What Is The Difference Between A Dry Bag & A Wet Bag?


a swimmer prepares for a sea swim with a dry bag

Managing wet swimsuits, used towels, and protecting our expensive electronics is an important consideration for swimmers.

I have often turned up to work after a morning swim with a great big wet patch on my car seat or on my trousers from where my wet swimsuit soaked through my thin gym bag as I rushed to get to work.

But managing wet swimsuits or keeping our clothes dry on the riverbank or pool deck is a task made easier with dry bags and wet bags.

Wet bags are designed to store wet and dirty items such as wet towels and swimsuits. They keep water in the bag, protecting your dry clothes from your wet swimsuit. Dry bags are designed to keep your gear dry, for example, to store your dry clothes and electronics on the riverbank or poolside as you swim. 

Both bags have their own unique uses, and it is important to understand the differences to ensure your gear is protected from water in the right way.

I appreciate that these interchangeable terms can be confusing for some, as dry bags are often used as wet bags as you can keep wet swim gear in them and they should stop water leaking out, so in a nutshell;

  • Dry bags are for keeping gear dry.
  • Wet bags are for storing wet gear.

In this article, I will look at:

  • What’s the difference between a wet bag and a dry bag?
  • Can you use a dry bag as a wet bag?
  • Is a wet bag necessary?
  • How waterproof are dry bags?
  • Can I protect my expensive electronics with a dry bag?
  • Do dry bags float?
  • How do you pack and seal a dry bag?
  • The Best Dry Bags For Swimming

If you are just looking for a great recommendation for a Dry bag, here is my favourite. I have the 10L version, but I recommend getting the 20L version as the 10L is a bit on the smaller side and is only big enough to store some light clothes, such as a t-shirt and shorts. I love this kit.

My Best Recommendation For A Dry Bag

The Pack Wolf Company Premium Waterproof Dry Bag

  • Looks great
  • Beautiful quality materials.
  • Seals very well and keeps kit dry.
  • Has two straps which is excellent and nice for carrying on your back.

My Best Recommendation For A Wet Bag

The following wet bag is amazing for storing a wet swimming suit or speedos. It is one of these products, that once you have discovered it, you find it impossible to live without.

It keeps your wet swim suit nicely stored and will stop it soaking everything else in your swim bag.

KONUNUS Wet Bag (Waterproof Reusable Washable Bag)

  • Keeps wet swimsuit separate from dry gear.
  • Perfect size for a swimming suit.
  • Soft material, easy to store.
  • Washable.
  • Although too small for a towel, it will store a large microfibre towel. (140cm x 70cm is the size I use)

What’s The Difference Between A Wet Bag And A Dry Bag?

Dry bags are perfect for storing electronics and dry clothes as you swim outdoors or find yourself around water. They can be used to keep any gear or stuff dry.

Wet bags, on the other hand, are specifically designed to store wet items. They are made from water-resistant materials, such as canvas or vinyl, which helps to keep water in the wet bag which should not leak.

Wet bags are perfect for storing wet swimming clothes and towels.

Here is a summary of the key features of both wet and dry bags:

Common Swimmer ConcernsDry BagWet Bag
Can they keep electronics dry?Yes
(Although yes, I recommend using extra protection such as an inner plastic sealed bag for electronics)
No
Can they store a wet swim suit?YesYes
(If you just want to store your wet swimsuit, these are a fantastic option as you can get small wet bags which will fit within your standard gym bag)
Can they keep my clothes dry as I swim outdoors?YesNo
Can they float?Yes
(Although not designed to float, because they are airtight, they usually do)
No
(Although wet bags are waterproof, they are not always airtight so may not float well)
Are they heavy?No
(In general no, but it depends on the size and brand. You can get small or large dry bags)
No
Are they expensive?No
(But it depends on the brand as these are technical bags that do an important job in the outdoors so must work well in survival situations)
No
This Table Compares Dry And Wet Bags Showing The Common Differences

Can You Use A Dry Bag As A Wet Bag?

It is possible to use a dry bag as a wet bag, as dry bags are waterproof and will keep water in as well as out.

However, a dry bag is specifically designed to keep your belongings dry under wet conditions, while a wet bag is specifically designed to store wet items.

If you try to use a dry bag as a wet bag, it is purely to keep water in the bag, for example, to stop your wetsuit from soaking your car interior or leaking everywhere. This is a great way to store and transport a wet wetsuit!

From my experience you will need a dry bag that is at least 20L to hold a wet wetsuit, but it is worth double checking with the supplier to be sure as I am very short, so my wetsuit fits nicely in a smaller dry bag.

Many outdoor swimmers will throw all their wet gear into a dry bag after their swim – once they are dry and no longer need the bag to keep their clothes or electronics dry.

A dry bag is a great way to store wet or soaked items once you no longer need the bag to keep your belongings dry.

Is A Wet Bag Necessary?

Given that a dry bag can be used as a wet bag, do we really need wet bags at all?

Whether a wet bag is necessary or not depends on your swimming habits, but I believe wet bags are a really convenient and cheap way to manage wet swimsuits.

I would not be without my wet bag as I can throw my soaking swimming suit into it and I know the rest of the gear in my bag will be protected from the wet.

AS a general rule, wet bags are very compact and small, which will fit nicely into your gym bag for storing wet swimsuits.

The following wet bag is the one I use and it is perfect for storing a wet swimming suit of any size.

It is too small for a general towel, but it does accommodate two microfibre towels which are 170cm x 40cm – a decent size. .

KONUNUS Wet Bag (Waterproof Reusable Washable Bag)

  • Keeps wet swimsuit separate from dry gear.
  • Perfect size for a swimming suit.
  • Soft material, easy to store.
  • Washable.
  • Although too small for a towel, it will store a large microfibre towel. (140cm x 70cm is the size I use)

How Waterproof Are Dry Bags?

For swimmers who need a dry bag for keeping clothes and gear dry, it is essential that the bag is waterproof. But how effective are dry bags?

As a general rule, all dry bags are waterproof as long as they are well sealed and closed correctly. The quality of the seal will vary between brand and manufacturer.

For keeping clothes dry on a riverside or pool deck, they work brilliantly and will keep your clothes dry.

It is important to remember that most dry bags are not designed for submersion, so if your dry bag does fall into the water and submerges, expect your gear to get wet.

Although dry bags won’t sink straight away as they are sealed with air and will float, don’t trust a submerged dry bag to keep gear dry.

Can I Protect My Expensive Electronics With A Dry Bag?

For most swimmers, we can survive if clothes get a little damp, however, our expensive phones, gadgets and even electronic car keys will need to be kept 100% dry.

A tiny bit of water in contact with electronics can mean an expensive repair.

Although a dry bag should keep your electronics and gear dry if sealed correctly, for electronics it is recommended to use at least two dry bags, so your electronics are extra protected from water.

Many dry bag manufacturers will provide a smaller dry bag also with zip locked seal so you can keep your electronics doubly protected. In essence, a dry bag within a dry bag.

Water gets everywhere, and outdoors it is hard to be 100% sure everything is dry. Therefore, for added insurance, it is recommended to use at least two dry bags to protect your gadgets and electronics.

This internal dry bag is often specifically supplied for phones, but you may also find larger zip lock internal dry bags for an extra level of protection from water.

This image is an example of a dry bag, with a supplied internal phone protector case.

Do Dry Bags Float?

As a general rule, dry bags do float as they are typically water tight and airtight to prevent the ingress of water.

It is important to note that dry bags are not designed to float, this is just a by-product of being airtight and waterproof, but it is useful to know this in case you drop your dry proof bag into the water off a boat or it tumbles into the river.

That said, don’t think that you can drag a dry bag behind you on a long swim. They are not designed for long-term submersion.

If they drop in the water they will float and if you get them out quickly and they have not submerged too much, with a little luck, the internal contents should have survived and still be dry.

How Do You Pack And Seal A Dry Bag?

It is important to pack and seal your dry bag well and correctly to avoid any leaks.

Here is a great video explaining how to do this.

This Videos Shows How To Seal A Drybag

Final Thoughts

Dry bags are a great way to keep your belongings dry when swimming. They are generally waterproof and will float if they fall in the water.

For outdoor swimmers in particular, they are a fantastic way to keep your belongings dry on the waterside.

With dry bags, it is important to pack and seal them correctly to avoid any leaks, and some dry bags come with an internal zip-lock bag for extra protection against water damage, which is important when storing electronics and mobile phones outdoors.

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Wet bags are brilliant for storing a wet swimsuit. They are a really convenient way for swimmers to manage their wet gear.

Whether you need a dry bag or a wet bag will depend on what you are using it for – but both can be great tools for managing your swim gear.

Happy swimming!

Louise Byrne

Hi, I am Louise and I am obsessed with swimming. I spend my free time in the water or getting ready for my next water adventure.

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