The Best Waterproof Backpack Guide: Everything You Need To Know

Water skiing when the sun rises on a lake as calm as glass, a long lazy float down the river with all your closest friends, or a sunset on a sandy beach in a tropical location. Water makes the best days just a little bit better.

Whether you're hiking or backpacking when the rain hits water makes the best days a little bit worse. No matter how much you plan and prepare mother nature always gets her way.

If your an avid adventurer it's inevitable that eventually rain will find you and there's not much worse than discovering that everything inside your bag is completely soaked. You want to know that your valuables are going to be protected and finding the best waterproof backpack is the first step in the battle to keep your gear dry.



How to find the best waterproof backpack

That's a loaded question and there is not one clear answer. We have put together a list of common concerns and questions that will steer you towards the waterproof hiking backpack that suits your needs.

Waterproof vs. Water resistant

A common misconception is that waterproof and water resistant are the same thing and they're not. They are built differently and perform better in different situations. The intended use is going to dictate which type of backpack is best for you.

What is a water resistant backpack?

A water resistant backpack is going to protect you from light rainfall. There are levels to this game, and water resistance varies from backpack to backpack. It may withstand a light rain or it may protect your belongings from a heavy downpour, in other words, the definition is vague.

Activities for a water resistant backpack

  • Hiking in the wet season
  • Long distance backpacking
  • Rainy season adventures 

What is a waterproof backpack?

When we're talking waterproof backpacks the standard is much more defined. Waterproof backpacks are designed to withstand complete submersion in the water while keeping everything inside bone dry. They are designed for more extreme conditions and you'll be able to stand in the middle of a waterfall and your belongings will (should) be fine. 

Activities for a waterproof backpack...

  • Kayak or canoe camping trips
  • Bike commuting
  • Whitewater rafting

Guy standing on a beach in bad weather

Factors to consider when choosing a wet weather hiking backpack

Now that we know the difference between water resistant and waterproof hiking backpacks we can get down to the nitty gritty.

Size

There is no one size fits all size, it varies on personal preference and duration of the trip. That being said, backpacks are measured in Litres and range from 15 to 75 Litres and everything in between. 

Overnight:

20 - 30 Liters

Weekend:

30 - 50 Liters

Multi-day:

40 - 55 Liters

Extended:

55+ Liters

If you're just taking a morning hike or need something for a short weekend trip a 10-25 Litre backpack is all you're going to need.

For extended trips that last anywhere from 3 to 5 days a 40-55 Liter size is best. 55-75 Litre backpacks are the standard range that most backpackers take on an extended trip, which is anything exceeding 5 days. 

Weight

The bigger the bag, the more it weighs, it's as simple as that. With waterproof backpacks, they tend to be on the heavier end of the spectrum due to the material they are made of. That being said, there are still lightweight waterproof backpacks out there.

Water resistant backpacks don't have much of a difference in weight, and to be honest, most hiking backpacks really should all be water resistant. After all, if you hike enough, you will eventually encounter rainy days.

A good rule of them for weight is the lighter the better, brought to you by captain obvious.

Comfort

Something not to be overlooked, next to capacity, comfort is everything when you plan on wearing your backpack for hours on end. Having a comfortable backpack that fits your body type is going to be key in any successful outdoor adventure. 

You want to consider the following for maximum comfort...

  • Seams
  • Shoulder straps
  • Chest straps 
  • Back padding
  • Torso length

Fit

Choose a backpack that fits your torso length, not just your height. It may seem like the best bet is to go with a larger pack for taller people, however, torso length differs from individual to individual. 

Each manufacturer has a different standard for torso length. It's always a good idea to head to a brick and mortar store where they will have access to the manufacturer's different sizes. This way you know exactly what you'll need in terms of torso length for the particular brand you are into.

Material and Construction

Both waterproof and water resistant backpacks are made of different materials. Overall, they are going to be tough, durable, waterproof, and hopefully comfortable material. Finding a balance between all four components is the challenging part.

Waterproof backpacks are made with highly engineered materials. They commonly use nylon and polyester which have PVC and TPU coatings and welded seams. The main goal is having high quality 100% waterproof material with reinforced and welded seams.

Water resistant backpacks, on the other hand, are not designed to withstand submersion, therefore, they are built with less heavy duty materials. They are typically made with water treated fabrics rather than PVC coating and have reinforced zippers. They perform differently in the weather depending on the backpack, all this means is some are more water resistant than others.


Camping gear in the rain

Photo by Scott Brenner CC BY 2.0

Other methods to keep your gear dry

A waterproof backpack isn't for everybody. Maybe you have a tried and true hiking backpack that you absolutely love and don't want to give up. Have no fear, there are alternatives to purchasing an entirely new backpack.

Waterproof backpack cover

Your backpack has been with you on countless trails and there are too many memories to give it up. If that's the case then a waterproof backpack cover is right up your alley.

They come in all shapes and sizes, so finding one that fits you won't be an issue. Some are simply bags with elastic on the edges that wrap around the exposed part of your pack. While others come with straps for extra support and high visibility colors for enhanced safety.

Waterproof bag liners

Another option is to use bag liners on the inside of your bag for anything that absolutely cannot get wet. These come in all size as well, and are an easy way to protect the items on the inside. If you have a bag that is water-resistant but still manages to get things a little wet, a dry bag liner is an inexpensive and simple solution.


The Best Waterproof Backpacks of 2018

Light drizzle or an all out monsoon, here's the top waterproof hiking backpacks in 2018.


Earth Pak Waterproof Backpack

Type:

Waterproof

Material:

500D PVC

Color:

Assorted

Size:

10L, 20L, 30L, 40L, 50L

The Earth Pak Waterproof backpack is built for extreme wet conditions and made to last for years. It comes in a variety of sizes and colors, so there's literally a pack for every occasion. 

It is made with 500D PVC which is completely waterproof and each and every seam is double sealed for maximum protection. Every model comes with shoulder straps, and the 30 Liter and up models include a chest strap for added support.

This bag is washable and includes a waterproof cellphone carrying case as an extra. New York Times best selling author Tim Ferris gave it a 10 out of 10 for durability. This bag can handle any environment that you could imagine, and is perfect for hiking, boating, scuba diving, and anywhere else there's water.

Pros

  • Waterproof
  • Multiple sizes
  • Compact

Cons

  • Not for long distances
  • Roll down latches
  • Cell phone bag leaks

Venture Pal Hiking Backpack

Type:

Water resistant

Material:

Water resistant fabric

Color:

Assorted

Size:

20 x 13 x 7.5 in

The Venture Pal Hiking backpack is made with water resistant material and can handle light rains while keeping everything dry on the inside. This backpack comes in one size and is designed to be a hiking daypack and would not be suitable for long distance trips. 

The bottom of the pack has a double layer for increased protection. It comes with two heavy-duty zippers on the main pockets of the backpack and the zippers come with bar-tracks on stress points.

It's a lightweight and roomy hiking backpack with lots of pockets for storage, including mesh pockets on the outside. When not being used, it folds into a zipped pocket on the inside of the pack.

Pros

  • Lots of pockets
  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable straps

Cons

  • Not for heavy rain
  • Thin material
  • Zipper catches

Bak Sak Waterproof Backpack

Type:

Waterproof

Material:

500D PVC

Color:

Assorted

Size:

35 Liter

The Bak Sak Waterproof backpack is made of 500D PVC and is guaranteed by the company to be waterproof. If your not happy they will give you a full refund, no questions asked. It comes in one 35 Liter size which makes it feasible for an overnight hike.

It's roomy inside and has reinforced shoulder straps. There isn't adequate padding on the part of the pack that rests on against your back, and it can get uncomfortable when it's fully loaded. 

Weighing in at 2.4 pounds empty, it's surprisingly lightweight considering how durable the backpack is. The main storage area is large and spacious, and the front pocket has enough room for your personal belongings. 

Pros

  • Waterproof
  • 2.4 lbs
  • Spacious

Cons

  • Zipper not waterproof
  • No dividers inside
  • No padded back

G4Free Water Resistant Hiking Backpack

Type:

Water resistant

Material:

Water and tear resistant nylon

Color:

Assorted

Size:

40 Liter

Built with water and tear resistant nylon fabric which provides strength and long-lasting performance. At 40 liters it's good as a daypack and for an overnight trip. Keep in mind it's water resistant, so if there's heavy rain your belongings inside may get wet.

The shoulder straps are padded for extra comfort when under a heavy load. It also has a sternum strap that latches across the chest to take some of the load off of your back, and has a built-in whistle for an emergency situation. The top has a two-sided pouch for easy access to your personal belongings. 

Overall the backpack weighs in at 12.6 ounces. The bottom of the pack is reinforced for added durability and the outside of the pack has mesh pockets for easy access.

Pros

  • Durable material
  • Lots of space
  • Hidden pocket

Cons

  • Small front pocket
  • Elastic weakens
  • Weak zippers

Chaos Ready Waterproof Backpack

Type:

Wate proof

Material:

500 PVC Tarpaulin

Color:

Grey

Size:

22 Liter

The chaos ready backpack is made with 500 PVC Tarpaulin with a class 3 sealed main compartment. The seams are high frequency welded which make them more resistant to water while still remaining flexible. 

The sides of the pack have two mesh pockets for things that you don't mind getting wet. There is another quick zip pocket located in the front of the pack, this pocket is NOT waterproof so keep your electronics somewhere else. 

It will actually float on the water when completely zipped up, so in the off chance it falls off your kayak or into the water, your golden. It does only have one pocket and heavier things tend to fall to the bottom and can be a challenge to reach at the end of the day.

Pros

  • 500 PVC Tarpaulin
  • Lots of space
  • Hidden pocket

Cons

  • Small front pocket
  • Elastic weakens
  • Weak zippers

OutdoorMaster Hiking Backpack

Type:

Water resistant (comes with waterproof cover)

Material:

Nylon

Color:

Assorted

Size:

50 Liter

OutdoorMaster's Hiking Backpack is made of high quality and durable nylon. While it's not waterproof this 50 Liter backpack comes with a waterproof rain cover to keep it 100% bone dry. They offer a 6-month satisfaction guaranteed warranty so any defects are covered.

This backpack includes both small and large pockets, elastic side pockets, hipbelt pockets, and front pockets. You got a pocket for literally everything and there are external attachment points for water bottles, trekking poles, and anything else your heart desires. 

The shoulder straps are S-curved for increased comfort and an ergonomic fit. It only weighs 2.5 pounds unloaded and has a top mounted reinforced carrying handle. 

Pros

  • Rain cover
  • 50 Liters
  • Lots of pockets

Cons

  • Sits high
  • Rare zipper issues
  • High hip straps

The Friendly Swede Hiking Backpack

Type:

Waterproof

Material:

500D Polyvinyl Tarpaulin

Color:

Dark Grey

Sizes:

33 Liter

The Friendly Swede Hiking Backpack is built with industrial grade 500D Polyvinyl Tarpaulin making this extremely durable. This heavy duty dry bag is made with ultra-tough PVC and has high-frequency welded seams for maximum protection.

It has ergonomic shoulder straps for increased comfort on long hikes. The backpack has reflective details for added visibility and comes with a security whistle for personal safety. It has mesh pockets on the outside as well. 

They are so confidant in the design and durability of this backpack that they offer a lifetime warranty, pretty rad.

Pros

  • 500D Polyvinyl Tarpaulin
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Built in whistle

Cons

  • Weak side pockets
  • Rare stitching issues
  • One color

Bottom Line

If you spend enough time outdoors and are passionate about living a life that involves adventure and the wilderness finding the best waterproof backpack is a must. Hopefully, after spending some time reading this you are more informed and can make an educated decision on which backpack you need.

There are a number of great waterproof backpacks out there, these are just the ones that we liked when we did our research.

Keep calm and hike on.

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