In need of a waterproof backpack? You've come to the dry-ight place 🙂
Whether you are an adventure seeking backpacker, a world traveler, or just need to keep your goods dry on your daily commute, you'll see that a waterproof backpack can be an absolute godsend.
Whilst it is true that investing in a quality waterproof backpack will certainly provide you with the protection you need, one thing is for sure: there are a ton of waterproof backpacks on the market, and each one of them performs in a different way.
That's exactly why I bring you this epic guide to the best waterproof backpacks of 2018.
I have spent countless hours researching the best waterproof backpacks money can buy. What I found will provide you with all the information you need to find the right waterproof backpack for yourself and your own gear protection needs.
Quick Answer: Best Waterproof Backpacks of 2018
- Best Overall Waterproof Backpack: Sea to Summit Hydraulic Dry Pack 35L
- Best Women's Waterproof Backpack: Earth Pak Waterproof Backpack
- Best Small Waterproof Backpack: Millican Smith Roll 18L
- Best Waterproof Day Pack: Patagonia Black Hole 25 L Day Pack
- Best Waterproof Backpack for Travel: Nomatic Travel Bag
- Best Water Proof Backpack for College Students: Timbuk2 Wander Pack
- Best Waterproof Laptop Backpack: Timbuk2 Spire Laptop Backpack
Best Waterproof Backpacks: Performance Breakdowns and Top Picks
To make choosing the best waterproof backpack for yourself a breeze, I have assembled my top picks into different categories.
That way, you can base your next waterproof backpack purchase on your own specific needs.
I examine factors like size, material composition, weight, price, color selection, carrying capacity, and more.
This best waterproof backpacks review offers up a complete look at the absolute top waterproof backpacks on the market today.
Here are my top picks for the best waterproof backpacks in 2018:
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Table of Contents
Best Overall Waterproof Backpack
The Sea to Summit Hydraulic 35 L Dry Pack is tough, well-designed, versatile, all the all-around best waterproof backpack on my list.
I am a big fan of durable, practical products that get the job done. That's exactly what the Hydraulic 35 has on offer. The Hydraulic Dry Bag is designed for heavy use and features very sturdy laminated fabric and welded seams; they also have a high resistance to UV light and cold temperatures. the UV protection is great because the sun has a way of destroying gear quickly.
How does it keep water from penetrating inside? The thermoplastic urethane roll-top closure seals easily and provides reliable waterproof performance. Ain't no way water is getting in there.
The shoulder straps, chest (sternum) straps, and hip belt provide comfortable support for hiking and/or traveling distances. You'll see that not all of the bags on my list feature hipbelts and proper chest supporting straps, so that's a big win in my book.
Furthermore, the harness promotes cooling airflow with EVA foam and quick-drying mesh. Whether you live in a rainy city, are traveling to SEA during the monsoon, or just want an awesome bag to take on weekend kayaking missions, the Sea to Summit Hydraulic 35 L Dry Pack is one solid choice for a waterproof backpack.
- A Tad Bulky
- Slightly Expensive
Best Women's Waterproof Backpack
Right, so the Earth Pak Waterproof Backpack isn't specifically designed for women. It is a unisex waterproof backpack. Though, my thought is that lady adventurers need just as much badass waterproof protection as men do so, that is why the Earth Pak is the best women's waterproof backpack in this review.
The Earth Pak is super durable as it is made from 500D PVC. Whether it is coming with your down rapids, on a backpacking adventure, or to the local mountains on a rainy day, the Earth Pak will certainly cover all of your waterproof backpacking needs.
I really dig the padded back support. The ergonomically padded back panel allows for added comfort and breathability during long days on the water. For gear storage, you have two options. Interior and exterior zippered pockets: use the exterior "splash-proof" pocket for quick grab n' go items that are OK to get wet, and the interior pocket to safely store smaller items of more value. Easy.
For more added comfort and performance, the low-profile sternum strap takes the weight off of your back and shoulders while hiking and traveling.
Overall the Earth Pak waterproof backpack is great value for the money ($49.97!).
The Earth Pak comes in a variety of colors too so you are bound to find the right one to fit your style.
- Doesn't have a hip belt.
- Can have a slightly boxy look.
Best Small Waterproof Backpack
For a small waterproof backpack, I recommend the Millican Smith the Roll Pack 18 Liter. This waterproof backpack is simple, practical, sleek, and attractive. If you are not carrying lots of stuff, the Roll Pack is the perfect compact unit to protect your gear. It really is a masterpiece of minimalist engineering.
The unique bionic canvas material is made from 57% recycled material and 30% stronger than regular canvas. The Roll Bag may be small and light but it was built to last. The Lining Fabric is built from 100% recycled polyester that has been coated in a waterproof paraffin wax.
I appreciate the functional internal pockets which are great for storing a laptop, tablet, phone, documents and other tidbits. Both the sternum straps and hipbelt are removable for when you are not hiking.
At $175.00 I feel like the bag is expensive for what you get. There are certainly cheaper options out there. That said, the Millican Smith the Roll Pack 18L is a fantastic waterproof backpack for traveling in the city, short hikes, and any activity involving water.
- Can't fit a ton of stuff
Best Waterproof Hiking Backpack
Backpackers looking for a comfy, durable, no-frills waterproof hiking backpack will find that the Patagonia Black Hole 25 checks all the boxes.
The outer shell is made from tough ripstop polyester and has a water-resistant TPU laminate complete with and a water repellant (DWR) finish. One of the main factors that make the Black Hole one of the best waterproof hiking backpacks is all of its awesome pocket features.
Plus the Black Hole 25 features a zippered pocket on the front that can keep important items accessible. Stretchy side pockets secure a wide range of water bottles.
The Black Hole 25 is equipped with all the padding and adjustable straps you need for a comfortable hiking experience.
If the Patagonia Black Hole 25 was just a wee bit bigger and fully 100% waterproof (which it's not), it probably would have won my best waterproof backpack award, it is that good. Bonus points for style too.
- A few customers have complained that it leaks water.
- Officially, the bag is listed as water resistant, not waterproof.
- Not ideal to protect expensive electronics.
Best Waterproof Backpack for Travel
Possibly the most ingeniously designed waterproof backpack for travel ever, the Nomatic Travel Bag is a sight to behold.
For travelers on the go, a new travel bag is taking the internet (and the travel world) by storm. The Nomatic Travel Bag is one sweet unit. Basically, if ever there was a travel bag to cover ALL of your short-term travel needs, the Nomatic Travel Bag would be at the very top of the list.
The Nomatic Travel Bag comes with an insane amount of brilliantly thought out pockets, compartments, and gear storage options. It even comes with a mesh laundry bag. No more cramming those dirty socks in the front pocket of your backpack eh?
From start to finish the Nomatic Travel Bag features one sleek design after another. My favorite features include the fleece lined valuables pocket, the laptop pocket, the high-quality water-resistant materials they used, and the specific compartment for your shoes (there is one for socks/underwear too)!
Now to be clear, the Nomatic Travel bag isn't totally waterproof. This isn't obviously clear upon first glance, but it is certainly worth noting. It does come with a waterproof vacuum sealing bag. That way you can make 100% sure that at least your most valuable items are safe and dry. Also, the zippers are apparently watertight.
Remember, the Nomatic Travel Bag is one of the best carry-on bags for travelers as well. Well done, Nomatic, well done.
Check out my in-depth Nomatic Travel Bag review.
- You'll need to pay extra if you want the travel bag plus all of the accessories.
Summer Promo - Get 20% off you Nomatic bag today with the code brokebackpacker20
(Promotion will not last long)
Best Waterproof Backpack for Travel #2
Any traveler can appreciate a backpack that is purpose-built with travelers in mind. That is exactly what you get with the Chaos Ready waterproof backpack.
The main 22-liter compartment is 100% waterproof so you can have confidence that your gear will stay dry even if you drop the backpack in the river. For storage, it features two mesh side pockets and a (non-waterproof) quick access front pocket.
The Chaos Ready waterproof backpack was built to do battle. The outer backpack material is constructed using badass 500 PVC Tarpaulin material that can survive encounters with sharp rocks, branches, and other unexpected snags.
One of my favorite things about this waterproof backpack is how easy it is to clean. Simply spray it down with water and a gentle cleaning product, wipe it down, and you're good to go. If only my hiking backpack was this easy to clean, it probably wouldn't smell as bad...
The Chaos Ready Waterproof Backpack is perfect for every type of traveler looking for guaranteed water protection. The best part? At $46.99 the Chaos Ready backpack doesn't require a huge investment either.
- Some customers have reported signs of wear and tear after minimal use.
- Shoulder straps are poorly/cheaply designed.
Best Waterproof Backpack for College Students
Note - the Timbuk2 Wander Pack is technically HIGHLY water resistant, but it's not water proof.
So why is the Timbuk2 Wander Pack the best water resistant backpacks for college students? Well, that's easy. Because it is an awesome two-for-one backpack. Having been a college student at one point myself, I know that having a multi-purpose backpack is crucial. Most college students (myself included) don't have lots of spare money to shell out on multiple backpacks.
The Timbuk2 Wander Pack is the best waterproof backpack for college students because it works great for daily class/campus use and doubles as an excellent travel backpack as well. The backpack features a fully unzipping compartment for easy packing and access. There is a padded laptop compartment that fits computers up to 15 inches, because what college student these days doesn't have a laptop?
Other features include internal and external compression straps cinch down your load and a mesh wall pocket and organizer for pens, phones and other small odds and ends.
If you don't want to wear the Wander Pack like a backpack, it quickly converts into a duffel by stowing shoulder straps in the back panel and using the grab handle for easy lifting. Sorted.
When protecting you stuff (especially important things like laptops and term papers) is a high priority, look no further than the best waterproof backpack for college students: the Timbuk2 Wander Pack.
- Lacks a hipbelt
- Not comfotable for carrying heavy loads.
Best Waterproof Laptop Backpack
Another awesome backpack Timbuk2 makes is the Timbuk2 Spire: the best waterproof laptop backpack on my list. This waterproof backpack is smaller and lighter than the Wander Pack listed above. It was specifically purpose-built to safeguard your electronics and important documents.
In addition to the laptop sleeve, the large main compartment is perfect for storing books, a jacket, and other daily essentials. The small front zip pocket is a great zone for cash, a passport, earbuds, and the like. The internal organizer keeps your phone, pens, and keys sorted too.
It has expandable volume via the flap or roll top main opening, which is cool when you don't need to pack heaps of stuff. Other backpacks end up being floppy and odd-shaped when they are not totally full.
Furthermore, all Timbuk2 products are backed by a lifetime guarantee. If something goes wrong with your Timbuk2 backpack you can get it fixed or replaced hassle-free, which is awesome.
If you travel often by bicycle, the Spire backpack will integrate into your routine very well.
For travelers and digital nomads alike, the Timbuk2 Spire is a solid, stylish, lightweight investment that looks great, functions like a charm, and is clearly one of the best waterproof laptop backpacks I have come across.
- Straps can feel stiff.
- I have questions about the zipper quality.
- Some customers have expressed concern about the long-term quality of the bag.
Backpack Weight Capacity Hipbelt? 100% Waterproof? Best Use Price
Sea to Summit Hydraulic Dry Pack 35L 2 lbs. 7 oz. 35 Liters Yes Yes Multisport/Hiking?Kayak $149.95
Earth Pak Waterproof Backpack 35L N/A 35 Liters No Yes Multisport/Travel $49.95
Millican Smith Roll 18L 1 lb. 14 oz. 18 Liters Yes Yes Day Pack/ Work $175.00
Patagonia Black Hole 25 L Day Pack 1 lb. 8 oz. 25 Liters No No Multisport/Travel $129.00
Nomatic Travel Bag 4 lbs. 40 Liters No No Travel $229.00
Chaos Ready Waterproof Backpack 1 lb. 1 oz. 22 Liters No Yes Travel $46.99
Timbuk2 Wander Pack 3 lbs. 11 oz 40 Liters Yes Yes University/Travel $179.00
Timbuk2 Spire Laptop Backpack 2 lbs. 2 oz. 30 Liters No Yes Day Pack/Work/Travel $72.00/$99.00
How to Choose the Best Waterproof Backpack
When considering which waterproof backpack to go with, you'll need to factor in several things. Above all else, your main question to yourself should be: "what do I plan on using my waterproof backpack for?".
Once you have settled on your intended use (there may be several) you can then start to consider things like weight, price, carrying capacity, waterproof strength, and comfort among other factors.
Let's now get to know what goes into defining the best waterproof backpacks:
Waterproof Rating of Waterproof Backpacks
Most serious waterproof backpacks should come with a waterproof rating. That said, I had a hell of a time tracking down official ratings for the waterproof backpacks on my list. I don't know if the manufacturers simply did not have the backpacks rated, or they have chosen not to publish the information. I don't know.
The system for rating a piece of gears' waterproofness is called the Ingress Protection Rating.
The IP Code, or Ingress Protection Rating consists of the letters IP followed by two digits and an optional letter. As defined in international standard IEC 60529, it classifies the degrees of protection provided against the intrusion of solid objects, dust, and water. The standard aims to provide a user with more detailed information rather than vague marketing terms such as waterproof.
However, I could not find the damn IP ratings no matter how deep I dug, so I apologize for not including them in this review. I certainly intended to. Shame on you—companies on this list— for not making it easier to figure out the dang IP ratings!
Here is how the IP rating system is categorized:
- 1 IP: Water resistant for light rain and spray.
- 2 IP: Foul weather and spray proof.
- 3 IP: Floats and can handle quick submersion.
- 4 IP: Submersible to depths of up to 1m / 3ft for 30 minutes.
- 5 Ip: Submersible to depths of up to 6m / 19ft for 60 minutes.
I'd say a majority of the waterproof backpacks on my list fall into the third category (IP3) unless clearly distinguished as "water resistant" not "waterproof".
Waterproof Backpacks Comfort
Comfort is obviously a very important factor when choosing the best waterproof backpack for yourself. Generally speaking, the waterproof backpacks featured on my list were not designed to carry super heavy loads. Those sort of packs do exist, however the maximum comfortable load for the Sea to Summit Hydraulic Dry Pack 35L for example shouldn't exceed more than 25-35 lbs.
Also you should examine how the straps are designed. Are they padded? If so are the straps narrow or wide? Narrow straps tend to be less-comfy. Does the backpack have a sternum strap? If yes, is it fairly adjustable?
A big comfort-determining factor is the hipbelt. If a waterproof backpack (or any backpack for that matter) has a hipbelt, it will almost always provide more of a balanced load weight. For small waterproof backpacks, hipbelts are less important.
For me personally, I like a good balance of lightweight, durable, and functionality mixed in with plenty of cushion and padding to keep me comfortable for long periods of time. In terms of comfort, the Patagonia Black Hole 25 L Day Pack kicks ass in that regard.
Waterproof Backpack Weight
Waterproof backpacks are inherently heavier than your standard hiking backpack. This makes sense as waterproof material simply weighs more than ultra-thin nylon does. The more heavy-duty the waterproofing material is, the heavier the backpack will be.
If you are looking for an everyday use waterproof backpack, going light is probably the way to go. Most people have no need to cary 20-30 pounds on a daily basis.
A 20-30 liter lightweight waterproof backpack like the Timbuk2 Spire Laptop Backpack offers up a good balance of lightweight and functionality.
For those will more demanding carry-needs, I suggest going with a waterproof backpack that is up to the challenge. Again, I like the Sea to Summit Hydraulic Dry Pack 35L. At just over 2 lbs 7 ozs. the Hyraulic Dry Pack is burly enough for serious adventures, yet damn near in the ultralight category. Overall it is a sweet pack for practical use in intense adventure scenarios.
Waterproof Backpack Construction and Design Features
Some waterproof backpacks tend to be super minimalist in design. This can translate into a big main compartment with a roll down top with limited pockets. I am not a fan. Pockets are an important ingredient to any awesome backpack.
A good thing to watch out for it how the seams of the backpack come together. If they tend to crease (you can usually see it in the photos) then red flags should go up in your mind. Creases usually equal splitting and damage after prolonged use.
Nearly all the waterproof backpacks (even the minimalist ones) on my list are reasonably well endowed with pockets and organization features. That said, some backpacks are certainly better equipped than others. In terms of the best waterproof backpack for traveling, the Nomatic Travel Bag blows all the other backpacks out of the water in term of design and and storage options.
The designers of the Nomatic really thought of everything. Honestly, if you are a OCD compulsive organizer you will love the genius design of the Nomatic Travel Bag. Pockets, zippers, and compartments for days bro.
Waterproof Backpack Price
Price can definitely be a make or break factor when it comes to choosing the best waterproof backpack for yourself. As you have seen, prices can be all over the show. The more cool features a backpack has certainly does play a part in how expensive it is. Also, as is the case sometimes in the outdoor gear world you are simply paying for the name alone.
A good example of this is with Patagonia. Now, I love Patagonia and I am a big fan of their products and environmental stewardship. That said, I feel like they lean a little to hard on their name sometimes when pricing things. The term "Patagucci" exists for a reason.
That said, I did not find that to be the case with the reasonably priced Patagonia Black Hole 25 L Day Pack. Patagonia's older waterproof backpacks were pushing $300! At $129.00, The Black Hole 25 is great value for the money.
I am having a hard time with the price of the Timbuk2 Wander Pack. It is a fantastic waterproof backpack, I just can't find a justification for the $179.00 price tag. Like anything though, you should (in theory) get what you pay for. If you shell out big money for a waterproof backpack, you can expect it to offer up a high performance.
Final Thoughts on the Best Waterproof Backpacks
Ok amigos, you are not ready to go charging out into the rain! We have arrived at the end of my best waterproof backpacks review.
As you have seen, waterproof backpacks come in all shapes and sizes. Choosing the right one for yourself is difficult if you don't know what to look for.
After reading this review, you can buy your waterproof backpack with confidence after learning everything there is to know about any given waterproof backpack on my list. Be sure, I have only examined the very best options out there.
I was not gifted any of the backpacks on my list by any of the companies featured. My goal was to provide you with honest, up-to-date knowledge from the perspective of a backpacker/traveler who has seen the best (and worst) of what waterproof backpacks can do.
Remember, if you're on the fence about which waterproof backpack to go with, the Sea to Summit Hydraulic Dry Pack 35L is a versatile high-performance backpack that will serve you well in a variety of situations.
I hope you have enjoyed my review of the best waterproof backpacks. Let me know how I did in the comments below.
Stay dry and happy my friends!
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