Some kit is essential, yet un-glamorous. Socks are typically so. They serve a purpose, but will always be functional rather than desirable. Dry bags are in the same league. Hardly exciting bits of kit, but utterly essential if you’re out in all weather. You’ll only really notice them by their absence, whenever they fail or you drown an expensive piece of electronics and rue the fact that you were too mean to spend a fiver on a decent dry-bag in the first place.
Basically, dry-bags are a simple waterproof bag for storing your kit in. They’ve usually got a roll-top closure, which prevents water ingress at the opening. Then you’re dependent on the bag itself for keeping the water from finding its way in elsewhere.Some brands are better than others, with the Exped bags often classed as being among the best.
Of course, they may only be effective for a time before they inevitably leak due to wear and tear. You’ll need to keep an eye out for this, and replace them when the time comes. You can still use these older bags as you can keep your electronics in the brand new watertight bags, while you may get away with keeping spare kit in a slightly leaky bag; especially if all that’s then put into a waterproof pack liner.
Other than electronics, any items of down clothing or sleeping bags are best stored in dry-bags as they are next to useless when wet. A bit of lateral thinking, and you realise that not only do they keep fluids from getting in, but also from escaping. This means you can use them for carrying food that could potentially leak into your pack, limiting any mess if the worst happens.
So if you walk in the wet and carry anything that you want to keep dry, from mobiles to cameras and spare clothing, then drybags are essential and you can’t go far wrong with the Exped ones. They come in various sizes, from tiny XS bags for your wallet as far as 80 litre pack liners. The safest bet is to use a pack liner and pack individual items into smaller bags. In this way, you can keep the bulk of your kit in the liner dry whilst keeping wet gear packed separately also in the pack.
They’re available in drab olive or black, as well as both muted colours and bright colours, the latter of which make life easier when rummaging in the pack or at night in the tent. For even more flexibility, they do Clearsight dry-bags with a clear panel in order to see what’s inside. I tend to know what I have in each bag, but could be useful when kit is shared or you just can’t remember what’s in each bag! They also replace stuff sacs in order to organise your kit. I keep an emergency kit in one, electronics in another, with food and down kit inside the larger bags. Less mission critical kit is just inside the pack liner, especially waterproofs which you’ll be wearing anyway if there’s a risk of them getting wet!
The Exped Drybags are available in a pack of four for £31.00, or individually from about a fiver upwards.