Most people pack light when kayaking, but even packing light, you can end up with a lot of stuff to lug around. A good deck bag takes a lot of the hassle out of digging out your sunscreen, first aid kit and other essentials. If you’re stuck for storage space on your kayak, a waterproof deck bag could be the solution you’re looking for.
You’ll need one that you can actually depend on, though, and that really is waterproof. We’ve hunted around for some of the best models that will sit securely and keep your gear safe.
Six of the Best Kayak Deck Bags
While I have some basic experience kayaking, I know when I need help from the experts to get the information right. This was one where it was time to not only use my own personal experience, but also to talk to some friends who spend way more time on the water kayaking than I do.
So between kayaking buddies, personal experience, and contacting to (and talking with) multiple bloggers and outdoorsmen, we’ve looked for the best kayak deck bags that are also widely available online and within a reasonable budget.
Here’ the list of six we feel confident endorsing.
Waterproof Dry Bag / Backpack – Piscifun
This durable and waterproof bag is made from 500D PVC with welded seams and a roll-top closure to prevent water from leaking. That’s some serious heavy-duty material to help keep the water out and your stuff dry.
The buckles are remarkably strong, and this kayak bag gets high mark from a variety of water sports enthusiasts on its construction. Piscifun is a brand that comes up a lot on our site and there’s a very good reason for that! They know their fishing, they know their kayaking, they know their water sports.
Available in a range of sizes and colors, the bag comes with a waterproof phone case to protect your smartphone while you’re out on your adventure. This is a really nice bonus and makes it ideal for those who just have to take a snap for Instagram.
The range of distinctive colors means that you can express yourself, and buy a different-colored bag for each member of the family, so people can spot their own kayak easily.
Waterproof Dry Bag – Earth Pak
A bright orange color means even if something goes horribly wrong – your floating kayak bag will be easy to spot. And hopefully to recover.
This waterproof dry bag comes in five different sizes to meet nearly everyone’s needs. The smallest one is at a mere 10L is size. These bags can get up to 55L in size.
This is an excellent Kayak dry bag that has received a lot of attention. It even received a mention from Timothy Ferriss’s blog. That’s a good sign it’s pretty premium outdoor gear.
This kayak bag features a roll-top, and is a compression sack that is ideal for carrying essential supplies. It also comes with a waterproof phone case to protect your most valuable small gadgets. This dry bag is intended to be easy for people to carry and use as a backpack.
Overall this bag is consistently one of the highest rated out there, and for good reason. While we may have the Piscifun kayak bag as 1A at worst that makes this bag 1B. The two spots really could be interchangeable.
Some users report that the straps can come loose after heavy use, however this is extremely rare, and is unlikely to happen if the bag is not over-filled.
Freegrace Waterproof Dry Bag Set
If you’re looking for a kayak bag that can do double duty as a backpack, and that comes with some extra pouches, Freegrace has a great option. The main bag has detachable shoulder straps. The set comes with a waist pouch and a phone case with ziplock seals.
These practical, ergonomically designed bags are a great choice for people who want a small, waterproof, ergonomically designed bag. They are very well made and are designed for comfort as well as use.
They are also designed in 11 different colors including some extremely bright colors that will stick out in the wild. This makes them easy to spot if you tip over and easy to tell apart from other kayakers’ bags.
This bag often comes with two smaller water resistant bags or coverings. One for a purse or handbag and the other for a smartphone.
OUTXE IP67 Kayak Dry Bag Waterproof Backpack
Available in three sizes (5L, 10L and 20L) this dry bag is 100% waterproof, PVC-free, and comes with detachable shoulder straps, allowing you to use it as a deck bag or a back pack. Designed for all watersports, this versatility makes this dry bag a good pick.
The shoulder straps are adjustable, which is a definite plus. That also makes this kayak bag a great choice for kayak camping.
That means this bag can be a waterproof storage bag or a backpack. That versatility matters.
The front-mesh pocket lets you access essential items quickly without having to rummage through the bag, while the ziplock seal will keep the possessions stowed in the bag dry at all times.
Chaos Ready Waterproof Backpack
This heavy-duty bag is made from 500PVC tarp, a strong material that makes this kayak bag highly resistant to water especially when dealing with only a quick submersion.
This is a backpack first and a kayak bag second. This means it isn’t ideal for packing, but it is a good compromise between the two. This pack was made with light backpacking and canoeing/kayaking in mind. How do we know this? Because the pack is surprisingly lightweight, foldable, and waterproof. The bag features padded shoulder straps for comfort when you wear it on your back.
The main compartment is Class 3 waterproof, meaning that your belongings are protected even during brief submersion. It’s important to note, however, that the small front pocket is not 100% waterproof, so while it is easy to access things stored in there, it is not a wise move to store anything delicate there.
Especially during water transit.
Oak Creek Canyon Falls 30L Dry Bag Backpack
This spacious dry bag works well as a backpack or as a deck bag. With padded shoulder straps that make it comfortable for carrying heavy loads, mesh side pockets, and a bungee-corded exterior for carrying additional items, this bag is a good choice for short trips.
Users report that it is reliable, durable and that it copes well with water exposure. It is also comfortable to wear even for longer excursions. This bag is also multi-functional. That versatility is something that all outdoorsmen should appreciate.
The bag does not have a IX rating, so if you are concerned about carrying very sensitive gear you may want something that is properly rated.
However, the bag is designed to float in water, and to be waterproof, so it is suitable for casual use.
Why Are Deck Bags Essential Kayak Gear?
Kayak deck bags are useful for several reasons. The most obvious is that they make it easy for people to access their gear when they’re off on an adventure. You don’t want to be wearing a backpack, and while you can load up a lot of gear into your kayak, that stuff isn’t easily accessible once you’re out and about. It’s much easier to unzip a deck bag than it is to start rifling around inside hatches.
If you’ve got a huge list of stuff that you want to take with you on your trip, then you are probably going to end up with a kayak that has equipment and valuables stashed in every hatch that you can find, and stuffed towards the bow and stern.
This can present challenges if one end of your kayak ends up heavier than the other.
This is another area where deck bags can come in handy. If the weight distribution of your kayak isn’t quite right, you can use a deck bag on the lighter end to try to offset some of the problems with the load.
The best deck bags are waterproof, can be attached when you need them, and help you to keep important items within easy reach. They’re convenient, and they can be moved from kayak to kayak, so if you have multiple kayaks for different environments, you can still have just one trusty bag.
What to Look for When Buying a Kayak Deck Bag?
There are a huge number of kayak deck bags on the market. When you’re shopping for a deck bag, you need to make sure that it will do the job that you want it to. Some bags are designed with maximum ruggedness in mind, other models make ease of access a priority.
How often will you be using the bag? What sort of things will you be putting in it? These are some of the considerations that you should make when planning your purchase.
Ease of Access
One of the main selling points of a deck bag is that it puts the things that you’re going to want to use most often well within your reach. After all, there’s no point stuffing your water bottle at the other end of the stern, since you’d have to stop and unload everything else every time you wanted a drink!
Your first aid kit should also be in an easy to reach spot, and you may want to keep certain valuables in a bag that you’re confident is waterproof too.
The best kayak deck bag should be accessible to you when it’s attached to your kayak. This means that the zippers should be in the right spot, and that the pockets should be within your reach. If you’re twisting or leaning in annoying ways to reach, the bag probably isn’t designed for you.
Some bags are marketed as being “waterproof”, others as “water-resistant”. If the things that you are planning to pack into your bag are items that absolutely must be kept dry, such as your phone or camera, then you should buy a “waterproof” bag. Deck bags that are marketed as “water-resistant” are not guaranteed to keep items totally dry.
They’ll protect a bit against splash damage, but that’s all. If you’re forced to put delicate items into a water-resistant bag due to lack of space, consider putting those items inside small dry bags before putting those bags inside the larger water-resistant bag. This will act as an ‘insurance policy’ against any treasured items getting wet.
Zip Bags vs Roll Top Bags
This issue comes down to personal preference. A bag with zips is convenient since it means that you can always get access to the compartments simply by unzipping them. However, these zips can become damaged over time.
Standard zips are not waterproof, and waterproof zippers will eventually break. These zippers can be replaced, but they are more expensive to replace than a standard zip.
In contrast, roll top bags are more difficult to access. The bag has additional waterproof material that extends past where the bag closes, and can be rolled down, then secured with a clip or a magnet to create a waterproof seal.
Opening and closing a roll top bag is fiddly compared to working with zips. So, if you are going to be expecting to want access to the gear that you keep in the bag on a regular basis you may decide that a roll top bag is too annoying.
Both bags work well when they are working. The choice comes down to convenience vs cost.
Size is perhaps the most important question. How much do you want to be able to pack into the bag? Kayak deck bags can be found in sizes as small as 5 liters and can go up to 20-liters. When you’re choosing a bag, make sure that it will fit your kayak properly. If the bag doesn’t fit onto the hull of the kayak securely, it may make the kayak feel unstable.
Resist the urge to buy a bag that is bigger than what you actually need, too. If the bag is too big, then your possessions may float around loosely in the bag, and depending on what it is that you have packed, they could get damaged. A bag that is the right size will keep everything safe and secure.
What is the difference between a backpack and a deck bag?
At first glance, kayak deck bags and backpacks can look pretty similar, but there are some important differences. A backpack has straps that are designed to be worn over a human’s shoulders and is shaped and sized with an average human being in mind.
A kayak deck bag, on the other hand, is shaped to attach to the front of a kayak, and has a contoured shape that ensures it is very easy for a user to lean forward and open it.
If you were to attempt to attack a backpack to the front of a kayak, not only would it not be easy (or safe and stable) to secure to the kayak, there would be other problems. Even if you were somehow able to safely strap the backpack in place, opening it and getting things in and out of it would be challenging.
You can find backpacks that you can wear on your back while using a kayak, and these might be useful if you need even more storage space, but you should use a deck bag for the kayak itself.
How should I clean a kayak deck bag?
The best kayak deck bags are waterproof, or at the very least, water-resistant. They shouldn’t hold dirt very much, and you should find that they are quite easy to clean. Do not put a deck bag in the washing machine. This may damage the waterproofing.
Instead, simply wipe the bag down a mild solution of warm water and soap. If your bag is very dirty and you want to ‘deep clean’ it, then you can soak the bag in soapy water, then wipe it down with a soft cloth.
Once you have done this, leave the bag out to air dry. Do not put a deck bag in the tumble dryer, because this could cause damage to the waterproofing, or to the material that the bag is made from.
If you are serious about kayaking and want to have easy access to your gear, then using a deck bag is a good idea. Think about how much you want to take, and if you have similarly sized backpacks at home, do some ‘test packs’ of your most important gear so that you can work out what size of bag you need.
Check whether the bag will fit your kayak before you head out onto the water, so there are no unwanted surprises. Make sure that the bag is secure, and won’t slip. Above all, have fun on your kayaking adventure!