Drybag vs. watertight bulkhead

Through various topics, I see a lot of discussion about drybags. Seems like some people put just about everything in them. Most of the newer boats that I’m currently looking at have watertight bulkheads front and rear. So I’m wondering…

Are the proponents of “never can have too many drybags” using boats that don’t have watertight bulkheads, or do you simply not trust them to stay watertight?

dry bags
I still use dry bags for most of my gear.

water tight hatches - - -
can there be anything nastier than arriving at camp, unpacking the boat, finding some water in the hatches and your sleeping bag wet?

better safe than sorry.

No such thing as a dry Compartment
Even compartments that have completely watertight hatches and bulkheads will get your stuff wet. Water droplets will form due to condensation. These will collect and wet your stuff.


– Last Updated: Oct-08-04 3:18 PM EST –

Its easy to lug out a dry bag full of stuff then to try to just grab it individually.. Think grocery store shopping & bags.. You don’t need a bag you could just roll the cart to your car?? but why would you??

ever eat a soggy sandwich
poached in polyethelen and simmered in an esturarian stew at body temperature?

Yaks with rudders
WILL leak some through the bulkheads due to the cable passages for the rudder control. Many bulkheads will seep anyway.

After a couple hours of wet entries, waves, seeping sprayskirt, etc. I can count on my “waterproof” storage compartments to contain water.

Paul Caffyn is an amazing

– Last Updated: Oct-08-04 11:26 PM EST –

expedition kayaker and does not use dry bags. I have never had a boat with both hatches absolutely dry. Everything except the poncho and the mesh duffle goes into dry bags.

Other Reasons…
My boats have had dry bulkheads, though with the plastic boat it did require some new sealer over the winter - but I’d never go out camping without dry bags for a bunch of reasons.

  1. The hopefully rare but not impossible time that you forget the tamp down the hatch covers and don’t notice it until a few waves have washed over the boat. 2) The risk noted by the above paddler of dropping your stuff while unloading. 3) If it rains on your camping trip, or you awake to pea soup fog that is clinging to every branch, you will still have something dry to wear and dry matches for the stove to make the coffee.


Not so dry hatches
I found out the hard way that my hatches leak around the covers. They are rubber and just don’t seal totally, especially when they get hot and expand.

Use the dry bags. As was said, much better safe than sorry.

Packing an Explorer
Packing is different depending on climate, time of year, type of boat, size of hatches and storage compartments, necessary gear for the trip and personal preference. The problem with dry bags is that they are too big and take up too much room in the storage compartment. For example, my Romany Explorer has 10- inch hatches and a sleeping bag in a dry bag could never fit through the hatch. It also has a skeg. The skeg box takes up half the rear hatch and is a perfect place for the tent and ground tarp, but could never fit a dry bag. Therefore, I use very few dry bags but have become a fanatic for dry hatches and have developed my personal techniques for packing. The Explorer has three storage compartments. I segregate wet, damp and must be dry gear in different compartments. I also use zip lock bags for radios, wallet, and may even double bag stuff such as pancake mix and jam in case one bag leaks. If I am particularly concerned with big items, tents, sleeping bags I may use a large plastic garbage bag. This will keep a wet tent from getting other gear wet and may keep an item dry in a damp, but not wet storage compartment. Gear that travels in the cockpit, of course, gets a dry bag.

Best is to trip with others and see what they are doing. A trip in Baja in a fiberglass kayak and a trip in Alaska in a folding kayak require completely different packing techniques and gear.

I have always paddled low volume boats, but have done many extended trips. I dislike dry bags very much as they are bulky, hard to pack, take up vital space, and aren’t really dry. There is a far better option. Take regular nylon coated soft stuff sacks and line them with a couple of garbage bags. Place items inside, sqeeze air out, twist and tuck garbage bags inside the stuff sack, then draw the sack closed. Test this in your bath tub and you will find this system drier (the dry bags will seep around the closure over time). This has worked for me for years of guiding and extended solo trips. It allows for more, smaller sacks that can be crammed into small boats. The bags are durable too. I could not imagine a long trip in a small boat utilizing dry bags. As others have said, sooner or later all storage areas get moist, but this system has kept me dry for years. JMO

Thanks everyone, for all the good info. I’ll probably come up with some hybrid solution, depending on what sort of trip I’m taking.

Sleeping bag and small hatch
I use a tapered nylon drybag for my sleeping bag, and can get it through my 10" bow hatch - the secret is to leave the drybag open and 1/4 of the sleeping bag hanging out when you place the point of the back up into the bow. I then finish stuffing my sleeping bag into the drybag, roll the top and seal it. It only takes up the space from the front edge of the hatch to the peak of the bow - otherwise hard-to-use space. It’s a nylon drybag so it slides in and out of the hatch easily. I have several vinyl drybags but will slowly replace them with nylon as they are so much easier to pack.