8 best dry bags for outdoor adventures


HomeHome / Blog / 8 best dry bags for outdoor adventures

Oct 19, 2023

8 best dry bags for outdoor adventures

We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article. Whether you're a wild swimmer, paddleboard pro or dedicated hiker, protect your gear from the elements with a waterproof

We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.

Whether you're a wild swimmer, paddleboard pro or dedicated hiker, protect your gear from the elements with a waterproof bag

Any cold water swimming enthusiast will tell you the value of a great dry bag. Versatile, reliable and infinitely useful, they're the handy way to cart all your wild swimming paraphernalia around and ensure you've got dry clothes to change into post-dip (essential).

But the best dry bags are more than just a waterproof backpack. Clever features like comfy straps, secure closures and welded seams set certain dry bags apart, so it's worth doing your research before you make a purchase. Or, even better, having us do it for you (you're welcome).

Rushing to your local wild swimming spot? No worries. These are the best dry bags at a glance. Keep scrolling for our full thoughts below.

It doesn't take a genius to work this one out — a dry bag is a sturdy bag designed to keep your belongings inside it dry. Got it?

'Many dry bags are fairly basic in that they are predominantly just intended to keep water out and have little else by way of features, but you can also get backpacks and larger kit bags which are fully waterproof,' says Catherine Brand, Commercial Director for Red International.

'These more technical bags have a greater degree of versatility and can tackle more, whether it’s a long hike, weekend away sailing or even as luggage for a trip abroad,' says Brand.

Along with a cosy changing robe, UV protective rash vest and toasty neoprene socks, a dry bag is a handy piece of kit if you're keen on cold water or wild swimming, as they keep your valuables and post-swim clothing safe, dry and debris-free while you're busy battling the elements.

But dry bags are also useful for any water-based activity or outdoor adventure — let's be honest, waterproofing is pretty much a necessity year-round in the UK.

'A good dry bag should fit seamlessly into any active lifestyle, keeping your kit — whether that is some extra layers, valuables or food — completely protected from moisture, be it heavy rain or even coming into direct contact with water,' says Brand.

'While they are essential on the water, they aren’t just for watersports — from commuting to cycling, you’ll find them an indispensable addition to your gear.'

Unsurprisingly, this completely depends on the type of dry bag that you buy. Claims range from water-resistant to waterproof to submersible (or submergible). We'd recommend always opting for at least waterproof to ensure your essentials don't befall any rain-based disasters.

'The waterproof element should be delivered through waterproof fabric, preferably welded seams (stitching creates holes and weak points even if seams are taped), and then either a roll top closure or, on more high-spec bags, a waterproof zip,' says Brand.

You're more likely to find waterproof zips on bags that can be submerged, but bear in mind the thinking here is more 'bag accidentally dropped overboard' rather than choosing to hold it underwater for a prolonged period of time. For most wild swimmers, a roll top waterproof backpack will do the job admirably.

From waterproof roll top backpacks to sturdy submersible duffels, we've found the very best dry bags for all your water-based adventures. Keep scrolling for help choosing a dry bag, and everything you need to know about the different types available on the market.

This backpack-style dry bag from Red (the paddleboard pro) may not look like much, but it's packed with thoughtful features to make outdoor adventuring easier — and we're actually big fans of the fuss-free design.

The detachable backpack straps are padded for comfort and extremely handy, but if you do opt for the carry handle it's made of tactile rubber that's kind to post-swim cold hands. There are also loads of loops along the straps to attach D-rings or to securely fasten to a paddleboard or kayak.

The minimal seams are wide and welded to ensure zero leakage and there's a further waterproof zipped pocked inside for valuables.

It's made from durable and abrasion-resistant PVC which is not at all stiff, so ideal for cramming in a lumpy changing robe, and the 35l model we tested was roomy enough for all our gear, from warm clothing to flask of coffee.

The dinky 10l version comes with a shoulder strap, while the larger sizes (30l and 60l) come with comfy, vented backpack straps.

Also available in magenta purple or sky blue.

In this case the brand name says it all — this super tough dry bag can withstand extreme conditions and is a worthy companion for seafarers and mountaineers alike.

A roll top and clip closure paired with tape-sealed seams and waterproof ripstop nylon ensures no sand, dirt or water compromise your belongings, while the interior is white to help you find the keys you foolishly placed at the bottom of the bag.

The largest iteration comes in at a whopping 65l, but dinky versions for keeping valuables safe are available too. It packs down small and has plenty of attachment loops so you can secure it to a kayak, tack it onto another bag and fasten a handy strap.

Bear in mind that the strap (sold separately) is a sling strap rather than backpack straps. But the buckles on the roll top make for a short-term carry handle, or you can simply stash it inside another backpack.

Available in a range of colours and sizes. We're big fans of this fresh green shade.

Cycling to your wild swimming spot? It's a fact universally known that if you're engaging in any outdoor pursuit, Decathlon will have the gear you need, and here it has ticked both the biking and swimming boxes with this clever pannier dry bag.

Fully waterproof, roomy and with a handy interior pocket, it can be mounted on the left or right side of your bike and there's a locking system to ensure the bag doesn't fall mid-ride.

We're ever-so-slightly in love with the sage shade, but it's also available in sunny yellow and dark grey.

Also infinitely useful is a bucket-style dry bag. Use it to carry your equipment down to the shore, throw in wet gear post-swim and even stand in it to use the base as a changing mat on unforgiving terrain.

(We can also vouch for the fact that it doubles as a great cold drinks bucket, but we're not entirely sure that's a recommended use.)

We used one of these babies on a wild swimming weekend in Guernsey and it was so handy — particularly for transporting a damp and rather sandy wetsuit we'd rather not put in a backpack. It's strong, durable and holds its shape, but the frame is flexible enough to be comfortable when throwing the bag over your shoulder.

Available in black, blue and pink.

We get it, you want to be an outdoors babe and look good doing it. Enter this cute waterproof rucksack from our favourite Swedish outdoors pro Fjällräven.

Like the brand's popular Kånken model, this backpack has city-ready features like side pockets (ideal for your water bottle) and a padded laptop compartment, but it's also been toughened up for country life.

There's a chest strap and removable hip strap for extra support on lengthy adventures, compression straps mean you can squash the bag down and it's made from waterproof ripstop material that somehow manages to look gorg while also protecting your gear.

The interior is pale grey to aid visibility, there's a carry handle as well as comfortable adjustable straps and the roll top closure clips down neatly for a put-together look (because that's what we're all after when our wet hair and chattering teeth say otherwise).

Also available in black.

If you're only concerned with keeping small valuables (phone, passport, post-swim flapjack) dry then a sturdy waterproof pouch is the way to go.

Chuck this dinky number from Red in your bag or changing robe pocket to keep essentials safe from splashes or trips overboard thanks to the submersible design and waterproof zip.

The internal space measures in at 21 x 12 cm so there's plenty of room for a large smartphone and shock-absorbing foam padding protects against any drops (almost inevitable with post-cold water swim fingers).

There are useful straps on the back so you can secure it to another bag, your belt, a bike, paddleboard or kayak. The zip performs well and allows quick and easy access to your belongings — just make sure to use the provided zipper lubricant to keep it that way.

As the price point might suggest, this dry bag is for serious adventures. We're talking your passport, phone and expensive camera potentially going overboard adventures.

Seriously, nothing is getting even a drop of moisture on it in this duffel — it's completely submersible and sealed with welded seams and YETI's patented HydroLok zip, so need to worry if the tide comes and steals it away while you're busy swimming (just do make sure you get it back before its well on its way to France).

Even better, it converts to a backpack for easy carrying and the zip runs smoothly, unlike some totally waterproof models. Rigid, durable and with multiple attachment points it's incredibly versatile and truly built to last. A solid investment.

It also makes a great travel bag and is available in storm grey too.

This is the ideal dry bag for those who want a commuter companion Monday to Friday and an adventure pal at the weekends. Sleek and stylish, this bag will keep your laptop safe on the rainy trudge to the office and protect all your cold water swimming gear when you hit the great outdoors.

It has pockets for everything (including a padded laptop compartment), comfortable straps and back cushioning so you can keep exploring for longer. And if you need more space you can simply unroll the top as the opening is also zipped — so your stuff still stays protected.

Available in black and moss green. It even arrives in a cute reusable tote bag.

From zipped duffel bags and roll top backpacks to teeny waterproof pouches to stash your valuables, there's a range of different dry bags out there to suit differing needs.

Small valuables dry bags are for dinky essentials only. 'They're great for taking your keys, phone and other essentials with you on any adventure — whether it is wet and windy or you are wild swimming,' says Catherine Morris, Commercial Director for Red Original.

Repeat after us: showerproof does not mean waterproof. 'Don’t be caught out by bags which aren’t fully waterproof,' says Morris. 'Showerproof rucksacks might keep the worst off in a light shower, but they won’t stop water seeping in, so bear that in mind if you're after a bit more versatility.'

The most useful option, in our opinion, is a backpack-style dry bag. 'These range from basic cylinders with backpack webbing straps at entry level, to higher specification products which look more like a contemporary technical backpack with the added benefit of keeping your laptop completely dry,' says Morris.

We all know the best gym bags are duffel bags — so it follows that if you're carting around a lot of kit then a duffel style could be the way to go. 'Dry duffel bags normally have a higher litre capacity (so you can fit more stuff in), and they work as kit bags which are perfect for everything from swimming sessions to travelling,' says Morris. 'The premium bags are usually roll top or zipped, and the wider opening means easy access. But remember, more stuff means heavier to carry.'

The wide world of dry bags also boasts activity-specific models, compression bags and wetsuit carrier bucket bags that double up as changing mats. 'There are also specialist dry bags that have different uses for different sports, such as cycling panniers,' says Morris.

There are four main considerations when it comes to choosing a dry bag worthy enough to stash your precious belongings: size and shape, material, comfort and closure type.

'Dry Bags can vary significantly in terms of their construction and the materials they are made from,' says Brand. 'Think about what is important to you and how you will be using the bag. Are you after something fast and light, comfortable to carry or with super-durable fabric that can handle some tough love?'

Think about how you'll be using your dry bag — are you going on a long trek or planning to stow your changing robe post-swim, or just concerned about keeping valuables safe?

'Sizing varies significantly — my top tip is to avoid anything too long and thin — it’s a nightmare to find anything at the bottom and pockets are always a good addition. If it’s a large size and it doesn’t have backpack straps think about how you are going to be carrying it,' says Brand.

The best dry bags are made of strong, abrasion-resistant materials like vinyl, or sturdy nylon which is softer and less shiny while still keeping out water. Some are also coated in polyurethane (PU) which is water-repellent and can be waterproof.

Consider how you'll carry your dry bag — does it have straps, or a padded handle? This will also inform how versatile the bag is. 'Backpack styles will make the bag more multi-use, but if you are planning on carrying the bag for any length of time, make sure it has properly constructed comfortable straps,' says Brand

'Waterproof fabric and proper seams that are up to the task are only part of a good quality dry bag — they also come with different closure options,' says Morris:

12 surprising benefits of swimming to know about

How I spent four days at Sunsetbay Retreats

Our wild swimming guide + the best kit to shop now

11 best places to go wild swimming this summer

The best period-proof swimwear

15 best rash vests for women

The best changing robes for swimmers and surfers

'I tried cross-country swimming'

11 best wetsuits for wild swimming this summer

'I wore a monofin to swim like a mermaid'

25 Outdoor pools and lidos to visit in the UK

19 best water shoes for women

Roll topMagnetsBar ClosuresZips