Dry bag or Screw top bucket

Hello all,

New here and have a question. For a 2-4 day wilderness lake trip would you recommend using dry bags for storage, or the screw top buckets I’ve seen many using.

Any input would be appreciated.

I like using both.
I usually put dishes, coffee, tea, dishrags, etc. in a five gallon bucket with a gamma (screw top) lid then tuck dry bags in around it. I find the bucket nestles in the bow of the yoke perfectly, and by the time I add the bags and throw a couple of cam straps in an x across everything it makes a nice clean little setup. Disclaimer: I’ve never flipped, so I can’t attest to the dryness of this arrangement, but I’m confident it would stay put. Disclaimer number two: I wouldn’t trust the gamma bucket setup to keep its contents dry in the event of a flip. It would prevent a thorough soaking I’m sure and will definitely keep splashing out, but I’d recommend bagging (garbage, ziplock, etc.) items that need to stay dry.

Neither are really waterproof

– Last Updated: Jun-17-13 1:19 PM EST –

Single closure roll top dry bags typically let a bit of water in if completely immersed. Outdoor Research has some double closure windowed dry bags that are actually pretty dry. I have been told that the ziplock type closure on Watershed dry bags is pretty watertight as well.

Five gallon buckets with gamma lids are also typically not fully waterproof unless you seal around the junction of the ring and the bucket with something like silicon sealant. The O-ring on the screw down hatch is reasonably water proof is screwed down tightly.

Best in terms of water tightness are either dry boxes, such as those made by Pelican, or the 30 or 60 liter plastic blue barrels.

I'm told by my friends who have tripped on the Colorado River that the Bill's Bags are also pretty good.

I have used 30L, 60L, and 80L blue barrels, 5 gallon buckets with gamma seal lids, and dry boxes. I like to use roll top dry bags inside of a portage pack.

Have used both…

– Last Updated: Jun-17-13 2:11 PM EST –

Have used both, generally speaking I have had good luck with both; which is to say that I have personally never had real issues with either.

Bottom line: If I have any concerns at all about keeping any particular items dry(especially electronics/first aid gear), whether I am using bags or buckets; I back up the bag or bucket with secondary protection. I might use a waterproof map case, garbage bag, or a Pelican box as back up. Depends on the item in question.

Under the wrong circumatances; anything will leak.
Ask the Captain of the Titanic.


P.S. Listen to pblanc's (good) advice about using sealant on 5 gallon buckets.

My issue with buckets of any size
is that they are not conducive to good use of space in the canoe, AND they are heavier than bags.

I think some trippers like the recycled buckets, and the blue buckets with the perimeter clamp closures, because in camp they can serve as stools or support work surfaces. And they must be harder for critters to get into than bags.

But in a really bad bear area, buckets and blue barrels may still need to be hung high, and that won’t be as easy as hoisting bags.

Once, at the NOC Guest Appreciation Festival, I picked up a 30 liter blue barrel and its shoulder/hip portage harness for only $35. But I’ve hardly used it. It just doesn’t do anything that can’t be done better by my collection of Watershed and Voyageur waterproof, inflatable bags. In my 15’ river cruiser, a MR Synergy, there just is not a place for even a 30L blue barrel. Bags, however, go low and easy along the sides and at the ends of the triple saddle.

No question that what works
and what doesn’t depends largely on circumstances: kind of boat, kind of trip, etc.

If you’re making an initial investment
… dry bags may be more versatile as they pack in tighter places. And when used alone they sit in the boat nicely without banging around or causing discomfort. And you can roll them down smaller as needed.

article on types of dry storage
California Kayaker Magazine ran an article on types of dry storage and what works back in Issue #4 (Winter 2010). That issue, and all others, can be read online for free at http://www.calkayakermag.com/magazine.html.

Of course, it was focused on kayaking dry storage. If you are asking about the buckets, sunds like you are in a canoe, as those buckets won’t fit in a kayak.

Dry bags if kayaking and…
a combination if in a canoe.

We have never had a dry bag leak yet, but we do put the stuff in zip lock freezer bags, (stronger then regular ones) and then in the dry bags.

Put the stuff in the freezer bag, and squeeze the air out of it as you zip it up, and it ends up like being shrink wrapped.

We did this on 15 day artic circle canoe trips, Everglades wilderness water way trips and miscellaneous other trips.

Get good quality dry bags and test them out.

Jack L

Not so much on kind of boat. We took
an 18.5" canoe into Quetico for 12 nights, and there was just enough room for soft packs. If we had tried to use barrels, we would not have been able to get everything in. Barrels and buckets are always going to eat up space.

anything will work
most important question to me, is are you going to be doing any portages ?

the buckets can be hand carried, but that can be awkward and tiring over longer distances, and they don’t fit well in all boats - its nice to be able to have everything packed below the gunnels to cut down on wind resistance.

the best drybags have a good padded hipbelt along with good shoulder straps, and some sort of padding to keep items in the bag from poking you in the back - the cheaper drybags just have mediocre shoulder harness and no back padding - lots of stuff can poke you in the back

depending on what kind of investment you are looking at making - how often you will use this stuff - you can use the KISS principal - if you are not going to be portaging, then any backpacks and duffle bags you have can be used - just use large trashbags as waterproof liners - generally two layers of trash bag, with the tops twisted, folded over, and then ruber banded closed. Even if you will be portaging, a decent backpack with good hipbelt, lined with trash bags is still very workable, and often will be better than a cheaper drybag without hipbelt. so you may be able to use stuff you already have, or can find cheap at a thrift store.

even with good quality drybags, I still use a trash bag liner, and will put the sleeping bag inside a third layer (small trash bag inside the sleeping bag stuff sack)

I do tow week trips in Quetico Park in Ontario, often with 40 to 50 portages - I have used everything except buckets and blue barrels. I prefer a good drybag with quality suspention, or a good backpack, and frequently use a cheap duffle bag lined with a sil-nylon pack liner inside a trash bag. it all works if you are smart and careful in the way ou pack.

for 2 or 3 day river trips in CO/UT/WY, with no portages, I just use a cheap dry bag ($39 from Sierra Trading Post) lined with a large trash bag, and a cheap daypack misc. stuff I want to keep handy like rain gear, sunscreen etc.

Forgot to mention
if you decide to try out the gamma lid setup they are now available at Home Depot. That’s a fairly recent development, at least around here.

Well yeah,
if your canoe was only a foot and a half long you definitely wouldn’t want to carry any buckets. Sorry, couldn’t resist. Imagine smiley face emoticon thingy here.

I like packs for all circumstances
Overnight tripping: I use a traditional canvas Duluth Packs. On the inside, I now use Granite Gear eVent roll-top liners. I have never liked barrels. Packs mold to the shape of the canoe and are lighter than barrels.

Daytripping: I like a small roll-top pack better than a 5 gallon bucket. Again, the pack is lighter and easier to position, especially horizontally and low. The bucket has to be kept vertical and static, sometimes requiring stabilizers or bungees to do that.

As others have said, I don’t think there’s much difference in waterproofness. To me, the key issues are light weight, collapsibility, moldability, and ease of carriage. You can use barrels and buckets as small seats and tables if that’s important.

But you can roll barrels down slopes
when needed, as when the topography of your portage route permits!

But Peter, barrels can serve as sponsons
Just lash a couple on each side of your kayak.

The screw top bucket is great for things you might want to get at while you’re paddling. Mine will have lunch and snacks, bug dope, rain gear, repair kit etc.

Drybags pack easier and will conform to the hull shape.

As previously noted nothing is perfectly dry. I put my sleeping bag, tent and clothing in drybags inside my drybag portage packs.

Bags / Buckets
The bucket would be great for food as it will keep the little critters at bay. It also serves double duty as a stool. I use a plastic wannigan for day trips to store food and fragile items. A dry bag is used for rain gear and any extra clothing.