How to Keep Gear Dry in a Canoe

Dry Bag: Canoe and Kayak Dry Bag
Dry Bag: Canoe and Kayak Dry Bag. Photo ©, used by permission

Anyone who goes canoeing rightly understands that there is a high likelihood of getting wet.  So, they wear bathing suits and sandals and figure on it.  However, the same chance of the paddler getting wet translates to the gear that they bring.   Many cell phones have been damaged on canoe trips.   Many lunches have become water logged before being eaten only to turn into fish food in the process.  Here are some tips on how to keep your belongings and canoe gear dry in a canoe.

Dry Bags

The first suggestion is also the most obvious. Every canoeist should have a dry bag.  They are inexpensive and they do the trick, namely they keep things dry.  Dry bags also float if sealed with air in them and they easily secure to the thwarts of the canoe through the built in buckles.  It really is a wonder why more paddlers don’t own multiple dry bags of different sizes and makes.  They easily store everything you need on your canoe trip.  Here are some items that will fit in a standard 20 gallon dry bag with room to spare: keys, wallet, phone, hand towel, snacks, water bottle, multi-tool, hat, and extra shirt just to name a few. 

Zip Locks

Zip lock bags are a paddlers very good friend. (I didn’t say best friend because that designation is reserved for duct tape, of course.) Zip lock bags offer a good low cost quick solution to the problem of keeping things like keys, camera, wallet, phone , and sandwich dry.  You can use multiple bags or a large one for your items.  Don’t forget, you’ll still need a safe place to put the zip lock such as a duffle bag or a tackle box. 

Cushions and Flotation Devices

There are plenty of items besides valuables like cell phones and wallets  that are a nuisance when wet.  Nobody wants a sopping wet tackle box or gear bag, even though it might not really damage these items.   Yet, these items often absorb a lot of the loose water sloshing around at the bottom of the canoe.  For items like these, that don’t need water protection yet you don’t want them to be sitting in a puddle, use cushions, PFDs, and throwable flotation to keep tackle boxes and bags off the bottom of the canoe.  All you have to do is keep them off the floor. 


Coolers are obviously water proof.  So, while you can keep your lunch in a cooler and it will stay dry, you can also bring a cooler for your other gear such as wallets, phones, books, etc.  Coolers can be attached via rope to the canoe and they float very easily. Just make sure that the cooler has latches that reliably lock.  You’d hate to go through the trouble of bringing one to keep things dry only to have it knock over and open up.


One of the easiest ways that things get wet in a canoe is from the loose water that collects in the bottom and sloshes around.  It doesn’t have to be much, to saturate towels, bags, and tackle boxes that sit on the floor.  So, getting the water out of the canoe is the best bet to keep the things in the canoe dry.  Different canoe bailing devices such as bilge pumps, buckets, cups, and sponges all help to remove water from the canoe.

Closing Thoughts

The best bet is to not bring items on your canoe trip that you don’t want to get wet.  Of course, that isn’t usually possible. The above items will at least minimize the risk of damage to your valuables and the frustration of saturated stuff to dry out after the trip.