It’s been pouring down rain for hours. Under your motorcycle, the roads glisten even in the late-afternoon gloom but you’re warm and dry inside your waterproof riding gear. That’s great, but even better is the knowledge that you’ll arrive at the destination with everything you’ve packed for this epic trip totally dry as well. You’re not the least bit worried about soggy underwear or a waterlogged cell phone. This is the magic of the modern dry bag luggage.
There are many types of motorcycle luggage available today, from hard-mounted top-boxes and panniers to more flexible soft options. But if you’re planning a trip where you know it’s going to rain or if your off-road adventure will absolutely involve thigh-deep mud puddles, dry bag luggage is your best choice.
What is a Motorcycle Dry Bag?
Put simply, a dry bag form of soft luggage built in a very specific way. The typical dry bag is a single compartment made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or thermoplastic polyurethane (TPO), which is inherently waterproof. In order to make sure no water gets inside, dry bags are designed to have the minimum number of seams, which are welded to form a continuous membrane.
Of course you still need a way into the dry bag, and the most effective design uses a roll-up opening. Fill your bag, pull the edges of the opening together and then roll it back toward the bag; clips on either end fasten to the body for security. The roll-up opening works because there are simply too many layers for water to penetrate, unlike, say, a single zipper on conventional soft luggage or a sole lid-to-body seal on hard luggage. It’s true that roll-top bags require more effort to get into, but the design is so reliably waterproof that you’ll quickly forgive this minor inconvenience.
Variations on a Dry Bag Theme
While the dry bag has one main construction method, there are many variations in form and size. They start with simplest, like the SW-MOTECH 20 Liter Drypack, which is a very simple sealed cylinder with an end closure; it can be strapped atop other luggage or used inside less-waterproof carriers to make sure your clothing stays dry. And the range progresses up in size, including the SW-MOTECH Drybag 350, a 35-liter rectangular bag, 12 inches wide and 25 inches long, that includes four mounting straps. (A video on mounting this bag is here.) This form of dry bag can be strapped to a rear luggage rack or your bike’s passenger saddle easily. Need more room? There’s always the SW-MOTECH Drybag 600, a 60-liter brute that should be big enough for a week on the road. Other options include the Givi WP400 dry bag, at 40 liters, or the Givi WP401, which tapes out at a kitchen-sink-carrying 80 liters. If you need one of these, we hope you’ve told your neighbors and forwarded your mail.
In general concept, the dry bag is a straightforward structure, like a waterproof duffle bag. That’s great for simplicity, but your gear is free to move around the inside of the bag and that, in turn, makes the dry bag slightly more difficult to secure to your motorcycle. Like trying to not drop a greasy bolt. There are several alternatives, including the DrySpec D38 Rigid dry bag, which has internal stiffeners so that the bag retains its shape even when empty.
Not all dry bags are basic cylinders and rectangles, as much as your ninth-grade geometry teacher wishes they were. A good example is the DrySpec D20 Waterproof saddlebag set. Using core dry bag technology, the D20 saddlebags use a roll-over top and internal stiffeners to hold their shape, but are shaped more like conventional saddlebags; at 20 liters each, the D20s measure out at 17 inches long (front to back), 12 inches tall, and 6 inches deep, making for a tidy package even on a lightweight dual-sport bike.
And yet there are even more dry configurations, including the SW-MOTECH Drybag 620 tailbag system, with a U-shaped base for improved stability and maximized capacity when mounted to the passenger saddle; SW-MOTECH’s Drybag 80 Tank/Tailbag, a handy little 8-liter bag great for your close-at-hand items; and you can even create a dry bag backpack, like the SW-MOTECH Baracuda 30-liter Backpack.
No matter the shape, the core idea of the motorcycle dry bag is to keep mud and moisture away from whatever you’re bringing with you. And while dry bags might not be the right solution for every rider or every trip, if there’s going to be notable amount of precipitation or if the chances are you’ll be crossing multiple streams on the way to your campsite, there’s really no better way to be sure your possessions will be dry when you get there.
SW-MOTECH Drybag 350 Reviews
“I bought this for my NC700. Looks great, quality made and the straps that came with it are also properly designed to work on a bike. Glad I have it and also glad I went for the 35 litre bag… it’s big! the 60 would be enormous!” — Chapter11 from Vancouver, BC
“High quality bag that is very visible. Totally waterproof.” — mike2015 from Rudd, IA
SW-MOTECH Drybag 600 Reviews
“Loving this bag, looks great and you can load it up, lots of space. Even though does not have a hard plastic bottom, when loaded, it will not sag in the middle, like some others that I have bought in the past.” — David 6801 from Nashville, TN
“I was searching for a dry bag for Moto-camping large enough for my tent dimensions. The Dry Bag 600 provided that and plenty more for storage of my Kermit Chair & Table, Sleeping Bag & air mattress, cook stove, lantern, stereo speakers, dry food and clothes! A lot of storage space for the money!”— Kudzu57 from Carlsbad, CA
SW-MOTECH Drybag 250 Reviews
“I bought this to carry a summer-weight sleeping bag, hiking pillow, backpacking tent, and Thermarest mattress on my touring bike (the motorless kind). It hasn’t seen rain yet, but I doubt a drop will ever spoil a good ride. It’s very well designed and constructed, maybe even to the point of overkill but probably intended to travel at speeds much out of reach for me. The carrying points are reinforced and the mounting straps are much longer than needed, trimmed to shave an ounce or two from my ride. Twisted Throttle was simply awesome and I couldn’t be happier with the purchase.” — Ray from Georgia
DrySpec D20 Waterproof Saddlebag Reviews
“I had a set of these on my bike when I had an accident. My tank got dented, one of my foot pegs got ground down and my handlebar grip on one side sanded off. Remarkably not only did these bags survive unscathed they stayed put. Amazing bags!” — icarus040 from Ottawa, ON
“I recently purchased these bags for my Harley Cruiser for use during two-week travel. They not only served their purpose through rainy and extreme heat conditions, they garnered the attention of fellow riders just about everywhere I went. I especially love the size and color which handsomely complements my bike.” — Dyna2015 from Baltimore, MD
“I bought the orange-colored dry bag and I took it with me on my fall trip to Deals Gap this year. Very easy to attach to the rear of my FJR1300. It holds a lot of clothes and other equipment. I am very satisfied with this purchase. I may get one of the medium-sized dry bags to attach to the top of this large bag. The bag is waterproof and will keep your items dry. Highly recommend this item for anyone traveling.” — Bigboy61 from Chantilly, VA
“I’ve tried a lot of different bags like this one and the D-38 beats them all. Good looks and performance makes it the best in class.” — harleycamper from Augusta, GA
“I love this bag. Rigid bottom is great for keeping its shape. Strap system works great, very durable! I would recommend this bag.” — Dutt from Alberta, Canada
“I rode the Colorado back country discovery route late July. This bag sustained some punishment. We got stuck in nearly 18 hours of torrential downpour and not one leak into the bag. I held a tent, sleeping bag, my cozy liner, little pillow, sleeping pad, little chair, camp towel and toiletries for 8 days in this sucker and nothing got wet! The only issue I had the bag was that one of the pockets came off and the other is starting to peel off as well. The guys at Twisted offered to replace the bag at no charge, I declined due to the inability to use said pocket when the bag is stuffed to the gills. I also enjoyed the mounting system that came with the bag simple easy it was nice to free up my other straps for hauling wood and beverages during the trip. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a streamlined waterproof bag.” — PJTX
“I do some camping and put on about 15,000 miles a year on two wheels and was tired of my stuff being wet. No more. It’s a little hard loading it at times but I love it.” — Woodster from Woodstick, VA