Last Updated on 30/01/2023
In this guide to the best waterproof bag for swimming outdoors, we share our experience with open water swimming and keeping gear dry. We look at the features that matter, such as seams, seals, buoyancy, leashes, and debunk the myths about waterproof swimming bags.
We have lots of information about the different types of dry bags, but these are mostly for hiking, backpacking, or kayaking. In this guide, we are going to go in-depth by specifically looking for the best waterproof bag for swimming outdoors in open water.
Whether you plan on swimming in the ocean, in a lake, or in a river, a waterproof bag is the best way to keep your gear dry. This is especially important for your clothing and valuables, so it is crucial that the dry bag you choose is fully waterproof. A fully air-tight waterproof bag also acts as an excellent floatation device if you ever need a rest in the water.
All you need is the tiniest of holes or gaps in the seal for water to fully flood your bag and soak everything. The simplest of features like the type of seam sealant or the number of stitches can make all the difference, so it is a good idea to understand what to look for. We have a buyer’s guide further down the page, or you can jump straight into the reviews.
6 Best Waterproof Bags for Swimming
New Wave Swim Buoy Waterproof Bag
The New Wave Swim Buoy is the best waterproof bag for swimmers, snorkelers, and athletes due to its reliability and streamlined profile in the water. It is 100% waterproof so long as you seal it properly by rolling the top at least 4 times when closing it. Inflating the bag is easy via an exterior valve that turns your waterproof swimming bag into a swimming buoy.
You can get various sizes, but the picture above shows the 15 liters (medium) model that is big enough for most swimmers and is big enough to be spotted by boats. The waist strap attaches to a 1-foot tether that keeps the floating waterproof bag close by when you are swimming. You can just give it a kick to check it’s still there without having to look around.
Weighing just under 10 ounces makes this very lightweight if used for a triathlon and creates very little drag in the water. The air chamber is separate from the storage pouch, which is really cool, and what’s better is that both can be inflated for added buoyancy. If you want a waterproof bag for open water swimming that also works as a safety buoy, then the New Wave Swim Buoy is what we would recommend.
ProCase Swim Buoy Backpack
The ProCase Swim Buoy Backpack has a large capacity of 35 liters which means you can fit your clothes and a towel if you pack light. The clever design of this waterproof backpack for swimming allows the straps to be converted into a waistbelt and tether when you swim and switched to a backpack when you’re out of the water.
The valve is slightly different on this waterproof buoy bag in that it is not centrally located and does not have a tube which gives it a lower profile. Adding the grab handle on the top was a good idea and is the point where you attach the tether it and can even be flipped so that the strap is underwater while swimming.
After testing this a few times, you will begin to trust it and feel totally comfortable putting your keys, phone, clothes, and towel inside when open water swimming in rough water. We do always recommend using a phone case like the one below, as it is better to be safe than sorry. If you want a larger capacity waterproof bag for swimming then definitely look into the ProCase Swim buoy Backpack.
ZONE3 Dry Bag Donut
The ZONE3 Dry Bag Donut is slightly different from all the other swimming floats you can keep your valuables. Instead of being shaped like a bag, this is designed like a donut buoy with a waterproof bag in the center. You then pull this along behind you as you swim and can access your items from the water if you want to take a picture, for example.
There are numerous swimmers that say their ZONE3 Donut is a great design but the actual dry bag part leaks and requires an additional pouch like the one below. We haven’t seen this, and there are lots more positive reviews, but we always recommend double-bagging electrical items like phones and car keys. The size of this doesn’t allow for clothes and a towel but is good for a few small items.
If you want a waterproof bag you can swim with and access your things while out in the water without losing air pressure then this is for you. It has very little resistance or drags on the water when swimming competitively, and even though it requires less air than a larger waterproof bag, it is just as visible to others.
JOTO Universal Waterproof Pouch
The JOTO Universal Waterproof Pouch is something we recommend to any open water swimmers who like to take their phones out with them. The clear casing means you can take a picture without taking it out of the pouch, which is always safer when standing in or treading water. You can even use this on its own just hung around your neck, but this is not recommended and defies the point of double-bagging your valuables.
This is big enough for most modern phones and can even fit some car keys in as well. If you are looking for the best waterproof bag for swimming in open waters, then don’t take the risk of breaking your phone and get a waterproof pouch (unless you get the LimitlessXme Drybag ranked number one which includes one just like this.
T6 20L Swim Buoy Waterproof Dry Bag Swim Safety Float
The T6 20L Swim Buoy Waterproof Dry Bag Swim Safety Float is the perfect dry bag for swimmers that has two separate chambers for air and your valuables. You can choose between yellow or orange with just one size of around 25 liters, but obviously, that is split into two.
We would say that this is probably the best waterproof bag for swimming overall and is also the best value for money. The bright colors really stand out and can be seen very easily from boats and other watercraft, even if the water is murky and you’re wearing a black wetsuit. WHile it is totally secure and dry to keep your phone and valuables, you can double the protection with an additional phone pouch sold seperatlely.
The clever design of this waterproof swim bag keeps the air compartment separate from your valuables which means less condensation and means you can inflate it to the max. If you’re going for a swim outdoors and don’t want to leave anything on the shore, then this is the perfect solution to keep your gear dry while you swim.
Speed Hound Marathon Swim Buoy
The Speed Hound Marathon Swim Buoy is one of the most waterproof bags for wild swimming in oceans, lakes, and rivers. You can get it in two sizes, the 16 liters or the 28 liters, which is recommended for swimmers over 165 lbs (to safely be used as a float). The wider profile has slightly higher resistance than the New Wave Buoy above, but you barely feel either of them as they float across the surface.
Made from PVC Coated 210D Nylon, this is slightly thicker than a dry bag for hiking and 100% waterproof to protect your valuables inside. An external inflation tube with a valve prevents air from coming out once it is inflated. You simply put your stuff inside and then roll the top to create the seal and secure it.
The webbing waist strap fixes to a 1-foot tether that keeps the waterproof bag close by but never gets in the way and seems to have lower resistance the closer it is. The bright color is perfect for boats, jet skis, and people from shore to see you in low visibility. This is definitely a waterproof bag we would recommend for open water swimming.
What to Look for in a Waterproof Bag for Swimming
There are plenty of open water swimming buoys out there, but how many of them can you store your valuables, clothes, and a towel in? We looked at all the different features that make a waterproof bag for swimming perform well and keep your things dry. Here’s a breakdown of what you should be looking for:
Unquestionably the most important aspect of a waterproof bag for swimmers is that it stays dry on the inside. This is a big subject we look into in more detail below, but waterproofing basically depends on the construction and design of the bag, which includes the type of fabric that is used. There is a difference between water-resistant and waterproof. Always make sure your bag is waterproof and designed to be used in water – a standard dry bag is not the same.
The bonus of swimming with an inflatable waterproof bag behind you is that if you ever get tired or cramp up when swimming in deep water, you can just stop and take a rest on your floating bag. You will have to check the weight limitations of each bag as a floatation device, but if you can kick a little with your legs, then they work very well. Having an air-filled bag, you can hold on to in open water is much safer than not having one.
Visibility is a massive reason to use a swimming buoy so that boats and watercraft can see and avoid you as well as for extra visibility from shore. Getting caught in a riptide and pulled out to sea is far too easy. A bright orange swimming bag that is waterproof is a much better way to get attention than just waving your arms.
Open-water swimming bags that are waterproof require some kind of tether or leash to connect you to your bag. You might think a longer tether would be better but actually keeping it close by is the best method to reduce drag in the water and stay as visible as possible. A foot-long tether attached to a waistband is all you really need, and you’ll hardly notice it is there as you are swimming.
You may notice many of the waterproof drybags we recommend to swimmers are made from nylon fabric coated or blended with PVC, which is 100% waterproof and reliable. Not only does water bead straight off it, but it also doesn’t absorb any moisture, so it can be used in the water for hours. Watch out for silnylon drybags which are amazing for hiking and backpacking but not thick enough to use in open waters.
In general, your waterproof swimming bag will have a roll-top opening which is the most reliable way to trap air inside a bag and keep water out. Ideally, the opening should taper outwards to make it wider than the actual girth of the bag. This not only makes getting things in and out of the bag easy but also helps to capture more air and give a wider attachment loop when closed.
Seals around the opening of your drybag should make perfect contact with each other so that when you roll it up, the seal becomes air-tight. Seals are a weak point on any waterproof item, so they must line up and work as they should. Before you use any kind of waterproof bag for swimming with you should test it at home in the bath or sink and actually submerge it with some tissue inside to see if it stays dry. Exterior pockets are always a bad idea on dry bags and provide insufficient protection.
Having an external inflation valve is one of the features that separates a waterproof swim bag from a standard dry bag and is a great idea. You can never fill a waterproof sack full of air just by using the roll-top (unless you compress it down and sacrifice volume). By using an inflation valve you can both fill a sealed bag right to maximum capacity and also top it up as you swim.
Seams are another weak point on any item made from waterproof material as they need to be stitched, which pricks hundreds of tiny holes in the fabric. The way seams are made waterproof again after being stitched is usually by adding another coating on top, sealing the seams with a strip of material or tape, or by actually welding the seams together instead of stitching.
The capacity of waterproof bags can vary from 15 liters up to 40 liters, and the size you choose depends on what you plan to use it for and your body weight. If you plan to carry a towel and clothes, you should get a larger volume dry bag, but if it is just your phone and car keys you need to store, then a small bag is more than big enough.
It should go without saying that the heavier your bag is, the more it will drag in the water and feel like you are pulling extra weight. Lightweight swimming bags are the best because they just skim across the surface of the water. Thicker material will weigh more but has the added benefit of being more durable.
Pockets on the outside are a bad idea because they lack sufficient waterproof protection due to the closure not being a roll top. Pockets on the inside are good for storing your keys, phone, and wallet, but they are also the perfect place to keep your fitness tracker or GPS to track your swim and achievements.
The place where your tether attaches should ideally be on the underside of your bag to create the most streamlined connection to your waist. Handles on the top are handy if you plan to swim at night or in low light, as they are the perfect place to attach a light or beacon to remain completely visible to boats and people onshore.
Do Waterproof Bags Float When You Swim?
Waterproof bags for swimming naturally float because they are filled with air. This buoyancy means you can use your bag as a safety float in emergencies, and it won’t ever sink so long as it is full of air with no after inside. Waterproof bags to go swimming will typically float between 1 – 2 feet behind your head unless the wind blows it into your head.
How Do Waterproof Swimming Bags Work?
Waterproof swimming bags work by trapping air inside and sealing water out. The air inside the bag keeps it afloat while you are swimming, and it usually fixes to a leash that will start around your waist. You can keep items inside the bag and usually inflate them via an external valve. They are highly visible and work as floatation devices in emergencies.
Don’t Swim Bags Drag when Full of Stuff?
Open water swimming bags that double as a tow float already have a little bit of drag when empty. When you fill them with a towel, bottle of water, sunglasses you can use around water, and your valuables, the added weight creates drag in the water. If you are swimming for pleasure, this isn’t a big deal, but if you are racing competitively, then you want to avoid this at all costs.
Are There Waterproof Bags for Open Water Swimming?
There are dozens of different waterproof bags you can use for swimming. However, most of them are cheap knockoffs made by the same supplier in China. The top 5 best waterproof bags for swimming listed above are all perfectly adapted to be used for wild swimming in open water – number 6 is a complimentary dry bag to increase protection for your phone and valuables.