Best Dry Bags for Camping

How to use dry sacks

Camp in comfort night after night with the right dry bag  

What’s worse than arriving at a campsite with a wet sleeping bag and clothes?  How about knowing how easily you could have protected your gear? A dry bag is one of camping’s little essentials. It’s up there with a head torch, eco-friendly wet wipes and a Jetboil.

Read below for our guide on how to choose and use a dry bag for camping.

Woman and dog in a tent next to a body of water
Photograph by Patrick Hendry

What is a dry bag?

Remember when your mum lined your backpack with a black plastic bin liner ahead of your D of E expedition? Well, dry bags are the evolution of this technique – except they won’t leak!

“Dry bags are essentially a waterproof sack that’s impenetrable to rain or sweat. They’re easy to open, stuff and come in different sizes so you can better organise your gear and keep it protected at the same time.”

Says John Kelly from Aquapac.

Whether you’re having to hike through the rain to reach your campsite or are fast asleep in your tent when the heavens open, a dry bag can offer waterproof protection. Dry bags are great for your clothes, sleeping bag, electronics, mobile phone, book and whatever else you like to take on your camping adventures.

How does a dry bag work?

Aquapac dry bags are made from PVC-free nylon or vinyl. You simply stuff them with whatever you want to keep dry, press out the air then roll the top down three times before sealing the clip. This will leave them Stormproof (known as IPX6 on the international standards developed by the International Electrotechnical Commission) and means you could aim a powerful water jet through a 12.5 mm nozzle at it and it would still work.

How should I use a dry bag?

When camping, the best way to use a dry bag is for it to function as a ‘pack divider’. That means sectioning out your clothing and equipment into what needs to be protected from the possibility of wet weather (pile one), and what doesn’t (pile two).

For example, in pile one you might place: clothing, electronic devices such as your phone, perishable food, your sleeping bag and cuddly toy. In pile two would be things like sunglasses, toiletries, sun lotion, and water bottle.  

Pile two can be placed in your rucksack no problem but pile one needs to be placed into one or various (if you like to be organised) dry bags.  By doing this, you’re not only protecting all of these things from the rain, you’re also dividing up your gear so that you can quickly and easily find it during times of need.

What weight do I need?

The first decision to make is over how serious you need to be when it comes to the weight of the bag. You can determine this by following the simple rule of more weight = more rugged. For example, Aquapac’s Heavyweight TrailProof Dry Bags are made from tough, durable vinyl. They’re only slightly heavier to carry around but they can withstand a lot of knocks and bruises without tearing or wearing down. The extra weight means they can stand up by themselves making for easy access.

In contrast, Aquapac’s PackDivider Ultra Lightweight Dry Sacks are made of white nylon with fully tapered seals.  They’re more packable, squashable and softer and easier to place inside a backpack.  The added bonus of these bags is that the translucency of the white exterior means you can make out what’s inside before opening it.

Size matters

The second decision is over size and the best way to decide this is to simply make a list of what it is you want to take camping. Knowing this will determine whether you need one large dry bag or a few smaller ones. Aquapac offers a family of four PackDividers, each with a different coloured base for more efficient organisation.  Its dry bags range in size from two litres up to 70 litres which comes with the perk of a shoulder strap for carrying long distances.

Anything else to look for in a dry bag?

Try to look for dry bags with grab handles so that they’re easy to pull out from your main bag and, if the outside gets wet, you can hang them up to dry inside your tent.

Remember when leaving your tent during the day with the threat of rain on the horizon, we recommend leaving one dry bag back at base (filled with your sleeping bag, most importantly) and taking another with you filled with the day’s essentials.