A good-quality, sturdy backpack is an essential part of your outdoor equipment. However, you probably need more than just durable fabric and comfortable shoulder straps for your backpack. You also need it to be waterproof.
If you spend any amount of time outdoors, you will most likely encounter water, either intentionally or unintentionally. Many of our best outdoor adventures happen on the water… kayaking, canoeing, or just catching fish from a row boat. Even if you are nowhere near water, you may find yourself in a sudden downpour that drenches your gear.
A quick way to ruin any outdoor excursion is to get your belongings wet. Wet socks, wet clothes, wet matches, wet food, wet sleeping bag…it’s the worst. A leaky backpack can turn an enjoyable camping or hiking trip into a miserable experience.
The old canvas backpacks that your grandfather used have undergone radical changes in recent years. Strong, but lightweight materials mean we now have easier-to-carry packs. They keep the contents dry and secure without sacrificing durability.
Additionally, the zippers, buckles, clips, snaps, and other hardware on the backpack is now often made with a nod to the wear and tear the backpack will be getting.
Backpack manufacturers have also re-engineered today’s backpacks for maximum comfort. They know that serious backpackers spend hours…days even…with their backpack strapped on their backs. Padded shoulder straps and attention to weight distribution mean fewer aches and pains at the end of your hike.
With so many backpacks on the market, it can be overwhelming to weed through the options to find the right backpack for you. This buyer’s guide will give you a place to start when you begin shopping for your next waterproof backpack.
|Ranking||Product||Capacity||Material||Comfort Features||Added Features||Review||Price|
|#1||Dry Bag Waterproof Backpack by The Friendly Swede||33-liters||500D Polyvinyl Tarpaulin||Adjustable shoulder, waist & chest straps & adjustable height||Reflectors, extra pockets||Read Review|
|#2||Pro Pack 115 Waterproof Backpack by SeaLine||115-liters||100% Waterproof material||Breathable back panel & shoulder straps, padded shoulder and sternum straps||Removable suspension system||Read Review|
|#3||Heavy Duty Waterproof Backpack by Chaos Ready||22-liters||500 PVC Tarpaulin||Padded shoulder straps||Lifetime warranty & 100% money back guarantee||Read Review|
|#4||Eco Friendly Cloudbreak Waterproof Backpack by FE Active||30-liters||5mm PVC Tarpaulin||Padded back panel, padded breathable shoulder straps, secure chest strap||Corded exterior||Read Review|
|#5||Hydraulic Dry Waterproof Backpack by Sea to Summit||35 liters to 120 liters||600D TPU laminated material||EVA foam & air-mesh shoulder straps, adjustable system||Removable suspension system||Read Review|
|#6||Heavy Duty Roll Top Waterproof Backpack by Earth Pak||35 & 55-liters||500D PVC||Breathable back panel, breathable padded reinforced shoulder straps, chest strap||Includes a waterproof phone case, available in five different colors||Read Review|
Finding the Waterproof Backpack That Fits Your Needs
Waterproof backpacks come in a variety of price points. They also come in varying degrees of quality. You could find one that is roomy enough for you to carry all your camping and hiking supplies.
However, if it isn’t durable enough to handle the weight of your gear, your outdoor adventures could be ruined. Buying the wrong waterproof backpack could lead to disappointment.
Before you run out and purchase the first waterproof backpack you find, you need to consider the features that you need in a backpack. You will want to think about:
- How often you think you will use the backpack,
- How much gear you will carry in it,
- How far you will be hiking with the pack on your back, and
- How long you hope the backpack will last you.
That way, when you are trying on the various backpacks, you will have a frame of reference for evaluating each one.
Is waterproof the same thing as water resistant?
Waterproof and water resistant are two different things. A backpack that is labeled as waterproof means you can totally submerge the pack. It will still keep its contents completely dry.
A water resistant backpack, on the other hand, is made with waterproof fabric. However, it is constructed in a way that means it will not keep out liquids if it becomes submerges.
To be labeled waterproof, the backpack needs to be made with waterproof fabrics, of course. However, there is more to the process than that.
When you sew two pieces of fabric together, you puncture the fabric and create tiny holes … potential leaks. In true waterproof backpacks, every seam is fused with a thermoplastic bonding technique. The zippers must pass a submergence test.
While waterproof backpacks will be beneficial if your canoe tips over or you fall into a lake, water resistant backpacks have a less specific definition. Some may be resistant enough to keep your gear dry in a torrential downpour, while others can only handle a light drizzle. As with everything, the cheaper the price tag, the lower the quality.
What size backpack do I need?
Before you settle on a waterproof backpack, you need to make sure you get a pack that is large enough for your hiking or backpacking needs. Most backpacks use liters to indicate the volume of the bag.
They also indicate how much you can carry. If most of your hiking adventures are one-day or half-day excursions, a 20 to 35 liter pack may be sufficient.
If you will be backpacking for a few days, you will be carrying more gear with you, including a sleeping bag, extra clothing, water, and food. You may want to look at 40 to 45 liter packs.
Larger backpacks, from 50 to 120 liters, should be enough for longer hikes, winter backpacking, or for carrying extra equipment, like snow shoes.
What features should I look for?
Some backpacks are quite simple. Some come with a lot of bells and whistles. The trick is to determine which features are important to you.
You will want features that will enhance your camping or hiking experience. However, you also don’t want to pay for extras that you will never use.
For example, some backpacks have locking zippers that can keep your belongings safe. If you intend to fly with your backpack, you may want to consider getting TSA locks. These have a release that allows security to check the contents of your pack without having to break the locks.
You can always purchase locks for your backpack if it doesn’t come with locks, but it is easier to secure the compartments if there are two zippers for each compartment.
Most of today’s backpacks have internal frames so the support rods are out of sight. The majority of backpackers agree that this concept is far superior to the older, external framed backpacks. Those packs were bulkier, heavier, and more cumbersome, and the frame rods could get easily caught on tree limbs.
Having a waterproof backpack with lots of compartments can help you keep your gear organized. You can pack like items together so you know where everything is and you don’t have to dump out the entire contents to find what you need. The different pockets and compartments can also help you keep your things as clean as possible.
You will want to take your time to find a waterproof backpack that is comfortable. You certainly don’t want a pack that is going to beat you up on the trail.
When shopping for a backpack, pay particular attention to the padding on the shoulder straps, the padding on the hip belt, and the contour of the back to make sure you find a product that will be as kind to your back and shoulders as possible.
The waterproof backpacks featured in this buying guide were evaluated on several points. The first was comfort. A backpack that caused back pain or strained muscles, or digs into your skin, can quickly spoil your outdoor fun so finding a waterproof backpack that is comfortable was our number one priority.
The next criteria involved the durability of the product. We want a backpack that can handle the rigors of camping, hiking, and backpacking without falling apart, ripping, or breaking.
Along with this, we looked at the manufacturer’s guarantee to make sure that they would stand behind the quality of their backpacks and would be accommodating if a customer did encounter a problem with them.
We also took a look at the features of each backpack. When we observed some useful features, it tells us that the manufacturer is aware of the needs of its customers and, perhaps, even listens to suggestions from its customers when designing new products.
The special features on the waterproof backpacks can help enhance the outdoor experience, but it is also tells us that the company is in touch and in tune with its customers.
Style is also important. You want to look good when hitting the trail, so we took into consideration the aesthetics of the waterproof backpacks.
Lastly, we evaluated the size of the waterproof backpacks. We did not put as much weight on this category because we know that the size of the backpack really depends on the individual and how they plan to use the backpack.
Still, it would be disappointing to find the perfect backpack and then realize that it is too small or too big for you.
The challenge with purchasing a new waterproof backpack, as with any product, is finding the right combination of criteria for you and your needs. Let us take a look at a few waterproof backpacks to see how they stack up.
Rankings and Reviews
Here’s a list of our top 6 picks, along with some info on each product’s weight, capacity, and what the experts have to say.
- Dry Bag Waterproof Backpack by The Friendly Swede
- Pro Pack 115 Waterproof Backpack by SeaLine
- Heavy Duty Waterproof Backpack by Chaos Ready
- Eco Friendly Cloudbreak Waterproof Backpack by FE Active
- Hydraulic Dry Waterproof Backpack by Sea to Summit
- Heavy Duty Roll Top Waterproof Backpack by Earth Pak
Our Number 1 Pick: Dry Bag Waterproof Backpack by The Friendly Swede
- Size: 33 liters
- Comfort Considerations: Adjustable shoulder, waist and chest straps and users can adjust the height the backpack rides at.
- Dimensions: 50.8 x 45.7 x 6.1 cm
- Weight: 1.16 KG
- Material: 500D Polyvinyl Tarpaulin
- Features: Inner laptop pocket, roll-top plastic closure tab system, mesh bag, whistle attached to the chest strap, reflectors on the front pocket and shoulder straps, cell phone and wallet compartment
What We Said:
The Friendly Swede is a relative newcomer to the hiking backpack industry, but this Swedish company gets high marks for its attention to user comfort and addressing the needs of the purchasers.
The customer service department at The Friendly Swede is outstanding…quick to respond to customer questions and always willing to keep the customer happy. They live up to their name!
The Dry Bag has adjustable chest, shoulder, and waist straps and all the straps are padded for comfort. It is even possible to adjust the height that the backpack sits at on the user’s body which provides added stability, especially when climbing up and down tough terrain. Since the backpack won’t make the wearer too top heavy, it reduces the chances of falls.
The Friendly Swede is concerned about the safety of its customers. The waterproof Dry Bag backpack has reflectors on the front pocket and shoulder straps to make the wearer visible in the dark. There is even a whistle attached to the front chest strap in case the hiker becomes separated from his or her companions, or needs to scare off a wild animal with a sudden, sharp noise.
The Friendly Swede Dry Bag is made of a lightweight, but tough material…500D PV tarpaulin…that completely protects the pack’s contents from moisture. All of the seams are glued to seal them from water penetration, too.
And the unique roll down buckle design allows the backpacker to roll the top several times before sealing the bag shut so they have peace of mind that the gear inside will remain dry.
One thing that makes The Friendly Swede Dry Bag unique is the many pockets and compartments that have obviously been included to meet consumer demand. One interior pocket is especially designed to accommodate a laptop or tablet so it is ideal for the Instagram backpacker.
Some of the other pockets and compartments have been designed for easy access, but they are all still completely waterproof so nothing will get wet.
What Reviewers Said:
People who have purchased this waterproof backpack have commented that they were impressed with the durability of the product, as well as how well it keeps the contents dry.
Many of the customers specifically chose this backpack for the laptop pocket and are pleased with how well the bag protects their electronics. They also appreciate how adjustable the backpack is because it allows the wearer to get a near-custom fit and is comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
A few purchases remarked that the backpack had a slight chemical smell to it when it was brand new, but that the smell went away after time and didn’t taint the taste of food stored inside.
The Next-Best: Pro Pack 115 Waterproof Backpack by SeaLine
- Size: 115 liters
- Comfort Considerations: Waterproof breathable back panel and shoulder straps, padded shoulder and sternum straps, thick waist strap.
- Dimensions: 18.5 x 12.5 x 30 inches
- Weight: 6 pounds, 3 ounces
- Material: 100-percent waterproof material with welded seams
- Features: Adjustable suspension, suspension and straps can be removed for transporting
What We Said:
The three engineers who founded the SeaLine company are all experiences mountain climbers, backpackers, and hikers so they know the kind of products serious outdoor adventurers are looking for.
At 115 liters, this is a backpack for the avid outdoor explorer because it is big enough to hold gear, food, and clothing for extended hiking and camping trips. SeaLine is also committed to offering a totally waterproof backpack so this product is constructed using waterproof material with welded seams to keep out moisture.
Although this is one of the big boys when it comes to waterproof backpacks, users don’t have to sacrifice comfort for space. The pack has a unique adjustable suspension system and can adjust to fit torsos from 16 to 23 inches in length.
The back panel is waterproof, yet breathable for added comfort and the straps are thick and well padded.
The adjustable system can be completely removed and stored inside the backpack when transporting the bag, either in a vehicle or checking in onto an airplane. This makes the backpack sleeker and users won’t have to worry about the straps catching on things.
The SeaLine Pro Pack has a vinyl ‘bathtub’ bottom that adds an extra layer of protection to the floor of the backpack, so if the user sets it down on wet soil or in a puddle, it still keeps the contents dry. This bottom and the sides of the pack are all welded together so the entire backpack is a solid, durable unit that won’t come apart when it is full of gear.
What Reviewers Said:
Users of the SeaLine Pro Pack appreciate the large size of the backpack because it is roomy enough to fit all the gear needed for long hiking, camping, or canoeing adventures. They note that the bag securely closes and is made from waterproof material so even if the canoe flips over, the contents of the backpack remain dry.
They also like the ‘bathtub’ bottom, which is extra durable, because it is often the bottom of the backpack that take a beating when it is set on rocks or gravel, or dragged across the ground.
Some users have commented that the SeaLine Pro Pack lacks outside pockets so some items are not as easily accessible as they would be with other backpacks.
- Size: 22 liters
- Comfort Considerations: Padded shoulder straps
- Dimensions: 12 inches wide x 24 inches deep
- Weight: 1 pound
- Material: 500 PVC Tarpaulin with welded seams
- Features: Easy access front pocket, lifetime warranty and 100% money back guarantee
What We Said:
We liked Chaos Ready’s 100% money back guarantee on their waterproof backpack. That is in addition to the lifetime warranty on the product. The manufacturer is certain that the quality of their waterproof backpack is second to none and they are willing to stand behind that quality.
At only 22 liters, this isn’t the backpack for hikers and backpackers who are planning lengthy excursions, but it is a good size for weekend warriors or day hikers. The backpack has a front pocket…also waterproof…that allows the user to have quick access to important items, like a cell phone or passport or bear spray. Additional pockets and compartments on the interior of the backpack will help the user keep his or her gear organized.
Because the backpack is made using durable, heavy-duty 500 PVC tarpaulin, the bag is completely waterproof. The seams reinforce the welding so the pack is not only waterproof, but it will keep out dirt and dust, too. And the backpack will float so if the canoe tips over, the user can retrieve the backpack more easily.
The backpack is smaller than some of the other waterproof bags on the market so it is easier to comfortably carry. The material of the bag is flexible so it will conform to the contours of the wearer’s back. Additionally, the shoulder straps are well padded so they won’t rub or dig into the user’s flesh.
What Reviewers Said:
Reviewers commented that the size of this backpack was ideal for overnight camping trips and day hikes. The waterproof quality of the backpack was the most favorable feature, followed by the lifetime warranty. Users also like the comfortable shoulder straps.
Customers said they wished the backpack came in colors other than gray.
- Size: 30 liters
- Comfort Considerations: Padded back panel, padded and breathable shoulder straps, secure chest strap
- Dimensions: 2.9 x 19.1 x 11.6 inches
- Weight: 2 pounds
- Material: Military-grade 5mm PVC Tarpaulin
- Features: Mesh side pockets for additional water bottles, corded exterior to carry extra items like a tripod.
What We Said:
The FE Active company has a commitment to customer service and they stand behind their products. Their goal is to respond to customer inquiries within a few hours. The company is also eco-conscious and strives to produce the best possible products while reducing their carbon footprint.
FE Active has begun to eliminate vinyls from their backpack constructions in an effort to protect the environment. Instead, they make their packs using alternative materials in place of vinyls, but the military-grade 5mm tarpaulin means the backpack is totally waterproof.
The bag’s padded back support and breathable material helps to make this backpack comfortable to wear all day long. The wide, padded shoulder straps don’t chafe or rub and help to distribute the weight of the pack evenly. A chest strap keeps the backpack secure and stable.
In addition to the netted water bottle pockets on the sides of the backpack, this model has a zig-zag cord that allows the user to carry extra items that may not fit in the backpack itself, like a camera tripod, a yoga mat, or skateboard. But at 30 liters, the pack is big enough to accommodate the gear needed for an overnight backpacking or boating trip.
FE Active only offers the Eco Friendly Cloudbreak Waterproof Backpack in one color combination, but that is an attractive and stylish black with blue accents.
What Reviewers Said:
Users of this backpack enjoy how well it keeps their belongings dry in wet weather and while participating in water activities. They like that the backpack is roomy enough for a laptop, in addition to extra clothes and hiking gear.
The corded front is a feature that many users seem to really appreciate because it can accommodate unusual and odd-shaped items.
At two pounds, some reviewers felt this backpack was rather heavy for its size.
- Size: Available in multiple sizes from 35 liters to 120 liters
- Comfort Considerations: EVA foam and air-mesh combo on the shoulder straps, adjustable system
- Dimensions: depends on the size
- Weight: depends on the size
- Material: 600D TPU laminated material
- Features: Many options when it comes to sizes, removable straps
What We Said:
One of Sea to Summit’s company founders, Tim Macartney-Snape, is an experienced mountain climber and has even summited Mount Everest, so he knows what backpackers want in their bags and the type of conditions they put their backpacks through. He has used that knowledge and experience to produce a line of high-quality backpacks.
The Sea to Summit waterproof backpack has a 600D TPU laminated material to ensure that water cannot penetrate through to the contents of the pack. Not only that, but the material is strong enough to withstand the wear and tear of the trail and won’t show scratches from branches or rocks. The straps on this bag are welded to the pack so they will not separate.
The Sea to Summit waterproof backpack has a fully adjustable fit system so the wearer can tailor the backpack to their body for maximum comfort. That However, you can remove the adjustable system, so that you can more easily use the backpack for transport or for white water rafting.
The shoulder straps are comfortable because the manufacturer constructed them of both EVA foam and breathable air mesh.
All of the Sea to Summit waterproof backpacks have the same quality and attention to detail. no matter the size. That is whether it is a smaller 30-liter pack or an enormous 120-liter backpack.
The variety of size options allows the purchaser to select the right sized bag for their needs, all with the assurance that they are getting the quality that Sea to Summit is known for.
What Reviewers Said:
The ability to adjust the waterproof backpack for an individual fit is a feature that the reviewers love. They also commented that they like that they can remove the adjustment system when they fly with their packs.
The fact that the backpack keeps the contents dry well was also a big draw to the Sea to Summit waterproof backpack for customers.
A few reviewers who purchased larger Sea to Summit waterproof backpacks commented that the weight of the backpack itself was more than they would have liked.
- Size: 35-liters and 55-liters
- Comfort Considerations: Ergonomically-designed padded breathable back panel, breathable padded reinforced shoulder straps, chest strap
- Dimensions: 35-liters: 9-inches x 14-inches x 19-inches, 55-liters: 10-inches x 16-inches x 21-inches
- Weight: 35-liters: 2.5 pounds, 55-liters: 2.6 pounds
- Material: 500D PVC
- Features: Includes a separate waterproof phone case, available in five different colors
What We Said:
The 500D PVC material of this Earth Pak backpack, along with the roll top design, ensures that the contents of the bag remain dry, making this waterproof backpack a popular choice for kayakers, rafters, campers, and hikers. Because the Earth Pak Heavy Duty Roll Top backpack is available in two different sizes, users can choose which size is best for their outdoor lifestyle.
A chest strap across the sternum secures the backpack on the wearer and adds to the stability of the pack. Even when traversing rugged terrain, the backpack won’t slide from side to side.
Both the padded back panel and the padded shoulder straps include breathable mesh fabric for added comfort. The mesh helps to keep the wearer’s back cool and dry because it allows for air flow to dry the sweat.
The option of two different sizes is beneficial for customers, too. Weekend adventurers can opt for the smaller, 35-liter backpack, while more serious backpackers can go for the larger, 55-liter pack. With either bag, the comfort features remain consistent.
Earth Pak includes a waterproof cell phone case with every one of their Heavy Duty Roll Top backpack. This phone pouch provides an added level of protection.
The pouch even has a long strap so hikers can keep their phone handing around their neck to keep it handy for emergency phone calls or for taking photos.
The backpack has a splash proof front pocket that, while not waterproof, provides an ideal spot for storing things like car keys or a whistle, which may need to be accessed quickly. An interior pocket allows the user to keep some of his or her belongings in an easy-to-find spot.
The Earth Pak waterproof backpack is also available in five different colors – black, gray, blue, yellow, and green – so customers can get a backpack that compliments their personal style and color preferences.
What Reviewers Said:
Reviewers noted that the Earth Pak waterproof backpack was able to stand up to extreme weather, as well as white water rafting and kayaking trips. Even the separate cell phone case is totally submersible. Reviewers also said that the customer service at the Earth Pak company is excellent and is one of the factors that keep customers coming back.
A few reviewers commented that the splash proof front pocket was not durable and ripped away from the backpack.