The 12 Best Waterproof Backpacks

Aug 21, 2019

Category: Gear

Weather can be unpredictable — both in day-to-day life and when out in nature. And while we still haven’t figured out how to control the skies, intrepid craftsmen have figured out plenty of ways to help protect you and your gear against the unpredictability of Mother Nature. That includes creating waterproof and water-resistant outerwear, shoes and boots, and even carry solutions.

It’s the latter of that group we’re interested in focusing on today. More specifically, we’ve rounded up a collection of one of the most ubiquitous haulers, the backpack, that are far more weatherproof than your average JanSport. Whether you live in the rainy PNW, find yourself frequently trekking through the rainforest, or you just want a solid travel bag that isn’t going to spring a leak and ruin your laptop computer, you’ll find it on our list of the 12 best waterproof backpacks.

Photo: Colfax Project T.O.A.D.

What To Look For In A Waterproof Pack

Weatherproof Construction

Unfortunately, there’s no official regulation that dictates whether a brand can call something “waterproof” or not. Yes, there are standards outlined by the IP system which shows exactly how waterproof or water-resistant something can be, but there’s no requirement for brands to use this in the creation of a product. Therefore, what’s waterproof to one organization might not be anything other than water-resistant to another. That being said, there are a few things you can look for that will tell you whether something is actually waterproof, water-resistant, or even completely submersible. These metrics are as follows:

IP Rating: Most obviously, if a piece of gear has been waterproof-tested to IP standards, brands will outline that clearly on their site or even on the piece of gear’s tags. The IP system can be fairly confusing, but if you understand how it works things are simpler to understand. At a glance, what you need to know is this: the higher the number, the more waterproof a piece of gear is. Something that has an IPX6 rating is splashproof, but something that is IPX8 can be fully submerged.

Exterior Materials: Without some kind of IP rating, it’s somewhat difficult to tell just at a glance what bags are waterproof and which aren’t. But if you see TPU laminates (or similar materials) in the exterior construction, there’s a pretty good chance that the fabric is at least impenetrable to moisture. It’s also helpful when brands, on their websites or on labels, mark that fabric is 100% waterproof. There are also some materials that are extremely water-resistant, but not impenetrable to moisture. Don’t be fooled believing that GORE-TEX makes something completely impenetrable. Yes, it will likely keep out even the heaviest rainfall, but complete submersion will yield a different, soggier result.

Closures & Seals: Almost as important as the material itself, the seals and closures will determine true waterproofing. Something with stiched seals is inherently not waterproof, as moisture can slip between the seams. However, seams that are welded or taped are going to be far more water-tight. Similarly, there are both water-resistant and waterproof zippers — so keep an eye out for that. Lastly, many truly waterproof bags rely on hearty roll-top closures to create a waterproof seal. Not all of these closures are truly waterproof, but they can be extremely good at fending off impending moisture.

Submersion: The easiest way to see if something is truly waterproof or just extremely water resistant is to see if the brand themselves make claims as to whether it can be completely submerged. Bags that are submersible are a point of pride and will almost always be outlined as such. If a bag’s description doesn’t mention this factor, you’re better off assuming it can’t be submerged.

Ortlieb Velocity Backpack

Although it’s decidedly more city than country — and it can’t be fully-submerged — Ortlieb’s Velocity Backpack is undeniably one of the best weatherproof haulers for city-going commuters. We’re looking at you, urban cyclists. With a 20L capacity, it’s plenty roomy for most folks and their everyday carry. But it’s flip-top closure and waterproof coated polyester canvas exterior will ensure that no water creeps inside. It’s also available in a number of colors, including a hi-vis yellow that’s perfect for staying safe in gray, stormy weather.

Material: Coated Polyester
Capacity: 20L
Submersible: No

Purchase: $113+

L.L. Bean All-Conditions Waterproof Day Pack

More of a mountaineering backpack than an urban carrier, L.L. Bean’s All-Conditions Waterproof Day Pack is no less deserving of a spot on our list. This outdoor-ready hauler boasts 24L of internal storage capacity protected by its TPU-coated ripstop nylon exterior. And while it’s not going to keep your gear dry through a deep dunk, it’s more than capable of keeping your contents safe from any moisture falling from the sky — be that rain, sleet, snow, or otherwise. And yes, that includes splashes from mud puddles. If you’re a soggy weather hiker, you’ll not find a better option for the price.

Material: 210D TPU-Coated Ripstop Nylon
Capacity: 24L
Submersible: No

Purchase: $129

Patagonia Stormfront Roll Top Pack

It should surprise nobody to see a big, outdoor-focused brand like Patagonia on our list. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t earn their spot, as their Stormfront Roll Top Pack certainly ranks amongst the best out there. Built with burly TPU-coated nylon and boasting a weatherproof roll-top closure, this 45L pack is a capacious weatherproof hauler that would be perfect for multi-day hiking trips through inclement weather. It also has a handy elastic netting on the exterior that does double duty as a quick and easy place to stash gear and a compression grid. And while the brand says this one isn’t submersible, it does look like it could make it through a quick dip without compromising the gear within.

Material: 800D TPU-Coated DWR-Finished Ripstop Nylon
Capacity: 45L
Submersible: No

Purchase: $149

Sea To Summit Hydraulic Dry Pack

The first truly, fully-submersible pack on our list, Sea To Summit’s Hydraulic Dry Pack is also one of the ones here with the most options. That is to say, it has three available colorways and a whopping four different sizes that range from 35 liters all the way up to 120 liters. Essentially, this bag is the most comprehensively capacious option on our list with a size that will suit just about any adventurer. And whichever size you choose, you’ll still get an exterior made from TPU-laminated canvas, a stabilizing waist strap or hip belt, welded seams, and anodized aluminum hardware.

Material: 600D TPU-Laminated Fabric
Capacity: 35L-120L
Submersible: Yes

Purchase: $170+

Helixot XO 6.2 Waterproof Backpack

By far the most compact of the offerings on our list — with a capacity of just 6L in total — the Helixot XO 6.2 waterproof backpack is also probably the most watertight, thanks to its construction of 100% waterproof nautical canvas and its airtight screw cap. This thing is so waterproof, you could literally take it snorkeling if you wanted to — maybe even a shallow scuba dive. Obviously, the capacity is going to be a major drawback, but if you’re a waterborne adventurer and you just need a safe, dry place to stash some of your most precious gear — like your everyday carry, smartphone, keys, etc. — this is the best bag for the job.

Material: Coated Nautical Canvas
Capacity: 6L
Submersible: Yes

Purchase: $175

Filson Dry Backpack

Founded in Seattle way back in 1897 as an outfitter during the Klondike Gold Rush, Filson knows a thing or two about building superb, water-resistant gear. But they may have outdone themselves with their Dry Backpack — at least when it comes to waterproofing. You see, this bag is actually submersible thanks to its water-tight roll-top closure and PU-coated nylon exterior. The large main compartment is also complemented by a smaller zippered external pouch and another inside. All told, this is a relatively compact waterproof backpack with plenty of space for day hikes in any weather or even across bodies of water.

Material: 600D TPU-Coated Polyester
Capacity: 25L-35L
Submersible: No

Purchase: $175

DEW Avail Waterproof Backpack

Perfect for urban commuters — especially those on bicycles — DEW’s Avail waterproof backpack is a sleek and stylish bag that comes in two sizes to meet a multitude of needs. Whether you opt for the 25- or 35-liter version, you’ll still get a waterproof exterior, combination roll- and flip-top closure, seatbelt compression straps, 360-degree padded protection, dual water bottle holders, and more. Better still, it’s available in three different colorways so you can customize it to your preferred style.

Material: 840D PU-Coated Nylon
Capacity: 28L
Submersible: Yes

Purchase: $192

Black Ember Citadel Minimal Pack

Probably the stealthiest and definitely one of the best looking traditional-style backpacks on our list, Black Ember’s Citadel Minimal Pack might just be the best urban waterproof hauler we’ve ever come across. Not only is it built from a proprietary Micro-Hex waterproof fabric, but it also features exacting laser-cut details and bonded seams that allow it to stave off just about any storm and keep all your gear inside dry and safe. Mate that to comfortable EVA shoulder straps, a stabilizing sternum strap, YKK AquaGuard zippers, and aircraft-grade aluminum hardware and this bag is definitely deserving of its place here.

Material: 800D Micro-Hex Performance Textile
Capacity: 25L
Submersible: No

Purchase: $225

Otterbox Yampa Dry Duffel Bag

Although this bag is called a “duffel,” the inclusion of integrated shoulder straps make us think that this particular waterproof bag is deserving of consideration as a backpack — despite its cylindrical shape. This particular offering also has one of the widest range of size options — starting at 35L and going up all the way to 105L, so there’s definitely one big or small enough for you. It’s also worth noting that this is one of the more outdoor-ready offerings on this list, as it is fully-submersible — thanks to its TPU-coated exterior, sealed seams, and reliable closure. If you find yourself taking a dip frequently in your adventures, this might be the backpack for you.

Material: TPU-Coated Nylon
Capacity: 35L-105L
Submersible: Yes

Purchase: $250+

YETI Panga Backpack

A good deal more compact and easy to carry than their ultra-sturdy duffel bag of the same name, the Panga Backpack boasts a similar construction in a more manageable silhouette perfect for short-term adventures. Weighing 3.9 pounds in total, this bag can haul 28L worth of gear inside its main compartment, but also has a modular grid on the exterior for some additions that might not otherwise fit. It also features an airtight HydroLok zipper and waterproof ThickSkin Shell — comprised of high-density nylon and a TPU laminate. That alone would garner this bag a spot on our list, but it’s also got some handy organizational pockets inside as an added bonus.

Material: TPU-Laminated Nylon
Capacity: 28L
Submersible: Yes

Purchase: $300

Colfax Design Works Project T.O.A.D. Drybag

Another hybrid-style bag that’s equal parts duffel and backpack, Colfax Design Works’ Project T.O.A.D. Drybag is perfect for motorcycle adventures in any conditions. That’s because this shoulder-strapped bag boasts a whopping 40 liters of internal storage kept safe by a 100% submersible exterior. The bag also features mil-spec webbing, a stabilizing sternum strap, an exterior locking buoyancy valve, and so much more. Best of all, the whole thing is made right here in the USA.

Material: Coated Cordura Nylon
Capacity: 40L
Submersible: Yes

Purchase: $339

Arc’teryx LEAF Drypack

If anyone is surprised that Arc’teryx offers one of the absolute best waterproof backpacks ever made, then they haven’t been paying attention to just how superb the Canadian outdoor brand actually is. Called simply the LEAF Drypack — LEAF referring to their Law Enforcement & Armed Forces Program — this bag is built tough enough to literally go with you into battle. That’s compounded by a completely submersible construction and an interior designed specifically to house aftermarket modular pouches. If this waterproof backpack is good enough for Maritime Special Operations, it’s good enough for any adventure on which you might take it

Material: URETEK 725d HT Cordura Nylon
Capacity: 25L
Submersible: Yes

Purchase: $789

What's The Difference: Waterproof vs. Water-Resistant

The key to just how weatherproof a piece of gear is can be found in how well it repels moisture of any kind. Find out how that works and what the difference is between waterproof and water-resistant on our comprehensive guide.

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