Best Dry Bag of 2021
|Price||$193.95 at Backcountry|
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$34.95 at Amazon
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|$22.46 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Durable, easy to use, comfortable to haul around||Very waterproof, clear window, easy to locate things, sturdy build||Super durable, completely waterproof||Very durable, easy to remove backpack straps, oversized capacity, simple metal clips||Nearly watertight, durable, lightweight, white interior helps you find things|
|Cons||Expensive, large||Flat shape is odd, extra access step||Expensive, rigid||Leaks if packed improperly, metal hooks take longer to use, tough to keep organized||Will leak under duress, no easy carry straps, seams taped not welded|
|Bottom Line||Be prepared for even the wettest adventures with this versatile and impenetrable product||A seriously waterproof bag we trust with our most sensitive items at a very nice price||This pack is completely waterproof and super durable, making it an ideal travel pack||A simple, durable backpack option, but may be over the top for simple everyday use||This fairly-priced model has a simple design, great water resistance, and good durability|
|Rating Categories||Watershed Colorado...||NRS Ether HydroLock||YETI Panga 50||NRS Bill's Bag||Sea to Summit Big R...|
|Ease Of Use (30%)|
|Specs||Watershed Colorado...||NRS Ether HydroLock||YETI Panga 50||NRS Bill's Bag||Sea to Summit Big R...|
|Weight||51.0 oz||2.3 oz||68.8 oz||65.6 oz||8.0 oz|
|Tested Size (liters)||75 L||5 L||50 L||110 L||35 L|
|Closure Type||ZipDry||HydroLock and roll-top||HydroLok zipper||Roll-top||Roll-top|
|Style||Duffel||Roll-top||Duffel||Roll-top w/ shoulder straps||Roll-top|
|Material||Polyurethane-coated nylon||30D silicone-impregnated ripstop nylon, urethane window||Laminated high-density nylon||21 oz TobaTex||420D heavy duty nylon|
Best Overall Dry Bag
Watershed Colorado Duffel
You can expect your gear to stay dry no matter how rowdy the water gets with the Watershed Colorado Duffel. This bag is built with rugged performance in mind. Its innovative ZipDry seal closure combined with its classic duffel design makes it perfect for overnight river trips. Unpacking is a breeze when you are ready to set up camp, and the comfortable neoprene grip makes hauling it to shore an easy task. Six heavy-duty, Duraflex D-rings provide numerous options for attaching it to your craft, and its heavy-duty material holds up to the wear and tear of regular use no matter your watersport of choice.
At 75.5 liters, this bag is more than a little big for day trips and takes up quite a bit of space in a kayak or on a paddleboard. It also carries a hefty price tag. However, for the serious river adventurer, the Colorado Duffel is worth the investment, especially if you plan to carry expensive hydrophobic equipment like electronics. This model is the perfect bag for the diehard river goer and is our favorite product in this review.
Read review: Watershed Colorado
Best Bang for Your Buck
NRS Ether HydroLock
When it comes to keeping your phone and other small electronics dry and sticking to a budget, the NRS Ether HydroLock is the dry bag to grab. This small capacity sack is seriously waterproof when locked closed with a beefy zipper secured by a roll-top. The roll-top actually functions more as a backup to keep the zipped seal shut than as a water-blocking barrier itself. This bag kept air inside even when fully submerged and didn't leak a drop in our reverse water testing (fill the sack with water, hold it upsidedown, and shake). Clipped to the outside of a kayak that flipped in big waves on a windy day, the Ether HydroLock stayed bone dry inside. It's built solidly, with welded side seams rather than sewn and a handy view window that makes it easy to find exactly what you need.
Of course, operating that zippered top is an extra step compared to most, though we find it well worth the effort. The "zipper" is susceptible to catching grains of sand, though, so take care when using it. Unlike most models with their three-dimensional shapes, the Ether HydroLock is totally flat. Though odd, we quickly got used to it and found it makes it even easier to locate objects inside and keep the sack laying flat when lashed to the outside of your boat or pack. For absolute protection on short day missions and afternoon lake paddles, there's no other dry sack we trust more than this one — and its comparatively low price just makes it that much more appealing.
Read review: NRS Ether HydroLock
Best Ultralight Buy on a Budget
Osprey Ultralight Drysack
The Osprey Ultralight Drysack is a simple dry bag that very much lives up to its name without breaking the bank. Made of very thin 40D ripstop nylon, this high-capacity sack weighs less than many with a quarter of the volume. Ultrathin sides allow light inside this rectangular-shaped bag, helping you more easily locate your belongings against vibrantly colored sides and a dark grey base. It lacks the extra features and frills of other options, but you won't need these with this bag stuffed inside another bag — which is how it's best used. The lack of features also helps keep the weight low and the bag easy to use.
Of course, by utilizing such a thin fabric, the Ultralight is not built to withstand abrasion. Up against rocks, sand, or even years of heavy backpacking use, both versions of this bag that we've tested developed tiny holes. They managed to retain an impressive level of water resistance, thanks to the ripstop pattern, but a hole is a hole. If you want a dry bag you can strap to your kayak hull or drag to the beach, this one isn't quite up to the task. But if you're ready to upgrade your packing system for travel, backpacking, or camping, this modestly priced ultralight dry bag is an excellent addition that we've enjoyed using for years of adventures.
Read review: Osprey Ultralight Drysack
Best for Traveling
YETI Panga 50
Yeti products are known for their durability, and the Panga does not disappoint. It's made out of thick, laminated, high-density nylon and closes via an innovative HydroLok zipper. This practically bombproof construction not only keeps water out but traps air in, almost guaranteeing the dryness of even the most sensitive objects — like your expensive camera or laptop. With comfortable shoulder straps and a fairly rigid shape, this bag is an excellent travel dry pack.
Exceptional durability and travel-ready design come at a cost. The Panga weighs 5.2 pounds when empty and costs an arm and a leg. However, these drawbacks are minor if you are transporting electronics in a super wet environment. Bottom line, if you are looking for a seriously waterproof, airplane-ready, cover-all-your-bases pack for your next international adventure, this one is hard to beat.
Read review: YETI Panga 50
Best for Long Hauls
NRS Bill's Bag
If you're headed out on big waters for a long adventure, the NRS Bill's Bag has got you covered. It's the same simple design as any little roll-top bag but with some upgrades and a whopping 110-liter capacity. A flexible storm flap along the opening helps to better seal this behemoth bag, while a single velcro strip inside makes lining it up for rolling it down even easier. With four straps to hold the top closed and cinch it down tight, this oversized bag becomes a much more manageable size. Comfortable backpack straps help you easily haul it out of the raft and up to camp each evening and back down the bank every morning. To pack it into your craft more easily, the entire backpack harness easily comes off in a few seconds with the same kind of handy clips used to close it. And unless you plan for your bag to become trapped under a rapid for prolonged periods, its thick TobaTex construction with double sewn and welded seams will keep your things dry through most misadventures.
With that being said, the Bill's Bag will leak if it's really under duress. It performs much better when packed completely full, so if you don't have 110 liters of stuff to bring with you, you might consider the 65-liter size instead. Its exceptional size also makes it difficult to stay organized, as it is just one large compartment. You're practically forced to use additional organization sacks — fumbling around inside a tall 110-liter cavern without any sort of organizational system is likely to make you more than a little frustrated. But with some extra tricks, the added space can easily encompass your regular travel bag, backpack, or camera bag in its depths. If you've got a summer's worth of clothes and gear heading into the Amazon rainforest or on a small fishing boat, the capacity and easy-to-use design of the Bill's will help keep your life drier.
Read review: NRS Bill's Bag
Best Compression Dry Sack
Outdoor Research Carryout Airpurge
When you want a little extra protection for your belongings but still need them to pack down small, the Outdoor Research Carryout Airpurge is our favorite compression dry sack. With one air-permeable side, a roll top, and two compression straps, this bag turns your overstuffed sleeping bag and extra clothing into a compact ball for space-saving packing. Though the air-permeable fabric looks wet, an internal layer protects the bag's contents no matter how hard it rains. The 15-liter version we tested fits a surprisingly large amount of things inside, with a wider, shorter shape that makes it easier to use and easier to compress. By eliminating the pullover top of other compression models, the Airpurge saves you a step, simply rolling and compressing with two side straps. Small daisy chains and a handle on the bottom make it easy to clip and carry.
Its strength is also its weakness. The Airpurge is designed to let air out of the bag and, in doing so, the pressure against the inside of the roll top is lowered. Without that internal pressure pushing back, the top of the sack is less waterproof than most. Inside your backpack, you'll never notice the difference. But if you try to submerge this airless bag, expect what's inside to take on water. Filling this bag completely full is the best way to make it as watertight as possible — though it's meant to be an internal component of your packing system. The two lightweight clips are too flimsy for our taste and can easily be misaligned. These minor issues aside, when we need a compression sack to keep our sleeping bag dry on a rainy backpacking trip, the Airpurge is the simplest, most effective model we've tested.
Read review: Outdoor Research Airpurge
Why You Should Trust Us
This review is led by lifelong water sports enthusiast and Senior Review Editor, Maggie Brandenburg. Maggie has spent her summers and free time on and in the water since she was a small child. From canoeing across choppy Midwestern lakes to raging down Western whitewater, exploring quiet swamps, and journeying between islands, Maggie is critical of the gear she brings with her and the need to keep it protected. No matter if it's a 10-day trip through remote river canyon wilderness or a leisurely afternoon on the lake, she's always got something with that needs to stay dry. In addition to putting this protective gear to the test, Maggie also leads many of our other on-water reviews, including inflatable kayaks, paddling PFDs, and life jackets. She's been testing gear and writing for GearLab since 2017.
To find the best and most promising dry bags to test, we spend hours scouring the market for new and updated products every season. After selecting the best and most interesting options available, we then spend months putting each one to the test in our side-by-side comparisons. We examine every detail of their waterproofness by spraying them with a hose, submerging them in bodies of water, and dragging them behind boats. We pack them full and rummage around for specific items. We take them for afternoon outings, long-distance travels, and extended trips. We check the usability of their features and use them extensively to see how well they hold up. From backpacking to paddling to traveling, we put these bags through their paces to see which ones are right for what job.
Related: How We Tested Dry Bags
Analysis and Test Results
There's so much more to the performance of a dry bag than just how dry it keeps things. We identified four metrics that we tested thoroughly with intensive testing designed to push each contender to the breaking point. All metrics are weighted according to their importance to the performance of a dry sack. By combining these weighted scores, each model ends up with a single comparable number indicating their overall performance. In what follows, we break down every metric and discuss which bags do best in specific areas and situations.
Related: Buying Advice for Dry Bags
As with any piece of gear, the cost will influence your willingness to buy it. Everyone needs something a little bit different to best suit their needs, and some products offer better performances for lower prices, making them high-value items.
The NRS Ether Hydrolock is a seriously high-value item. It performs well across the board, offers impressive waterproofness that's hard to beat, and costs a lot less than similarly high-performing models. The Sea to Summit Big River is another high-value dry bag. Its slightly more generic design is quite versatile, with non-submersible but high-quality protection and easy-to-use features. If you're searching for affordable organization and internal protection, the Osprey Ultralight Drysack offers quality water resistance and impressive packability inside your travel kit for a comparatively low price. The Outdoor Products 3-Pack All Purpose is a very low-cost set of sacks with decent protection, great for many casual, non-technical uses. On the flip side, sometimes you need the best of the best and want to know if it's worth the investment. If you're trying to protect large, expensive electronics — like a computer or a lot of camera equipment — the large capacity Watershed Colorado Duffel offers some of the best water protection around. And when it comes to protecting thousands of dollars of sensitive equipment through trying, wet conditions, the investment in this dry bag pays for itself.
The primary purpose of all of these products is right in their name — to keep your stuff dry. Therefore, waterproofness is by far the most heavily weighted metric in this review, and the winners in this category took home the greater share of our awards. You might assume anything carrying the name "dry bag" is intended to keep your stuff 100% dry 100% of the time, but performance in this category varies widely. While some products are designed to keep water completely out, others are meant to be splashproof and aren't rated for prolonged submersion. All the contenders we tested protect contents against the mild splashes experienced riding in small watercraft, but to really dive deep into each model's waterproofness, we pushed them farther than most are meant to go. We used them for our favorite water sports and subjected them to specific tests designed to push their limits. Some products lived up to their name, while others didn't fare quite as well.
Three models tied for top dog in this metric. The Watershed Colorado Duffel, the Yeti Panga, and the NRS Ether HydroLock all kept our stuff bone dry throughout all testing. Both the Colorado Duffel and Ether HydroLock feature a zip-top style closure (just like the plastic baggies in your kitchen drawer) and accompanying clips as a backup to keep them from being pulled open. The Panga is also impressively watertight, even trapping air inside the bag. It seals with a HydroLok zipper that, even after years of use, is still as waterproof as the day we first bought it. If asked which dry sacks we'd be comfortable entrusting thousands of dollars of electronics to float down a river in, these are the three we'd recommend.
The NRS Bill's Bag is also worth mentioning in this category. Made of super-thick, 21-ounce TobaTex with both sewn and welded seams, it's well-built to keep moisture out. A hefty and unique storm flap along the top helps to make this bag watertight, though, during our testing, we discovered it also matters how you pack it. The fuller the bag is packed with gear and clothes, the better it keeps water from entering. When not totally full, the extra space inside works against this bag. Pressing against air, the Bill's closure system is much less secure — but pressed tight against a full 110 liters of contents, the seal is watertight. Two small bags stand out in this arena as well. The Sea to Summit View Dry Sack and Outdoor Research Beaker. Both of these little sacks have fully taped seams and simple roll tops that do an excellent job keeping water out and air in.
We tested several compression dry sacks, including the Sea to Summit eVent and Outdoor Research Carryout Airpurge. Both of these bags have air-permeable fabric that lets air out without letting water in. They did an exceptional job against intense downpours and being sprayed with a high-pressure hose. However, just like the Bill's Bag, these sacks need to be packed full to retain their waterproofness in the event of full submersion. The Sea to Summit Big River scored well above average in this metric as well, but a small amount of moisture did seep inside when held underwater for a prolonged period. Considering this bag is not intended to handle submersions, it exceeded our expectations. Only a small corner of our towel inside was wet after being fully submerged, and a coaster-sized portion was wet after it was dragged behind a kayak for 30 minutes.
Ultralight bags are generally not designed to be completely waterproof, but the Osprey Ultralight does a remarkable job of keeping stuff dry. While our contents did get a bit moist after submerging and dragging this bag around a lake, that's really not what ultralight bags like this one are made for. Instead, this bag provides a great added layer of protection if used inside a backpack in inclement weather. It is one of our favorites for keeping necessary backpacking items dry - like down jackets and first aid kits.
Ease of Use
Whether you're in the middle of the river or bustling about camp packing and unpacking your gear, accessing your stuff should be facilitated, not hindered, by your carrying vessel. We set out to evaluate how easy it is to pack each model, how quickly the stuff inside can be found while the product is in use, and how each model carries from one location to another.
The Big River and Osprey Ultralight do very well in this category, with simple, straightforward designs. Neither has any additional straps for carrying, but both have a good shape and are easy to pack and close. Though they are taller than they are wide, they both have good proportions that help them not be too tall and skinny. These bags have oval (or rounded rectangle) bottoms that are much easier to use than strictly skinny cylinders. Additionally, the Big River features a white interior lining that helps brighten the inside of the bag so you can more easily see the contents and quickly locate the item you need. That being said, any bag that's taller than it is wide is a bit more challenging to root around in and pull out something hiding in the bottom, so organization is key.
The simply designed Colorado Duffel is another favorite of ours. When it is unrolled, it has a huge opening that resembles a giant Ziploc bag. This shape makes it easy to pack and organize the gear inside. It's wider than it is tall, making it easy to reach the bottom and find what you're looking for without having to rip everything out. However, as just one big compartment, this oversized sack requires some serious organizing.
The Carryout Airpurge is an exceptionally simple and easy-to-use compression sack. Instead of employing the typical over-the-top lid that most compression bags have, the roll-top clips to the bottom of the bag on either side, with buckles to compress it with the same straps used to hold it closed. It's also not nearly as tall and narrow as other compression models, with a wider opening and shallower depths that are easier to root around in. Lighter fabric on one side helps let more light in, in case you're looking for something specific, like a clean pair of underwear.
The Bill's Bag features removable backpack straps, though it lacks the full backpack-style harness that the Sea to Summit Hydraulic has. Its 110-liter capacity is significantly less comfortable to carry without the benefit of a load-bearing waist belt, but the straps are much easier to remove and replace than those on the Hydraulic.
Specific features are what make each model unique, and the manufacturers of these products have adorned them with various creative and sometimes subtle additions. We evaluated the functionality of each bag's features and kept track of the included lash points, backpack and other straps, closure systems, and any other unique additions and attributes. This metric is important to consider when trying to determine the perfect model for your specific needs.
The YETI Panga has the most impressive bells and whistles in this category. It's built like a duffel bag but also has removable backpack straps that make for comfortable hands-free carrying. Most dry bags tend to be just one giant bag, but the Panga features two internal zippered mesh pockets that help make it easier to store and find small items. The closure system is also the most unique of any of the products we tested. A large HydroLok zipper runs down the midline of the top of the bag. The zipper is heavy-duty, easy to close, and is simple to confirm that it has been completely sealed. Last but not least, the Panga boasts six lash points made of webbing for easy attachment to any craft.
The Colorado Duffel also boasts a unique and inventive closure system called a ZipDry. It looks just like a giant Ziploc baggie and can be easily attached to a craft using any of the six included D-rings. You'll find a small one on each end and two large ones on each side. The Ether HydroLock is another very impressive bag. Though it appears simple, it has numerous subtle features that make it exceptionally functional. Like the Colorado Duffel, it closes with a zip-top system before rolling down and clipping like most dry bags. It has a large window on the front to easily see what you're grabbing, and the flattened shape (rather than cylindrical) further aids in locating small items quickly. The entire top is extra wide — wider than the bag itself — once again helping you more easily find what you're looking for, and a single D-ring allows it to be clipped to your boat or bag.
The Big River has a more common design but features four welded TPU lash patches, two on each side, and two plastic D-rings at the top. With such beefy lash points, you can be confident the Big River will stay attached to wherever you fasten it to as long as your knot-tying skills are equally matched. The bag's lip is also reinforced, which helps make a more complete seal when rolled and secured. And one of our favorite features of this bag is the white interior, a detail that makes it so much easier to see what you're looking for than inside a dark and cavernous bag.
The Bill's Bag, Hydraulic, and SealLine Boundary all have comfortable backpack straps that can be removed when you don't need them. Both the Boundary and the Hydraulic have useful additional straps like a sternum strap and webbing waist belt to help you cart your gear easily from place to place. The Bill's Bag also has these features, but the sternum strap is so low as to be basically useless for anyone shorter than 6 feet. The Boundary's backpack harness is very involved to remove and reattach, with straps that have to be unthreaded and several straps and buckles that are left behind on the bag after the harness is off. In contrast, the Bill's Bag and Hydraulic harnesses are both easily removed by aluminum buckles, making it a matter of seconds to turn your dry bag into a backpack when you need it.
The Carryout Airpurge and eVent Compression are noteworthy for their compression abilities. Though they employ different strategies to compact your fluffy gear, they're both very useful and handy when you need to keep something from getting wet and from taking up too much space. The Sea to Summit Big River and View Dry Sack are both white inside, brightening your contents to make it easier to locate what you need. The View Dry Sack also has a clear window on the side to further help you find that rogue tube of chapstick.
The Earth Pak Original has a single adjustable (unpadded) strap that makes it easy to carry to and from the beach, hands-free. It also comes with a clear cell phone case, though this proved to be too short for most of today's oversized smartphones. We tried both the very tall LG V60 ThinQ and the bulky iPhone 12 Pro Max, and both were too tall to seal this little bag shut. The Outdoor Products 3-Pack is also neat because, for one of the lowest prices of any model we tested, you get not one but three dry bags. They're a little lacking in some other departments but are very convenient sizes for keeping small items contained within larger bags. The 2, 4, and 10-liter pouches give you the option to choose what size you need that day, all for one minimal price.
You can't expect your stuff to stay dry if rips and tears provide unwanted water channels. To excel at its job, these products need to be tough enough to hold up to the thrashings of your chosen adventure. We evaluated the (in)destructibility of the main compartment's material and the features of each model, such as clips and straps.
The YETI Panga takes the crown in this metric. Made out of super thick laminated high-density nylon, the body of this model is built to handle rocks, tree branches, and river debris, and can even stand up to the rough handling of airline baggage claims. The backpack straps are fixed with metal carabiner-type fasteners that are secured to 2-ply webbing so you can have confidence that the whole package will stay in one piece no matter what conditions you journey into. We've been using it for years now, with not a single issue or complaint about its durability.
The Colorado Duffel also offers particularly impressive durability. Its polyurethane-coated nylon is resistant to tears and scratches and has the advantage of a flexible and lightweight profile. The webbing is thick single-ply nylon, and the D-rings are made out of a beefy Duraflex™ polymer that puts other plastic rings to shame. The Bill's Bag is made out of intensely thick TobaTex, with beefy straps and aluminum clips designed to see you through the worst of it. Both the SealLine Boundary and the Sea to Summit Hydraulic are similarly built, with impressive, durable fabric and reinforced seams, while the Hydraulic also boasts aluminum buckles.
The Osprey UltraLight is the only model to sustain a full-thickness tear during testing. Albeit a small hole, this product's material was fragile enough to tear without us even noticing during casual use. On the plus side, even with a small hole, it still managed to keep our gear fairly dry. And a bit of Tenacious Tape could likely bring it back to almost-good-as-new.
From paddleboarding to whitewater expeditions, dry bags are an essential part of any water person's gear arsenal. Whether you are trying to protect expensive electronic equipment, need backpacking specific gear, or just want to avoid waterlogged clothes for the drive home from the lake, this review covers the in's and out's of the best models on the market. We spent months learning everything there is to know about these products, so you don't have to, and when it's time to pull the trigger and buy your own, you'll know exactly what to get so you can leave the water in the lake.
— Maggie Brandenburg
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