Bikepacking Dry Bags For Every Purpose and Budget

When we’re holding our own in a wild place, sometimes the simplest things matter most. Like dry bags! Before becoming obsessed with bikepacking, I never would have guessed such a basic item could be so essential.

Dry bags, as you probably know, are waterproof sacks used to hold gear. They keep small items organized and allow you to strap gear all over your bike – to the fork, the handlebars, the top of a seat bag – without (or in addition to) a rack or bikepacking bags.

Most importantly, at the risk of stating the obvious, dry bags keep our bikepacking gear DRY. For mission-critical items like a sleeping bag, warm layers, and electronics, this is a matter of both comfort and safety.

If you’re just getting into this delightfully addictive pastime, you might be wondering which dry bags are best for bikepacking. Is a $40 dry bag really better than a $10 dry bag? Will a 12 liter dry bag fit your sleeping bag? What size is best for your fork cages?

I’ve been incorporating dry bags into my bikepacking setup for well over 10,000 miles, and I’m excited (yes really!) to teach you about this unsung hero of the bikepacking gear world. Let’s dive in!

Two 5-liter dry bags strapped to the sides of an Elkhorn rack, with another dry bag strapped to the deck.
Dry bags are a key part of many budget bikepacking setups. This rider carried her water in a backpack and didn’t have a frame bag, but thanks to these dry bags she still made use of her frame triangle.

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How to Use Dry Bags for Bikepacking

Dry bags are like the Legos of bikepacking gear. They come in all sizes, shapes, and types, and with a little creativity (and some Voile straps) you can build almost anything with them. Fill them up, scrunch them down, hang or carry or strap them… They adapt perfectly to the rigors of bikepacking.

Here’s a partial list of ways I have used dry bags for bikepacking:

  • Handlebar bag when combined with harness or straps
  • Accessory bags on fork or down tube
  • Makeshift seat bag (a popular budget bikepacking trick)
  • Expandable storage carried on top of a seat bag or handlebar roll
  • Strapped to a rack, either on top or on the sides like mini-panniers
  • Extra waterproofing for electronics or clothing within non-waterproof bags
  • Food bag, easily hung by the roll-top closure if necessary
  • Pillow (stuff with clothing and wrap with a buff)
  • Small “purse” or backpack for resupply stops when combined with a shoulder strap
  • Portable laundry basin

Now that your creative wheels are turning, let’s talk about what makes some dry bags stand out from others.

Related: How to Pack for Bikepacking

Dry bag strapped to rear rack
Simple dry bag + rack combo
Dry bag as extra capacity atop a seat bag
Handlebar bikepacking gear
An 8 liter dry bag and some straps make a simple handlebar bag for a lightweight sleeping quilt.

Dry Bag Features

Dry bags might seem simple, but they’re actually a varied bunch. Here are the most important features I look for in a good bikepacking dry bag.

Reliability: All but the most shoddily produced bags should be up to the challenge of a little rain, but not all are intended to be fully submersible. For sustained rainy weather (hello Pacific Northwest) or risky river crossings, choose more carefully.

Durability: Heavier fabrics offer more protection against scrapes and punctures. A thin lightweight dry bag is great for protecting electronics in your frame bag, but a burlier bag is a better choice for strapping to your fork or the sides of a rear rack.

Compression: Bikepackers love compression. Sometimes it’s the only way to fit all the things on the bike. Some dry bags come with built-in compression straps to make this easier, which is especially handy when trying to fit them on drop handlebars.

Loops and straps: Daisy chains and loops help you attach dry bags more securely. If you’ve ever looked down and noticed that something important has bounced off your bike sometime in the last few hours, you’ll appreciate this feature. Loops can also help you attach yet more dry bags to your dry bags, which is especially helpful for handlebar setups.

Closure type: Roll-top closures are the most common, and their flexibility is helpful for bikepacking. A long bag can be rolled up shorter to fit on drop handlebars or stuffed full to maximize cargo space on flat bars. A few purpose-built bikepacking dry bags have roll closures on both ends for easy access to small items (like warm layers) throughout the day.

Weight: As with most outdoor gear, durability and weight are often inversely related. Unless you’re a true weight weenie, differences in dry bag weight are probably the least of your packing list worries, but it can still make sense to choose dry bags that are no larger or burlier than you need.

Price: There’s no escaping “you get what you pay for” in outdoor gear. A sturdy, reliable, lightweight, thoughtfully designed bikepacking dry bag will cost more, especially if it’s made by a premium brand or a local manufacturer. I’m the first to say you don’t need the more expensive version, but you might enjoy it if you have room in your budget.

Related: Gear Ideas for Bikepacking on a Budget

Just part of my growing dry bag collection, all of which I’ve used for bikepacking at one time or another.

What Size Do You Need?

Dry bag product photos sometimes look like those Russian nesting dolls. They come in so many sizes that you could fit dry bags inside your dry bags inside your dry bags… The volumes are generally listed in liters, but it can be hard to know what that translates to in terms of your gear pile.

Before choosing a dry bag to carry a specific item of gear, check the dimensions to get a sense of its stuffed size. What fits best will depend on the bag’s shape (long and skinny or short and fat) as well as how waterproof you need it to be (roll the top down further if you intend to submerge it fully).

Here are examples of items that will probably fit in each size range (individually, not all at once) and where each size might fit on your bike:

2-5 liters:

  • Fits: Small electronics, bike tools, lightweight inflatable sleeping pad, or small backpacking stove and fuel canister (especially 100g size).
  • Ideal use: fork bags (attached to cargo cage), extra storage attached to handlebar or seat bag, wallet or purse, extra waterproofing inside other bags

5-10 liters:

  • Fits: Larger electronics (Kindle or tablet), a day or two of food, a few items of clothing, or a lightweight sleeping quilt
  • Ideal use: Handlebar bag for drop bars, makeshift seat bag, makeshift mini-panniers, pillow

10-15 liters:

  • Fits: Standard 3-deason sleeping bag, several items of bulky clothing
  • Ideal use: Handlebar bag, makeshift panniers, strapped to top of rack

15-20+ liters:

  • Fits: Larger sleeping bag, lots of clothing, or combinations of smaller bags
  • Ideal use: Handlebar bag for flat handlebars, top of rear rack, makeshift camp cushion

Considerations for drop bars: If you ride a drop bar bike, a larger dry sack can be rolled up at the end to fit between the drops, but obviously the capacity will be less than advertised. To maximize gear capacity for drop handlebars, look for a dry bag with a larger diameter and potentially some compression straps from end to end.

Considerations for tire clearance: If you’re a small rider on a 29er bike, you may have to watch out for your tires rubbing on your handlebar bag and seat bag. If you’re going to use a dry sack for either of these purposes, look for one with a smaller diameter to get more clearance.

Tip: Long skinny dry bags can be surprisingly annoying to stuff large items into. I recommend going shorter and wider for your sleeping bag, if possible, to minimize the frustration factor.

Related: 6 Types of Bikepacking Setups for Inspiration

Six bikepacking dry bags in line near bike
Dry bag size examples, in order from left to right: 30L, 14L, 14L, 8L, 5L, 2L

Best Dry Bags for Bikepacking

Ok, let’s get down to specifics. There are a ton of bikepacking dry bags and general-purpose dry bags out there. How’s a bikepacker supposed to choose?

Here’s a selection of highlights based on my personal experience and recommendations from other bikepackers, supplemented with some online research and reviews.

Sea to Summit eVent Compression Dry Sack

Many bikepackers, myself included, combine the Sea to Summit Compression Dry Sack with a handlebar harness to carry a sleeping bag and clothes. The relatively larger diameter and compression straps make excellent use of space, especially if you have drop bars. The 14 liter size easily fits my cozy 3-season sleeping quilt and puffy jacket on my drop bar bike.

Sizes: 6, 10, 14, 20, 30 liters

Advantages: Compression with valve-less air purge, light weight, straps provide extra stability for handlebar or fork mounting.

Drawbacks: Not designed for full submersion or close encounters with sharp objects.

Great for: The 14 and 20 liter sizes are perfect for carrying a sleeping bag in a handlebar harness, especially with drop bars thanks to the length-wise compression straps.

Sea to Summit eVent Compression Dry Bag

View of handlebar bag on wide gravel drop bars
14 L eVent dry bag in a handlebar harness

Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack

The Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack is a classic among both backpackers and bikepackers. I’ve been using mine for many years and though it’s gotten a little dingy looking, it still works beautifully. I use the 8 liter size to waterproof electronics inside my frame bag and then stuff it with clothes as a pillow at night. For an even lighter (but less durable) option, see the Ultra-SIL version.

Sizes: 1, 2, 4, 8, 13, 20, 35 liters

Advantages: Lightweight, soft and foldable, wide variety of smaller sizes.

Drawbacks: Not designed for full submersion or close encounters with sharp objects.

Great for: Small sizes (1 – 4 L) are great for backup waterproofing of electronics inside bike bags. Larger sizes (8 – 20 L) make good sleeping bag stuff sacks for your handlebar harness if you’re gentle with them. The 8 liter size makes a perfect pillow.

Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack

8 liter Sea to Summit dry bag as handlebar bag and sandwich holder

Sea to Summit Big River Dry Bag

The Big River Dry Bag is a well-loved classic from Sea to Summit. Made from more durable fabric than the lightweight bag above, and with lash loops on the side, it’s a perfect choice for strapping to cargo cages (the 5 liter size) or atop a rack deck.

Sizes: 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 35 liters

Advantages: Durable, lash loops for threading straps

Drawbacks: Not as lightweight as some.

Great for: The 5 liter size is excellent for strapping into cargo cages. The 8 liter size fits nicely atop a small rack deck. The 13 and 20 liter sizes can work well for a sleeping bag on handlebars or a larger rack.

RockBros Waterproof Dry Bag

As with their other budget bikepacking gear, the RockBros Waterproof Dry Bag makes a cheap yet surprisingly functional bikepacking dry sack. It’s sturdy enough to go on the fork or sides of a rack, and is especially designed to be carryable.

Sizes: 2, 5, 10, 20, 30 liters

Advantages: Durable, very affordable, comes with plastic loops and removable shoulder strap for a makeshift backpack.

Drawbacks: Not as lightweight as some.

Great for: The 2 and 5 liter sizes make good fork bags, especially if you run a Voile strap through the plastic ring for extra stability. Two liters just barely holds a JetBoil MicroMo and 100g fuel canister, or a rolled Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite pad. Five liters holds a couple days of food or spare clothes. Larger sizes would make durable handlebar bags or mini-panniers.

RockBros Waterproof Dry Bag

5L and 2L Rock Bros bags strapped to a fork cage

SealLine Baja Dry Bag

The SealLine Baja Dry Bag is another all-purpose dry bag, similar to the RockBros option above, but from an established brand that specializes in waterproof gear. They offer medium to large sizes that are designed to be sturdy and fully submersible.

Sizes: 5, 10, 20, 30 liters (and 40 and 55, but those are probably too big for bikepacking)

Advantages: Durable and simple, more affordable than some.

Drawbacks: Not as lightweight as some bags.

Great for: The 10 – 20 liter sizes make good handlebar rolls, makeshift panniers, or rack-top bags. I once used the 30 L version, strapped to the top of a rear rack, to hold almost all my gear on a lightweight cross-USA ride. The 5 liter size works well as a fork bag.

SealLine Baja Dry Bag

Bikepacking setup C&O Canal Trail
30 L SealLine dry bag under a high-viz pack cover on the C&O Canal Trail

Revelate Designs Polecat Fork Dry Bag

The Polecat Fork-Mounted Dry Bag by Revelate Designs is specifically designed for bikepacking, and Revelate is known for its thoughtfully designed quality gear. Clever features include daisy chains to run straps through for extra security, and a reinforced back to prevent wear from rubbing against the cargo cage.

Sizes: 3.5 liters

Advantages: Durable, thoughtfully designed for secure fork mounting and bikepacking-specific use.

Drawbacks: Expensive, only one size.

Great for: Accessory bag on your fork. The 3.5 liter size is perfect for tools, a stove, lightweight inflatable sleeping pad, a day of food, or small layers of clothing (one at a time, not all at once!).

If you’re looking specifically at fork-mounted bikepacking dry bags, the Salsa EXP is a similar idea. It’s a little cheaper, but the extra strap loops and rigid base make it less flexible for other uses (pillow, etc). For even more analysis-paralysis-inducing options, see this extensive list.

Salsa EXP Series Side Load Dry Bag

The Salsa EXP Series Side Load Dry Bag has a unique double-sided roll closure. This helps with compressing gear while packing, unloading from whatever side of your bike is most accessible, and accessing layers throughout the day. It’s designed for use with Salsa’s EXP handlebar cradle and you can buy the whole set together, but it also works with other handlebar harnesses. I especially like this bag with flat bars, where its wide shape and double-ended access really shine.

Sizes: 14 liters

Advantages: Durable, convenient double-sided roll closure, air release valve, loops for attaching additional gear.

Drawbacks: Expensive, only one size.

Great for: Carrying sleeping bag and clothes in a handlebar harness. The additional loops make it easier to attach a second item, like a small tent, without the need for extra-long straps. The diameter is relatively small, making it a good choice for riders with tire clearance issues.

If you like the dual opening style, I also recommend the Ultra X series from Mountain Laurel Designs. They come in three sizes, offer plenty of loops for secure mounting, and are extremely light.

Salsa EXP Side Load Dry Bag

Salsa EXP dry bag in handlebar harness on flat bars

Mountain Laurel Designs Ultra X Dry Bags

Small ultralight gear maker Mountain Laurel Designs recently got into the bikepacking space, and I recommend their UltraX series of double-ended dry bags. I’ve been using the small for bikepack racing and it’s only a matter of time before I buy the medium for regular riding. They’re super light, easy to work with, and the grey color is both practical and unique.

Sizes: 11, 15, 20 liters

Advantages: Ultralight, lots of lash loops, quick double-ended access

Drawbacks: Expensive

Great for: Carrying sleeping bag, clothing, and other light items in a handlebar harness. Ends are useful for warm layers, gloves, etc. The small size has an unusually long and skinny shape good for maximizing tire clearance on a small frame with suspension fork.

MLD UltraX Double End Dry Bags

Small UltraX dry bag in Revelate Designs harness

Are there other good dry bags for bikepacking? Certainly! If you already have a different one, give it a try. It’ll probably do just fine.

Harnesses, Cages, and Straps

Once you have your dry bags, you’ll need to attach them to your bike. This can be a whole other can o’ worms, but here are a few ideas to get you started.

Straps: Bikepackers love stretchy rubber Voile straps. They’re perfect for attaching a dry bag to a handlebar harness, cargo cage, downtube, or other creative nooks and crannies. Tip: If you’re on a budget or like flexible multi-use gear, get the longer ones. Extra tails can always be tucked in, but you can’t make a short strap longer.

Gear and cargo cages: I’m a fan of Blackburn Outpost cages plus Voile straps. The Salsa EXP Anything Cage is also very popular. These cages are perfect for securely attaching a 2 – 5 liter dry bag to your fork or, if you have space, downtube.

Related: Cargo Cage Comparison: Blackburn Outpost vs. Salsa Anything

Handlebar harnesses: Technically you can strap a dry bag directly to your handlebars, but it’s not ideal because the bag will bounce around and rub against your cables. Instead, mount a handlebar harness like my current favorite from Revelate (or a number of other options) and then attach your dry bag and perhaps a second item like a tent.

Tip for drop handlebars: If your space is narrow and your dry bag fights with your brifters, compress it by wrapping a strap around it length-wise. Or, invest in a dry bag with compression straps.

A Voile strap and 8 L dry bag make a clever minimalist seat bag!

Other Tips

Once you’re loaded up and ready to roll, here are a few more tips to keep your dry bags and your gear happy.

Close your bags carefully for good waterproofing. The roll-top closure is meant to be folded at least three times to completely seal out water. You can get away with less in light rain, but if it pours or you’re navigating serious water crossings it pays to be more precise.

Attach your bags carefully. If slipping a small dry bag into the shock cord on your seat bag or strapping under your downtube (both places that are hard to see while riding), make absolutely sure it won’t bounce out. For extra security run a strap through a daisy chain loop, if your bag has one, or the loop created by the closure buckle.

Repair torn or punctured dry bags with gear tape. I always carry a few squares of Gear Aid Tenacious Tape in my bikepacking fix it kit and have used it to repair everything from dry bags to tents, rain jackets, and hydration bladders.

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Pictures of dry bags for bikepacking

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About the Author

Hi there, I’m Alissa, founder of Exploring Wild. I’ve traveled over 20,000 miles by bike and still can’t stop planning my next ride (and helping you plan yours). Pavement and panniers or singletrack and seat bag, I love it all. On my bike I feel free. Learn more about me here.

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