Footsteps in the Forest

The 7 Best Dry Bags

Waterproof Bags for Every Situation

Desert-dwelling hikers and mountain bikers aside, just about every outdoor enthusiast will benefit from having a dry bag on hand. The first time you spill out of your yak or keep hiking through a downpour, you’ll love knowing that your phone will survive, and your dry clothes will remain dry.

But it’s important to purchase the best dry bag for your specific needs – they vary in a ton of different ways. We’ll try to help you do exactly that below, by sharing some of the best dry bags on the market.   

The 7 Best Dry Bags

We’re starting with our list, but be sure to scroll down to our buying considerations section if this is the first time you’re buying a dry bag. Better yet, check out our complete dry bag 101 guide to learn everything you’ll need to know.

With that said, let’s move on to our specific dry bag recommendations.

1. Pelican Marine IP68 Waterproof Phone Pouch [Best Cell Phone Dry Bag]

Pelicanoutdoor.com

Of all the things you need to keep dry while enjoying the great outdoors, few are as important as your phone.

And while you can just chuck your phone in a larger dry bag with the rest of your stuff, this means you can’t access your phone, navigate with your favorite trail app, or listen to tunes without digging through the bag. But a good cell phone dry bag – like Pelican’s model – will let you do all these things while keeping your phone dry.

Now, there are tons of cheap cell phone pouches on the market, but most are glorified sandwich bags.

By contrast, Pelican’s Waterproof Phone Pouch is made from durable PVC, comes with a real lanyard strap, and is IP68 certified – something few “economy” phone pouches can claim. This means it’ll keep your phone dry even if submerged in up to 1 meter of water for at least 30 minutes.  

Best of all, Pelican’s phone case comes with built-in air cushions. These help protect your phone from impacts and mean that the whole thing floats, thereby making it much easier to find your phone should it fall in the water.

There are certainly cheaper cell phone dry bags on the market, which are available for about half the price of the Pelican. But do you really want to risk your $1,000 phone to save 10 bucks or so?

  • Size: Standard / Extra-Large
  • Material: PVC
  • Straps: 1 Lanyard Strap
  • Number of Compartments: 1
  • Level of Water Protection: Waterproof; IP68-rated (submersible)

Budget-Friendly Alternative: JOTO Waterproof Phone Pouch

Again, we think the difference in price between an “affordable” waterproof phone case and Pelican’s model is negligible, especially in comparison to the cost of a new phone. But if you really need to save every dollar possible, the JOTO Waterproof Phone Pouch is a reasonable option.

With more than 80,000 reviews and a 4.5-star rating, it’s clearly worked for many customers. However, the majority of these people are using this case at the pool rather than on the trail or river.

It comes with a lanyard strap and allows you to use the touchscreen or take photos, but a few customers complained it was somewhat tight-fitting on larger cell phones. Additionally, it doesn’t offer any protection from drops, nor does it float.

2. Pelican Marine IP68 Waterproof Dry Bag [Best Small Dry Bag]

Pelicanoutdoor.com

It shouldn’t be shocking to see Pelican taking both of the top spots – they dominate the entire protective case product category.

Like their cell phone case, the 2L/5L dry bag is well-built, easy to use, and best of all, effective. It’s available in two sizes and three colors, features a multi-function carrying strap, and comes with a built-in see-through cellphone compartment, which allows you to access your phone easily.

That said, it isn’t ideal for taking photos or videos while underwater, as you’d have to use it in selfie mode. But if you’re just trying to keep track of your time or watch for alerts, it’s fantastic.

Check out our hands-on review of the Pelican Marine IP68 Dry Bag to learn more.  

  • Size: 2 liters / 5 liters
  • Material: 500d PVC-coated polyester
  • Straps: 1 multi-function strap
  • Number of Compartments: 2
  • Level of Water Protection: Waterproof; floats but is IP68-rated (submersible)

3. SealLine Discovery Deck [Best Overall Dry Bag]

Sealinegear.com

If you just want the best available dry bag around (and don’t mind forking out a bit more cash to get it), it’s hard to beat the SeaLine Discovery Deck. While it isn’t available in as many sizes or colors as more affordably priced options, it checks off all of the important boxes serious outdoor enthusiasts require.

For starters, it’s made of polyurethane-coated 300d polyester rather than PVC. This is not only better for Mother Nature, it results in a product that’s both lighter in weight and far more durable. It also features radio-welded seams, which are superior to the more common sewn-and-taped seams lower-priced options feature.  

And here’s the kicker: These bags feature an air purge valve, which allows you to eliminate excess air without exposing your gear to water. This means your bag won’t take up any unnecessary space in your pack or yak.

Yes, you’ll pay somewhere in the neighborhood of twice as much for these bags. But they still aren’t what we’d call “expensive.”

  • Size: 10L / 20L / 30L
  • Material: Polyurethane-coated 300d polyester
  • Straps: Single strap with multiple lash points
  • Number of Compartments: 1
  • Level of Water Protection: Waterproof

4. Earth Pak Waterproof Dry Bag [Best Budget-Friendly Dry Bag]

Earthpak.com

The Earth Pak Waterproof Dry Bag is a fantastic option for those who just want a functional dry bag that won’t break the bank (the largest size only costs about $42). Earth Pak bags are made from PVC-coated 500d and feature the typical roll-and-buckle closure. Best of all, they’re backed by a 5-year guarantee and made by a small, US-based manufacturer, rather than some faceless conglomerate.

This bag comes in six different sizes (5 to 55 liters) and 11 different colors (including transparent), so you’re guaranteed to find one that’ll suit your specific needs. A separate IPX8 phone case is included with your purchase to help keep your phone dry and safe while enjoying the great outdoors.

Note that these bags float, which means they’ll be easy to find if you become separated from your bag. However, they’re not designed to be submerged under water for more than 5 to 10 seconds.

  • Size: 5 liters to 55 liters
  • Material: 500D PVC fabric
  • Straps: 10L/20L bags feature a single shoulder strap; 30L/40L/55L bags feature backpack straps; 55L bag also includes a waist-belt
  • Number of Compartments: 1
  • Level of Water Protection: Waterproof

Need an extra compartment? Earth Pak’s Torrent line is exactly like their original line, except that these bags also include a splash-proof zippered pocket on the outside. The price difference between the lines is negligible, but the Torrent line does not include a 55-liter option yet.  

5. Earth Pak Summit Dry Bag Backpack [Best Backpack-Style Dry Bag]

Earthpak.com

Lots of dry bags come with straps that will allow you to wear the bag like a backpack, but that doesn’t mean they work well in this context. Webbing straps aren’t very comfy, and you’ll often find that you spend your time adjusting and futzing around with the bag on your back.

They’re really dry bags you can wear on your back. But Earth Pak makes a line of bona fide backpacks, which are also waterproof.

Fitted with real padded shoulder straps and an adjustable wait belt to fight shoulder fatigue, these bags are comfy to wear and made from the same 500d PVC material that their dry bags are made from. They also feature a reflective strip that’ll make it easier to find should it fall in the water. Throw in an exterior, splash-proof pocket and integrated MOLLE looping system for attaching extra gear, and it’s easy to see why this backpack dry bag rises above the competition.

You can get this bag in three sizes and your choice of five colors. And just to sweeten the deal, Earth Pak throws in a waterproof cell phone case.

  • Size: 35L / 55L / 85L
  • Material: 500d PVC
  • Straps: 2 padded backpack straps and an adjustable waist belt
  • Number of Compartments: 2
  • Level of Water Protection: Main compartment is waterproof; zippered exterior pocket is water resistant

6. SeaLine Pro Zip Duffel [Best Submersible Dry Bag]

Sealinegear.com

Most medium to large dry bags are capable of keeping your stuff dry while bobbing up and down in the water after falling off your kayak or paddleboard. But there aren’t many big bags that are capable of keeping your stuff dry when submerged.

To be fair, not many outdoor adventurers need this level of protection. But if you’re hauling around expensive camera equipment or heading out on a high-stakes adventure in the middle of nowhere, it’s nice to have the peace of mind a truly submersible bag offers.

Now, you’ll pay for this kind of water protection – there’s no two ways about it. But if that’s what you need, you can begin and end your search with the SeaLine Pro Zip Duffel.

Available in three sizes and three colors, this polyurethane-coated polyester-and-nylon bag features a zipper-style closure, carry handles and shoulder straps, and radio-welded seams. These bags also feature a litany of lashing points, to make it easy to store your gear securely.

  • Size: 40L / 70L / 100L
  • Material: Polyurethane-coated polyester and nylon
  • Straps: 2 shoulder straps; 4 carrying handles
  • Number of Compartments: 1
  • Level of Water Protection: Submersible

7. AquaQuest Rogue Dry Bag [Best Extra-Large Dry Bag]

Aquaquestwaterproof.com

Most people will find that a 40- to 60-liter dry bag accommodates plenty of gear, but sometimes, you just gotta carry a bunch of stuff. Fortunately, AquaQuest markets a high-quality bag that’s available in sizes up to 100 liters.

These bags aren’t designed to be submersible, but they are both polyurethane-coated and treated with durable water repellent (DWR) to keep water safely at bay. And AquaQuest’s lifetime warranty means you can purchase with confidence.

These bags feature pretty robust hardware (including two D rings), but they don’t come with many other bells and whistles, such as straps or transparent pockets. You can pick up this bag in your choice of four color patterns (most of which are camouflage).

  • Size: 10L to 100L
  • Material: Polyurethane-coated 70d nylon
  • Straps: None (though the buckles form a carry handle when connected)
  • Number of Compartments: 1
  • Level of Water Protection: Waterproof

Best Dry Bags: Buying Considerations

best dry bags
Canva

Again, we recommend checking out our dry bag 101 guide to learn everything you need to know about waterproof bags. But we’ll run down some of the basic things you’ll want to keep in mind when picking the best one for your adventures below.

  • Make sure you select a bag that’s as waterproof as you need it to be. Not all bags called “dry bags” or labeled as “waterproof” actually live up to their billing. If you just need a bag that’ll protect your gear in the event of rain, most so-called waterproof bags will work (though these types of bags are better described as being water resistant). But if you are enjoying some kind of aqua-adventure, it’s generally better to look for a bag described as waterproof (as opposed to water-resistant or splash proof). If possible, look for an IPX8- or IP68-rated bag, which should keep your electronics safe, even if submerged for some time.
  • Think carefully about the best size bag for your needs. “What size dry bag do I need?” is one of the most common questions surrounding the topic, but unfortunately, there’s no easy way to answer this. As a general trend, 5-liter bags are good enough for your phone, car FOB, some clothes, and maybe even a pair of small hiking boots, but not much else. 20- to 40-liter bags are essentially day-pack-sized, while 50-liter bags start moving into real backpack territory. And if you need a lot of capacity, there are bags in the 100-liter range, which will accommodate just about everything you could reasonably carry.
  • Opt for polyurethane-coated bags rather than PVC-coated bags if you can. PVC-coated bags are perfectly fine for budget-limited adventurers, but if you intend to use your bag frequently or want to keep expensive items inside, a polyurethane-coated bag is really the way to go. Polyurethane-coated bags are more puncture- and abrasion-resistant, and they’re lighter too. Plus, the polyurethane-manufacturing process is much more eco-friendly. All that said, they are more expensive.
  • Look for handy features, like transparent cell phone pockets and multi-function straps. Different hikers, paddlers, and mountain bikers will have different wants and needs in this regard, so you really need to take your specific circumstance into account when picking a bag. But generally speaking, high-end bags tend to come with more of these types of features than economy models. And while it may cost you a little more money at the outset, these types of features almost always pay for themselves (at least in terms of comfort and peace of mind).
  • Whenever possible, opt for bags that’ll stand up on their own. In terms of performance on the trail (or water), this isn’t an important criterion. But bags that stand up on their own are much easier to pack and unpack.

Can You Make Your Own DIY Dry Bag?

Canva

Eh, sure. But it’s not really worth it.

If you have some PVC-coated fabric and a radio welder just laying around (as so many of us do), then have at it.

And sure, people have devised some ways to make dry bags without the need for specialized tools or materials. The version provided in the video below doesn’t even require you to stitch anything.

But none of this takes away the simple fact that these kinds of projects take tons of time.  Personally, I’d rather just buy an affordably priced dry bag and get outside rather than spend a weekend in the garage.

If you’re really strapped for cash, you can use high-quality plastic sandwich bags, at least for small items. But once you scrape together the dough, go ahead and just rip the band-aid off.

Dry bags are easily one of the most helpful items to have in your outdoor arsenal.

Before signing off, we’ll offer one more piece of advice when choosing your dry bag: Read product reviews left by other people, but this is one case in which negative reviews are not always helpful. There is a ton of room for user error in; the world of dry bags and many worthy products become sullied by sour reviews left by people who simply didn’t use the bag correctly.

With all that said, we turn things over to you.

What did we get wrong? Have you tried any of these dry bags and found they didn’t work as advertised? Are there any great dry bags we missed? Do you have any cool dry bag use tips to share?

Let us know in the comments.

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