The Versatility of Dry Bags

The Versatility of Dry Bags

Any outdoor enthusiast knows that one of the most important things when going into the wilderness is to always be prepared. 

Being prepared means having the right gear, which can help make a difference in matters of life or death in some situations. And yet, at the same time, it’s also essential that you pack light so that you’re not weighed down by your gear. 

Luckily, there’s good news: You can be prepared and also pack light by investing in multifunctional gear. While it’s a good idea to have items like Swiss Army knives on hand, you might be surprised to learn what something as simple as your dry bag can also do. 

The Multifunctional Purposes of Dry Bags

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a dry bag, it’s a simple piece of gear that goes a long way: A dry bag is a waterproof, flexible container that many outdoor enthusiasts use to protect their equipment, food, and gear from wet and rainy conditions.

“What I tend to use my 20-liter for the most is if I’m going to go somewhere and camp where I don’t go way off the beaten trail,” says Pathfinder instructor and Black Hat Bushcraft founder Matt Mercer in a demonstrative video. “I just carry my camp in a dry bag.”

You’ll quickly see that with Pathfinder’s new line of 20-liter and 10-liter dry bags, there are several different ways that you can pack and protect your gear. 

Purpose #1: Dry Bags Can Offer a Dry Workstation

When you spend a lot of time outside, things tend to get wet—so when you’re collecting material like twigs for kindling, it’s essential that your items stay dry. Sometimes this is impossible, so Matt recommends using your dry bag flat as a placemat for your collected items to prevent them from touching the wet ground. 

“Let’s say we’re doing something more delicate like making a bow drill fire,” says Matt. “This gives us a dry station that we can do that and keep that moisture from the ground from getting into our material.” 

Plus, the 20L makes for a great “welcome mat” in your tent. Picture this: When you wake up in the morning, the last thing you want to do is step on the wet, cold ground. If you deflate the 20L bag and place it flat next to your mat or hammock, you then have a dry, clean surface to put your feet on when you wake up in the morning. 

It can also serve as a great “nightstand,” where your items like emergency kit and electronics will stay safe dry overnight. 

Purpose #2: Dry Bags Come with a Backpack Feature

While almost all dry bags have a single strap for shoulder carry, the Pathfinder Edition of the 20L bag has a unique feature that many others don’t: Two straps to make a backpack. 

“It sits well on my back and doesn’t bounce around, the straps are comfortable on my shoulders,” Matt says. “And that to me really adds a lot of value to this.” 

The 20L comes installed with two-inch nylon backpack straps—so not only can you throw it over your shoulder like other dry bags, but you can also fashion it into a backpack for more comfortable travel. The backpack feature may be more comfortable because it helps distribute your items’ weight evenly.

Purpose #3: Dry Bags Can Be Used as a Makeshift Pillow

Forget to pack your pillow? No problem at all. Your 10L dry bag can be used as a makeshift pillow without compromising comfort.

It's as easy as blowing the dry bag up slightly, rolling it up a bit at the top, locking it, and buckling it shut. The seal is not 100% airtight, but it gives you enough cushion to use the dry bag as a makeshift pillow.

“Of course, you can also stuff that with some extra clothing,” Matt says. “So you can make a nice pad.”

Purpose #4: Dry Bags Can Protect Your Food from Predators

When you’re in bear country or an area populated with lots of predators, you need to be diligent about protecting your food so that no animals ransack your camp. The key to avoiding animal encounters is to ensure that your food smell doesn’t travel far—which, in this case, is where your dry bag can come in. 

Whether it’s the 10L or the 20L, you can tie food in the dry bags, attach some cordage to it, throw it over a limb, and keep it safely up in the tree. 

Thanks to the dry bags’ airtight features, there is less of a noticeable smell for predators to be attracted to. “Because it seals basically airtight, we won’t be releasing as much aroma into the air,” Matt explains. 

Purpose #5: Dry Bags Can Help You Collect Water

Collecting water in mass amounts is especially beneficial if your campsite is not close to a raw water source. The 10L is large enough to hold plenty of water and yet is also small enough to carry long distances if your camp is far away. 

“Let’s say my camp is a little ways off. I don’t want to keep running down here to collect water,” Matt says. “But this allows me to collect 10 liters of water at one time and keep it at camp.” 

Purpose #6: Dry Bags Can Act as a Personal Flotation Device

Perhaps one of the essential features of dry bags is that they can be used as your personal flotation device (PFD) while out on the water. Even if you don’t plan to be in the water, you never know what could happen, so it’s always wise to be prepared with your own PFD. 

“Whenever I go on any type of boat, I like to have my kit packed in a bag like this 20-liter dry bag just to make sure my kit stays dry and ready when I need it,” Matt says. “And even this 10-liter bag can become a personal flotation device.” 

As Matt explains, you can also store your essentials kit inside the dry bag so that your gear stays dry even if you tip over. Plus, while the kit is inside, you can again turn the bag into a PFD by adding some air, similar to making your makeshift pillow. 


As you can see, there is so much more that these bags can do in addition to protecting your gear from wet conditions. So, if you’re in the market for a new dry bag, then be sure to check out the new 10L Pathfinder Dry Bag and 20L Pathfinder Dry Bag. And, as always, Self Reliance Outfitters stands by their gear so that you can expect high-quality items and guaranteed satisfaction.

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