Showing results for 
Show  only  | Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Welcome REI Co-op Members!
We're glad you're here. If you can't access the Co-op Members section of the community,
click here for instructions on how to join the section that's just for you.

Best size for a Dry Bag for a canoe trip?

I am leading a Canoe Trip this summer. We will be on the river for approximately 5 days and nights. What size dry bags should I be looking for?  

Labels (1)
6 Replies

@D-Rock43 Thanks for reaching out!

There are a lot of variables that go into packing for a canoe trip, so we're going to speak in pretty general terms. If you have some more specific information you are looking for or would like to add feel free to reach back out and we can do our best to help you dial in your trip. A lot of the determination for how many and what size of bags will come down to three main factors:

  • Are you expecting any portages?
  • What kind of water are you paddling? Flat water lakes? Rivers? Whitewater?
  • Size and bulk of your gear.

Generally speaking, the fewer dry bags you use the easier it is to strap them into the canoes (of particular importance if you're planning on running any whitewater) and the easier it is to portage (fewer trips back and forth). The more dry bags you use the easier it is to stay organized (access and find specific gear you want) and the easier it is to trim the canoe (the ability to move items around to balance it).

The most important factor in your decision will likely be the type and amount of gear you're planning on taking with you. Items like sleeping bags, cook systems, and the kinds of food you are planning on taking with you will be the main determining factors on how much space you will need in your dry bags. Generally speaking, if you have a backpacking kit (sleeping bag, tent, stove) that you use and you are planning on taking that kit on your trip, two 65 liter dry bags per canoe should be adequate (assuming two people per canoe). We recommend using that as a starting point and flexing up or down depending on how your group is planning on traveling and camping.

Here are a couple of recommendations of dry bags in that size:

The main difference between these bags is the material (PVC, TPU, Nylon) and features (backpack straps, tie downs, compression straps, etc.). We encourage you to read the Expert Advice article on Packing Your Boat as it contains some good information about trim and balance in your canoe.

Hope this helps and that you have an awesome trip. Come back and tell us about it!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.


Thank you so much for the reply. I did order 65 liter dry bags and 115 liter dry bags for all of our food and cooking gear. They all came in and I did a test fit for both items and they are perfect. So Thank you for the advice. Really appreciate it. 



@D-Rock43 Thanks for circling back!

We're glad to hear we were able to help you get the gear you need. Best of luck on your trip!


At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Hey there @D-Rock43!

I am so jealous! Canoe trips are by far my favorite overnight trips. Where are you headed to? I used to lead canoe trips for teens in northern Michigan years ago, and this was my breakdown for how I would have the kiddos pack their gear.

Each person got a 50L dry bag for their clothing, sleeping bag, and personal items. For kids with smaller sleeping pads, those went into their personal bags too. I always brought along my car camping pad, cause treat yourself, which needed a larger dry bag to fit. For most kids this was their first backcountry trip, so I let them over pack. You could go into a 35L bag for a more pack-conscious crew. 

Then we did shared gear (tents and cook gear) in our largest bags.  I have a portaging pack, like this NRS 65L one, well worth it for portage heavy trips, but not worth it for most trips. For the most part you can use something like this one for lighter duty or this one for heavier duty. We were in 4-person backpacking tents, so we used 8 people as the groupings for shared gear. We needed two 65L bags for 8 people, one dry bag held 2 tents and cook gear and the other dry bag held all meals and any snacks for planned stops. For on the water snacks, each person kept a small non-waterproof bag with them that held snacks, water bottle, and sunscreen. 

I also used a mesh rig bag for the whole group (this guy in XL), which I bring for things that can get wet: an extra PFD, water bottles, and my first aid kit/emergency supplies, which I stored in a Pelican hard-sided case.

This covered most everything for how we were able to pack our gear. It will depend a lot on what gear you have how many bags you will need, but hopefully this gives you a starting point! Let me know if you have any more questions!!!

Happy paddling!



At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.


Thank you so much for the reply. I work with youth in Chicago and the surrounding area and we started our wilderness program with the idea of getting inner-city youth out of the crowded, fast paced life that the city boosts. We started this as an introduction to outdoor adventure and it has grown to be a trip that is now pretty popular. With all that to say our Core kids that have been on many of these trips want to take it to the next level; so, we are taking 20 young people on a 5 day canoe trip on the Wisconsin River with an emphasis on fishing. The idea is to camp on the many Islands on the river and to hopefully have a fish fry every night from the fish the kids catch. Many of these young people have never been fishing and have a big want to learn how to fish; so we are trying to provide both in one trip. 

With all that to say.....Thank you for your advice. It was very helpful in deciding what gear to buy. I ordered all the gear. They all came in and I did a test fit for the items and they are perfect. So Thank you for the advice. Really appreciate it. 


Hey Derek!

That sounds like an incredible trip! A wilderness experience of any type can be impactful, but I do think there is nothing like paddling to an island and camping on it. This will be the trip of a lifetime for many of these young people, thank YOU for making it happen! Some of my most powerful memories of the outdoors are ones from trips like yours. I hope this turns out to be as meaning for you as it is for your young people!

Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to help you plan and prepare!

Happy paddling,




At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.