Best Flood Barriers for Disasters and Emergencies

In times of unexpected deluges and rising waters, safeguarding lives and property becomes paramount. When faced with the destructive force of floods, having a reliable and effective flood barrier can mean the difference between chaos and calm, devastation and protection. Making a plan and picking the best flood barriers for your situation ahead of time is key.

There are plenty of types and brands of flood barriers to pick from. This is where we come in. We’ve researched the best flood barriers, put them to the test, and now the results are in: the best flood barrier, the best sandbags, and a whole home option. If you want to protect your property quickly and effectively, one of our picks will keep you dry.

Contents (Jump to a Section)

Quick Dam Flood Barrier

The Best Flood Barrier

Quick Dam Flood Barrier

Easy to Use, Fast Deployment, and Effective

These water-activated pigs are great at quickly fortifying doorways from rising water.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Quick Dam is the biggest name in flood protection with products ranging from door barriers all the way up to total home solutions. This little absorbent pig can be found in most hardware stores and online making them convenient to pick up.

Even more convenient is their deployment- they stay relatively flat until water hits them where they start to absorb and take shape. Once they absorb 8 gallons of water, they measure 3.5″ tall each.

Here is how the Quick Dam measures up:

  • 3.5″ high, stackable in 1:3 ratio
  • Absorbs water to self-activate
  • 10′ long
  • 1.4 pounds unfilled

With great versatility at an affordable price- it’s easy to see why the Quick Dam Flood Barrier is the best option for most people.

Up North Sandbags

Best Sandbags

Up North Sandbags

Inexpensive, Reusable, and Proven

Sandbags have been the go-to for flood prevention for years, and these bags are simply the best bang for your buck.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Sandbags continue to be one of the most versatile flood barrier options if you correctly fill and arrange them. Use plastic sheeting on the water side of the bag wall with the sheeting weighed down with additional bags.

Filling bags can be tedious work, but if you are aware of flood potential and keep up to date on developing weather conditions filling and placing sandbags can usually be accomplished in time.

You’ll also need sand to fill the bags- it’ll take about 2 cubic yards to fill 100 sandbags.

Here is how these sandbags measure up:

  • 100-pack shown (but several quantity options ranging from 10 to 1,000)
  • Polypropylene weave
  • 850 denier
  • 50 pounds of sand each (suggested fill)
  • 1.15 ounces each (unfilled)

If you are looking for an inexpensive solution with plenty of versatile use, Up North Sandbags is what you need.

Quick Dam Water-Gate

Whole Home Flood Barrier

Quick Dam Water-Gate

High Capacity, Fast Deployment, and Trusted

Get massive protection in quickly deployable and easy-to-use kits that can protect your entire house effectively.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

The Water-Gate is a portable self-deploying barrier that protects up to a massive 5 feet high. The trick is the support straps and the skirt that support the wall as rising waters push it up. Because of this design, it won’t work with direct contact with waves (ie. oceanfront), but it otherwise works on any surface, and even contours around corners.

Here are the full specs:

  • 20″ height for the model shown
  • 30 feet long (can connect lengths together)
  • 17″ x 29″ x 12″ packed
  • 70 pounds

If you are looking to protect your entire home, get a Quick Dam Water-Gate to deploy quickly.

Everything We Recommend

Quick Dam Flood Barrier

Quick Dam Flood Barrier

These water-activated pigs are great at quickly fortifying doorways from rising water.

Where to Buy

$18* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing

Up North Sandbags

Up North Sandbags

Sandbags have been the go-to for flood prevention for years, and these bags are simply the best bang for your buck.

Where to Buy

$39* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing

Quick Dam Water-Gate

Quick Dam Water-Gate

Get massive protection in quickly deployable and easy-to-use kits that can protect your entire house effectively.

Where to Buy

$1,055* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing

The Barriers We Compared

Our research narrowed the field down to several brands and types of flood barriers that we compared: Quick Dam, Garrison, Osmo, Up North, Floodworx, Dam Easy, AquaSafe, and more.

You can see our full list of review criteria below in the What to Look For section, with an explanation for each.

We considered a wide range of flood management gear but ended up comparing portable flood barriers rather than installed or permanent fixtures. While those are great for storm situations, we simply wanted to compare apples to apples for the sake of our review. Leave us a note if you’d like us to dig deeper into installed door barriers, etc.

We’re always looking for new and better gear, so if you have a barrier that you swear by, let us know in the comments. We review most of our tested gear annually so we can try to get it in the next roundup round and see if it will beat out our top picks.

What to Look For

The best flood barriers have several important features to look for:

  1. Value
  2. Effectiveness
  3. Deployment Time
  4. Size & Coverage
  5. Storability

When you get the right blend of these, you can find a barrier that you can rely on in any flooding event. Below, we break down what each of these features means for the flood barriers that truly set themselves apart.

Value: Cost vs. Benefit

The amount of money you spend on something like a flood barrier shouldn’t blow out your entire budget. There is a wide range of price points when it comes to flood barriers mostly related to their versatility and deployment speed.

You never want to spend too much money on one thing when it comes to preparedness. It’s better to diversify your gear and budget to make sure you are covered for a wide range of scenarios.


The barriers that we suggest are extremely effective when used appropriately. There are many other flood barriers we encountered that do a pretty good job but had leaks at attachment points and made for better water diverters than flood barriers.

Those can obviously be useful, but we were looking for solutions that you could trust to not leak.

Deployment Time

Deployment time is something to consider when you are getting a flood barrier, but it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker. Sandbags take a much longer time than anyone ever anticipates to fill, but flooding isn’t always by surprise. If you’ve done your homework and know that you live in a flood-prone area then you may be able to have plenty of notice for flooding events, like hurricanes.

Some other dams that do not self-activate missed our suggestion list because they took a long time to fill with water.

If flash floods are your threat, you may want to pre-fill things like sandbags and expose self-activating dams to water ahead of time so they absorb their height quickly.

Size & Coverage

Flood barriers cover a wide range of scenarios, from simple door dams all the way to 10′ high installed water diversion systems. The size of the dam and coverage you’ll need for your home varies for each individual scenario.

It’s something you’ll need to consider and we can’t really suggest anything specifically without knowing your flood map and your property.


A few of our picks are reusable and can be stored away during the dry seasons. This is great if you plan on needing it for more than just anticipating an emergency flood. If you do have recurring drainage and flooding issues, you may need to look at more robust water management for your property and make some long-term changes.

How to Use a Flood Barrier

Quick-deployment flood barriers are simple to use and easy to set up.

Sandbags, however, take a little more patience and planning to get right.

You don’t have to wear all the PPE these Aussies do, but they do a great job of showing how to set up sandbags for a variety of flood barrier uses:

Who Needs a Flood Barrier?

Not everyone needs a flood barrier, but it is a good idea to do the research to see if you do. The first step is checking your flood map:

If you are in an at-risk area on the map, you should consider a flood barrier for your:

Some flood barriers, like pigs and sandbags, can also be useful in other water mitigation situations, or as barriers for other events (especially sandbags).

How We Review Products: We research thoroughly before selecting the best products to review. We consult experts in the field for a better understanding of what makes the gear great. Hours on end are spent field testing gear in stressful conditions. We assign performance criteria and impartially rate each tested item. You can support us through our independently chosen links, which can earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. After our review process, some of the items reviewed end up in our giveaways.

Sources and References

All of our experience and the testing we do to determine the best flood barrier are useless without listing our research sources and references. We leaned on these for the book knowledge that we paired with our hands-on testing and practical survival experience:

McCormack, S., et al. (2012). Temporary Flood Barriers. Kentucky Transportation Center. (Source)

Nofal, O., et al. (2021). Modeling the Impact of Building-Level Flood Mitigation Measures Made Possible by Early Flood Warnings on Community-Level Flood Loss Reduction. Buildings. Volume 11. Issue 10. Pages 475. (Source)

Zhegang, D., et al. (2022). Research to Develop Flood Barrier Testing Strategies for Nuclear Power Plants. U.S. Department of Energy; Office of Scientific and Technical Information. (Source)

The Final Word

When a hurricane, severe storm, or storm surge comes knocking- you’ll be glad to have a portable flood barrier ready to go. Flooding is one of the deadliest natural disasters and can quickly rack up billions in damages. Many people underestimate flooding as a potential threat and insurance carriers don’t cover it in typical home insurance.

Here are a few other guides and reviews our subscribers have found helpful:

We presented quite a lot of information, but as always: if you have any questions let us know and we would be happy to help. Our research and testing found the Quick Dam Water-Activated Flood Barrier to be the best option given its value, effectiveness, deployment time, size/coverage, and storability.

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.

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The Best Flood Barriers

Rusty Collins

I am an engineer, Air Force veteran, emergency manager, husband, dad, and experienced prepper. I developed emergency and disaster plans around the globe and responded to many attacks and accidents as a HAZMAT technician. I have been exposed to deadly chemical agents, responded to biological incidents, and dealt with natural disasters. Check out my full story here: Rusty's Story

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