7 Best Dry Bags for Backpackers to Buy Online
Are you an Aussie backpacker or traveller ready to follow the sun and seek your next big, and potentially wet, adventure?
Whether you’re embarking on a water-based activity or just looking to be prepared for the erratic weather patterns of the great outdoors, a reliable dry bag is a crucial bit of kit.
A waterproof bag for travel can save you from the horrendous (and smelly) burden of carrying damp clothes around or causing damage to electrics. They can truly be a lifesaver no matter your travel plans.
In this guide, we will share some important tips and considerations to know when it comes to buying a dry bag. We will also touch on their benefits and provide a round-up of the best dry bags for travel that you can buy online.
But first, let’s cover off some common questions people often ask about dry bags / sacks – especially for travel.
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1. What is a Dry Bag or Waterproof Bags for Travel?
A dry bag is any form of flexible container/waterproof bag that a person can seal so that it is watertight, protecting your valuables.
Commonly made of Nylon, dry bags provide a durable, lightweight and, most importantly, waterproof bag that can handle exposure to rain and more.
Dry bags are most commonly used in water sports like kayaking, canoeing, rafting, canyoning, and other outdoor activities in which items would otherwise get wet.
They are also the perfect accessory for backpackers and travellers who plan to spend prolonged periods outside (ie for activities like camping and hiking) or simply to carry your wet clothes or shoes when moving between destinations.
2. What is the Difference Between a Dry Bag vs. Dry Sack?
In most instances, a dry sack and dry bag are just interchangeable terms for any waterproof bag that can be used to store valuables in wet conditions.
The only common (and often misused) differentiator is that a dry bag may have a watertight zipper, while a dry sack usually has a roll-top that is secured with a clip and helps create an airtight layer.
The roll-top dry sack design is by far the most common type of format found with any waterproof bag, as it allows you to compress the waterproof bag for travel and save space.
3. How Do Dry Bags or Waterproof Bags Work?
A dry bag (or waterproof bag) works by using a roll-top closure which secures with a single buckle.
By rolling the roll-top over multiple times, an airtight seal is formed by a thin strip of plastic on one side of the very top. The buckle then fastens together, which forms a loop and means it can easily be attached to the outside of your bag or kayak.
However, the question that many ask is:
- Is a dry bag is completely waterproof, even when submerged entirely underwater?
While all well-maintained dry bags will work in the conditions they were meant to work in, many travellers don’t realise that there are limitations to a dry bag’s effectiveness.
While there certainly are dry bags that can keep your electronics dry even while fully submerged in water, they are rare and often costly.
To get the best out of your dry bag, you want to use it as your primary defence against the elements.
While one dry bag is perfect for a backpacker who may want to keep a few damp clothes separate from your belongings, you may want to double dry bag more critical electronic equipment.
Or for those on a tight budget, you can enclose your tech items inside a zip-lock plastic bag within the dry bag.
4. How to Use a Dry Bag
A dry bag is one of the most versatile tools any traveller can have and is helpful in any water-intensive situation, for storage, protection and more.
- if you are a solo backpacker a dry bag can allow you to:
Head to the beach for a day. Ditch your worries about leaving your valuables unattended on the beach by strapping strapping a dry bag to your waist with your valuables and hitting the surf. Just make sure your phone etc is in waterproof zip loc bag as well.
- If you are an avid camper or kayaker, a dry bag can allow you to:
Gain access to an additional storage space for any wet clothing. That way you can avoid mixing wet clothes with your dry belongings and prevent any unwanted musty damp smells.
- If you are a long-distance hiker:
Waterproof dry bags are perfect if you want to be prepared. For example, should a sudden downpour strike, then you can have spare hiking shoes stored and ready, avoiding an unpleasant waterlogged walk back.
Whether you need dry bags for kayaking or camping, there are various sizes, designs and models out there, making them the perfect add-on for any travelling adventure.
5. What Size Dry Bag is Best for Travelling?
The next big question that many ask when considering the best dry bag for travel is what size is best?
Dry bags come in various shapes and sizes, covering a wide variety of uses and suiting a plethora of needs and requirements.
1) 5+ Litre Dry Bags
Dry bags around 5L’s in size will fit a wide variety of smaller personal items like a phone, wallet, cameras and more.
When I travelled, from memory I believe my dry bag was around 8L in size.
I found it to be a really great size as it was large enough to fit a pair of muddy runners or wet towel in it when moving between destinations, but small enough to not take up much space in my luggage when not in use.
- 5-litre bags are small enough to be pushed under the elastic cords of a kayak, making them easier to store.
- Perfect for use with larger dry bags to help compartmentalise storage.
- Take up less space in your backpack when not in use
- Provide limited space for longer or more gear-intensive journeys
- Only suited to smaller items
- If you want it to float in the water, you will need to allow for an air bubble. This means that you mightn’t be able to fit many things within the bag in order for it to float.
2) 15+ Litre Dry Bags
15L dry bags usually fit more in them compared to the 5L bags, sometimes up to a small sleeping bag and some clothes or food for your journey.
However, given their larger size, they tend to be bulkier to carry, especially when backpacking and already limited with space.
- The perfect size for digital nomads who want to keep electronic equipment like laptops and cameras safe.
- Lacks the capacity to provide enough space for more than a day trip
- Bulkier to carry when not in use
3) 30+ Litre Dry Bags
30L dry bags can often fit a wetsuit, towel, and some clothes.
Personally, I feel this size is getting too big for a backpacker, if in addition to your travel backpack. However, it does depend what kind of trip you’re organising, where you’re planning to go and what activities you’re planning to do.
- Perfect size for one or two-day trips on and around the water or for storing wet suits.
- Can fit enough clothes for a week-long trip for one person if your items are correctly army rolled.
- Often too bulky once entirely packed to be stored in a rucksack so it would have to be carried separately from your main pack.
- Tend to be pretty expensive
4) 50+ Litre Dry Bags
50L dry bags will fit three wetsuits, clothes, food and more. While not the most enormous dry bag for travel size, they are an excellent option for those planing a multi-day trip.
I would however, recommend against this size if you are simply looking for a dry bag that can be easily packed away when not in use, and that doesn’t take up a lot of space.
- Provides enough space for long journeys on the river and is one of the best dry bags for long-term travel.
- They can be packed half full and rolled up to form an air pocket, meaning should it fall into the water, the waterproof bag would float and keep your possessions safe.
- Often a more expensive waterproof dry bag due to its size and the more significant requirement for nylon material.
- Will likely take up too much space if you are planning to carry this in addition to you travel backpack
- Used for very niche applications
In general, I would recommend looking for a dry bag that is small enough that it doesn’t take up a lot of space and isn’t bulky, but is big enough to fit up to a small towel or a pair of runners or clothes within it.
This will allow you to carry wet things outside of your main travel pack when moving between destinations, should you not have time to dry them.
While larger bags tend to have greater versatility and can fit more in them, smaller bags are far more practical and helpful if you only hope to protect your valuables during brief water sports activities.
6. What are Important Features to Look for in a Dry Bag?
All dry bags come with various features that make them more practical for certain activities, whether a day on the river or a week-long kayaking trip.
To help you decide which features work best for your outdoor needs, we have compiled a list of some of the best elements available on most waterproof bags.
1) Roll-top Dry Bag vs Waterproof Zipper Bag
Roll-top dry bags for travel are by far the most common type of dry bag and are more widely available for a lower price than waterproof zipper bags.
A genuine waterproof zipper will not leak and can often be more accessible to pack than roll-up dry bags under challenging conditions, like in rough waters.
However, the problem is that many so-called waterproof zipper bags are merely water-resistant as manufacturers do this to save on costs rather than buy expensive waterproof zippers.
Another downside is that waterproof zippers are stiff, so they don’t slide easily like a standard zipper and so can be a real pain in cold weather if your hands are stiff or you are wearing gloves.
2) Lightweight Dry Bag
Lightweight dry bags are thin, flexible, and more portable but at the cost of durability and space, also ending up on the higher side of the price tag. However, every ounce counts when hiking, so a lightweight waterproof bag is a good fit for those who need to carry all they take.
They are also more flexible, so storing an empty nylon dry bag can fit in more places like your rucksack pocket.
If you are concerned about getting your pack weight down as much as possible, an ultralight dry bag is a great choice but be aware that you are giving up some versatility with a thinner bag.
3) Bag Clips
Bag clips allow you to better seal a roll-up dry bag and are also integral to securing shoulder straps for easier carrying.
If you think there is a chance you will carry your heavier dry bags around for more than a few hours then make sure to get bags with clips to allow for adjustable double shoulder straps.
Most dry bags will also have one or more D rings made from plastic so that salt water doesn’t harm them. You can use them to attach a waterproof bag with bag clips to kayaks or to secure personal items to your backpack.
While there is a good range of materials used in the manufacturing of waterproof dry bags, the vast majority of reliable dry bags will be made of either Nylon or Polyester PVC Tarpaulin.
Both of these fabrics are synthetic and while polyester is not as strong as Nylon, it has some advantages in UV performance and weight burden.
Overall, Nylon is pound-for-pound stronger than polyester and is the most common material used in dry bag construction.
A spec you can look at for dry bag fabric is Denier(D) which refers to the metric used to describe the thickness or density of the material.
On average, the higher the Denier, the stronger the fabric, making it an excellent reference for dry bag resistance and durability.
7. Where to Buy Dry Bags
You can find fantastic dry bags for travel both in your favourite stores and online. However, to save you time, we have summarised the top 7 best dry bags for travel below.
Below you can find a fantastic summary of our recommendations for some of the best dry bags for travel, helping make your choice more effortless than ever.
*** If you’d like to skip to the winners, you can click the link below.
The 7 Best Waterproof Dry Bags for Backpackers and Kayaking
1. Sea to Summit Dry Bags – Multiple sizes available
One of Australia’s most trusted brands, you can find Sea to Summit Dry Bags in Anaconda and BCF stores across the country.
Made with high-quality material and available in a variety of sizes from 1 litre up to 35 litres, this is a superb waterproof bag for travel.
- Reasonable price range for all sizes.
- Available in a variety of colour options.
- Over a thousand 4-star reviews!
- Lightweight material makes for easy carrying.
- Not available in sizes larger than 35 litres so it might be necessary to use two dry bags for longer journeys.
2. Marchway Dry Bag – Multiple sizes available
Marchway is one of Australia’s most trusted outdoor brands, thanks partly to their impressively reliable dry bags for travel.
The Marchway dry bag is well regarded for being both compact and durable.
Their newer designs are made from ripstop tarpaulin with sealed seams, ensuring strong water resistance and giving you a bag designed for years of usage.
- Available in a variety of sizes, from 5 litres all the way up to 40 litres.
- Includes an adjustable shoulder strap for easy carrying.
- Capable of floating on water when an air sack is made, providing you with added security in even the most extreme water conditions.
- Does not provide full waterproofing when fully submerged.
- The larger-sized dry bag models can be pretty expensive.
3. Kathmandu Dry Sack – 5L size
Founded in New Zealand, Kathmandu specialises in clothing and equipment for every travel and outdoor need possible. They specialise in providing premium goods, but it often comes with a high price tag.
The Kathmandu is on the smaller size, making it perfect for storing or double bagging valuables like electronics.
- Made from a lightweight material, they are easy to carry and perfect for saving valuables.
- Water-resistant 20D Nylon means you can be confident of durability and reliability.
- Comes with a very high price tag so only essential for valuables you want to ensure are safe.
- Only available in a limited range of sizes and colours.
4. HEETA Dry Bag – Multiple sizes available
The HEETA dry bag is a popular dry bag available online that is transparent, reliable and water resistant. It also comes in various colours and sizes, meaning you can easily pick your preferred style.
The price is also relatively low, meaning this is a fantastic choice if you are just looking for an occasional waterproof bag.
- Includes adjustable shoulder straps that allow you to carry this dry bag as a backpack easily.
- The durable transparent material is thickened for protection but also allows you to easily spot any of your items.
- Comes with a free waterproof cellphone bag for added protection and easy access.
- Some reviews have complained that excessive use can lead to damage to the seams, meaning this may not be the most durable option.
5. Frelaxy Dry Bag Set – 3 pack in 5, 10, and 20L sizes
This three-pack is an excellent option for anyone seeking a selection of bags to separate their gear. While only water resistant, they provide an excellent choice for those wanting more than one dry bag, and a variety of sizes to play with.
- Lightweight polyester material that makes them easy to carry.
- The various sizes in the three-pack let you decide which bag you will need for your next adventure.
- A rectangular base design allows for easy packing and space efficiency.
- Made from polyester, which is only water resistant rather than waterproof, so avoid fully submerging.
- Only 35 litres of total space, limiting your available carrying capacity.
6. MIER Waterproof Backpack – 30L Size
This TPU-coated MIER waterproof backpack is perfect for those not looking for additional dry bags and need just one waterproof bag for travel or trips.
Designed for easy carrying, it still features a roll top design rather than a zipper, which means you can be confident of reliable water resistance.
- Features an airflow padded back, ensuring you will be comfortable and ventilated no matter how high the temperature may get on your travels.
- Includes a variety of pockets for additional storage, meaning you can be confident of a spacious backpack that is still waterproof.
- Its heat-resistant and dirt-repellent material ensures a durable waterproof bag for travel, but the manufacturers still include a 2-year warranty, meaning you can be confident with your purchase.
- Comes with a pretty hefty price tag which means it may be less suitable for anything but frequent use.
- Only 30-litre carrying capacity so not the best option for storing more oversized items, like wet suits.
7. Earth Pak Waterproof Backpack – Multiple large sizes available
These larger waterproof bags for travel are perfect for anyone who wants to carry a lot of gear with relative ease and comfort.
Earth Pak started as a small brand and has gone on to sell thousands of bespoke backpacks worldwide, meaning you can rely on quality and reliability.
- Built-in roll-top closure and single reinforced strip to ensure water stays out, while the waterproof Polyvinyl Chloride material means your items will stay dry.
- With 35, 55 and 85-litre size bags available, you will have plenty of space to store all the gear you will need on your journey.
- An ergonomic padded back panel, reinforced contoured shoulder straps, and low-profile sternum strap means you can be confident that you will still feel comfortable no matter how heavy your pack is.
- Due to their size and design, the price of these dry bags for travel is relatively high.
Best Dry Bags / Waterproof Bags for Kayaking, Travel and Backpacking
All of the above bags come with their own pros and cons and are suited to a variety of different situations, which is why to help you make the best call for your next backpacking experience, we have summarised the winners for two categories below.
1. Best Value for Money
With 3 dry bag options available that are lightweight and suitable for a variety of water based activities, the Frelaxy dry bag is by far the best option when it comes to value for money!
The variation in sizes, rectangular packing base and water-resistant material means that this dry bag will have you covered no matter your need, whether it be just to protect your electric valuables in your main pack or for a day long excursion on the river!
2. Most Popular
At the time of writing this article, the Marchway Dry Bag is easily the most popular online option for those looking to use a reliable and high quality dry bag for travel, especially if after a specific size.
Available in a variety of sizes, these dry bags can be used for many applications, whether you’re planning a session in the water or simply want an additional carry bag that clips onto your main backpack.
It also includes an adjustable shoulder strap which makes it easier to carry when full.
No matter what your experience is, from hiking, kayaking or a classic Aussie backpacking adventure, any one of these fantastic options are some of the best dry bags for travel.
Happy travelling my friends!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best material for a waterproof dry bag?
The best material for dry bags is typically nylon, valued for its durability. Nylon is coated for waterproofness and abrasion resistance, making it a reliable choice for larger dry bags.
How long do dry bags last?
Typically, dry bags provide long-lasting protection. Dry bags made from heavyweight materials can endure rough conditions like dragging over rocks, through mud, and undergrowth. However, lighter-weight waterproof dry bags may lose their DWR (Durable Waterproof Repellent) coating over time with use.
Can I swim with a dry bag?
Yes, you can swim with a dry bag. A dry bag is a waterproof bag designed to be taken into the water, ensuring the protection of items inside, including valuables like phones, cameras, and other electronics as well.
Dry bags can even be useful for solo travellers when at the beach. For instance, rather than leaving your handbag / valuables on the beach with no one to supervise them, take the dry bag with you into the water as you swim for added peace of mind. This will help to prevent anyone from stealing your stuff. Just make sure the bag is sealed well!