A waterproof backpack is essential for any outdoor adventure. Whether you like hiking in the mountains, rafting on rivers, or skiing in the snow, you will need the best waterproof backpack that can protect your stuff from the water. There are plenty of choices out there but choosing the right backpack depends on a number of factors.
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What Makes a Backpack Waterproof?
A waterproof backpack is different from any other backpack because it stays dry when it comes in contact with water. Many people confuse water-resistant for waterproof. Although they sound similar, they are quite different. Water-resistant backpacks offer resistance from a small rain shower. They may stay dry in a drizzle or little rain. Also, they may have a lot of pockets as well.
Waterproof backpacks can withstand torrential rain or even keep the contents dry on submersion in water as they are watertight. The material they are made from does not absorb water. The most commonly used fabrics are ripstop nylon, tarpaulin, and polypropylene. Fabrics are further coated or laminated to make them waterproof. These backpacks also have PU (Polyurethane) or TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) coating.
What Are Waterproof Backpacks Used For?
Waterproof backpacks are usually used for adventurous activities or water sports. Hikers who may need to hike under rainy conditions need a backpack that can protect their stuff from rain. Such bags are also used by those who take part in water sports/activities such as kayaking, rafting, sailing, canoeing, and fishing.
Waterproof backpacks are becoming increasingly popular among backpackers as well. Even though they do not essentially take part in water sports, they do need protection from rain or snow. Standard backpacks usually just have a water-resistant rain cover. Since they do not absorb water, they do not get heavy in the rain.
They are pretty useful in storing electronics and equipment that may be ruined by water. The materials are quite sturdy so not only does the backpack stay dry it also lasts long and does not tear. The backpacks have strong seams that have been welded at high frequency. This is done to keep the water from entering through seams.
Things to Look For in a Waterproof Backpack
In order to get the best waterproof backpack, you need to know what features to look for. You can use these aspects to compare different models. Here is what you should know:
Like any other backpack, waterproof backpacks come in various sizes. The size of these backpacks is usually measured in liters. The smallest backpack would be 10L. However, most common sizes range from 20L-60L. Size is dependent on your own needs.
For someone getting a waterproof backpack for long hikes or traveling, a larger size would be better. For those looking for sporting activities, a 20-30L backpack is ample.
When it comes to backpacks, especially those big ones, comfort should be one of your top priorities. It is easier to find a quality backpack than to find a comfortable one. A comfortable backpack would at least have padded straps. It should offer enough support to evenly distribute the weight and sit snugly on your back.
You will come across the term ‘denier’ when buying a backpack. It is indicated by the letter D next to a numerical value, e.g. 400D Nylon. This metric basically tells the density of the material. The higher it is, the stronger the backpack is. However, this does not mean the same for all the fabrics. The denier of polyester is not the same as the denier of nylon. Generally, 450D or above is regarded as a thick fabric.
Of course, the main thing you want to ensure when buying a waterproof backpack is that it is fully waterproof. Just because a backpack is marketed as waterproof does not mean it is 100% waterproof. The material used, the stitching, and the closure system, all will determine if it is indeed waterproof.
The technology used to produce the fabrics and the backpacks has improved significantly over the years. Some of these backpacks are quite lightweight and can even survive underwater. If you dropped them in a lake, they most likely will not let water enter the main compartment or pockets provided they are that good. Such backpacks are not only waterproof but have the ability to float as well.
The floating ability may be useful when you are going kayaking or canoeing. Even if you drop the bag, your belongings will stay dry as the backpack would just stay on the surface before you salvage it. In some backpacks, only the main compartment is waterproof. The outside pockets or compartments are only water-resistant.
Top 5 Best Waterproof Backpacks
Chaos Ready Waterproof Dry Backpack
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This waterproof backpack by Chaos Ready has a minimal design and heavy-duty construction. The backpack has two mesh side pockets and an easy-access front pocket. It is made from 500 PVC Tarpaulin which makes it lightweight and 100% waterproof.
It has a capacity of 22L which is enough for normal use as well as for special occasions, e.g. a kayaking trip on the river. The main compartment is Class 3 waterproof. It might even float on the water if you accidentally dropped it. For this reason, the company has made the main compartment water-tight.
The backpack has a tri-fold buckle system. You just have to roll up and buckle the side ends. I believe this feature makes it more user-friendly as compared with regular backpacks that have zippers and straps to deal with.
Since it is for water sports, the seams on the bag have been welded at high frequency. It seems like a very sturdy backpack that should last for years. Last but not the least; it has a lifetime guarantee from the company further cementing its toughness.
- Lightweight and foldable thanks to the PVC material
- Minimal design with more focus on functionality
- Padded shoulders for comfort in carrying
- Suitable for water activities like kayaking, fishing, surfing, rafting, etc.
- Easy buckle closure system
- The front pocket is not as water-tight as the main compartment
Sak Gear BackSak Waterproof Backpack
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The Sak Gear BackSak is a highly innovative waterproof backpack with a basic design. Available in two sizes (25L and 35L) and seven colors, this backpack has a rugged construction of 500D PVC. The vinyl-coated polyester along with high-frequency welded seams makes it 100% waterproof and ideal for water sports.
This bag from Skog Ă Kust has two closure options: the usual roll up and buckle found on most waterproof backpacks, and side-clips closure that offers more snugged fit. There is a D-ring on either side to hang frequently needed things like water bottles.
The inner compartment of the bag has a zipper pocket (6 x 8 inches) to secure electronics. This should come in very handy when you need to keep back a wet swimsuit or raincoat. There is a splash-proof zipper pocket on the outside as well in the front. This is made for keeping important stuff like ids or keys.
This one is perhaps the most comfortable one. The padded back-support, sternum clips, and cushioned straps all make it comfortable for carrying on the back for long durations. It also has a reflective patch and trims around the outside pocket to make the bag visible in the dark.
- Multiple pockets
- Suitable for rugged water sports
- Simple yet stylish design
- High-quality material and hardware
- Highly comfortable to carry due to padded back-support
- The front pocket is only splash-resistant, not completely waterproof
- The bag itself is relatively heavier
MARCHWAY Floating Waterproof Backpack
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MARCHWAY Waterproof Backpack comes in a variety of sizes and colors. From basic black to neon pink, you have plenty of color choices. As for the volume, this backpack comes in 5L, 10L, 20L, 30L, and 40L. Depending on your need, you can choose the size. I find the 20L size more than enough to accommodate some change of clothes, chargers, camera, and some other equipment.
It has a roll-top closure system with double straps (single on 5L and 10L). The strap is adjustable and can be carried cross-body or on the shoulder. The backpack is made from ripstop tarpaulin for ensuring 100% waterproofing. It can effectively protect the contents from rain, mud, and snow.
It is not designed to be submerged in water. If submerged, water may get in from the top-closure. It can float on the water though as it is made from lightweight tarpaulin. The 500D tarpaulin is as strong as it is lightweight. This type of fabric is also tear-resistant. If you are hiking in thickly forested mountains, the chances of your bag ripping are very low.
- Multiple size options to meet different needs
- Extremely lightweight, soft, but sturdy material used
- Easy to use and carry
- Thermo welding keeps water off the seams
- Not protective if submerged in water
- Single compartment (no extra pockets)
Vitchelo Waterproof Backpack for Outdoor Water Sports
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The Vitchelo Waterproof Backpack is designed for extreme water sports like rafting, kayaking, and fly fishing. For this reason, it has a lot of support straps, unlike other waterproof backpacks. You have a reinforced single strap on the top, chest and waist straps to keep the backpack in place. It should be easy to carry given that it will sit snuggly on your back.
The volume of this backpack at 30L is quite generous. One can fit a lot of stuff in but then there are even more pockets on the outside. The front has elastic webbing and the sides feature high-quality mesh pockets to hold water bottles. If you need a lot of storage space, this bag might be a good fit.
It is waterproof, sand-proof, and can float on the water. This is because the material used is vinyl tarpaulin. Since the material is quite strong, it could be great for camping in the woods too. This backpack also includes a waterproof phone pouch for taking your phone in the water.
- Snug and comfortable fit
- Can float if dropped in water
- 60-day money-back guarantee
- Generous volume, great for long hiking trips
- Size not appropriate for a day pack
Sea To Summit Hydraulic Dry Pack
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Sea to Summit Hydraulic Dry Pack is a 600D TPU laminated waterproof backpack designed for heavy-duty use. It can withstand very low temperatures as well. It is sort of like a backpacker backpack with lots of support straps.
The shoulder straps are EVA and can be adjusted easily for a comfortable fit. Same is the case with the waist belt which is padded with foam. The TPU roll-top and interlocking profile provides water-tight closure. There are four welded Hypalon patches that can be used to attach external loads easily.
It comes in different sizes starting at 35L. The largest size is 120L which is quite big. This is perhaps a good choice for hikers on a long trip in the wilderness or on the mountains. You can use it for water sports as well as it is fully waterproof after all.
- Multiple sizes
- Can withstand a lot of weight
- Heavy-duty durable construction that is PVC free
- Padded straps for shoulders and waist for better support
- Only suitable for long trips as it is a large backpack
All of the above waterproof backpacks are high-quality and great value for money. However, if I had to pick one that stands out as the best waterproof backpack it would be Sac Gear BackSak. This backpack from the Swedish company Skog Ă Kust is innovative and 100% waterproof.
It is an all-rounder as the storage is ample, the fabric is strong, and is quite comfortable to wear. Some backpacks, for instance, Marchway Backpack, do not have multiple pockets. The 500D fabric is dense enough to withstand water for a long time. The sizes are adequate for the purposes the backpacks are for. It should make a great backpack for hikers and water sports enthusiasts alike.