Reviews You Can Rely On

How We Tested Dry Bags

Monday July 11, 2022
dry bag - so many dry bags, out for a solid day of testing.
So many dry bags, out for a solid day of testing.
Credit: Sara James

Here at GearLab, we pride ourselves on pushing our gear to the limits. From standard use cases to fringe one-offs, we try it all with enthusiasm and thoroughness. Following is a discussion about how we tested for the four metrics we used to score each of our dry bags. Following is a walk-through of how we tested each of our key metrics for dry bags.


The ability to keep water out and your gear dry is the most important job of a dry bag, so this metric was weighted the most heavily. To test each product's capacity in this metric, we first exposed them to regular recreational use. We used them for paddle boarding, beach days, backpacking, and river trips and took careful notes about the level of water exposure they received and how the internal contents fared. We then subjected them to more rigorous testing. We sprayed them with a hose, focusing pressure on zippers, seals, seams, and valves. Each product was filled with towels, closed according to the instructions, and held underwater for 30 seconds. The towels and inside of the bag were then evaluated for water or even slight dampness. We also filled each bag with water and upended them to see what leaked out. And last but not least, we attached each bag filled with dry towels to a leash on the back of our watercraft and dragged them through a lake for 30 minutes.

dry bag - the hose test in full force.
The hose test in full force.
Credit: Sara James

Ease of Use

We set out to determine how each product packs, how it carries, how it secures to different crafts, and how simple it is to retrieve contents during an activity. We timed ourselves packing a standardized test load into each bag and securing them closed. We evaluated closure methods, carry contraptions, and lash points for their usability and convenience. We accessed contents in kayaks and backpacks and on beaches. When all was said and done, we'd used each model for a wide variety of adventures and packed everything from clothes to cameras to sleeping gear inside.

dry bag - from beaches to lakes to rivers, we took our dry bags everywhere.
From beaches to lakes to rivers, we took our dry bags everywhere.
Credit: Sara James

Quality of Construction

To best assess construction, we spent months subjecting these products to regular use and abuse. We judged each on the material of the main body and the features, such as clips and straps. We scrutinized seams and special features. We evaluated closure systems and how well they stay sealed during use. We scoured the internet for other user complaints and tried to root out potential weak spots of each model. And to be thorough, we also interviewed an expert panel of water-based adventurers to find out what has worked and what has failed them in their extensive aquatic adventure experiences.

dry bag - we investigated how easily a product was damaged with casual use.
We investigated how easily a product was damaged with casual use.
Credit: Leslie Yedor


Certain models are best suited for specific objectives. In order to tease out the specialists, we thoroughly investigated and used the individual features of each product. We paid particular attention to the closure system and the attachment points and made a note of any unique characteristics like backpacking straps, pockets, windows, and valves.

dry bag - backpack straps aren't needed for every adventure, but in some cases...
Backpack straps aren't needed for every adventure, but in some cases they are crucial.
Credit: Sara James

Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.

GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.

Learn More