Dry Storage Options for kayak, canoe, and raft paddlers

Anyone who spends time in Sit In or Sit On Top kayaks, canoes, or rafts will eventually need to keep something dry while they paddle. Jeff shows you how to do it without breaking the bank.

Updated May, 2015

Anyone who spends time in Sit In or Sit On Top kayaks, canoes, or rafts will eventually need to keep something dry while they paddle.

*many of the links in this post take you to retail sites where you can get more product details.
Click here to see all of the dry bags and dry boxes that NRS (leading paddling retailer) has.

The key items that I often try to protect are:

  • cell phone: I REALLY don’t want my mobile phone to be ruined, but like knowing that it is with me in the kayak if I need to call for help.
  • wallet: Its leather and doesn’t really like getting wet. It is nearly always empty, so it isn’t like I have to worry about getting my cash wet.
  • TP: What, didn’t think I’d be so bold as to admit in public that having TP available while paddling is important to me? The magic paper is good for wiping dirt off my sunglasses, blowing my nose when my allergies act up, and… well, you know. Don’t leave home without it.
  • food: I burn a few calories while paddling and often carry a snack. Sometimes we paddle to a beach with a fire ring and cook dinner camping-style. While I’ve been known to eat just about anything, I am not a big fan of soggy food.
  • clothes: I generally paddle in swim shorts with no shirt and a pair of Crocs for my feet. Sometimes I paddle to see folks instead of driving and want a set of dry clothes that are more presentable when I get there. We are also preparing for some camping trips where we will need to keep our clothes dry.
  • First Aid kit: I’ve never tried applying mushy, wet bandages, and don’t care to.
  • gear: …like the aforementioned camping gear.

So far I’ve developed a few strategies for keeping my stuff dry using a couple of different products. If I missed something leave a comment and I’ll add to the list.

The best way to keep something dry is to leave it at home.

Yeah, it seems obvious but I’ve seen more things ruined because folks forgot to remove them from their person before heading to the water than I have due to failed water protection gear. For example, a friend soaked a custom hearing aid when her son jumped from the dock into the kayak with her and they capsized. She was quite upset that she had forgotten to remove her hearing aids.

The next best way is to not care if your stuff gets wet.

For example, I carry a knife with me in case I get tangled in a rope, fishing line, etc. I could carry a typical carbon steel knife, but that would mean keeping it oiled and away from water to prevent rust. Instead I carry a stainless steel diving knife in a plastic sheath. It is made to get wet and won’t corrode due to water contact.

If it can’t get wet and you have to take it with you, think about a few things:

  • What items will you need to access while on the water, and can you do so without ruining them. For me, this means I have to think about how I store my cell phone so that when it rings I can get to it and use it without it getting wet.
  • How much room do you have in or on your kayak. It doesn’t help to pack your clothes in a 4500 cubic inch dry bag if there is not room to store it in your boat. Seems obvious, but I’ve seen people tripped up by this.
  • Does your item need other protection as well? For example, when we paddle to shore to cook eggs for breakfast on the campfire, the eggs are nestled in a hard sided dry box, not a soft dry bag. No use keeping something dry just to have it broken.
  • Your budget and the item’s value. There are premium solutions available, but they may either exceed your budget or the value of the items you want to protect.

Jeff likes (generally in order of expense):

  • Protein shake containers. I am an avid recycler and, sometimes to my family’s dismay, am always looking for creative ways to reuse things before recycling them. However, it can be really hard to find containers that are water-tight, but don’t cost an arm and a leg. A friend is a avid weight lifter and churns through all manner of supplements, so I have a ready supply of supplement containers of various shapes and sizes. Most seal pretty well, but none are watertight. These work well for things that I don’t want to get soaked, but a drop of water or two won’t hurt (most food and cooking items, wallet). They also work well for holding stuff that I find while paddling that I want to keep separate from my other stuff, like fishing lures. These fit great behind the seat of my Heritage Featherlite 14 Sit In Kayak or any of my Ocean Kayak Sit On Top kayaks.
Protein shake container as dry storage on kayak

Protein shake container as dry storage on kayak

  • Zip lock bags for non-critical items. They are inexpensive, easy to find, and sometimes work to keep water off of your items. I might trust my wallet to a zip lock, but not anything that MUST stay dry.
  • Purpose built electronics bags. I use a clear rubber/plastic bag for my Andoid phone or iPhone. It has a sealing mechanism that clamps together to seal out water, a lanyard, and an integrated headphone jack. It was about $3 on sale at meritline. I don’t trust this bag with my phone by itself, but it allows me to pull the phone out of the dry box if I need to answer a call while on the water. Seriously, redundancy is important for items that MUST stay dry.
Meritline waterproof bag for iPHone mp3 droid

Meritline waterproof bag for iPHone mp3 droid

  • Dry Boxes for items that have to stay dry and can benefit from the protection of a hard box. I put my iPhone in the bag mentioned above, then store that in a dry box between my feet in the kayak. The dry box is easy to open and reseal, which makes getting things out while on the water easy. However, it also means that I sometimes have the box open on the water. It only protects the contents if it is closed. Check out my review of the Outdoor Products Large Dry box.
Outdoor Products watertight box - Large

Outdoor Products watertight box – Large

  • Dry Bags for items that don’t need the impact or crush protection of a dry box. I actually don’t use dry bags much, but plan to use them for bulkier gear like clothes and camping gear on future trips.
Seattle Sports H2Zero Diamond Dry Bag

Seattle Sports H2Zero Diamond Dry Bag

Seattle Sports H2Zero Diamond Dry Bag

Seattle Sports H2Zero Diamond Dry Bag

Jeff doesn’t like:

  • Ruined stuff from failed dry storage. Know the limits of your gear and use it appropriately. I haven’t found anything that is 100% waterproof 100% of the time.
  • Forgetting to bring the dry storage when I head to the water. Sounds silly, but I’ve gotten to the lake before just to realize that I left the dry box at home. It only works if you use it… sort of like a life jacket.

Overall conclusion:

You don’t have to break the bank to keep your stuff dry while kayaking. A little forethought and careful selection of your dry storage gear will go a long way towards making your life on the water safer, more enjoyable, and less stressful.

Jeff’s rating:

Gear Score
Not a specific product rating, but in general, dry storage rules!

Please leave a comment to let me know if this review was helpful to you.

About Jeff

Jeff is the Editor in Chief of Gear Report and a National Shooting Sports Foundation Media member. He reports on the outdoor industry, reviews gear for camping, hiking, shooting, hunting, paddling, backpacking and other active pursuits. A USAF veteran, Jeff earned a MBA in Marketing and Health Services. He specializes in consultative selling and internet marketing. As the VP of BD & Marketing, Jeff provides sales and marketing leadership to MGECOM, Inc. and helps http://MGECOM.com acquire new clients in need of solutions for online merchants in need of Affiliate Marketing program management. Jeff founded and manages Cress Sales & Marketing LLC, offering online sales and marketing consulting and services to online merchants and service providers.