These days, if I’m doing any kind of multi-day trip, I bring dry bags. You get the advantages of soft luggage – light weight and compact size – with the simplicity of having a single layer of weather protection (versus rain covers or separate waterproof liners). You never know what the road will bring, and dry bags ensure you can handle surprise downpours at any time. I’ve even left them on my bike during storms while camping overnight, and my stuff stayed dry. I’m a big fan. But not all dry bags are created equal, and there are a variety of designs to choose from. If you’re considering adding this versatile accessory to your luggage collection, here are some tips to ensure you get a good bag, and one that suits your needs.
- The size of your bike doesn’t limit your carrying capacity.
So you’ve got a smallish bike with a slim tail section, and you’re resigned to using only a backpack and a small tail bag. Let me guess, you run out of clean underwear quick. Good news: modular dry bag systems from DrySpec and SW-MOTECH let you securely stack bags for added storage capacity, and can be mounted longitudinally on skinny bike seats. The various DrySpec combinations will fit up to 106 liters of dry storage on the back of an enduro bike, and you can even hang DrySpec saddlebags without side racks.
- Don’t assume you get mounting straps.
Strange but true: there are brands of dry bags that don’t come complete with a mounting system. DrySpec bags include a slip-lock mounting system, SW-MOTECH gives you simple loop-and-buckle straps, and GIVI provides convenient elastic straps. Be sure to check the product description for any other brands of dry bags you’re looking at, to see whether straps of any kind are included.
- Beware of zippers.
No zipper we know of — except for the TITEX TIZIP zipper — is actually waterproof. If you truly want to keep water out, look for a roll-top design. The roll top makes it a little harder to get to your stuff quickly, but that’s the tradeoff for guaranteed waterproofing. And don’t trust outer pockets with “waterproof-style” zippers.
- Radio frequency–welded seams are more durable than taped seams.
You may have already seen this in some waterproof apparel, where taped seams are commonly used (you’ll also find them in waterproof liner bags). Taped seams wear more easily and are prone to failure once the adhesive has worn out. By contrast, radio frequency (or high frequency) welding produces a more durable, lasting seal. Notably, the seams on DrySpec bags are guaranteed for 10 years.
- Some dry bags have a rigid core, which is good.
Two models of DrySpec bags use internal stiffeners for a rigid structure: the D38 tail bag and D20 saddlebags. This means you don’t need a rear luggage rack or side racks to mount them; they function more like a standalone system. You also don’t need to cinch them down to mount them securely. As a result of this design, they also have a smaller opening. So, while the rigid core makes these bags easy to get in and out of when they’re mounted on a bike, they’re a little less convenient to use off the bike.
- Many dry bags do not have a rigid core, which is also good.
If you’re going to be using your dry bags for multiple travel purposes, not just on your bike, then we recommend the SW-MOTECH or GIVI soft series. These bags are collapsible and have a wider opening than the DrySpec bags, which makes them easier to get in and out of when they’re off a bike. The disadvantage is that it can take a little longer to set them up on your motorcycle, since you have to cinch them down with straps while also attaching them to the mounting points on the bike.
- Urethane is stronger than PVC or vinyl.
If abrasion resistance is a key factor for you, look for a urethane-coated nylon dry bag. This material seems to be increasingly popular, as it’s also more ecologically friendly than PVC. However, abrasion resistance is probably only a major concern for bags that are most likely to hit the ground, like saddlebags.
- Sometimes using multiple bags makes more sense than using one.
There are at least a few reasons why you might want to strategically separate your belongings: it’s easier to find stuff, you can keep your wet tent away from your clean clothes, etc. Also, while you might have plenty of time to pack at home, it can be harder to carefully stuff items back into your bags while you’re on the road. One drawback of dry bags is that they’re not the most organizing-friendly luggage, since the welded-seam design prevents incorporating many pockets. So, depending on how much storage space you need and how many items you need to get to quickly, ask yourself whether one giant bag (like the SW-MOTECH Drybag 620) or multiple stacked bags would better suit your needs.
- There are advantages to using internal waterproof bags.
There are two camps of thought when it comes to waterproof bags, regarding whether it’s better to go with internal or external waterproofing. Some riders prefer a sewn outer bag with a replaceable waterproof inner bag (like the SW-MOTECH Dakar bags), while others prefer a pure dry bag that needs no inner liner. The advantage of using the sewn version is that woven materials, like ballistic nylon, are stronger than weldable materials, like PVC. This means the sewn outer bag can take more abuse than a typical dry bag. The downside is that if your luggage gets soaked, you’ll have to dry the outer bag. This type of luggage also tends to be more expensive. So, if you’re looking for the least expensive, simplest solution, go with a single-layer dry bag.
Hunting for the right motorcycle luggage can be a lot of fun if you know what you’re looking for and what to expect. As always, if you have any questions about any of our dry bags, mounting options, or luggage in general, please leave a comment below or call us at 855-255-5550.