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The items you put in your backpack are likely of incredible importance so why is it that backpacks are often overlooked and underrated as a piece of vital technology?
Whether you’re heading out on a long backpacking trip or just trying to make it to class, the things in your backpack are going to be vital to your mission’s success and as such, absolutely have to arrive at your destination in one piece, dry, and in complete working condition!
While I can’t recommend a backpack that can save you and your stuff from anything and everything, I can recommend backpacks that are sure to repel water and keep your most important items dry. The guide section, below the reviews of my favorite waterproof backpacks, will dive deep into what makes a backpack a waterproof backpack and we’ll also discuss the different water-resistant levels, technologies, and what to look for to ensure you’re getting exactly what you need! If you want to read the buying guide section before reading the reviews, feel free to use the navigation menu below to skip straight to it.
- Here Are the Best Waterproof Backpacks (All Use Cases)
- 1. Earth Pak Dry Bag – Best Value Dry Bag
- 2. Relentless Recreation Dry Bag – Watersports Waterproof Bag
- 3. Skog A Kust BackSak – Floating Waterproof Bag
- 4. Sea To Summit Flow – Light Hiking Bag
- 5. Nelson Rigg SE-3040 Hurricane – Tactical and Very Durable
- 6. Overboard Classic – General Use Dry Bag
- 7. Mark Ryden Business Pack with Laptop Compartment
- 8. Yeti Panga – Submersible and Airtight Bag
- 9. Timbuk2 Spire – Stylish Waterproof Daily Use Bag
- 10. Timbuk2 Rogue Laptop Bag
- 11. Deuter Aircontact Pro – Waterproof Long-Distance Hiking Bag
- 12. Osprey Packs Farpoint – Waterproof Travel Backpack
- 13. Oak Creek Outdoor Supply Canyon Falls
- 14. Piscifun Wrapper
- 15. Overboard Pro-Sport
- 16. FE Active Cloudbreak
- Waterproof Backpack Buying Guide
Here Are the Best Waterproof Backpacks (All Use Cases)
As mentioned there are so many options and categories of backpacks that of course, it’s impossible for us at Marine Approved to review each and every bag that has some water protection, so this list is comprised of backpacks we know and love across a wide price range and styles in the hope that we suggest something for everyone. If you’ve had an awesome waterproof backpack that has served you well and braved many rainstorms while keeping your stuff dry, let us know in the comments and we’ll try to get our hands on it!
1. Earth Pak Dry Bag – Best Value Dry Bag
Internal Capacity: 35L or 55L options
My Review: Earth Pak is extremely well known in regards to engineering and manufacturing high-quality weather-resistant backpacks. These packs were purpose-built to provide your gear a nice cozy place to hide away from the elements while you get soaked, but hey, at least you’ll have a fresh pair of dry socks when the day is over.
These waterproof backpacks are constructed of PVC polyester with 500D thickness. They utilize the rolling top closing mechanism is probably one of the best fashions we’ve seen. The top rolls down and folds up in four different directions and is then clipped on both sides and further secured with a clip strap over the top. These backpacks are incredibly well made and were engineered with the idea of surviving some abuse. Of course, polyester always has that Achilles heel when it receives direct sunlight, however, with the PVC coating that shouldn’t be much of a problem.
The pack is as comfortable as it is durable sporting contoured foam padded straps that are adjustable and come equipped with a chest strap and waist strap (only included on the new models) to ensure your load doesn’t move while you do! The bag is kind of an awkward shape at first but you get used to it quickly, especially with how comfortable the back pad is and although the inside of the bag doesn’t breath well at all, a good thing when it comes to waterproofing, the back pad does breath quite well and should keep the contact between you and the pack decently cool.
The Earth Paks all come with a trusty waterproof cell phone case that is IPX8 waterproof rated and of course, you have to be looking fresh out on the trail so they’ve gone on to give you five different color configurations that should match your gears color pallet!
- Constructed of PVC available in blue, black, white, green and yellow
- 35 or 55L compartment with a front zipper pouch
- Padded and reinforced shoulder straps with chest and waist belts
Here is a pretty good video review I found on this bag:
2. Relentless Recreation Dry Bag – Watersports Waterproof Bag
Internal Capacity: 30L slim
My Review: Relentless Recreation has brought us some pretty relentless waterproofing with there new dry bag. This 30L bag is perfect for river tracing, kayaking, hiking, etc and can keep your stuff dry in the event of submersion. Of course, I wouldn’t submerge it on purpose, but the bag does have a pretty good track record of doing its job well.
The capacity is 30L but I will note here that the internal storage compartment is rather slim and may fit less thick objects than you’d expect a 30L bag to carry. These are especially great for simply carrying clothes or towels but I wouldn’t expect it to carry much actual gear in the way of camping. As long as you’re using this as a day back for soft objects, you’ll be just fine!
The bag is constructed from 500D PVC Tarpaulin which is ideal for dry bags as its basically waterproof on its own with little need for chemical coatings. Of course, I always recommend coating a bag you expect to get wet, but these bags perform incredibly well for a very long time. Like most PVC materials, though, they don’t do well against sharp objects, so be careful and don’t drag it on anything!
The bag consists of dual mesh pouches on the outside and some fairly padded adjustable shoulder straps that include D-rings on both straps. Furthermore, the pack has a chest strap but does not have a waist strap. The top of the pack is using a fold and flip closing method and is secured with a velcro strap. There is a small front splash-proof pocket that’s decent for carrying phones and slim objects but it does not provide protection from total submersion.
- Constructed of 500D PVC Tarpaulin and utilizing a rolltop closing method
- 30L slim capacity with padded shoulder straps and a chest strap
- Two outer mesh pockets on either side of the pack with a front splash-proof slim pocket available in three color configurations
Here is the best video review I could find on this bag:
3. Skog A Kust BackSak – Floating Waterproof Bag
Internal Capacity: 25 and 35L options
My Review: Skog A Kust makes one of my favorite dry bags and does it with great style at an affordable price. These bags are made of high-quality 500D PVC and are mended together with high-frequency welding to ensure no leaky stitched or sewn seams.
I like that they are honest. They never claim to be waterproof in any way anywhere in their marketing and instead, they always claim to be splashproof with the ability to keep your contents dry in accidental submersions. In all reality, that’s the truth with pretty much all dry bags and I just appreciate the honesty from an outstanding company such as Scog A Kust.
These backs are elegantly designed and are offered with a bunch of options including your choice of 25L or 35L capacities and eight different color schemes including some nifty digital camo configurations that I really enjoy. On the front of the pack is a nice low profile reflector for those of you hiking or cycling on the road and the pack overall just appears to be well built and ready to protect your things with its IPX6 water resistance capabilities.
Like many of the best dry bags, this bag is utilizing a roll-top closing mechanism to keep water out and once closed up, the top acts as a nice carry handle. The shoulder straps with D-rings actually aren’t my favorite, despite being relatively decent in the grand scheme of dry bags but the back support and padding certainly are. I guess that’s a tradeoff I’m willing to accept because I would rather have a comfy back pad than shoulder pads anyways! This pack does have a chest strap but lacks a waist strap – something I’d really like to see on the bigger 35L variant but probably isn’t needed on the smaller pack.
Again, many dry bags follow a similar design and this one is no exception with its large main compartment that is sealed well with its roll-top design and a front pocket that is splash-proof but is in no way as protective as the main compartment. All in all, this is one of my top recommended dry bags due to its value and overall exceptional quality.
Oh yeah, when sealed up properly, these bags actually float and although I wouldn’t trust my life on it, the pack should keep your stuff dry even when using this as a floatation device down the river!
- Floating dry bag constructed of 500D PVC encompassing an IPX6 water resistance rating
- Reflective trim around the exterior zipper pocket
- Equipped with a chest strap, inside small organizer pocket system, and available in eight color configurations
4. Sea To Summit Flow – Light Hiking Bag
Internal Capacity: 35L
My Review: Sea to Summit is here to accept a large sum of money for a rather small backpack, is it worth it?
It is absolutely worth it if lightweight and high performance are of the utmost importance to you. These bags are absolutely incredible and actually exceeded my expectations, especially when seeing the rather thin material used is only rated at 420D.
Let’s talk about that thin material because it’s what originally caught my attention. Many people seem to like this bag and I’ve always been a big fan of thicker materials for the additional protection from accidentally scraping and dragging. Although it is thin, and you do get the benefits of it being light, it consists of premium nylon that is TPU laminated, adding a ton of strength and resistance to what otherwise might be too thin of fabric.
The water resistance you get here is surprisingly amazing for a light nylon pack. These, of course, aren’t made to act as a floaty for the river and certainly isn’t made to survive full submersion, but they will protect you from the rain and they will keep water out long enough to snatch your pack out of the water if you drop it in. Some people claim they’ve swum and cliff dove with this bag and their stuff stayed dry. I could see this being possible but I wouldn’t want to risk anything expensive on that notion!
They do all of the little things right. All of the hardware consists of super duty 7075 aircraft-grade aluminum including all of the buckles and sliders. Everything about this backpack feels sturdy and durable while still maintaining an insanely lightweight form factor, allowing you to carry that full 35L while feeling like it’s only a 25L bag.
As with most of the best water-resistant packs, the top is closed up with a roll-top primary chamber. On the exterior are two open side pockets and a zip-up compartment on the front. The bag has straps that are padded and feel like they’re from some high-quality top tier professional backpacking pack and the back pad is extremely soft, although not as breathable as I’d like, but hey, lightness is kind of the point and too much padding just adds more weight.
- Constructed of 420D TPU laminated nylon and paired with 7075 aircraft-grade aluminum hardware
- One main roll-top compartment with a zip-up front pocket and two expandable side pockets with an organizing system on the inside
- Nicely padded shoulder straps with a chest and waist strap, all available in black, blue, or yellow
5. Nelson Rigg SE-3040 Hurricane – Tactical and Very Durable
Internal Capacity: 20L or 40L options
My Review: By far one of the coolest waterproof backpacks I’ve gotten to review, Nelson Rigg does an excellent job encompassing incredible styling with both waterproofing and high-quality protection for your belongings. This is the bag you save up and buy if you need it all, so let me explain why I love it!
First off, these are made out of thermally welded PVC Tarpaulin which in my opinion, is the best material to use for a waterproof backpack as it has the three most important attributes – lightweight, tough and durable against both water and UV, and is of high quality overall without being ridiculously expensive. This bag is so tight and well sealed when closed that they felt the need to outfit this bag with a one-way air purge valve to allow you to compress the bag when closed so it’s as small as possible.
Of course, these are using a roll-top closing mechanism but come with many goodies you likely won’t find on other dry bags. One of those goodies, a personal favorite of mine, is the removable MOLLE panel on the front for further attachment of gear that you may need to access often and/or in a hurry. This MOLLE panel is also reversible and on the backside has a clear laminated pouch for use with maps. These bags have some of the highest quality external side pouches I’ve seen on backpacks in this category and come with a very high-quality strap and cinching systems.
A lot of people use these bags to travel on motorbikes and for good reason. They’re tough as nails, completely waterproof against the rain, and resistant to UV where they will likely be exposed to often and will last much longer than other materials like polyester.
- Constructed of 24oz PVC Tarpaulin with thermally welded seams and equipped with a one-way air compression valve
- Equipped with a tactical removable MOLLE panel, sternum strap, and waist strap
- Especially easy to strap and mount to a motorbike, scooter, motorcycle, rear bike rack, etc and are coated with an extra UV protection layer
6. Overboard Classic – General Use Dry Bag
Internal Capacity: 20L 30L or 45L options
My Review: The Overboard Classic is a simple, elegant, get the job done kind of backpack that is very much so resistant to water and will serve you well protecting you from rainstorms and the occasional tipsy overturning of a canoe. They don’t have any major special attributes or flashy designs and instead, they’ve chosen to go with what works while keeping the price down but reliability high.
The sides of the bags are made of tightly woven nylon coated with PVC and the front panel is a PVC Tarpaulin material with nothing except a few handy attachment D-rings and their logo done up in reflective coating. These bags are sleek in their design and utilize the same roll-top style closing mechanism that the other popular waterproof backpacks use.
This waterproof backpack has very sturdy and comfortable shoulder straps that are padded just right. The back pad is one of the more breathable pads I’ve come across and while it is firm, it is also quite comfortable. The top of the bag, after three tight rolls, clips in place and doubles as a carry handle.
These bags have been serving outdoorsman since 2006 and are extremely well tested and well-proven in the field. Dunk it after a canoe overturned? Your stuff is safe. Get caught in a monsoon? Your gear is safe. Someone ambushes you with a water gun? Your gear is safe! With these, you also get a choice of black, yellow, blue, green, or grey color configurations and three sizing options!
- Constructed of PVC Nylon and PVC Tarpaulin with padded shoulder straps and breathable back pad
- Available in three sizing options with your choice of five different colors
- Waterproof with the use of a triple roll-up top and clip mechanism
7. Mark Ryden Business Pack with Laptop Compartment
Internal Capacity: 25L
My Review: The Mark Ryden business backpack is an excellent choice for students or business use as it checks all the right boxes. It’s got a nice neutral black appearance without a tactical feel or cheap design antics and aside from the low profile brand name appearing tiny on the front, the pack is sleek and minimalist.
Of course, this isn’t waterproof like a dry bag would be and you absolutely cannot submerge this bag and expect it to hold any water out, but if you’re caught in the rain with your laptop in the bag, you’ll have plenty of protection and peace of mind knowing that your electronics will stay dry. These bags are equipped with water-repelling SBS zippers and are constructed out of water repellant PU coated Oxford fabric. These are pretty tough but very soft materials and do a great job of beading up water and allowing it to slide right off.
- Constructed from water resistant Oxford fabric that is coated with PU water-repellant and utilizes SBS water tight zippers
- Large main compartment that fits up to a 17.3” laptop along with many other things such as notebooks, textbooks, clothes, etc with many internal storage compartments and organizers
8. Yeti Panga – Submersible and Airtight Bag
Internal Capacity: 28L
My Review: Yeti is widely known for its superior product lineup of contraptions purpose-built to keep water, ice, and cold air inside of them to ensure cold brews on the go! With the release of the Yeti Panga lineup, however, we’re switching gears and making sure we keep water out at all costs.
And costs it does, this one of the most expensive options on the list but I must say, Yeti doesn’t disappoint and they really do go out of their way to make some pretty amazing products. These laminated TPU bags are rated for submersion and consists of extremely thick materials. Lightweight was certainly not the goal and is definitely not a word I’d use to describe any of their waterproof bags, however, that doesn’t matter too much when looking for top tier water protection.
Remember in the guide when I said waterproof zippers are basically as elusive as mythical creatures? Well, I kind of stand corrected. I don’t trust them 100%, but they are pretty dang good, good enough to literally stand on and still hold the air inside of it. These are patented zipper technologies dubbed Hydrolock Zippers and they do seem to work quite well.
The bag itself is pretty comfortable despite being rather heavy for its size. The hardware is tough as nails and the straps are brutally durable while still being quite ergonomic and decently comfortable. The chest and waist straps are removable which is really nice as a lot of the waterproof backpacks that come with those don’t have the option to remove them.
These are expensive and I get that it’s tough to stomach such a high price for a backpack but let’s be real, these are far more durable than cheaper dry bags and they utilize much more sophisticated and thicker fabrics to achieve durability and water resistance. The zippers really do well to keep water out and the whole front panel unzips and opens up, giving you far more access to your things than other bags that only allow access from the top. If you only need a waterproof backpack for a few special occasions, I’d probably say save your money and get something else. If you need a waterproof backpack all the time and accessing your stuff quickly is important to you, I’d give this bag a serious consideration.
- Constructed of extra-thick laminated TPU and paired with Hydrolock Zipper technology
- The backpacks front panel opens up entirely revealing all of your gear at once which is far superior to most other dry bags on the market today
- Equipped with DryHaul shoulder straps, removable chest and waist straps, interior sleeve, and several tie-off points on the outside
9. Timbuk2 Spire – Stylish Waterproof Daily Use Bag
Internal Capacity: 30L
My Review: They claim it’s a bad-ass backpack and to be honest, I have pretty high standards for what I’d consider bad-ass and at the end of the day, I have to hand it to them, they’re being truthful with their claims!
Now, this isn’t an all-encompassing adventure proof submersion professional, however, it will most certainly protect your goodies from the rain and a splash and that’s what it was designed to do, while of course, looking amazing! These are constructed of tightly woven nylon canvas and coated with TPU water resistance and while you’ll need to re-apply waterproof coatings every so often, the bag does an excellent job of shedding off raindrops.
The one hundred dollar price tag is extremely well worth what you’re getting here. This backpack was constructed with some fantastic materials including anodized aluminum hardware and extra thick nylon canvas. These bags feel durable as backpacks that cost three times as much and although they maintain a nice elegant modernistic appeal, they also function and perform like a tactical backpack.
The straps and back pad are simply brilliant. The straps are rather skinny and usually, I tend to think skinny straps are going to be uncomfortable but the padding is incredible and the back is insanely breathable. The Timbuk2 Spire is utilizing a top-roll design and clips into place with one of those heavy-duty aluminum clips that I’m sure could last five backpack lifetimes.
While these were certainly built to be bad-ass, they were also built to look fantastic. You get to choose between six different breathtaking color configurations that are both bold but also minimalist, two of my favorite things!
- Constructed of TPU coated nylon canvas and equipped with anodized aluminum hardware
- Several organizer systems, pockets, etc, with a front zip easy access pocket for phones and small stuff along with two elastic side pouches and several tie-offs
- Extremely comfortable for everyday use and while it is waterproof, it is not safe to submerge
10. Timbuk2 Rogue Laptop Bag
Internal Capacity: 27L
My Review: We can’t get enough of the Timbuk2 backpacks as they are everything you could ask for in a tactical but elegantly designed day pack. They do everything right when it comes to backpacks and although this bag certainly isn’t a dry bag, it performs exceptionally well at defending your things against even disastrous rain storms.
These bags are top loading like most water resistant bags are and is secured with two clips. The front of the pack has some nice daisy chain webbing for use with bike locks, carabiners and other goodies.
These backpacks are designed around the idea of carrying a 15” laptop and keeping it safe from the elements. Not only that, they’re stylish and incredibly comfortable with some nice back pad ventilation and padded shoulder straps along with a sternum strap.
- Constructed of water resistant TPU with water repelling PU coating
- 6 interior organizer pockets with an interior zip pouch and 2 exterior storage pouches
- Air mesh back pad and adjustable padded shoulder straps with sternum strap
11. Deuter Aircontact Pro – Waterproof Long-Distance Hiking Bag
Internal Capacity: 75+15L
My Review: This is by far one of the best large waterproof hiking backpacks on the market today. These bags pull out all the stops and are seriously built for the extraneous adventurer. The Deuter Aircontact is made out of 330D Micro Rip 6.6 Nylon which is similar to RipStop technology in that it’s extremely tightly woven and although 330D sounds thin, this material is ridiculously strong.
With this bag being so large and obviously meant for multi-day expeditions, the pack has a rigid internal V-frame that is specifically designed to distribute the weight evenly over your shoulders and back and when used with the waist belt, this is one of the most comfortable packs for lugging 50lb+ around for long distances.
The name of the backpack is actually the identifier for the back pad set up, which is the Aircontact ventilation technology. These mold around your back tightly and while usually, that’s not a good thing, the breathability of these makes the extra stability well worth it and incredibly comfortable. The pads act as a pump, so with each and every step, the pads compress, pulling and exhaling air in and out between the pack and your back.
By the way, I know I didn’t discuss this in the guide but that capacity rating essentially means that the internal components are capable of holding 70L on their own, and then with a collar that is essentially just extra fabric, you can stretch the pack to include another 15L of capacity. The collar can be tightened at the top and is really only usable with light stuff like clothing, which is what you’ll likely be doing anyways as you want your lighter stuff at the top of the pack.
- Constructed of Duratex and 330D Micro Rip 6.6 Nylon with waterproof PU coating
- Highly adjustable shoulder straps, back straps, pivoting hip belt straps, sternum straps, etc
- Aircontact breathability system
12. Osprey Packs Farpoint – Waterproof Travel Backpack
Internal Capacity: 40L, 50L, and 70L options
My Review: A big shout out to Osprey for never claiming to have waterproof backpacks! Despite speaking the truth, in all reality, almost every backpack they offer is very much so water-resistant, especially the Farpoint. Despite not using waterproof as a misleading marketing term, there Farpoint backpack lineup is actually extremely resistant to water and comes from the factory with a very high-quality water repellent coating as well as being constructed of naturally water repellent materials.
If you don’t want to take a Marine’s word for it, at least consider the US News & World Report, which named the Osprey Farpoint the best backpack for general travel. These packs pretty much cover everything from being built of high-quality 210D Mini Hex Diamond Ripstop Nylon with a 600D bottom panel to encompassing a very strong and supportive LightWire suspension frame. These packs have so many incredible attributes that, if you have the money, you’d be insane not to consider.
Of course, these aren’t really meant to be submerged but they will likely keep everything dry if you drop it into the water and quickly pluck it out. Aside from that, a rainstorm is absolutely no match for these packs.
- Constructed of 210D Mini Hex Diamond Ripstop Nylon for the primary compartment with 600D bottom and accent pieces for added thickness and support
- Hosts several top tier backpacking attributes such as the Farpoint Harness stows, zip-off daypack, LightWire internal suspension frame, and ventilated mesh back padding
- Available in three different sizes with three color configurations to choose from
13. Oak Creek Outdoor Supply Canyon Falls
Internal Capacity: 30L
My Review: Oak Creek Outdoor is a small boutique camping gear company that makes an excellent budget dry bag. These not only look great but so long as you don’t abuse them heavily, they will do well to keep your stuff dry.
Like many other dry bags, these are made out of PVC and use a folding top to close up and keep water out. If closed properly, these can be completely airtight and even float! The front of the back hosts a cinching system to keep the pack nice and tight and on each side has mesh water bottle pockets. The front is also home to a splashproof slim pocket for phones and wallets.
Compared to many other low cost dry bags, these have excellent straps that are nicely padded and textured. With this bag, you also get adjustable chest straps, waist belt, and that signature dry bag clip handle on the top.
- Constructed of thick PVC waterproof materials with 30L capacity
- Padded and adjustable shoulder straps, sternum strap, and waist belt
- Front splash-proof zipper pocket and front compression cinching system
14. Piscifun Wrapper
Internal Capacity: 20L, 40L, or 50L options
My Review: Piscifun has been in the beach gear game for a very long time and it’s no surprise they have some pretty amazing dry bags. Of course, they have a few offerings but since this page is focused on backpacks, I chose the Piscifun Wrapper because of its excellent backpack form factor compared to their other dry bags which are smaller and more focused on just being a regular bag instead of an actual backpack.
The Wrapper is a very nice waterproof backpack for the price and quite possibly one of the best buys on this list for the average user. What you get here is a backpack consisting of 500D PVC materials using a roll-top closing mechanism that, after a few rolls, can keep all water out and all air in, allowing the bag to be so tightly sealed that it can act as a floatation device!
The Wrapper backpack has some pretty nicely padded shoulder straps equipped with helpful D-rings and the back pad isn’t overboard but still allows for some good padding and breathability. The pack has two exterior mesh pouches for water bottles and the pack itself is equipped with a chest and waist strap which make this backpack extremely comfortable to load up completely.
To sweeten the deal and ensure your beloved mobile device is safe while still usable, they’ve gone on to throw in their IPX8 waterproof phone case and lanyard. These bags are excellent values and out of all of the similar designed dry bags I’ve reviewed, the front zipper pouch is one of the best, offering easy access and probably the best water resistance.
- Constructed out of waterproof 500D PVC material and comes with a clear cell phone IPX8 encasement
- Utilizes the roll top closing mechanism with clip down function and carry handle on top
- Front storage pouch with water flap and water-resistant zipper with two external mesh pockets
15. Overboard Pro-Sport
Internal Capacity: 30L
My Review: We reviewed the Overboard Classic and were thoroughly impressed but if you need something a bit more rugged and versatile, the Pro-Sport is certainly worth a huge mention as it encompasses a lot of the same attributes as the Classic but with a sportier appearance and more storage options.
A quick note here, the external mesh pockets are some of the best I’ve ever seen on any backpack. I wish all backpacks came with mesh pockets like these because they’re awesome and perfect for larger water bottles, something I always have with me!
These bags are constructed from PVC Tarpaulin and were welded together using high frequency thermal welding techniques. After rolling up the top, the bag is airtight enough to float and of course provides an excellent dry space for your stuff!
This backpack is one of the best dry bag backpacks on the market and is as comfortable to use as it is good at repelling water. The bag comes equipped with very nicely padded shoulder straps that are highly adjustable along with adjustable sternum and waist straps as well. The back pad of this bag follows one of my favorite designs with aerated mesh padding that is breathable and quite comfy.
- Constructed of 500D PVC Tarpaulin waterproof material utilizing a top roll design
- Some of the best expandable side mesh pockets for water bottles i’ve seen on dry bags
- Extremely comfortable sporty design with adjustable chest and waist straps
16. FE Active Cloudbreak
Internal Capacity: 30L
My Review: The FE Active is one of the most popular waterproof backpacks on the market and for good reason. It’s cheap and it gets the job done quite well, while maintaining a nice sporty looking design.
These backpacks are constructed from specialized marine grade 5mm thick PVC Tarpaulin mended together with high frequency welding techniques so there are no stitches prone to leaking. This pack is also one of the lighter 30L dry bags available coming in at just under 2lbs and yet, it’s still surprisingly durable and has all of our favorite attributes such as external mesh pocket on both sides and front compressing cinching system.
- Constructed of 5mm thick PVC Tarpaulin material and utilizing a high quality compressing system on the front
- Extremely lightweight at under 2lbs
- There is no external zipper pouch like many dry bags have but on the inside is a small zipper pocket for organizing of small objects
Waterproof Backpack Buying Guide
If you’re spending money on a high-quality bag, it should most certainly at least be water-resistant to ensure that if you do get caught out in some rain or happen to splash some water on the bag, your gear stays protected. Any experienced outdoorsmen know that relying on weather reports is still a big gamble and even when every news source is calling for little to no chance of rain, it still ends up raining on you from time to time!
Your gear is likely going to be expensive and in this day and age, you likely have some kind of electronic technology with you. Risking a laptop, GPS unit, expensive scope, or whatever, just isn’t worth the few bucks you might save by not buying a waterproof backpack. Having a backpack with waterproofing is an excellent insurance plan that has paid off many times for me!
Finding waterproof backpacks isn’t difficult at all! Most major manufacturers have taken special notice of the demand for these backpacks and have managed to implement water-shedding technology on most of the best bags on the market. If you’re looking for something of high quality from a reputable brand, chances are, that bag will be somewhat resistant to water anyways!
Dry bags, or bags that are supposed to be completely waterproof, are a bit more difficult to come by and will usually cost a bit to get one that’s actually reliable. We’ll talk about dry bags more later on in this guide as it’s important to note the difference between water-resistant, waterproof, and actual dry bags.
Size Does Matter – What Size Do You Need?
Before we jump into our war against the rain, we first need to figure out what capacity we need inside our backpacks to carry all of our gear. Waterproof backpacks come in all shapes, sizes, form factors, and designs and more often than not, people end up with a bag that is either far too large for what they need to haul around with them or far too small to successfully carry their belongings.
When shopping around you’ll most likely come across capacity ratings in the form of Liters or Cubic Inches. For the most part, almost every brand that is even a little internationally-based will show their bags capacity in Liters but when shopping with brands exclusive to the US, they may use Cubic Inches, however, this is kind of rare.
When choosing a bag, you’ll need to pay special attention to its capacity, otherwise, there may be major drawbacks to your decision. Of course, bags that are too small are just that, too small to carry all of your stuff and simply won’t work because they do not have the capacity that fits your needs. On the flip side, buying a bag that is too large may seem like a safe bet, and it is, usually. Having a bag that is way too big, however, means your bag will weigh a lot and take up a lot of space. If your mission requires you to be quick on your feet or move over long distances, the weight will significantly impact your performance and add unnecessary fatigue.
Not sure how to tell how much capacity you’ll need? Well, you could buy some cheap plastic bags at a store and pile all of your gear into them. You can buy trash bags, zip locks, vacuum seal bags, whatever, and use them to get a rough estimate of how much space your gear takes up. For example, you could go pick up some 20L trash bags. If you need 3 trash bags to fit your gear, I’d recommend a 65L bag because of course, a little extra space doesn’t hurt.
Of course, buying bags specifically for your use case may require less space than you think, as they might have attachment points and other outside methods of carrying things. For example, you might not need space inside the bag for a sleeping roll if the bag has straps on the outside to carry that. This means you’ll have all of the backpacks inside storage capacity for other gear and then your sleeping roll attached on the outside, which doesn’t count towards the bag’s total capacity but does allow you to take additional gear that otherwise might not fit.
Some backpacks will have partitions, multiple containment zones, etc, that all count towards the overall capacity it’s claimed to have. This can cause complications because your gear may not fit in some of the pouches or the compartments may be too small, despite having the capacity to carry what you thought it could. If you have large pieces of gear, I highly suggest comparing the actual measurements to the backpack’s compartments to ensure proper fitment.
Commuter bags are more utility-based for everyday usage scenarios such as carrying documents to work, transporting a laptop, organizing school supplies, etc. These bags are typically less than 20L and are great for transversing city landscapes, especially when you have to take a train or bus as they don’t take up much space without impeding other pedestrians.
Day bags are a term you’ll likely see a lot and this term refers to packs of roughly 15-30 liters that are purpose-built for one-day excursions. These are what most people use as daily backpacks, gym bags, and on hikes where you would plan to return on the same day as you set out. These usually aren’t large enough to carry multiple pairs of footwear or camping gear plus food.
Weekend bags are designed to carry what you need for a standard 2-3 day activity and, as the name suggests, are excellent lightweight choices for light trips, hikes, etc. These bags are typically found in the range of 25 liters to 50 liters and can host some minimal load-bearing attributes.
Multi-Day bags are capable of hauling serious gear due to there 50-70 liter capacities for up to a week. These are what serious outdoorsmen are using when going on camping trips longer than just a day or two and usually have a lot of specific attributes for the activity at hand, such as hunting, hiking, camping, etc. These are packs that generally have weight distribution and suspension systems that allow you to configure the pack in a way that distributes the weight over your shoulders, back, and hips in a way that makes the pack feel lighter than it actually it. They might use waist belts, chest straps, and other methods to ensure the pack is comfortable even when carrying 50-80lbs of gear.
Expedition bags are for the people leaving society and not planning on coming back anytime soon. These are bags capable of carrying gear for 5 to 25 days with their massive 80+ liter capacities and are usually purpose-built to carry extremely heavy loads with many different compartments and sorting options as well as a plethora of mounting and strapping capabilities to the outside of the pack to push the boundaries of its capacity. Some of these packs are expandable using zipper systems, velcro, or even additional add-on compartments to allow customizable loads.
Waterproof vs. Water Resistant Backpacks
Unfortunately, marketers and even business owners don’t always know what they’re talking about, even if they’re selling high-quality gear at top tier prices. In the tactical gear niche, we actually see this a lot, where certain terms that are catchy and sound good are overused and abused in situations where the technical definition behind them doesn’t fit the manner they’ve been portrayed in.
So, I’ll just come out and say it. Most “waterproof” backpacks are a flat out lie. That’s right, it’s really hard to build a backpack that is actually, by definition, waterproof. There are some out there and we will certainly talk about them, but for the most part, most backpacks are nowhere near actually waterproof.
So, what are they? Well, as with most categories that misuse the term “waterproof”, they are actually water-resistant. Water resistance can work similarly to waterproof in many ways, especially if you’re looking for something that simply protects your stuff from minor exposure to light rain. If you need more than defense against a drizzle, though, you’ll need to seriously research and pay attention to how the backpack is made and what its made of.
Most backpacks that are “waterproof” are using some kind of material like blended woven nylon that is extremely tight and naturally repels water at an okayish level. To further it’s the performance, they may even use a water-repelling spray on perhaps the inside, the outside, or even inside a layer of multiple materials. These sprays essentially clog up the micro holes in the fabrics that your backpack is made out of further ensuring water cannot seep inside.
The downside to this method of “waterproofing” is that the sprays or coatings get rubbed off and/or deteriorate and the tightly woven materials your backpack is constructed of can get stretched, damaged, or also deteriorate, causing catastrophic failure of its ability to repel water. This doesn’t mean that if you want to repel some rain that you shouldn’t buy water-resistant bags, this just means that you may need to take special care of such water-resistant backpacks.
A popular acronym you might come across is DWR. DWR stands for “durable water-resistant” coating and is almost always applied to the inside of the backpack’s outer layers. Like I said before, these coatings are only good for a short time and are prone to degradation.
Something like this gear spray from Granger is what I would advise you to use every few months to ensure your waterproofing is up to date and performs as expected. Most of these sprays will require multiple coats and will smell horrible for a few hours but they do a great job of making sure your fabrics are sealed up nicely and repel water even after the factory coatings have worn off. These do not work well on things that were not ever meant to be waterproof as the actual construction of the backpack needs to have some water resistance in mind when it’s being engineered.
How Waterproofing is Achieved
As I mentioned before, waterproofing is incredibly difficult to actually pull off and most backpacks end up just falling into the water resistance category despite being labeled waterproof.
Actual waterproof backpacks should be able to survive submersion, meaning you can take the bag with your fancy new laptop and drown that sucker in a pool and that laptop won’t have a drop of water touch it. Sounds great, right? Well, there are some drawbacks to a bag that actually achieves this.
First and foremost, these bags are typically pretty heavy and not very durable over the course of long term abuse. Second, if you get the inside of the bag wet because it was open or perhaps you spilled water inside of it because of a leaky water bottle, that backpack will take a very long time to dry out. Furthermore, if you stuff dirty gym socks inside, that smell will stick around for ages because simply put, a fully waterproof backpack is also going to be fully airtight.
The only bags that can be somewhat considered waterproof are bags consisting of thermoplastic welding. These are, of course, plastics that are harder and heavier than something like nylon and are purpose-built to be waterproof, some even to be submerged. Of course, you still have the issue with the opening mechanism, zippers, or whatever the bag uses to open and close. Some of them have special zippers that can (kind of) survive submersion or they use something to tie the opening super tight, simply hoping the materials are pressed together at the top tight enough to hold water out, which isn’t technically waterproofing, but hey, if it works, it works!
How Water Resistance is Achieved
Water-resistance is much easier and more common that waterproofing! As a matter of fact, almost all waterproof bags you come across will technically be water resistance instead.
To create a water resistance bag, you must first start with a material that does not absorb water itself, like nylon or polyester. After weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each and finally choosing one, you need to take the materials and weave them together extremely tightly, ensuring the smallest possible holes between the fibers.
After your materials are woven together tightly, the bag should be a little water-resistant, meaning that if there are a few raindrops here and there, the bag should shed them easily. Getting caught in a monsoon, however, will certainly result in water seeping into the bag, so, to go a step further, adding a special coating to the material is necessary.
Most sprays consist of PU, PVC, or TPE and act as a filler to fill the microscopic holes in between the threads of the material your backpack is constructed of. Filling these holes ensures a decent level of water resistance, however, water that hits the fabric with force can tear the coatings and still enter the bag. With that said, tightly woven non-absorbant materials that are coated with water-repelling technology should fare quite well against normal rainstorms and a little splash here and there.
Differences Between Backpack Fabrics
Nylon: Chances are, you’ve owned a backpack or duffle bag constructed out of nylon before. This is by far the most popular material used and is also one of the most cost-efficient options. Nylon is especially useful for creating resistance to water due to its ability to be woven tightly, much tighter than other materials such as cotton. Nylon itself doesn’t absorb much if any water and therefore is naturally water-resistant, however, it still lets water through due to the small holes in between the woven fabrics. To ensure nylon is water-resistant, nylon accepts and mends well with many waterproofing coatings and sprays, especially wax-based water repellants.
When shopping around you may come across the unit Denier. This is a measurement of how thick and durable the material is. The higher the number, the thicker and more durable the material will be, but also the heavier the materials are. Good Denier levels to aim for would be around 500D to 1200D.
Denier essentially just means that each piece of nylon fiber is blended with that amount of nylon yarns. A 1000D nylon material means that 1000 nylon yarns are wound together to create each fiber. Denier actually has a negative impact on water resistance at a point due to its increase in thickness. The thicker the nylon, the more gap between the woven fibers there may be, so do not buy a bag that is thick thinking it’s more water repellant!
Nylon has been upgraded several times and nowadays, you can find two special variants that each have specific characteristics. Those two types of nylon are called Rip-Stop and Cordura.
Rip-Stop is a nylon that is woven in a grid configuration with reinforced threads sewn extremely tightly. This style of constructing backpacks from nylon makes for a much stronger and more durable build as it resists tearing, stretching, and thus also makes it naturally better at repelling water.
Cordura is actually a blend of nylon and other materials such as cotton, polyester, and other thick fibrous materials. This material is especially thick and much denser than traditional nylon or Rip-Stop nylon. While heavier in weight, Cordura is much more resistant to stretching and like Rip-Stop, is tightly woven together with extremely small holes, meaning that when a water repellant spray or coating is added, the material does quite well in repelling water.
Polyester is water repellant in similar ways to nylon but offers a much different end product that has several key differences from nylon. Polyester itself is a synthetic polymer consisting of purified terephthalic acid and monotheluene glycol that does not occur naturally and thus does not absorb water. Like nylon, the polyester fabric itself doesn’t do well to repel water unless it’s mated with a water-repelling coating or spray. Polyester is quite durable, however, it degrades quickly in sunlight and heat, so make sure you keep a polyester backpack away from direct sunlight. Water repellant coated polyester bags are going to be among the cheapest options, however, they are also the least durable and most likely to need replacement as opposed to others, like nylon and PVC polyester.
PVC Polyester, or polyester coated vinyl, is essentially just polyester that is coated with vinyl to fill up the holes in the threads created by the manufacturing process of creating polyester backpacks. This coating makes polyester extremely durable including resistance to sunlight, salt, oil, and of course, water! These are also a bit expensive, but there are many great bags that are lightweight and highly water resistance that utilize PVC polyester. PVC is fairly fire retardant and anti-fungal as well!
PVC Tarpaulin is a popular choice for the top tier waterproof bags to consist of because it’s a triple threat triple-layer approach to creating a water-resistant fabric that encompasses both durability against abuse and long term water resistance. What this is, is basically a piece of flexible thin plastic layered on both sides with a polyvinyl film. This creates a very UV and abrasion-resistant material that is so tight it can be airtight.
Thermoplastic Elastomers (TPE) is basically plastic that is welded using a high tech ultrasonic welding method that completely reorganizes the plastic molecules and mends the pieces together as tightly as possible. There are technically still microscopic holes, however, this method is almost always used in a way that layers the plastic so that water cannot penetrate. These are by far the most waterproof materials you can get for the ultimate waterproofing, however, you still need a waterproof entry to the bag.
Cotton Canvas is a tightly woven cotton configuration that is heavily coated in water-repelling wax and is then sealed with a water-resistant coating. These are typically not bags you would want to take hunting or camping but more so used for fashion and cheap “water-resistant” bags. While cotton canvas does repel water quite well, it doesn’t fare well to abuse or abrasion and it’s also heavy and degrades quickly. They are water-resistant to a point, but they aren’t really that great and I’d recommend staying away from these if possible.
Opening and Entering Your Backpack
Obviously, if we had a backpack that was completely sealed with no way to enter or exit, it would be incredibly resistant to water! One problem here, you still need to be able to open the backpack to put things in and take things out. Oh no, that means there will be an opening that will allow water through freely, do we panic?
No! Well… Kind of, yeah, maybe a little bit. Backpacks usually utilize zippers to open and close the pack and no matter what you or genius engineers do, zippers will leak and will not hold up to the same water repellency attributes your tightly woven water-repellant coated nylon will encompass. Any backpack in the world with a zipper cannot technically be deemed as waterproof because we, unfortunately, have not found a way to completely seal zippers.
Okay, stop panicking now because there are a few things we can do to circumnavigate this problem. First, some zippers have a flap or shroud that goes over them. Of course, this doesn’t really do much for full submersion, but if you’re caught in a rainstorm, so long as the rain isn’t coming from the ground (I’d be more concerned with that than your stuff at that point), you’re good to go. That shroud should be able to repel the water and thus, your zippers and goodies inside the bag stay dry.
There are new zipper technologies coming to light that are kind of waterproofish in some ways. They are usually situated upside down from what traditional backpack zippers tend to be configured so that a coating, usually PVC, can effectively cover the stitching. The teeth are then designed to be molded pieces of metal instead of the traditional coil design. These are fairly water-resistant and are certainly better than regular zippers, however, they aren’t technically waterproof and will leak if damaged or the water has some force to it when hitting the zipper. On a side note, these zippers usually suck to use and are difficult to zip and unzip in a jiffy, so if you buy one, be patient and pull them slowly, otherwise, they can become damaged quite easily.
Another way to fix the leaky zipper problem is to get rid of zippers altogether, which is most certainly a viable option. Mainly backpacks created to repel water simply use an opening mechanism that consists of a roll top. Simply put, the opening to your bag has a long length of excessive material that rolls down and usually ties or clips into place, ensuring water cannot enter the bag. Useless against submersion, but almost 100% effective against a rainstorm or water splashes.
Corporal Wabo is a former Infantry Squad Leader with 3rd Bn 4th Marines that specialized in Mortars. In his free time, he enjoys hunting, hiking, running, shooting guns, and reviewing gear. He started this website while transitioning out of the Marines, and since has recruited several other Marines to help him work on the Marine Approved website. We are currently looking for former Marines to join the team who are interested in writing about tactical gear, survival gear, hiking supplies, etc. For more information about us or joining the team, check out the “About Us” tab.