"Dry" Bags

Maybe I’m expecting too much, but I’ve tested three different types/brands of dry bags and they all leaked. The first ones I bought were reinforced PVC made by Camp Inn, the second ones are the Pneumo Mech made by Pacific Outdoor. I also tested a GPS case made by Pacific Outdoor.

To test them I put some folded t-shirts in them and closed them up. I folded them neatly and tightly 4 to 5 times and put them in a bathtub with enough water to cover the entire bag. After about 20 minutes, I opened the bags to find that water had made it in.

From the reviews I had read on these bags, especially the Pneumo bags, I expected them to be totally waterproof. Are dry bags supposed to be totally waterproof or just splash proof? My hatches are very watertight, so it shouldn’t be a problem for normal use. But if something goes wrong, and the compartments get flooded, what good are dry bags that leak?

Pedro Almeida

One Solution - Works but not Pretty
ExChile has been doing trips across the Andes Mountains of Chilean Patagonia since the 1980s and this has been a constant problem. The weather down there can be ferocious. This is what they tell guests coming on their trips about

dry bags:


Q: What kind of bags do I need to keep my gear dry?

A: We provide the following two options. Our first suggestion is a professionally made roll-down dry bags, which can be expensive, or home-made. Believe it or not, we recommend the second option. We have found that a nylon stuff sack combined with a heavy-duty large trash compactor bag, thick enough to last the week but flexible enough to get in strange spots in the kayak, is ideal. They can even serve as rainwear in emergency! If you bring store-bought dry bags, we recommend bags no larger than 24” by 12” – as the kayak hatch covers are not big enough to accommodate larger bags. It is also easier to stow several smaller-sized bags into the compartments than to try inserting one large dry bag.



If anyone has a completely bomber solution - one that will stand-up to the worst weather an immersion, please post it.

Jan 16th had another dry bag thread.
You might want to review it. As just about anyone who does whitewater will tell you, dry bags are not dry. If it’s only a couple of minutes, you have a chance…otherwise, water will get in.

The alternative option are bags with seals, not fold-down closures…such as Watershed. But be prepared to spend big money and from what I hear, the seals will not stand for long-term heavy usage.

Fer us canooists… barrels

– Last Updated: Jan-25-07 2:38 PM EST –

Never sprung a leak yet. Dats another reason ta git a canoo! We kin' fit more stuff.


That is right on info!!!
I dislike dry bags. Only ones I’ve grown to like for packing small boats are Sea to Summit. I still line everything with garbage bags. For years i’ve used regular nylon stuff sacks with plastic bags as liners, and they have out performed heavier, bulkier, dry bags. Test for yourself in bathtub.

first it was Nixon
now it’s “dry” tops and “dry” bags

my world is tumbling in around me!

All the drybags I’ve used were watertight in the main body. Can’t blame the material or the sealed seams–they’re good.

Unfortunately, water can and sometimes does work its way in through the rolltop.

Somebody here posted a tip about folding the edges inward first, before rolling. I haven’t tried that yet, but it can’t hurt.

One thing I noticed on a long trip is that if there is water (hatch leakage or wet hands) near the rolltop and you then open it, that little bit of water gets sucked right in, I swear. So make sure the bag and your hands are dry before opening or closing the dry bags.

I just bought two Pneumo Mech bags myself…better test them.

How about Water shed bags?
I bought one this fall after also finding out my PVC bags don’t work too well. According the the Web page at their site, the Navy Seals use them to exit submerged submarines!

One thing I did find out is that whatever you have you must spend the little extra time to make sure it is sealed correctly. After a unexpected swim, I had a lot of damp clothes because I didn’t secured correctly the zip locks bags that I keep them in inside my PVC bag. I had a little water in my paint bucket I use for food and my dry box didn’t work.

My swim turned out to be a good lesson on what not to do and how to recover. Luckily, I had a Sawvivor and a hand axe to cut firewood and a fire starter to quickly get a fire going to warm up.

I’ve had excellent results with
Watershed. They are very sturdy as well as waterproof. I also have some Voyageur bags with the slide seals that have never leaked, but their lighter fabric is more susceptible to puncture or wearing through.

My roll-top bags have leaked, because when water gets into the roll closure, it can be wicked inward if colder temperatures cause the bag to contract. Plasic liners help prevent wet gear.

Have you seen the Grand Canyon?
A rule of thumb I learned in Boy Scouts and again in College Physics: “Water always wins!”

At the best, you can slow it down; but it WILL achieve homeostasis.

I use the roll down bags. Even then, I put critical stuff inside good garbage bags.

I think on Pacific outdoors site they recomend blowing in some air back against the seal for instances of high probability of submersion

For flotation
The instructions with my Pneumo Mech bags said something about blowing air into them for flotation in case of a capsize. I didn’t read anything about it being for any other reason.

Pressure Equalization…
We all have the inclination to compress the bags because we overload them…when we do that, we follow it up with a good hard squeeze to get the remaining air out of the bag so it will fit through the hatch easier, and go into tighter spaces once it’s inside…

Problem? as the stuff we compressed tries to expand, it literally creates a suction that pulls water into the bag through the seals…load less, leave the remaining air, (Or at least SOME air) in the bag, and the bag will leak LESS (I’m not promising anything other than LESS here).

Thanks to all who’ve replied. I’ve thought of leaving air in the bag to avoid sucking water into the bag, but if it had a good seal, like it should, that wouldn’t be necessary. My hatch covers are usually sucked down onto the rims/gaskets from a vacuum created inside the compartments. This depends on the air temperature/amount of sunlight hitting the boat before I launch and the water temperature. When it happens, my compartments stay 100% dry. No water gets sucked in. Even without the vacuum effect, my compartments are dry except for a few drops of water that get in when I open the hatches. My point is that dry bags shouldn’t require all kinds of tricks or plastic bag backups in order to keep things totally dry. Maybe we should call them splash-proof bags. I’m experimenting with one of my Pneumo bags to see if I can come up with a solution. I’ll keep you all posted.

Pedro Almeida

Good point, ST, but remember, most
bags are packed and rolled shut while relatively warm, and then later if they are submerged, the air inside compresses and tends to draw water in through the roll top.

There isn’t going to be a massive amount of water infiltration… just enough to be annoying if inside gear isn’t in plastic baggies.