Pack Cover vs. Dry Bag

Dry BagSometimes keeping your gear dry while backpacking in the rain feels like a lost cause. Your pack gets soggy and your tent gets soaked. Your hands get wet, and so everything you touch gets wet. There’s no staying dry while hiking in the rain. That’s just the nature of it. But it’s still important to keep some of your gear as dry as possible. Pack covers, waterproof pack liners, and dry bags are all great for keeping gear dry while hiking, but which one is the best? Here’s what to look for when comparing pack covers and dry bags.

Why you need a pack cover or a dry bag

Some say that most outdoor gear will function even when wet. Therefore, you don’t need to add weight or take up space with a dry bag or pack cover. However, there are a few items that need to stay dry no matter what.

  • Sleeping bag (especially down sleeping bags)
  • Clothing
  • Matches, tinder, lighter, etc.
  • Sensitive electronics (phone, GPS, etc.)
  • Food

Keeping these items dry isn’t just about comfort. It’s about safety.

Pack cover

Pack covers are a great way to keep gear dry while hiking or backpacking, and they provide a couple of advantages over dry bags.

Since pack covers are designed to fit over a pack, they typically use less material than a dry pack or pack liner would. Also, you can often find covers that are designed for specific packs, minimizing excess material. This means that pack covers tend to be lighter than dry bags or liners.

Another benefit to pack covers is that they keep water off the entire pack. This prevents your pack material from becoming saturated with water. They say every ounce counts on the trail, and a waterlogged pack adds a lot of weight.

Pack covers aren’t perfect, though. They are water resistant, but they are not waterproof. The parts of the pack that are covered are completely protected, but the parts that aren’t covered (the back panel) are vulnerable to water. This means that a heavy downpour can get some of your gear wet, or if you drop your pack in the river, all of your gear will be drenched.

Dry bag or pack liner

If you want complete waterproof protection, a dry bag or pack liner are the way to go. These are water-tight roll top closure bags that will block out any and all water. This provides total confidence in heavy rains or hairy river crossings.

However, dry bags tend to be heavier than pack covers. Liners are a little lighter than some dry bags, but still typically heavier than a pack cover. Also, your dry bag or liner has to fit perfectly to avoid wasting a ton of space in your pack.

And unlike a pack cover, dry bags won’t protect the outside of your pack, which means your backpack will rack up extra ounces when it becomes soaked in a storm.

Which one is right for me?

There are advantages and disadvantages to either option. And as with most gear, it comes down to preference. Both are solid options and provide good protection from water. It just depends on whether or not you’re willing to take on a few extra ounces for complete waterproof protection. A small dry bag may be able to keep all of your “must stay dry” items safe, excluding your sleeping bag, so it really can be a matter of a few extra ounces.

With all of these different options, the best way to make a decision is by getting your hands on some gear! Stop by and see us at Uncle Sam’s Safari Outfitters in Evelyn Hills, Fayetteville, Arkansas. We would love to help you get outfitted for your next adventure!


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