We tested our sample to see how waterproof these popular, bargain dry bags really are.
Quick Review: The Bear Outdoor Dry Bag is a cheap and effective way to keep your gear dry, as long as you use it as intended and don't submerge it.
Pros: It's very cheap. There are many different size options. It's fully waterproof when not submerged. It's light.
Cons: The light material might not hold up well to rough use. It isn't waterproof when submerged so you'll need to weigh your needs against the price.
Price: Starting at $6.99
The Bear Outdoor Dry Bags come in a wide variety of sizes and colors. Size options are 2L, 5L, 10L, 20L, and 30L. They are available in black, blue, green, orange, yellow, and sky blue.
Our test unit is a 2L. It just barely fits my Samsung Galaxy S21 because of the phone’s length, but there’s plenty of room for other small items along with the phone because of the width of the bag.
The bag is made from 500D PVC Tarp. What does 500D PVC Tarp mean? PVC Tarp is polyester canvas with a plastic coating. The 500D refers to the thread used in the woven polyester canvas. This material should be waterproof as well as resist mold growth. It is very strong and will resist breaking or tearing.
The bag is also very light, at 3.1 oz for the 2L. The material is also quite flexible, which helps when shoving the bag in tight spots.
I trailed the bag behind my kayak as I went through shallow sections, purposely dragging it lightly through rocks and partially submerged branches. It held up well and I did not see any visible scratches.
While the light weight and flexibility are great for packing, I’m guessing it would suffer as far as durability if you’re moving through heavy brush or anything else that could scratch it (Just to be clear, this bag is also marketed as a bearproof bag, but I only tested it as a dry bag for water sports).
There’s a bottom circular “pan” created by the stitching that gives the bag its shape. The stichting all looked strong but check below to see how it held up to testing.
Some reviewers on Amazon indicated that their buckle broke on the first or second use. I did not see this issue. I’ve used it on three kayak outings, as well as many times through the testing process and the buckle still works fine.
Rolling to seal
Instead of a zipper or drawstring, the Bear Outdoor bag uses a roll-top method of closing. This is a very easy method. You just roll the top of the bag three times, then snap the buckle.
How well does it work?
Now to the important part. Will the Bear Outdoor Dry Bag keep your gear dry? Bear Outdoor specifies on the product page that the bag will float safely if you drop it in the water, but also clarifies that “it should not be fully submerged underwater.”
These caveats had me curious about how well it would handle non-optimal situations so I tested it in a variety of situations. I put a piece of paper in the bag, tested it, and then checked to see if the paper was dry.
Test: Intended use. The bag is rolled three times at the top, inflated, and floating on top of the water. To inflate the bag, I just kept the air in the bag when I sealed it. The bag performed as it should, the paper was completely dry.
Test: Submerged. The bag is rolled three times at the top, inflated, and submerged. I placed a weight on the bag to hold it under the water for 2 minutes. I could tell right away it wasn’t going to work well because air bubbles were escaping from the bag. There was only a small amount of water in the bag, but I wouldn't trust my sensitive items in the bag when used this way.
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The Bear Outdoor Dry Bag performed right in line with our expectations and was waterproof when used as designed. When I used it while kayaking in fairly calm water, the bag was splashed and trailed along behind the kayak in the water, all the while keeping completely waterproof.
For a bargain dry bag, the Bear Outdoor Dry Bag is a great option. The 2L version we tested comes in at only $6.99.