Dry bags, unsurprisingly, can keep your stuff dry – and also help you organise your pack. Alex Roddie tries out three of the best dry bags on the market and picks out the best.
Rain. Snow. Puddles. Accidental dunkings when you’re wading across a river. Water is everywhere in the British hills, and even on a sunny day it’s a good idea to think about how you’re going to keep sensitive items dry.
You should always have a waterproofing plan for spare insulation layers, hats and gloves, and any electronic items, because your rucksack is almost certainly not waterproof.
The last thing you want is to pull out your down jacket on the windswept summit ridge and find that it’s a soggy mess.
There are several ways to keep your stuff dry. Rucksack covers have the benefit of also keeping the rucksack itself mostly dry, but they can snag on branches and equipment attached to the outside (such as poles or ice axes), and flap around in high winds.
Another option is the orange polythene rucksack liner, secured with a drawcord. This does the job but is a disposable item with a more limited lifespan than more durable products.
Lightweight roll-top dry sacks are available in a range of sizes and colours, and offer completely waterproof storage for your gear.
Although most manufacturers will state “not suitable for full immersion”, in reality they can survive almost anything you can throw at them on the hill; for kayaking or packrafting then look for something more robust.
If you want to maximise the amount of gear you can cram in your pack, for instance on a long-distance trail, then it makes sense to compress everything into a single large sack.
Otherwise, two or three smaller dry sacks are a more practical choice. I like to keep a small one in my pack’s hood pocket for storing hat, gloves, wallet, and other small items.
BEST DRY PACKS: CONTENTS
Sea to Summit – Ultra-Sil Dry Sack
Price: £14 (13L) | Weight: 40g (13L) | Materials: Ultra-Sil 30D siliconised CORDURA nylon | Features: non-wicking Hypalon roll-top closure, round base, 2,000mm water column rated | Sizes: 1L, 2L, 4L, 8L, 13L, 20L, 35L
The Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sack is a very lightweight dry bag made from siliconised nylon. This is a lightweight, flexible, and slippery material, which makes it easy to pack in your rucksack – it easily squeezes past other items and doesn’t snag.
The material is also translucent and lets in a surprising amount of light. Despite the dark colour of the sample I was sent for testing, I never had any trouble identifying items in the bottom of the bag, which can be an issue with dry bags made from dark-coloured or thick material.
There is a subtle ripstop pattern, and although it’s only 30D material – meaning that it’s quite thin – it has proven tough so far. I have no concerns about durability in normal use.
All seams are fully taped. Despite only being rated to a 2,000mm water column, I’ve found it no less waterproof than the other bags tested.
The bag’s shape is a basic narrow cylinder with a round bottom, although there is no grab loop to help with emptying the bag or hanging it up to dry. However, this helps to keep weight down.
The roll-top closure works as you’d expect – and one side is stiffened, which helps to make a good seal.
A headline feature for the Ultra-Sil Dry Sack is that the buckle can be easily replaced by the user (you just need a screwdriver).
This is a big win for longevity, because buckles on products like this are easily broken – if you’ve ever stepped on one you’ll know what I mean.
Overall, this is a superb dry bag. It’s very lightweight, affordable, should last a long time, and can be easily repaired. There’s little I’d change.
Also consider: Granite Gear eVent Sil Drysack, 13L, 50g, £26.99
Exped – The Fold Drybag CS
Price: £55.49 for 4-pack of different sizes | Weight: 75g (13L); set of 4 weighs 204g | Materials: 70D Taffeta PU-coated nylon, TPU Polyether film | Features: transparent window, grab handle, D-ring, 10,000mm water column rated | Sizes: 3L, 5L, 8L, 13L
The Fold Drybag CS line aims to solve a simple problem: visibility. Most dry bags are made of opaque material, which means that you’re forced to squint down through the top of the bag to see what you’re rummaging for – or you’re at the mercy of any light that manages to penetrate the fabric.
This is often fine for ultralight bags, but more durable ones are usually opaque, making it a guessing game to fish for that hat or compass.
The Fold Drybag CS features a nice big window made from clear TPU right down the middle. This means that contents are highly visible at all times, and plenty of light is let in when the bag is open and you’re looking for something.
Also aiding visibility is the fact that the interior of the bag is white, regardless of the fabric’s external colour. This makes a huge difference.
Other aspects of the design are well considered. The fabric is burly 70D PU-coated nylon, which should be durable despite its lack of a ripstop pattern.
Both sides of the roll-top closure are stiffened and there is a D-ring next to the buckle. The base is oval in shape and has a large grab loop for ease of emptying or hanging upside down to dry.
All seams are taped. There are quite a few seams, though, given the TPU window; this adds weight and potential failure points.
The Fold Drybag CS is available as a 4-pack in common sizes, which is cost effective. This is probably the nicest dry bag I’ve used in terms of design, with the weight being the tradeoff.
Also consider: Exped Fold Drybag UL 4-Pack, 80g (set), £54.99
Ortlieb – UL Drybag
Price: £22 (12L) | Weight: 70g (12L) | Materials: abrasion-resistant PS21 (PU-coated nylon) | Features: grab handle, reinforced circular base, IP64 rated against water and dust ingress | Sizes: 1.5L, 3L, 7L, 12L, 22L
Ortlieb are often associated with waterproof map cases, but they also make a wide range of dry bags, including immersion-proof ones designed for use in boats.
The PS10 Ultra Light Waterproof Dry Bag is designed for hiking use and is not as burly as some of the others in the range, although it’s still well made and possibly more durable than lighter competitors.
The PU-coated nylon fabric is marketed as being abrasion-resistant, and I’ve noticed no wear whatsoever despite a few months of deliberately cavalier use in and out of my pack.
There is no ripstop pattern, but I don’t think that’s a problem. Seams are bonded, not taped, which helps to keep weight down, and the circular base is reinforced – my favourite feature
The base has a small grab loop bonded in place too. The roll-top closure is made from a tacky material that makes an excellent seal, but is not as stiffened as closures on the other dry bags tested.
The PS10 is rated IP64 against water and dust ingress (“totally protected against dust; protected against water splashed from all directions”). This is reassuring; no other dry bags tested have an official IP rating.
At 70g for the 12L model this is not an ultralight dry bag. It’s certainly not burdensome, and the fabric doesn’t feel stiff, but it’s not the lightest option available. It’s also expensive.
However, this is a durable and high-quality product that will certainly keep your kit dry.
Also consider: Lowe Alpine DrySack, 70g, 15L, £10.49