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 2020.
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: Coolest Waterproof Backpacks of 2020
- Sea to Summit Hydraulic Dry Pack 35L – Best Overall Waterproof Backpack
- Earth Pak Waterproof Backpack 35L – Best Women’s Waterproof Backpack
- Ortlieb Commuter Daypack – Best Waterproof Daypack for Hiking
- SealLine SkyLake 18L Daypack – Best Small Waterproof Backpack
- Nomatic Travel Bag – Best Waterproof Backpack for Travel
- Chaos Ready Waterproof Backpack – Best Waterproof Travel Backpack Runner-up
- Timbuk2 Wander Pack – Best Water-Resistant Backpack for College Students
- Timbuk2 Spire Laptop Backpack – Best Waterproof Laptop Bag
Table of Contents
- Performance Breakdowns and Top Picks
- A Closer Look at the Top Waterproof Backpacks
- #1 Sea to Summit Hydraulic Dry Pack 35L
- #2 Earth Pak Waterproof Backpack 35L
- #3 Ortlieb Commuter Daypack
- #4 SealLine Skylake 18L Daypack
- #5 Nomatic Travel Bag
- #6 Chaos Ready Waterproof Backpack
- #7 Timbuk2 Wander Pack
- #8 Timbuk2 Spire Laptop Bag
- How to Choose a Good Waterproof Backpack
- Final Thoughts
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.
This best waterproof backpacks review offers up a complete look at the absolute top waterproof backpacks on the market today. I examine factors like size, material composition, weight, price, color selection, carrying capacity, and more.
So without further ado, here are my top picks for the best waterproof backpacks in 2020:
|Sea to Summit Hydraulic Dry Pack 35L||Check on AmazonCheck on REI|
|Earth Pak Waterproof Backpack 35L||Check on Amazon|
|Ortlieb Commuter Daypack||Check on REICheck on Backcountry|
|SealLine Skylake 18L Daypack||Check on REICheck on Backcountry|
|Nomatic Travel Bag||Check on Nomatic|
|Chaos Ready Waterproof Backpack||Check on Amazon|
|Timbuk2 Wander Pack||Check on AmazonCheck on REI|
|Timbuk2 Spire Laptop Bag||Check on AmazonCheck on REI|
A Closer Look at the Top Waterproof Backpacks
Let’s take a closer look at these water-resistant backpacks and see why each one is worthy of your attention.
Best Overall Waterproof Backpack
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.
Best Women’s Waterproof Backpack
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.
Best Waterproof Daypack for Hiking
For a small waterproof backpack, I recommend the Ortlieb Commuter Daypack (21 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.
This Orilieb Commuter pack is the ideal daypack. Whether you’re out and about exploring the rivers or exploring the city, 21 liters is enough to fit the essentials.
The best pieces of gear are always the most versatile. Why? Because its a better bang for your buck, pleain and simple. When you spend hundreds of dollars on a piece of gear it better get used more than a few times a year in order to be really worth it.
At $175.00 I feel like the bag is expensive for what you get. There are certainly cheaper options out there. That said, the Ortlieb Commuter Daypack is a fantastic waterproof backpack for traveling in the city, short hikes, and any activity involving water.
Best Small Waterproof Backpack
Imagine getting off work on friday afternoon, pack your boating gear, load your SealLine Skylake Day pack with the essentials. Day break comes the following morn, off you go. Sunset. Sunrise. Sunday afternoon comes along and its time to get back to the grind. Get home place your gear on the drying rack. Monday morn comes, time for work. Load your daypack with the work different essentials, hop on your bike. Off you go.
For years SealLine has been an industry leader in waterproof gear. Founded in the Pacific Northwest, made for those conditions. Sunshine, rain, salt and breeze. The SealLine Skylake 18L daypack is meant to handle it all.
Its cynandrical design not only makes it wearable but stowable as well. Whether you need to strap it to the deck of your raft or in the hatch of your kayak, accessibility to your pack won’t be an issue.
Ideal for boaters, but versalite enough for diverse conditions and use. This is the daypack that can meet all your needs.
Best Waterproof Backpack for Travel
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 on it’s own. 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.
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Best Waterproof Travel Backpack Runner-up
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 waterproof 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.
Best Water-Resistant Backpack for College Students
Note – the Timbuk2 Wander Pack is technically a HIGHLY water-resistant backpack, but it’s not TOTALLY waterproof.
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 a good water-resistant 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 Timbuk2 Wander Pack. It’s a good water-resistant backpack for college students and will keep their stuff dry, no matter how many keg-stands they do.
Best Waterproof Laptop Bag
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.
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 a Good 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 a great waterproof backpack:
Waterproof Rating of Waterproof Backpacks
Most of the best 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”.
Comfort of Waterproof Backpacks
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 Daypack kicks ass in that regard.
Weight of Waterproof Backpacks
Waterproof backpacks are inherently heavier than your standard hiking backpack. This makes sense as waterproof backpack 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 travel, 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.
Price of Waterproof Backpack
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 Daypack. 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.
Ok amigos, you are now ready to go charging out into the rain! We have arrived at the end of my best waterproof backpacks review.
As you have seen, the best 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!
“Yay for transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation, buy a set of trekking poles, or sort your insurance, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only link to stuff I’ve actually used and never endorse crap. Your support helps me keep the site going.”
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Chris Lininger is a writer, photographer, and guide from California. He is an advocate for off-beat responsible travel and the preservation of the world’s wild places and spaces. Chris is also a founding member of Epic Backpacker Tours and leads expeditions to Pakistan throughout the year. He is currently riding out the pandemic in Bali. Follow his adventures on Instagram.