How to Choose Your Dry Bags for Boating?

How to Choose Your Dry Bags for Boating? - Dry Bags
Sail boat and island

Whether you’re blue water sailing or cruising in a motorboat, it’s a good idea to keep all your belongings together when you're out on the water. Your watch, wallet / purse, smartphone, spare clothing, and maybe even your laptop needs to be protected whatever you are doing, be it hopping on and off pontoons or stowing your sailing gear below deck when under way.


Your gear should not only be secured but should also be kept safe and dry. Several excellent waterproof sailing bags are available these days. If you are going on an aquatic adventure like sailing, you should bring waterproof boat bags so you won't have to worry about your stuff getting wet. Boating dry bags are the perfect companion for various activities, including paddle boarding, kayaking, hiking, diving, scuba diving, snorkelling, and motorcycle touring. However, the most common issue people come across is choosing suitable sailing dry bags is choosing the right one.

How to Choose Your Dry Bags for Boating?

With a market saturated with dry bags, how can you identify the most effective ones for boating? The following factors should be taken into consideration:

Pro-Sport waterproof backpack

PVC tarpaulin and nylon are the most common materials used for waterproof boating bags. PVC is the more popular of the two as it’s more durable and 100% impervious to water. The lighter weight nylon bags are great for keeping off rain and ocean spray. But we wouldn’t trust them to be submersible. Watershed bags, the market leaders, are made from a 420 denier Cordura nylon ripstop fabric (UV and chemical resistant) and then coated with multiple layers of polyurethane for the added durability.


These bags will NEVER crack, fade or loose flexibility. They’re originally designed for White Water Rafting, so you know they’re tough! All the seams on the bags are radio frequency (RF) welded, a process that sees high frequency radio waves fuse the panels of material into one complete piece, eliminating any joins that could leak.


OverBoard’s excellent bags are all made from hard wearing PVC tarpaulin (the Pro-Sport range are tougher and the Pro-Light bags are, um, lighter – without loosing durability).

Dry Flat

One option we rate highly are Overboard’s Dry Flat bags as these pack into nooks and crannies so neatly. 



Waterproof boating bags come in a variety of sizes. When picking a dry bag, you need to consider the amount of storage you have, locker shape and the amount of gear you need to protect.


A 5 litre bag can fit personal items like electronics, a few t-shirts. For a full change of clothes perhaps look 15 – 20 litres. Waterproof Duffel Bags are great for carrying lots of gear, especially with you divide up your kit with packing cubes or smaller dry bag stuff sacks.


D Rings

Waterproof sailing bags often have D-rings built into them. These are great for lashing your bags to tenders and dingys. In an emergency, multiple bags could be linked together for easy retrieval. All the Watershed bags come with robust D -Rings and webbing. The OverBoard Duffels and Backpacks all have sturdy carry handles.

Closure Type:

There are two types of seals on boating dry bags; the usual roll top found on many types of dry tubes, waterproof backpacks, etc. And the Zip-Lock style seal found on Watershed’s bags. Whilst the Roll-Top seal is great for bags that see rain, ocean spray, etc, they are only briefly submersible. If you’re looking for something at can be dunked, we recommend a Watershed product. Yes, they are priced at the premium end of the market. As ever you get what you pay for.


Waterproof boating bag

The dry bags are expected to see come punishment when boating. Bother OverBoard’s Pro-Sport and Pro-Light ranges are produced from hard wearing PVC and Watershed’s toughened 420 Cordura are going to serve you well, shrugging off barnacle scrapes and being tossed onto the quayside. The straps, handles and lash points are equally important. These bags are built to last.


It's OK to have light levels of waterproofing when camping. Boating is one case in which dry bags should keep valuables dry, even when submerged, as this can easily happen out the water. This area requires the use of closure types.

All the OverBoard bags are rated to IP66 which means they float if dropped, um, overboard, but are only briefly submersible. Watershed bags are rated waterproof to a staggering 300 feet / 91 meters (we haven’t, however, been able to independently verify this claim – but have no reason to dispute it!)

Welded Seams:

The stitching and folds of most dry bags are joined through Radio Frequency (RF) seam welding to form a perfect seal that won't leak. Some of the lighter weight stuff sacks we sell are stitched and the joins are simply taped. This is sufficient for rain, but won’t pass muster if submerged.

Level of Waterproofing:

An IP system or hydrostatic head unit is used to measure the waterproofing level of a dry bag. Water could press against a bag without leaking before a hydrostatic head is reached. In other words, if the hydrostatic head is 10,000 millimetres, the bag can be submerged safely in 10 meters of water. In this system, waterproofness is ranked. IP6 to 8 is the most common rating for dry bags.


Ditch Bags:

As all keen sailors know, you need a ditch bag on hand should the worst ever happen.

What you put in an abandon ship dry bag above the essentials (EPIRB, Flares, VFH Radio, Mirror, Space Blankets, Water, First Aid Kit and 2 X Torches) is largely personal choice and subject of a forthcoming blog. The bag itself has to be 100% waterproof in order to keep the contents dry. It has to be large enough to hold everything comfortably and leave space for plenty of air once sealed. You want this bag to be buoyant! We’d recommend either the OverBoard Pro-Vis waterproof backpacks or the smaller Watershed Duffels.

How to Maintain Dry Bags?

Dry bags like to be cleaned regularly, especially if use them in saltwater or at the beach. Their smooth material permits makes rinsing them off in clean tap water a breeze. Remember to dry them fully before putting away for storage. With a little care they’ll last you many years.


Some Important Tips:

  • There are various colours available in dry bags, including blue, yellow, black, green, and high vis-orange. If you want to find them easily in a crowded airport, for example, the brighter ones are ideal since you can see your bag from a distance.


  • It's not just about protecting contents from water when you use a dry bag. Additionally, pillows and floatation devices can be used with them. Put clothes or towels into your bag to convert it into a pillow. Keep a bit of air inside the bag when you seal it if you want it to float.


  • Use a plastic bag if you want to store mosquito repellent because it will ruin your dry bag if it spills in. The stuff is poisonous, and if a heavy-duty dry bag made of 500D PVC can be destroyed. We recommend citronella to repel mosquitoes; naturally, it's non-toxic, and mosquitoes hate its smell.


  • Please note the external pockets on dry bags and duffels are usually not waterproof, only protecting against splashing, which means your phone or other electronics will not be protected. We highly recommend that you always put your phone in a mechanically sealed waterproof phone case, such as OverBoard’s.