Tested: Four 5L Dry Bags for Bikepacking

The dry bag is an all but mandatory piece of a proper bikepacking or bike touring gear arsenal. Whether strapped to the bike for overflow gear (or food), carried as a standby for protecting valuables from the weather (or bears), or used as permanent luggage, folks usually have at least one in their kit.

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Five or six liters seems to be the volumetric sweet spot for stowing various bikepacking gear; among other things, a 5L dry bag can accommodate an ultralight down sleeping bag, a sleeping pad, a cook kit based around a narrow pot, or a combination of clothing. These four 5L dry bags were purchased to use as working components of a long-term kit and to either be strapped to a Salsa Anything cage, mounted on a rack, squeezed under the seat, or cinched to a handlebar harness. Each of these four bags was chosen for its useful size and reputation for durability; and each has been battered over the years. Here are some details and how they’ve stood up to miles of punishing sun, rain, sand, and wind.

Outdoor Research Window Dry Bag (5L)

11.63 x 6 in / 420D laminated and coated nylon with urethane window / 113 grams

The OR Window 5L has just the right amount of space to stuff the Big Agnes Pitchpine sleeping bag and keep it within a long and slender format. This allows it to be cinched along side a small tent or hammock in the Revelate Harness and maximize the handlebar capacity in a bikepacking kit.

Outdoor Research Bikepacking dry bag

  • Outdoor Research Bikepacking dry bag
  • 2014-10-drybags-or-02
  • Outdoor Research Drybag for Bikepacking

The marketing pitch for the OR Window Dry Bag is the urethane window which allows one to take a visual inventory of its contents, but I actually frowned on this a bit and thought it may be an extra point of vulnerability. But that wasn’t the case, in fact this dry bag has stood up to a lot of miles and has proven itself the most durable of the bunch.

  • Strengths: Very durable and waterproof
  • Weaknesses: No loops or handles
  • Durability: 9/10
  • Abrasion Resistance: 10/10
  • Weight: 6/10
  • Design: 8/10

OR no longer makes this, but this is similar; OR Duct Tape Bag

Sea to Summit Big River Drybag 5L

7 x 4 x 11 in / 420D TPU laminated fabric / 79 grams

The 5 Liter Big River Drybag is close to the ideal size for the Salsa Anything cage. It has a slightly oval cylindrical shape and is fabricated from strong abrasion resistant 420 D nylon, double stitched, and has tape sealed seams. The rubberized and stiff Hypalon strip along the roll-top provides a no-wick closure to ensure a waterproof seal. The Big River bags also has a Hypalon loop on either side to allow straps to be fed through the bag. We used three of these on the last trip and only one has developed abrasion wear.

Sea to Summit Big River 5L Dry bag for Bikepacking

  • Sea to Summit Big River 5L Dry bag for Anything Cage
  • Sea to Summit Big River 5L Dry bag for Bikepacking
  • Strengths: Tight waterproof closure; lash loops
  • Weaknesses: May see some abrasion over time
  • Durability: 8/10
  • Abrasion Resistance: 8/10
  • Weight: 8/10
  • Design: 9/10

Buy at Amazon

Sea to Summit eVent Compression Drybag 6-2L (XS)

6 x 14 in / Breathable eVent fabric / 103 grams

The eVent Compression Dry Bag is a fairly popular option among bikepackers. The straps and end handle provide lashing points for handlebars, racks, or a harness. The bag’s waterproof breathable eVent material makes it compressible without a valve. This particular bag housed Gin’s sleeping bag on our tour through Mexico and Central America and was mounted directly to the rear rack.

Event Drybag for Bikepacking

  • Event Drybag for Bikepacking
  • Event Drybag for Bikepacking
  • Strengths: Breathable fabric makes it a great stuff sack; compression capabilities
  • Weaknesses: May abrade at strap points
  • Durability: 7/10
  • Abrasion Resistance: 7/10
  • Weight: 7/10
  • Design: 8/10

Buy at Amazon

Exped Fold Drybag 5L

6 x 12 in / PU-coated Taffeta nylon / 46 grams

The Exped Fold bag has a very simple and light design. However, I was actually surprised at how durable this bag is. I used the larger 8L model for a tent that was constantly strapped under my saddle bag and it held up well over 6 months of rough dirt and gravel roads. That being said, the best use of this bag is still as a packed backup for keeping things dry, or lashing extras on when needed.

Exped Fold Drybag for Bikepacking

  • Strengths: Ultralight; packs nicely
  • Weaknesses: Prone to abrasion over time
  • Durability: 6/10
  • Abrasion Resistance: 6/10
  • Weight: 10/10
  • Design: 8/10

Buy at Amazon

Have other dry bags to suggest? Leave a comment below and we’ll post them here:

  • Axe Skot

    I’d like to see how Jandd’s 420D dry bag measures up. I’ve used their Hurricane bags almost daily for a few years now and they have been solid. They aren’t completely throw-it-in-the-river waterproof though. I have been thinking of upgrading to the dry bag.

  • Those look interesting. Kind of sized similarly to the Big River bags: http://www.jandd.com/detail.asp?PRODUCT_ID=FDRY

  • Axe Skot

    I have a lot of their gear, really well crafted and reasonably priced. These are the bags that I use right now, but like I said, not a true “dry bag”, but it definitely repels rain.

  • SuperKramp

    I picked up a couple Ortlieb Ultra Lightweights on sale. I like that you have color coding options to help a road weary traveler from having to look everywhere for something. The 12 liter fits my Viscacha pretty well, but I haven’t given these a proper testing yet. They’re pretty thin and I bought them to go inside frame/seat bags, not sure how long they’d last fully exposed… http://www.ortliebusa.com/prodInfo.asp?pid=172&cid=2

  • I recall checking out those Ortlieb bags… I’d be interested in seeing how they do. Thanks!

  • I really like the Outdoor Research Airpurge bags. Have had two for a few years and used them for hiking, touring, bikepacking and paddling trips without any leakage.

    If you live in Canada MEC has some basic good value non-compression dry bags. The 5 litre just fits in an anything cage. http://www.mec.ca/product/4011-624/mec-weigh-lite-dry-bag/

  • Bob Jenkins

    I’ve got a couple of the Jandd hurricane bags and have been quite eimpressed with them.

  • Wayne

    Looking for tough as snot? Sea Line Baja: http://www.cascadedesigns.com/sealline/dry-bags/baja-dry-bag/product Yup, hefty at 200gr for the 5L but 10/10 for durability.

  • Tough is good… thanks Wayne!

  • Wayne

    And for the weight weenies, Cascade Designs offers the lighter line of Nimbus dry bags. The 5L version — 210D nylon with polyurethane double coating — comes in at 92gr/3.3oz: http://www.cascadedesigns.com/sealline/dry-bags/nimbus-sack/product .

  • Outtherekids

    The Alpkit Airlok Xtra dry bags, http://www.alpkit.com/products/airlok-xtra. We use the 13 liter bags strapped to our rear racks, and the 8 liter ones as handlebar bags (without any harness). Super durable, without being overly heavy. Alpkit’s other bike packing gear is also very good and highly recommended.

  • DanMFatcycling

    I’ve got a Seal Line Kodiak which has the window. I got it for it’s shape and also was skeptical of the window durability. It appears to be unfounded as after almost 5000k in Central America it’s still going strong so I can recommend that one as well.

  • Allan

    The 20L Sea-to-Summit Big River bag makes an excellent trunk bag, BTW. It’s oval shape fits nicely on the rack, and the lashing straps on the side let you tie it down. I stuffed a big sleeping bag in there for cold weather camping.

  • Thanks Allan. The Big River Bags are pretty bomb-proof!

  • That’s a fair amount of testing… thanks Dan!

  • Nice. I like how they include loops on the sides and bottom.

  • +1 on the Sea-to-Summit Big River and eVent bags. The compression eVent bags are some of the best waterproof handlebar bikepacking bags out there, and don’t require a harness. A Big River bag has been holding my tent since 2010, although it is now faded, torn, and far from waterproof.

  • Eugenian

    What are the rear panniers?

  • Eugenian

    I use dry bags for most everything except for what I need to get to during the day. 500 miles, no issues.

  • Rick

    What’s your opinion on the ideal size for a dry bag on the handle bars? I run a frame bag and a 13L saddle bag? I was thinking something around 15L to open up the room for a winter bag. You can always cinch it down on less gear-centric rides. Thoughts?

  • Hi Rick. Sorry for the delay. I like smaller bags 5-10 L, check out Revelate’s dry bag, it’s the ideal size, in my opinion

  • Rick

    No worries. I ordered a 20L Airpurge because I’m hoping my hammock and winter bag will fit in, but that maybe overkill. I may swap out for the 10L or 15L depending the test fit. I also carry an insulated sleeping pad in the winter that extends the range of my hammock, but it may get its own bag attached to the saddle bag. I just picked up some Oveja Negra bags and I’m looking forward to trying them out next weekend.

  • Rick

    OR Airpurge 15L is almost exactly the same size, and the Revelate is backordered so I may give that a try . The 20 is a bit too big.

  • Isaac

    I used a 10L NRS tuff sack on my last trip and they’re super burly and waterproof. They also carry their “ricksack” which is clear ripstop. Planning on getting the 6L version for the anything cages for South America part 2. http://www.nrs.com/product/2945/nrs-tuff-sack-dry-bag


    Has anyone encountered a rear rack that can mount dry bags on the sides? I’ve tried a couple seat bags and they sway too much for my liking. I’m thinking there must be a lightweight, super minimal, rear rack out there that would allow you to mount Outpost or Anything Cages on each side and a trunk bag or whatever on top. Trek has just released the new 1120 and it has an awesome looking rear rack. Although it doesn’t have the cage bosses, there is an image of it with dry bags attached. Are the harnesses used in the first image familiar to anyone?

    http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/72905287aea21d7c386acc0481e94679f840cc6b51e8848cfd9b71ab9e7272f7.jpg http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5bc23cebfbc759a2613404f8e2ed19dcbd26dc086b0cc4a78d0adaf1757495ba.jpg

  • bbushman

    Rick- how’d this work out for you? I’ve got a winter bag I’d like to put in the event bags- wondering if I could go with the 15 or 20 and then compress down to something rackable, even if it doesn’t fit up front…

  • Stef

    hey. looking for a similar solution. Does anybody knows what dose black “belts” around the Sea to submit bags are? @disqus_ccys83jTi4:disqus checkout tubus.com

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