Color-coding how you pack your kayak will make it easier to find certain items in a hurry.

Ease of Use^

Another thing to keep an eye out for is how the bags close. You are likely to come across two main closure types: roll tops that you roll then seal with a buckle, or a zipper seal, which is closer to a freezer bag.

Both are effective, but zipper seals may require lubrication to properly get the seal you need over time.

The final major factor to keep in mind while you are shopping for a dry bag is the features that come with it.

Because dry bags are not going to be put on top of a deck or carried on your person while kayaking, as opposed to boating, hooks, clasps, or rings designed to attach them together or to a boat aren’t really needed.

One thing that you should think about, though, is a strap or straps to help you carry them. While you won’t carry them in your kayak, any trip where there is portage will be a lot easier.

Keep in mind, though, unlike backpacks, all dry bags, even with straps, are not designed to be carried around for long periods of time.

There also may be additional pockets or pouches that may help you organize your items better—but make sure these are waterproof also.

One final important thing: do not make the mistake of thinking that waterproof equals submersible.

Some bags can be held underwater, others can only be done for a short period of time, and others cannot at all. If you can’t find this out, ask the company/employee before buying.

The 4 Best Dry Bags for Kayaking^

Here are a few of the top sellers in dry bags, along with my own personal impressions:

The Top Dry Bag at 20L+^

This OXA bag uses a rather interesting technique to secure your items, and with a 20 liter capacity but a weight of only one pound, this bag is quite lightweight!

The first thing you are going to notice, especially if you are new to shopping for dry bags is that there is no zipper or strap to close the bag. Instead, after loading the bag, you fold the edge opening 3 times and lock the buckle.

The #1 Choice for 20L+

OXA Roll Top Closure Dry Bag

Image of the OXA Roll Top Closure Dry Bag

You will want at least one bigger dry bag, and for kayaking this one’s your best choice!

I mention this because some Amazon reviewers have mentioned not having any instructions and being confused at first.

In my personal experience, after doing it a few times, sealing this bag became nearly second nature. It’s not difficult, just different.

If you might need to carry this bag around, there are also two adjustable, detachable shoulder straps on each bag.

These straps seemed to be decently strong, but I wasn’t overpacking the bag, so I can’t say whether or not it would hold up.

It’s not likely that you will be carrying your dry bag much while kayaking, so the detachability is a nice plus.

The bag itself is made from 500D PVC Tarp and was able to keep my important items dry, even when I tested it in the water. I would recommend waiting until you are comfortable with the roll top sealing before trying that, though.

Also, OXO says this is not designed to be submerged. Overall, if you’re willing to take on the very slight learning curve with this bag, it will perform well.

In terms of price, this is literally right in the average area along with the other bags on this list. While there isn’t much in the ways of added features, if you plan on buying multiples of these bags, this won’t be as big an issue.

If you are willing to pay a little extra, there is also a combo package with a smartphone dry bag as well. I can’t speak to the quality of this second bag, as I only used the original one in my tests.


An Awesome 3-Piece Choice^

The notion of buying “combination packages” with multiple variations of the same item are a bit of a bother for me as a shopper.

Sometimes it feels that if one part of the set doesn’t work as you liked it, you wasted your money.

The Perfect 3-Piece Set

Freegrace Waterproof Dry Bag Set of 3

Image of the Freegrace Waterproof Dry Bag Set of 3

A set of 3 different dry bags at a awesome price. Perfect if you need more than just the normal bag.

In addition, in some of my previous articles, I’ve mentioned how it’s to your benefit to research every single item you plan on buying to make sure you get the best items.

However, buying the best dry bags for kayaking takes a special approach, so I approached this Freegrace set with an open mind.

First, the specifics.

This set of three includes a dry bag with double zip-lock seals, made from 500D tarpaulin.

The main dry bag certainly performs well, keeping my items dry even with a submersion test.

In addition, the shoulder strap held up well even with a full load. This could be very helpful if you plan on a lot of portage.

The second part of the set is a waterproof pouch.

Freegrace says that this is designed more for important items like your wallet, keys, and cash if needed. I actually really like the idea of this pouch, as it is useful no matter how you like to kayak.

If you are taking a more casual afternoon, this will keep your valuables safe. If you are doing a more extensive kayaking trip, this will help keep these same items dry.

An added benefit is that they are organized, though. You don’t have to worry about losing them along with other items in a more crowded dry bag.

The third item is a waterproof phone carrier.

I don’t really tend to use these often personally, but in my testing, it seemed to work well, and the majority of Amazon reviews discussing the phone pouch are positive.

Overall, I find that the people who are going to get the best use out of this set are those who are just starting to kayak for the first time.

If you already have some dry bags and are looking to upgrade, you may not need all three of these components, but newcomers will not only enjoy the added organization this set offers but will also find it a very affordable way to keep their valuables dry.


The Top Choice When Looking for Small Dry Bags^

Before beginning the review for this dry sack, I want to mention that there are a variety of different sizes for sale here, ranging from 1 liter to 35 liters. The bag I was testing here was the “Medium” 8-liter bag.

The major selling point that Sea to Summit puts regarding this bag is its light weight.

The #1 Small Dry Bags for Kayaking

Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack

Image of the Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack

A lightweight dry bag that comes in all sizes. The best choice if you want several small bags!

I find that bag weight isn’t super important for kayakers. After all, it’s not likely you will be carrying it around a lot.

However, for kayak camping with a lot of portage or those who plan on using this bag for kayaking and other activities, it may serve as a potential positive.

While this sack was able to keep things perfectly dry while in my kayak, it is not designed for being fully submerged, so keep this in mind.

Overall, while I found that this sack performed well enough, the largest appeal here is its lower price, especially for the larger sizes.

This isn’t to say that this bag isn’t worth buying. In fact, I find that a cheaper price means that this is a good choice if you are beginning to organize a kayak trip and find you need a few cheap extra bags.

In addition, if you participate in a lot of watersports, this is a good multi-purpose.

Its great sales on Amazon point in this direction, suggesting that the bag is not only a great bag for kayaking, but a good dry bag overall.


The Best Multi-Purpose Dry Bag^

It isn’t necessarily likely that you will be wearing a backpack during the actual act of kayaking. However, the idea of a waterproof backpack carries a lot of potential appeal.

I felt that this warranted a review. If your trip will include a heavy amount of porting, this could save a lot of headaches, while still being able to be used as a proper dry bag while you are paddling on your boat.

The #1 Multi-Purpose Dry Bag

Chaos Ready® Waterproof Backpack

Image of the Chaos Ready® Waterproof Backpack

One of the best dry bags on the market! If you need a hybrid bag, this is your choice.

In theory, this should be the best of both worlds.

First, let’s take a moment to discuss the layout of this backpack.

The main dry compartment is made from tarpaulin. However, there are also two mesh compartments on the sides as well as one smaller front compartment.

None of these other three are waterproof. The intention is that they can serve as holders for other waterproof items like bottles or gloves if needed.

However, the main compartment indeed delivers on its promise of an air-tight seal. So, as a waterproof bag, it will serve well.

In addition, walking around with it shows that this succeeds as a backpack as well. The straps feel both comfortable and secure, and the weight was not off putting.

Note that this backpack also floats in water.

This can be a major plus if you plan on storing sensitive items in it.

The one issue with this bag is its size, with a 22-liter main compartment. I’ve mentioned both here and in other articles that it’s often better to buy multiple smaller bags. This holds true here, as putting one backpack in your kayak will take up a lot of space.

With this in mind, I do not recommend this for sea kayaking.

However, for more hybrid excursions, this makes for a great niche product.


Dry Bags In Review^

Ultimately, understanding what makes a proper dry bag boils down to the type of kayaking trip you tend to take.

The more you bring with you, the fewer options you will have. The same applies if you are going in rougher waters.

When you are shopping for the best waterproof dry bag for you, here’s three main things to keep in mind:

  • What is going in this bag?
  • Where do I plan on stashing it on my kayak? Will it fit?
  • Do I need any certain features? (Straps for portage, etc.)

Keeping these things in mind mean that you’ll be in the perfect position to make the best dry bag choice for your next trip.

This applies to one of the four bags here or another of the many options out there. Happy Kayaking!

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