outside outside magazine outside online kayaking paddling ask the expert
Can't keep yourself out of the water? Keep the water out of your stuff. (Photo: Vladimir Pustovit/Flickr)

How Can I Keep My Paddling Gear Dry?

What's the best way to keep gear dry when rafting or kayaking?

outside outside magazine outside online kayaking paddling ask the expert
Doug Gantenbein

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Keeping gear dry on the water is important, but it’s not difficult. Your waterproofing options run from super low-tech—garbage bags—to exotic shock-resistant cases.

Stuffing gear into a garbage bag and cinching the top will give you protection from rain, spray, or even a quick dunking, provided the bag bobs with the cinched end up. Garbage bags also come in handy for storing shoes, dry socks, or packs when there’s s a chance of rain, and they’ll even help with actual garbage. I recommend traveling with several.

Sea to Summit Big River Dry Bag
Sea to Summit Big River Dry Bag (Courtesy of Sea to Summit)

When the risk of total immersion is high, you’ll want to invest in a purpose-built dry bag. On excellent option is Sea to Summit’s Big River Dry Bag ($32), which has eight liters, or almost 500 cubic inches, of capacity. That’s enough for a sleeping bag, clothing, or a tent. The Big River Dry Bag is a classic roll-top bag made from waterproof material, and to seal it, you simply fold the open end as if you were rolling a towel, then cinch it with a buckle.

For something larger, check out SealLine’s 55 liter Black Canyon Dry Bag ($55). It’s the size of a standard hiking backpack, which means it’ll hold most of the gear you might take on a typical trip. It’s made from a tough and light urethane-coated nylon, and, like Sea to Summit’s bag, it uses a a roll-up top and buckle system to form a seal.

Seal Line Black Canyon Dry Bag
Seal Line Black Canyon Dry Bag (Courtesy of Seal Line)

For some items—an expensive camera, for example—I’d urge you to consider a hard case like the Pelican 1450 ($150). The Pelican is made from super-tough plastic, seals out water with neoprene O-rings, and is filled with egg-crate foam to protect from drops or knocks. And as an added bonus, you also can order it without foam or with padded dividers.

Lead Photo: Vladimir Pustovit/Flickr