Keeping Your Valuables Dry in the Water – Dry Bags

You may have wondered, “How do you keep stuff dry at the beach/pool/river/lake?”

A waterproof container (a.k.a. waterproof box or dry bag) is an excellent choice, so I’m going to describe the basic types with a few features that will help you decide.

There are a few different options depending on your needs. I use a few of them.

  • Hard cases – latch them shut, and they wont’ get crushed or wet
  • Roll-down dry bags – these range in size and durability, but are rather convenient for larger items
  • Zip-shut bags – these zip shut like sandwich bags but are actually waterproof
  • Latch-shut bags – these may have a quicker access, but are still flexible

Some options that may not be as good

  • Sandwich bags – they seem waterproof but tend not to be. If you’re in a pinch, put one bag inside of another and it will have a better chance. Don’t press your luck, though.

I think having some method of keeping your keys (particularly key fobs), cash, and camera dry are rather important. After enjoying time around the water you still want to drive home and enjoy pictures you took, right?

Hard Cases
I haven’t bought one of these, but the Otter Box products look excellent. Waterproof and crush proof. I’ve seen some competing brands, but the Pelican case I saw in the store, while cheaper, appeared to not offer the same water proof feature – it said something about water resistant that made me shy away from it.

Roll-down dry bags
These dry bags roll down from the top and then clip together to hold the water out and be easily tied down or hauled around.
I use several – my Seal Line roll-down Dry Bag (see here)is very durable, and I use it to store my permanent emergency kit – compact and lightweight, it is waterproof so it will be safe in an emergency! There’s also a window so you can see the contents.

I also have an ultra-compact Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sack (see here). It’s so compact it folds down to a size you could fit in your pocket, but is still waterproof. I use this for larger items that I want to make waterproof for a while and jam it in a bag or secure it in a boat.

Zip-shut dry bags
The simplest of the options, I use these the most frequently. The primary reason is that they are really small, and are perfect for what I need most – storing cash, credit cards, and car keys. I was excited when I found these, as they are quite like sandwich bags but actually waterproof! The aLokSak bags come in various sizes, and the smallest is perfect for ID and cash (which folds completely flat) and fits in my board shorts. I also use it for car keys so I don’t leave anything critical on the beach – I take this into the surf and the river with no problems. While the plastic stretches pretty well and mine have held up to repeated key jabs, be careful not to puncture your bag with your keys or other sharp objects.

Latch-shut dry bags
I’m sure there are more types of these, but two have caught my eye: neck pouch (for your keys when you don’t have pockets in the water) and camera bags. I bought the latter, and got some great results with snorkeling (much better than the disposable camera, but it made me a little more nervous because I didn’t want to smash it against the rocks). I was using a subcompact camera – my Canon SD 1200 IS is a good camera, but Canon has newer models out now.

I use this camera dry bag by Kwik Tek, the Dry Pak Camera Case. It works great, as long as you position it correctly (buttons on the bottom so you can reach them, strap not in front of the lens) and you leave air in the bag so the lens can extend. If you remove the air, your lens will bounce off of the bag and could get damaged – be careful! The thumb latches lock the bag shut and make it easy to add/remove items (except that the opening and bag are small, which makes it difficult to reposition or remove the camera when you’re out at the water). This also would have been great to bring on a recent hike that had heavy rain, but I forgot it.

The pictures look good, and this option was better for me than the other options such as hard cases (expensive) and shaped bags (generic shape meant poor placement and obstructed lens). Unless the case is meant for ONLY your model of camera, the fit won’t be perfect.

Other notes
Obviously, you may have other electronics such as GPS, an iPod or other MP3 player, or a mobile phone (smart phones are quite expensive!) that you wish to keep safe. They make waterproof containers in all sorts of sizes, and have many specialized products. These are just the basic types!

Disclaimer – I have only used these products in rain and light submersion – never more than 5 feet underwater. Scuba divers should do more research (although I suspect that hard cases will fare better).

I own several dry bags for various purposes. I think everyone who is cautious (but still enjoys the outdoors) should own a dry bag/case of one variety or another. While many are comfortable leaving their valuables alone on the beach, I feel better having my car keys with me. Peace of mind is valuable. I enjoy being prepared in case I need to make something waterproof while I’m on an adventure – some things are hard to improvise when you’re out and about!

Have fun on the beach, at the river, around the pool, or on the lake. And now, don’t worry about getting your valuables wet!

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About ProjectJourneyman

I am a software engineer that escaped the cubicle world at a large company to go solo with Android app development. My attention to detail and quality applies both to my apps and to my research on how to make money with Android. Now that I have the freedom to work on my own projects, I am documenting my efforts in the hopes that it will help other current or aspiring independent Android developers get the income they desire.

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