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Dry Bag Backpacks: The Best Dry Bags for Canoeing and Adventure Trips

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When it comes to choosing dry bags for overnight and multiday canoe trips, the criteria is very much like choosing gear bags for adventure trips in wet destinations: the bags need to be waterproof, durable, and hold a lot of gear. But another important factor is portability, and this is where a dry bag backpack, or “dry pack” shines.

Whether you are portaging on a canoe trip, backpacking in a rainforest, or rushing through a busy airport with two weeks worth of adventure gear, having a large backpack that keeps your gear dry and safe is priceless.

Dry Bag Backpacks are a great choice for: 

  • Canoe Camping
  • SOT Kayak Camping
  • Wet Location Adventure Trips
  • Travel Protection for Outdoor Gear

If you are like me though, you want gear that gives top-of-the-line performance at a not-so-top-of-the-line price. Having destroyed quite a few dry bag backpacks in my day, I have to say my very affordable Seal Line Dry Packs have never let me down. And mine have been used for countless canoe and kayak trips, supported bike tours, adventure travel, and have even survived the abuse of checked baggage handlers.

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Different Dry Packs for Different Needs and Budgets

Seal Line Dry Packs come in three models: The Boundary, Black Canyon, and Pro lines.

Seal Line Boundary Dry Packs

While Seal Line’s Boundary Dry Packs are their “entry level” waterproof pack, they are not short on functionality, durability, or quality. Built with 1000D 18.5oz vinyl-coated polyester with 1000D 30oz vinyl-coated polyester on the bottom, they are not as durable as the more expensive Black Canyon and Pro line, but should be able to handle the wear and tear of the weekend canoe camper. Another main difference which might make you opt for one of the more pricier models is that there is less padding on the belt and shoulder straps. For short canoe portages this may not matter, but if you intend to use the pack as a backpack it is worth considering.

My 70 Liter Boundary Bag has taken an insane amount of abuse and is still in great shape. The webbing is still pretty supple and all the hardware is like the day it was purchased. Disclaimer: some years back, Seal Line downsized the Boundary Pack from 70L to 65L and I have the earlier 70L model.

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The removeable backpack system is simple, and rugged, yet fairly comfortable.

The Boundary Day Packs currently come in 35, 65, and 115 Liter sizes.

35L / 2130 cu. in25 cm / 10 in37cm / 14.5 in51 cm / 20 in1.20 kg / 2 lbs 10 ozSee Amazon
65L / 3960 cu. in23 cm / 9 in44 cm / 17.5 in64 cm / 25 in1.54 kg / 3 lbs 6 ozSee Amazon
115L / 6940 cu. in32 cm / 12.5 in47 cm / 18.5 in76 cm / 30 in1.87 kg / 4 lbs 2 ozSee Amazon

Seal Line Black Canyon Dry Packs

The middle level of the Seal Line Dry Pack line is the Black Canyon series. The material is much heavier than in the Boundary series with 600D 17oz polyurethane-coated polyester construction with a 400D 20oz Polyurethane-coated nylon bottom.

My personal 115 L Black Canyon Dry Pack is well over a decade old and while it is showing it’s age in ground in mud and scuffs, the material and seams are as solid as the day it was purchased. 

65L / 3960 cu. in23 cm / 9 in44 cm / 17.5 in64 cm / 25 in1.72 kg / 3 lbs 13 ozSee Amazon
115L / 7010 cu. in32 cm / 12.5 in47 cm / 18.5 in76 cm / 30 in2.107 kg / 4 lbs 10 ozSee Amazon

Seal Line Pro Dry Packs

The Pro level of Seal Line’s Dry Packs have the same 600D 17oz polyurethane-coated polyester construction and 400D 20oz Polyurethane-coated nylon bottom as the Black Canyon series, but the backpack system is much more padded, more adjustable, and far superior. They also come with large D-ring lash points for both strapping things to your bag and strapping your bags in the boat.

For long canoe portages or any adventure use where you will be using the pack as a backpack, this is the way to go. I think most weekend canoe camping enthusiasts, however, would be better served with the Boundary series. All the extra padding in the Pro series takes up a lot of boat space. Of course those lash points would be nice.

Seal Line Pro Dry Packs come in two sizes: 70 and 120L

70L / 4270 cu. in23 cm / 9 in44 cm / 17.5 in68 cm / 27 in2.15 kg / 4 lbs 12 ozSee Amazon
120L / 7320 cu. in32 cm / 12.5 in47 cm / 18.5 in76 cm / 30 in2.50 kg / 5 lbs 8 ozSee Amazon

Choosing the Right Size Canoe Dry Bag

Seal Line Dry Packs come in 35, 65, 70, 115, and 120 Liter sizes. After having dragged both the  65L and 115L in and out of canoes, through rain forests, down waterfalls, and through airports, I have a lot to say about what these bags are good at and what size is best suited for those specific purposes.

For extended canoe trips, I typically bring along both the 115 and 70 Liter bags, keeping my tent, tarp, bedding, and clothes in the larger bag, and cooking and miscellaneous camp gear in the 70L bag. Both bags fit the hull of a canoe perfectly and keep a low center of gravity. There are also plenty of lash points if you feel the need to tie your gear into the boat.

Seal Line 115 and 120 Liter Packs

Simply put, these packs are HUGE! If you are looking for a gear bag that you plan to use for longer hikes or portages, be forewarned that if you fill this bag up with even slightly heavy gear, you may not be comfortable with it on your back – or even be able to lift it. 

If, however, you need to cram a ton of gear in one big bag and just need to move it short distances, this size bag is great. In the event that you plan on overloading your bag and think there may be a little careful dragging over a gravel bar in the bag’s future, you may want to opt for the Black Canyon or Pro packs. They are durable enough to handle a little more abuse.

These large dry bags really excel for multi-day canoe camping trips and offer tons of dry storage with a low center of gravity that you can quickly remove from the boat. For sit-on-top kayaks, however, these bags are much too big to fit in most tank wells and can change the center of gravity of the kayak in an adverse way due to the higher volume of the bag.

The larger packs can also make for a great gear bag on a supported adventure trip where you need to bring a lot of gear, but aren’t carrying it on your back. I used my 115 liter bag one year on the Bike Ride Across Georgia, a supported ride where your gear is carried in a semi truck between nightly stops. While I loved having the roominess of the huge bag, it encouraged me to take too much stuff which was really heavy and awkward to carry to our campsite from the truck. The next year I opted for my 70 Liter and found that to be perfect.

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I have found that my 115 Liter dry pack is fantastic when traveling by air to a backpacking destination. My fully loaded 58 Liter Osprey backpack fits easily inside with plenty of extra space for non backpacking clothes and shoes, which help protect the ultralight gear inside my pack. Generally the pack doesn’t weigh much since most of the contents are ultralight and the pack is comfortable on my back with the padding of the clothing. In these situations I most always have a friend or a rental car waiting at the destination, so I can leave the Boundary Pack and extra clothes in the car when backpacking.

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Size comparison: Seal Line Boundary 65 liter and 115 liter Dry Packs next to an Osprey 58 liter backpack

If you are checking your Boundary Dry Pack on a plane, I would suggest removing the backpack harness and stowing inside the back. To Seal Line’s credit, I’ve forgotten to do this on several occasions and, despite the typical airport abuse, the harness held up fine with no damage every time. 

Seal Line 65 and 70 Liter Packs

This is my favorite size for a general gear bag and I’ve gotten so much use out of my 70 liter pack that I’m shocked it has held up so well. It excels for practically everything. Not only is it a great canoe dry pack, it also fits perfectly in most sit-on-top kayak tank wells. 

My Seal Line Black Canyon 70L pack also became my go-to gear bag for the Bike Ride Across Georgia where you are basically living out of a bag for a week. I was able to easily cram in camping gear, extra cycling clothes, street clothes, sneakers, a camp chair, spare tires, a collapsible cooler, a battery powered fan, and a small selection of bike tools. It also kept my stuff bone dry on the many occasions it rained on the piles of gear that are always unloaded long before the rider’s return from their daily ride.

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If you need to use the back as a backpack, this size is ideal. There isn’t much support in this style of dry pack, but if you pack carefully with soft stuff against your back, it can actually be pretty comfortable. 

If I had to have only one waterproof gear bag for all my outdoor adventures, the Seal Line Black Canyon 65 Liter Pack would be it!

Seal Line Boundary 35 Liter Pack

I’ve never owned this size Seal Line Dry Pack and don’t think I ever would. The reason has nothing to do with the pack itself – I’ve seen them and they have the same quality of the larger Boundary packs I do own. But for this size pack, I think it’s better to opt for something that is more like a backpack and less like a dry bag. 

Basically, 35 Liters is just too small for overnight travel, especially when we can assume you are going to be in wet conditions since you need a dry bag. For a day bag, I would want more pockets and a bit more comfort – especially for longer and more adventurous hikes. I also can get by with an even smaller pack for day use. 20 to 26 Liters is a great size.

This waterproof backpack on Amazon is a much better choice. It’s not as durable as the Seal Line Boundary Bag, but smaller packs don’t tend to get the level of abuse larger bags get due to the lighter contents inside. For a backpack that you may be wearing all day, giving up that durability for function, comfort, and extra pockets can really be worth it.

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How Waterproof are Seal Line Dry Packs?

Judging how waterproof a dry bag is can be a slippery slope. A dry bag that can be extremely waterproof for one person may leak like a sieve for another and the reason for this lies mostly in experience rather than the construction of the bag. Taking great care when rolling the top of the bag and making sure it is sealed correctly is key to keeping the water out of any dry bag.

I can tell you I have never had any water get into either of my Seal Line Dry Packs, but I am also obsessive compulsive about rolling and securing the top. I often will do it several times until I am satisfied with the seal. I will also say that experience has taught me that bags with softer closure strips tend to be more difficult to make watertight. Seal Line’s closure strips are a bit firmer than a lot of other bags I’ve had, but I think this is a good thing – they allow for a tighter roll.

Over the years, Seal Line’s closure system has had some minor changes, so rather give you exact instructions here, I would encourage you to read (and memorize) the directions that come with your particular dry pack. Instructions are usually printed on the closure strips in case you forget. The manufacturer spent a lot of time and effort in both the design and testing to keep water out of your gear. You are on the same team, so follow those instructions to a T!

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One important note: while I’ve never experienced any leaking with either of my Seal Line Dry Packs, I still never take chances when it comes to keeping valuable gear dry. For any sort of paddle camping, I would always recommend putting stuff that absolutely cannot get wet in dedicated dry bags and then put those dry bags in the Seal Line dry pack. These dry bags can be a much lighter material since they are protected by the Seal Line pack’s thick material. To me it’s worth the extra hassle and weight. The last thing you want is a wet down sleeping bag on a cold night by a river.

A fantastic dry sack to use for organizing gear inside your Seal Line Dry Pack is the Sea to Summit Ultra-SIL Nano Dry Sack. Check out the features, sizes and prices on Amazon.

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