You’re going to get wet kayaking or canoeing; that much is a given. But you don’t want water getting into your gear. Thankfully there are a lot of options out there for keeping everything watertight and shipshape.

You’ll find some of the best choices in the obvious places, like kayaking supply shops, but you’ll also find a lot of great products designed for foresters and civil engineers. Military surplus shops are another great source for top-shelf waterproofing supplies. What should you buy?

1. Dry bags (sometimes called “wet bags”!)

You can get a dry bag in pretty much any size you need and any shape you want. Roll closures are common, but you’ll also find waterproof slide fasteners. Most are made out of vinyl, nylon, and polyester. You might want to consider a durable, reinforced bag which can hold up to the rough surfaces in your boat. Shoot for bright colors.

2. Soft packs

This is exactly what you would guess, a waterproof bag with straps attached to it for easy portability. Typically these are made of heavier materials than the dry bags, and they generally are more expensive. But they are certainly awesome!

3. Pack liners

Don’t have a waterproof pack or feel like buying one? Throw a waterproof pack liner inside an ordinary backpack and you have a great makeshift solution. If you do a lot of kayaking, this probably is not the best long-term answer to your waterproofing needs, but it is a good starting point for a casual beginner.

4. Barrels

These are perfect for storing food since they keep out the critters. You can often get them from free just by going to a food importer. Make sure though that you don’t pick used barrels with a strong smell still clinging to them. That may draw bears to your campsite.

5. Dry boxes

This is just a name for a waterproof box. Use these to store your electronics, photography equipment, sunglasses, and other fragile items.

6. Map cases.

Use these to store your maps and nautical charts, which need to stay dry to continue to serve you! If you only need to store a few small maps, you may be able to get away with sealable freezer bags. Otherwise, go with a professional case. While you’re at it, this may work to store your journal, but you may want to consider a waterproof notebook for that.

Additional Tips and Tricks to Keep Your Gear Dry

Even if you are purchasing the highest quality waterproof supplies to store your gear, it is important to remember that even the best supplies can fail. Seals break, and sometimes water leaks into containers that are designed to keep it out. So strongly consider doubling up on all your containers. Give everything at least two layers of protection, especially valuable gadgets.

You have to plan carefully when you are picking out packs and selecting gear to bring along on your trip, especially if you are a kayaker. If you have a canoe, you have the luxury of a lot more space. If you are a kayaker, you basically need to fit everything beneath the deck or through the hatch. You may need to substitute a lot of small bags and boxes for a few larger ones that won’t fit where you need them to. Grab a net corral them all together. If necessary, you can use a pack frame.

Whatever you do, don’t overload your bags. If you do, you will strain them, and the seals are more likely to break. It will also be a total pain to open and close them, and you want to be able to get at your gear and stow it quickly.

While you are at it, test all your new waterproof bags and boxes to verify that they are sealing properly before you bring them on a journey. You don’t want to find out that a bag is malfunctioning the hard way! When you get back from your trips, check to make sure your waterproofing supplies are still intact. If you find any areas that have worn down, be sure to repair them promptly if you can. That way you can extend their lifetime.

In terms of organizing your bags on your boat, you are going to need to come up with some kind of method to identify everything. Color-coding works for some people, while others prefer clear containers. Still others number their containers and make a list in a waterproof notebook which tells them which supplies are in which bags and boxes. By cross-referencing with the list, they are able to immediately locate what they need.

Finally, make sure that when you are storing your waterproofing supplies, you are not subjecting them to stress. Put them in a dark, dry setting. Avoid exposing them to excessive heat or cold. Lay all bags flat and make sure all the creases are out of them. Creases can take their toll, eventually splitting into cracks. Keep the lids on your boxes loose so that the gaskets and flanges stay in tip-top condition.

Keeping canoeing and kayaking gear dry is a challenge, and you are never going to manage to keep all your stuff completely dry. But the more you can do toward that end, the better! Dry gear is a matter of safety and comfort. It is worth it to invest in the highest quality dry bags and boxes you can buy. Use and store your waterproof containers with care, and they will serve you well for years to come!

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