Last updated: June 11

What Size Dry Bag Should You Have for Kayaking?

Whether you are out touring in the open, wide ocean, or go for a whitewater kayaking experience, you will need to have a dry bag on hand. The dry bag helps keep your gear and food free from water and moisture while you are out touring on water.

A few decades ago, boat riders had to use waxed canvas bags or a sealable tin can if they wanted to keep their change clothes and sandwiches dry. This type of storage had many obvious problems, and it was exposed to water contamination.

As plastic became more common, seafarers switched to plastic bags to keep their essential items dry. These bags led to the development of dry bags and duffel bags that are designed to stay afloat while keeping your gear completely dry.

In this article, we consider the size and type of dry bags that you should get for your kayaking trip.

What gear and equipment do you need?

Before you worry about the size of the dry bag to buy, you need to consider what items you will be stored in the bag. The more gear you want to take on your trip, the bigger the dry bag you will need to get.

The less equipment you need, the smaller the bag size for your needs. Common gear that you may need on your trip includes the following:

  • Sleeping Bag and Tent: If you are going on a multiple-day trip, then a sleeping bag and covering a tent is necessary. We recommend using a dry nylon sack for both that can easily fold and fit into your dry bag.
  • Camp Clothing: These will depend on your trip destination and whether you will land anywhere to make camp. Camp clothing, tent, and sleeping bag will be the bulkiest items on your list. If you don’t need them, the size of your dry bag will be smaller.
  • Camera Gear: Necessary if you intend to take pictures of the landscape. It doesn’t occupy much space but requires completely dry storage. Pack it inside a camera case in the bag.
  • Electronics: These include your cell phone, laptop, watch, and any other gadgets you are planning to take. Take very little space but need protection.
  • Multi-tool & Torch: A multi-tool can be a lifesaver when you need it. The same goes for a torch.
  • Food and Water: It’s easier to locate food items when you use a sack with multiple storage compartments. We recommend only storing dry food items and cans that do not get squished.
  • First Aid Kit: An essential item. Takes moderate space.
  • Cooking Gear: You can store most cooking gear inside a tight-fitting mesh bag.
  • Duct Tape & Towel: Very useful in certain situations.
  • A Backpack: The backpack will be used to carry your gear on land from the dry bag fitted inside the kayak.

Be careful when you select your gear. While it may seem like a good idea to pack everything, do remember that you will need to carry and row everything on your own.

If you pack too much, it will be too heavy and cause fatigue.

Dry bag sizes

Dry bags are sold in various sizes ranging from small to huge. Kayaking dry bags are measured based on storage volume in liters.

They can be anywhere from 5 liters to 55 liters.

5 liter bags are very small and good for storing a few essentials and food. 55-liter bags are huge and used for packing everything from food to sleeping bags and tents.

A 55-liter bag can be used to store a couple of days of gear for two people.

Individual kayaking dry bags range from 10 liters to 25 liters. Larger dry bags may be harder to fit into a hatch unless you have a bigger watercraft.

It is also more difficult to pack larger bags fully as there will be small gaps left around the gear inside the bag.

The standard size that most users prefer for a day pack is about 18 – 20 liters. This is also the standard size recommended for fitting a dry bag on a single person’s raft.

Dry bag size varieties

Based on their sizes, dry bags can be divided into four types.


A small-sized dry bag can be used for storing electronics, food, water, and other essential items. The smallest kayaking dry bags come with a packing capacity of 5 liters up to about 10 liters in volume.

The smallest dry bags do not generally include their own carrying straps and more suited to store inside a larger bag.


Medium-sized are the most common dry bags and range from 10 liters to 25 liters. These dry bags can be used to store food and water, electronics, and a variety of other items including spare clothes.

They are ideal as a single day kayaking dry bag. Most of them include a single or double strap for ease of carrying.


A large dry bag is bigger in size and offers a carrying capacity from 25 to 40 liters. These dry bags are great if you are looking to store a wider range of items, including a sleeping bag.

They can be used for multiple-day kayaking trips and generally have multiple straps for handling. They are also quite sturdy and capable of managing heavy loads.

Extra large

Dry bags that offer a carrying capacity of more than 40 liters can be classified as extra-large. These dry bags can be used to store a huge amount of items for multiple-day camping and kayaking trips.

You can fit gear for two people in a single dry bag of this size.

They are quite heavy to carry on your trips and best left inside the kayak when you land on your destination. You will need to have smaller backpacks to shift and carry items from these extra-large dry bags on your destination.

Dry bag construction

The design of the dry bag is another factor to consider when you are looking for the right-sized bag. A majority of dry bags are sturdy and lightweight due to their construction material and stitching quality.

The trick is to buy a dry bag that doesn’t weigh a lot when it’s empty but does not tear up when you pack it full with gear.

The best dry bags are made of a thick nylon or vinyl type material to keep them waterproof. We strongly advise you to follow the manufacturer’s instructions about the loading capacity and weight.

Packing a dry bag with items that are too heavy can cause even the best quality dry bags to tear up on a long trip, and you don’t want that.

Packing a dry bag to utilize its size

The size of your dry bag is only one part of the equation. With better organization, you can fit more into a dry bag and utilize space more efficiently.

You can do this by separating your gear into similar items and pack them together.

For instance, pack all the clothing that you need on your trip into one nylon bag and your medical gear into a separate plastic bag. Keep your cooking equipment in a compressed pile and food cans in one pocket.

You should also organize the food into breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks in a single day trip. Place dinner at the bottom, then lunch and then breakfast at the top of your trip starts early morning and ends late at night.

If you are going on a multiple-day trip, say for three days, then the food for day 3 should be packed in first, at the bottom. Food for day 2 goes over that and food for the first day of the trip on top.

If you are going on a weeklong trip and using multiple large dry bags, then alternate food for each day in the dry bags. Pack food for days 1, 3, 5, and 7 in one dry bag and food for days 2, 4, and 6 in the other, keeping the earliest to use items near the top.

Organizing gear in a way that you expect to use it on the trip will help you get the most out of your dry bags’ packing space.


The popularity of dry bags has grown over the years with the boom in watersports on inland waterways and coasts. They first started becoming common during the nineties.

With better design, sturdy and lightweight material, and greater carrying capacity, they have now become a necessity for serious kayaking enthusiasts.

If you are planning to take up kayaking long-term or already engaged in kayaking, then the right sized dry bag will be an important part of your kayaking equipment.

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Always Make Sure You Have the Right Gear When You Go Kayaking