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Reg's Tips on Dry Bags

Dry Bags for Sea Kayaking

Roaring 40s Kayaking - Reg's Tips on Kayaking Dry Bags - Dry bagKeeping your gear dry on any sea kayaking trip, whether for a few hours or for many days, is important but it can be a challenge, especially as the hatches in many kayaks are not totally dry. 

With your gear packed into dry bags and then stowed in the hatches, those clean clothes, sleeping bag and your next meal aren’t on the soggy side when you reach your destination!

Dry bags are simply waterproof storage bags. Most are cylindrical in shape but they come in a range of materials, sizes and waterproofing to suit a variety of uses.

When choosing a dry bag (or mix of bags), first think about what you actually want to pack into it (or them) and what sort of conditions you’re likely to encounter.



The materials vary in durability, weight and flexibility. The most durable bags are made from vinyl which although stiff and heavy, stand up well (and keep their waterproofing) with extensive use. It’s also good for heavier or abrasive items.

Waterproofed nylon (sometimes called Sil-nylon) is not as durable but being lighter and more flexible is great for packing into tight spaces or putting into a larger bag. These bags aren’t recommended for submersion but still work well for kayaking as they’re unlikely to go underwater. Best used for less crucial things like a sleeping mat or food already packed into ziplocks.

Reg’s tip: Vinyl is a better buy due to the durability.  If you use nylon bags try and pack them off the floor of the hatch so they won’t sit in water.


Roaring 40s Kayaking - Reg's Tips on Kayaking Dry Bags -Tapered Kayak Dry BagSHAPES

Most dry bags are a cylinder barrel shape with an opening at one end. You can also purchase tapered kayak dry bags which are specially shaped to fit into the nose of a kayak.

Also available are holdall dray bags which are shaped like a duffle bag and allow you to access the contents more easily. These are great for deck loading (placing on top of your kayak) if required for a longer expedition, but don’t pack efficiently into kayak hatches.

Reg’s tip: Purchase two tapered kayak bags for the front and back hatch of your kayak and you will suddenly find you have a lot more space.


Roaring 40s Kayaking - Reg's Tips on Kayaking Dry Bags - Sea to SummitSIZES

Dry bags come in a wide range of sizes from small ones for things like phone and money to large ones for clothing and sleeping bags.

Reg’s Tip: The best sizes for kayaking are from about 8 litres to 20 litres. If you want 60 litres of space you’re better off buying three 20 litre bags (or even configurations of smaller bags) as they are easier to fit and pack around each other in the kayak.



Dry bags come with a roll-top closure or a zipper seal.

To use a roll-top dry bag, fill it with your gear, collapse the top opening, fold it over on itself multiple times and then clip the side release buckles. The folding creates a waterproof closure that manufacturers claim is 99.9% waterproof. Prolonged submersion will eventually penetrate the seal and soak the contents, but for sea kayaking they are effectively waterproof.

Reg’s Tip: Bags are only waterproof if closed properly. That means for roll-top bags ensuring you don’t over fill so you can roll down at least 3 times, or for zipper bags you have zippered it closed the entire length!



Most dry bags are simple and come in a range of colours, but a few offer additional features. One common feature is a plastic ring that you can clip a snap hook or carabiner to. Others feature a valve that allows you to compress air out of the bag after you close the top; it’s a useful feature that lets you compact the bag before packing it into the kayak.

Compression straps are rare, but available, and you can also buy bags with padding for electronics. Clear windows on several styles let you see the bag’s contents, which makes working out which bag to grab much easier.

Reg’s Tip: Buy different coloured bags and use for different things. For example, your sleeping bag always goes in the blue bag and your clothes in the green bag.


Roaring 40s Kayaking - Reg's Tips on Kayaking Dry Bags -Pelican CasePELICAN CASES (which you might hear us call a Pelicase)

These are small hard cases that are waterproof, dustproof and crushproof and perfect for those items that you just can’t get wet but you may need close by – camera, phone, torch, wallet etc. While not technically a dry bag they are a great piece of kit to keep your gear dry.
Reg’s Tip: You won’t regret buying a Pelicase, but remember to physically clip it onto your kayak if you are paddling with it on the deck or in the cockpit. You rarely see me without mine (Jen calls it my handbag!).

Roaring 40s Kayaking - Reg's Tips on Kayaking Dry Bags -Reg's dry bags for a kayaking expeditionCHOOSING YOUR DRY BAGS

When selecting dry bags, consider what you’re going to pack into it, where you’re going and how long for.  Here’s what Reg takes on a longer expedition:

  • Sleeping bag: 15 litre roll-top vinyl dry bag, with his down jacket also packed in this bag. This bag is only opened once camp is set and he has a dry environment.
  • Sleeping mat: 8 litre nylon bag
  • Clothing: all fits within a 15 litre tapered vinyl dry bag
  • Camera gear and small electronics (ie torch, phone, wallet): Reg only uses a small camera so uses a small 1120 Pelicase for all this equipment. Pelican have larger cases for larger cameras which we highly recommend too.
  • Maps, books, etc: 10 litre vinyl dry bag (or he packs with his clothes)
  • Food: a variety of 10 to 20 litre nylon bags in different colours for different meals. Food inside is packed into ziplock bags first.
  • Tent: in the stuff sack it came with.
  • Cooking equipment: most of this fits inside a mesh bag or is packed loose in the kayak
  • Medical kits and other gear: 8 litre vinyl bag
  • Carrying Bag: Helps to carry your gear to the campsite (but not essential)

You can also purchase larger dry sacks for bigger electronics like computers, but we think part of the appeal in getting away on the kayak is getting away from technology so recommend leaving this at home if you can.


The big tip – pack it all into the dry bags before leaving to make sure it’s all going to fit and you know what’s where!


This article compiled from our experience and other sources including,

28 February 2018