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Wallet. Phone. GPS. Ammo. Action camera. DSLR camera. LED Headlamps and flashlights, first aid supplies, clothing, food, firearms, chargers, battery packs, cables, maps, and much more—today’s hunters, anglers, and campers have a lot of things to keep dry. Many of these are electronics and extraordinarily useful in making our adventures safe and successful. And while many of them offer some degree of individual water resistance, for the most part, this outdoor gear needs to be kept dry.
We have more options than ever now for doing just that. Good seals, secure latches, and smart construction have produced a bounty of boxes for storing and transporting gear, in sizes large and small, from the pricey to the easily affordable. Once you know which items you wish to protect, you can seek out those waterproof containers that meet your needs.
Waterproof Storage Containers Explained
Plastic boxes (and bags) have the obvious advantage of being rust-proof and moldable to avoid the joints and seams where moisture can sneak in. The level of waterproofing in containers and enclosures is often expressed with an Ingress Protection or IP rating, which specifies just how much water and dust can penetrate to the inside. The relevant digits are those in the third position, which expresses dust-tightness, and the fourth position, which describes water resistance. From 1 through 8, the higher the number, the tighter the seal. (X is used when protection level isn’t specified, usually in the dust column.) So, a product with a rating of IP68 is quite well protected–dust-tight to 6 on a scale of 8, and this product can sit at the bottom of more than 6 feet of water for a half-hour and stay dry inside.
The best containers often have air pressure valves, which prevent damage to the contents and the container itself from pressure differentials inside and outside the box. This is accomplished while maintaining water protection by using a moisture barrier made of one-way fabric like Gore-Tex. It can be important for air travel or any significant elevation change.
All of the containers listed here offer serious protection from the elements. Naturally, they’ll also work just fine as good-quality general storage boxes in your basement, garage, closet, or wherever your gear lives. Take a look to see which waterproof outdoor storage box has the solution for you.
Things to Consider When Storing Firearms and Ammunition
Water is the enemy of firearms and ammunition. The metal surfaces on firearms are prone to rust, and the primers on ammunition won’t fire if they get wet. A waterproof storage box is the best way to protect these items out in the field. Safe from downpours, wet boat bilges, and everything in between, your firearms will function when you need them most. There are models sized to fit everything from a handful of cartridges to a battery of shotguns. Choose a model large enough to fit everything you plan to take out into the field with you, with some extra space to spare.
Best Dry Box for Sidearms/Ammunition: Pelican Protector 1150
Many adventurers and professionals turn to a Pelican case to safeguard their critical gear, and the Protector is one of the company’s most popular models. This American-made case is as rugged as they come. It is designed for extreme weather, combat, and other harsh environments where protecting valuable or sensitive equipment is a real challenge. Protectors come in a wide range of sizes; the 1150 measures 8.3 × 5.8 × 3.8 inches on the inside, big enough to carry a half-dozen boxes of 9mm cartridges. Convoluted (that is, egg-carton) foam inside the lid and Pick N Pluck foam in the box will hold your gear snugly, but you can also remove the foam and use it as an empty box. All Pelican Protector, Air, Storm, and Micro cases have automatic air pressure valves, which prevent vacuums caused by changing altitude that can otherwise make a case impossible to open or even damage it. The exterior dimensions for this model are 9.4 x 7.8 x 4.4 inches. It weighs 1.6 pounds empty and about three ounces more with foam.
Taking First Aid Kits into the Field
No one wants to experience a medical emergency anywhere, but being miles from civilization can make the issue worse. If you do find yourself in a bind far from the nearest medical center, you’ll be glad to have a fully stocked first aid kit. But if all your bandages are a soggy mess and mold has crept into your medicines, they are of little use. To prevent this possible issue, store all your medical supplies in a sturdy waterproof container.
Best Dry Box for Medical Emergencies: Adventure Medical Kits Marine 600
Here’s a box that comes with all the stuff in it—quite possibly the most important stuff you pack should trouble occur. The kit is designed for vessels carrying up to six people, and is just as useful on land as at sea. Inside are 150 pieces of first aid equipment, with all the bandages, dressings, antiseptics, tapes, and tools you would expect in a comprehensive kit. There’s also a copy of Marine Medicine: A Comprehensive Guide by Eric A. Weiss, M.D. & Michael Jacobs, M.D. The medical supplies, divided into six organizer bags, are housed in an 11.8 x 10.6 x 5.9” waterproof, floating case with two latches and a folding handle.
Protecting Everyday Items
In your pockets right now, you have a selection of items that you take for granted. Most of these don’t mingle well with water. Cell phones are complicated, expensive electronic devices. Even your car key fob contains delicate circuitry that shouldn’t be exposed to the elements. You should protect these items every time you venture near the water or into wet weather—what angler hasn’t donated something to Davy Jones in their fishing career? Protect your valuables with a dry box whenever you head down to the stream or out on a boat. Choose a model that fits easily in your pocket or bag, and you won’t have an excuse not to use it.
Best Dry Box for Essentials: Plano Marine 3400 Series Waterproof StowAway Box
Simple, inexpensive, and see-through, this small Plano Marine dry box will keep your phone or valuables dry in a drift boat on the river or in a center console on the flats. The transparent plastic shows the contents at a glance without having to open the lid. The waterproofing is a simple Dri-Loc O-ring, and with three cam-action latches, it’s highly unlikely the box will pop open unintentionally. At 7.4 x 4.5 x 1.8 inches and weighing next to nothing, you could stuff it in a backpack and enjoy peace of mind that your phone, emergency matches, or anything else that needs to stay dry will do so. At under seven bucks, anyone with any hobby that takes place outdoors could use one (or a few) of these.
Protecting Items from Rust
When the iron content in metals combines with water and oxygen, rust occurs. Keeping items free from splashes or rain is a big part of preventing rust, but it is only part of the equation. Humidity is present in the air, depositing tiny droplets of water everywhere. Most of the time, these droplets evaporate before they have the chance to cause corrosion. But when they are trapped, such as inside the confines of a dry box, this water vapor can cause damage.
Usually, your items won’t be inside a dry box long enough for corrosion to occur. But if you plan on using your dry box for long-term storage, then you should consider one that offers some protection against water vapor. Some boxes incorporate a desiccant that sucks the moisture out of the air. Others utilize a corrosion inhibiting chemical that leaches out of the plastic in the container, offering a veil of protection over the contents.
Best Ammo-Can Style Dry Box: Plano Rustrictor Field/Ammo Box
This American-made, lightweight, recreational version of the steel .50-caliber ammo box accommodates a wide range of items that shouldn’t be exposed to water. With external dimensions of 15 x 10 x 8”, this ammo box has a large capacity, but doesn’t take up too much room on your boat or in the bed of your pickup. Inside is mostly a wide-open compartment for tools, electronics, or for that matter, ammo (six boxes of 2.75-inch or 3-inch shells or plenty of .30-06 caliber rounds). There’s also an internal top lift-out tray for duck calls or hand-warmers, and a cool feature is the narrow, external-access compartment in the lid, perfect for a compact flashlight and a cigar. Access is via one brass-bailed latch, and the lid is holed for padlocking. Water and dust are excluded by an O-ring seal, and the plastic is made with Plano’s Rustrictor vapor corrosion inhibitor to prevent internal humidity from rusting your gear. A generous fold-up handle makes the box easy to lug.
Beyond protection from the elements, dry boxes can also offer organized storage. With the right box, you can easily access whatever piece of gear you need at a moment’s notice. Boxes built with organization in mind have internal dividers, pull-out shelves, and lashing straps to keep items secure and well-ordered. The best of these also offer defense against the bumps and bruises that occur out in the field, so your sensitive equipment will handle that fall from the tailgate as well as a sudden squall.
Best Dry Box for Small Tools: Pelican R60 Personal Utility Ruck Case
It’s hard to beat the range of configurations for securely storing small tools and gear that this box offers. Along with a lift-out tray, there’s a flexible snap-in organizer inside the lid, and both have MOLLE-style slots and hook-and-loop straps that keep things like pliers, drivers, and utility knives organized and snug. Below lies an open main compartment for larger items; use Pelican R60 with or without the tray and organizer. The box is crushproof and IP68 waterproof, submersible to 6.6 feet for a half-hour, and comes with an air pressure relief valve. Parts of the ABS shell are rubberized, and the dual-pivot latch is unusually large, both for secure closing and easy operation. Attachment points on each side allow for lashing down or tethering with a carabiner hook. The exterior measures 11.1 x 6.9 x 3.9 inches, the interior 8.9 x 5.4 x 3. It weighs a substantial 2.3 pounds due to its robust construction and will float with a total weight of 4.8 pounds.
Outdoorsmen often have large loads that they must take out in the field with them. Their size usually requires them to be transported out in pickup truck beds, exposed to elements. Fortunately, companies have started offering large, weatherproof containers to wrangle bulky gear while keeping it dry and protected. Many include thoughtful removable organizers that let you keep tabs on smaller items, but get out of the way when you need to shove a pair of waders in. These boxes go from garage to vehicle and back easily, providing secure storage at home too.
Best Large Dry Box: YETI Loadout Gobox 30
The folks at YETI are known for making extraordinary coolers, so it’s no surprise they’ve put their know-how to use in this big, durable, and mega-functional dry box. It has plenty of room for bulky gear like climbing ropes, waders and boots, a camp kitchen, provisions, clothes, you name it. A three-compartment lift-out tray covers half the opening and allows for the organization of smaller gear, and there’s a removable down-the-middle divider for the main compartment. Inside the lid is a suitcase-like zippered compartment, fronted by two zippered mesh pouches. Dimensions are 20.5 x 11.2 x 14.6 inches, and YETI GoBox weighs 11.8 pounds empty. A gasket seals it in a deep channel around the edge of the lid and two big latches. YETI products aren’t cheap, and this box is no exception, but the quality build can be expected to perform through many adventures.
Q: How does a dry box work?
A dry box employs an O-ring – a gasket made of rubber or silicon in a groove around the edge of the box’s lid. The box’s rim presses into the soft O-ring when the box is closed, forming a waterproof seal. This simple technology is employed in many products where maintaining a tight seal is essential, such as underwater housings for expensive cameras. Most dry boxes are made of materials that resist corrosion underwater, such as plastic and stainless steel.
Q: Which brand of dry box is good?
There are many good brands of waterproof storage containers. Pelican is a particularly well-known brand, known for very sturdy storage containers used in the military and industrial sectors as well as for recreational and home use. Plano is a beloved American brand that manufactures products in Plano, Illinois. More recent brands such as YETI and Otter Box quickly developed good reputations for quality workmanship and functionality.
Q: What should be stored in a dry box?
Some electronic gear comes in housings with some degree of water protection, but it’s usually limited to incidental splashing. Firearms, cameras, and lenses should be stored in as dry an environment as possible. Clothing, food in unsealed packages, ammunition, maps and documents, and tools subject to rust are all excellent candidates for your dry box.
The Best Dry Box is the One You Will Use
Whether you need a large container for long trips in the backcountry or a small one that can fit in a wader pocket for fishing a rainy afternoon, a dry box is always helpful and often essential. When deciding which waterproof outdoor storage box will meet your needs, think realistically about how big it should be; a box that leaves several items looking for a home is a box that probably won’t be used on your next trip. There’s a size for every outdoor adventurer.