- Buyer's Guide
The Ultimate Guide to the Best Waterproof Backpacks of 2019
You’ve been drenched in a hiking downpour and finally make camp, only to discover your sleeping bag is soaking. Or that unexpected rainstorm wouldn’t let up throughout your cycle commute, to the detriment of your pricey laptop. While water-resistant bags will suffice in a lot of situations, sometimes you can’t afford to risk the elements getting to your gear. And that’s where waterproof backpacks come in. But before we get into some solid recommendations, let’s look a little closer at the water-resistant/waterproof divide.
Dandy for drizzles: water-resistant bags
A water-resistant bag is exactly what it sounds like. Built to resist water, it should shed light showers, splashes, and the like. You won’t want to leave it exposed for too long as water will eventually make its way inside, either through the fabric, zippers or seams. But if you live somewhere that doesn’t rain a lot, aren’t planning to get too wild with water-based activities or simply want to know you’ve got some time to seek shelter from a shower before your gear is really going to suffer, then a water-resistant bag should suit your needs well. And don’t forget, if you have specific items you don’t want to get wet (such as a phone, spare cash or a passport), you can store these in waterproof pouches and cases inside your water-resistant bag.
Shrugging off storms: waterproof bags
Unlike water-resistant bags, waterproof bags are designed to keep the elements out over an extended period of time. You’ll find features such as waterproof fabrics, weatherproof or waterproof zippers, and sealed seams.
Waterproof bags are handy for water-based activities and should hold up to quick submersion, giving your gear some much-needed protection in the event your bag takes the plunge. Plus they’re great for the likes of bike commuters who regularly endure heavy rain, hikers and skiers who want adequate protection against rain and snow, or travelers who don’t want to worry about their gear during a monsoon or if liquid accidentally spills on their bag.
Ultimate protection from the elements: 100% waterproof bags
If you simply can’t risk gear getting wet, 100% waterproof bags are for you. Here you’ll find waterproof fabrics, waterproof zippers (at least on the main compartment) and welded seams working hard to keep out water, dust, sand and dirt. Solid all-round protection that’s perfect for torrential weather and activities such as kayaking or fishing where you’ll be encountering deep or rough water. Additionally, 100% waterproof bags won’t be phased if they need to endure submersion for an extended time period.
So if you’ve decided a waterproof bag is right for your needs, dive into our selection of the best waterproof backpacks of 2019. You’ll find top picks for packs that cover different environments and carry requirements, from the campus and the commute, to kayaking and hiking…
You can’t always predict the weather on your travels. But the Sea to Summit Flow 35L Drypack will keep your gear dry whether you’re caught in an unexpected storm, exploring snow-covered slopes, enjoying a boat trip or accidentally spill liquids on the pack. The waterproof bag is made with TPU laminated 420D nylon and a seam-sealed main compartment that will handle quick submersion. There’s also a water-resistant exterior zipped pocket and hydration bladder compartment. The white interior improves visibility of the contents, while the contoured back panel, ventilated shoulder straps and removable padded waist belt keep you comfortable. And with multiple exterior attachment points and side compression straps, you have flexibility for securing items externally and cinching the pack compactly for smaller loads.
Looking for a laptop backpack that offers sleek, urban-friendly aesthetics, excellent durability and the ability to shed off wet commutes? The Black Ember Citadel Minimal ticks all the boxes, making it a savvy choice for work or play with your tech in tow. It’s crafted with 800D 3-Layer Micro-Hex material, YKK AquaGuard zippers and a bonded construction that delivers an IPX6 waterproof rating. The contoured, ventilated back panel and 3D shoulder straps help keep carry fatigue at bay. And the clamshell opening provides ready access to the interior, where you’ll find an assortment of pockets and a laptop sleeve with dedicated exterior top zip access.
Eco-conscious construction, modularity, durable 100% waterproof design, and the flexibility to adapt to diverse settings makes the Tillak Siletz modular carry system a solid pick for photographers who need to keep their gear dry. The Certified B Corp uses bluesign® approved materials and hardware in the pack, which also comes with a removable waist belt to enhance comfort when carrying heavier loads. The pack works with modular accessories such as a laptop sleeve, travel/photo insert and cooler to adapt to a variety of carry needs.
Premium technical construction, military toughness and a pared-back but adaptable exterior makes the Arc’teryx LEAF DryPack 25 a top-end waterproof backpack that will stand up to whatever you can throw at it. The pack is built with URETEK 725d HT Cordura® Plain Weave and a TIZIP® MasterSeal 10 waterproof zip. It features an oral inflation valve that lets you alternate between neutral buoyancy for using the pack underwater or positive buoyancy to allow it to float. It also includes a sternum strap and removable, stowable hip belt, along with dual density shoulder straps for stability and comfort. The inside Velcro panel and exterior PALS panel allow you to utilize pouches to configure the interior and exterior to your desired organization setup.
Super rugged, 100% waterproof and not afraid to rough it out in tough conditions, the YETI Panga Backpack is a trusty companion when you’re heading on adventures known and unknown alike. Whether you’re traversing rocks or rapids, wading through rivers or withstanding buffeting waves, this pack is built to tackle demanding use head-on. It’s made with an abrasion and puncture-resistant ThickSkin shell and HydroLok zipper and includes top and side grab handles, along with a removable chest strap and waist belt. Inside is a mesh pocket and a sleeve for interior organization, while the exterior offers gear attachment points on the front and shoulder straps.
Love being able to play with different organization setups? Having the freedom to adapt to changing day-to-day or travel carry needs, while enjoying reliable durability and protection from the elements? Then Black Ember’s Citadel Modular Backpack should definitely be on your carry radar. The pack offers the same tough build quality, IPX6 waterproof rating, and convenient clamshell access as the Citadel Minimal. However, it’s also designed to accommodate a variety of optional Black Ember MODS (modular accessories). The MODs quickly and securely connect to the pack through magnetic hardware and are easy to swap out as needed. Ideal if you dig having plenty of pockets and compartments to choose from.
Rugged and 100% waterproof, the OverBoard Kayak Deck Bag is made with 600D PVC tarpaulin and high-frequency welded seams and has an IP66 rating. Buckle connectors allow you to easily secure the pack to a kayak, with a weatherproof pocket and webbing on the front for quick-access storage. Additionally, it comes with a removable shoulder strap and can also be carried using the rolltop closure. Tough and easy to wipe clean, the pack also floats for added peace of mind and is well up for a hard day of navigating rapids.
Burly and fully submersible, you can trust this pack to keep your fishing gear, camera, lunch and any other items you might want on your expedition safe from river drenches and rain downpours alike. The Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible Backpack is made with 1680D TPU-coated recycled nylon and a waterproof TIZIP® zipper. The height-adjustable hip belt is removable if desired, with a molded back panel and foam shoulder straps for comfort. The pack also includes external daisy chains, gear straps and a water-resistant front zippered pocket to secure bulkier or quick-access items.
Sleek, tough, lightweight and waterproof with an IP64 rating, the Ortlieb Velocity keeps you streamlined and comfortable on the bike. The padded, ventilated back panel, waist strap and sternum strap enhance carry comfort and load stability while you’re tearing up the miles. And there’s also an attachment point to secure a bike light or helmet. Inside the main compartment are a choice of slip and zippered pockets to store valuables and smaller items within easy reach.
With its hardy, 100% waterproof build and urban aesthetic, this tough and compact pack is a smart choice for a hard day’s graft on campus. The Knurled Welded™ construction keeps your college essentials well protected whatever the weather has in store. And you’ll also find a selection of options for organizing your gear, including front and shoulder strap webbing, a quick-access pocket and interior pockets including a padded iPad sleeve.
Best Waterproof Backpack for Paddle Boarding: OverBoard Pro-Light Waterproof Backpack 20L (US$104.68)
The chances are high you’re going to get wet during paddle boarding. But your gear will be safe and sound stashed inside the OverBoard Pro-Light Waterproof Backpack. A combination of TPU fabrics, high-frequency welded construction and a secure top or side rolltop closure creates a 100% waterproof and submersible backpack. And if it gets accidentally dropped in the water, don’t worry. It floats too for easy retrieval. Exterior webbing and mesh pockets are handy for storing items you don’t mind getting wet, while inside you’ll find a wet/dry zippered pocket. The pack is also hydration bladder compatible, has reflective detailing and includes a sternum strap, removable waist belt, comfy padded back panel and ventilated shoulder straps. And if you want further organization and dedicated laptop storage, you can also pair the pack with an OverBoard Backpack Tidy (sold separately).
Want to keep your wetsuit or swimming costume away from your dry gear but don’t want the hassle of carrying two separate bags? The Patagonia Planing Roll Top Pack comes to the rescue. The main compartment provides plenty of storage space for dry items, with an easy-clean lining and taped seams to keep water and dirt out. The exterior mesh pocket with a cinch closure lets you store wet items separately, while also enabling them to air dry. The pack is constructed with a 300D 100% recycled polyester with a TPU-film laminate. The pack also features a sternum strap, removable waist belt and hydrophobic shoulder harness.
When you’re hiking outdoors, the last thing you want is for your gear to get soaked. Especially if you’re carrying sleeping gear, warm clean clothing and tech gadgets you can’t afford to get wet. The Mountain Hardwear BMG 105 OutDry Backpack provides much-needed peace of mind when you’re exposed to the elements. The pack features a watertight OutDry® construction main compartment that not only keeps the interior dry but doesn’t absorb water externally either, so the pack doesn’t gain additional weight when wet. A FitLock multi-density padded waist belt, removable HardWave suspension and a removable horizontal stay enhance carrying comfort for heavier loads. And multiple attachment points let you secure bulkier gear such as ice axes and skis externally.
If you’re seeking weather protection with commuter-ready comfort, the SealLine Urban Dry Daypack offers a good mix of both. The 26L pack is fully waterproof and features comfy padded straps, a breathable back panel, plus a removable waist belt for load stability. Additionally there’s a bike light attachment point and reflective detailing for enhanced visibility on the go. Inside you’ll find a padded sleeve for a 15″ laptop and a zippered pocket with a key clip.
If you’re actively embracing wet environments such as boat rides or fishing, the Patagonia Stormfront Pack offers a solid barrier of defence against the elements. Made with TPU-coated 800D nylon with a DWR finish, welded construction and a TIZIP® zipper, the pack is 100% waterproof and fully submersible. Interior and exterior pockets provide storage for smaller items, while the exterior straps are useful for attaching items such as a rod tube.