There’s nothing quite like taking a week or two off work and getting away to the boonies for some hiking, camping, kayaking, or a combination of the three. Short of that, even going for a short hike during the weekend can do wonders for your mental health, reinvigorate you and help you charge the batteries, as it were, to face the stress for the rest of the week. Of course, you’ll need proper gear for this, and that’s where waterproof backpacks step in.
Now, here’s where most folks make a mistake – water resistant is not necessarily waterproof. Sure enough, water resistant backpacks will keep your stuff dry in some light rain, and a good quality one will help you out in a rainstorm, but if you’re counting on some heavy downpour and/or spending a good deal of time in a boat or kayak, then you’ll need something more… substantial. On top of that, when you hear that a product is water-resistant it only makes you ask yourself – what does that mean, exactly? Well, more likely than not it will imply that the fabric had been treated using some sort of water-repellant – usually, it will be a fluoropolymer-based DWR over nylon. As we mentioned, it can mean that it’ll just withstand some light drizzle, or it can mean it’s able to survive a storm. Here’s a tip if you’re happy with only water-resistant gear – first, always check the material, and don’t be afraid to splash out (pun not intended) for sailcloth. Secondly, take a look at the zippers – if they’re coated, that’s a good sign that your new backpack will perform well during heavy rainfall.
Conversely, when something is waterproof, there’s not exactly much wriggle room – you can take your waterproof backpack and submerge it without fearing your things will get wet (provided you closed everything properly). There’s usually some sort of membrane in the material, and the seams are either laminated or sealed with a watertight material. Also, the zippers will invariably be coated, so that there’s no seepage through there, either. On that note, if you have to pack some electronics, make sure you put every individual item in a Ziploc bag, waterproof backpack or not. It’s just smart planning. Higher quality waterproof backpacks (translation – more expensive stuff) can even be used as flotation devices, in a pinch, but all of them should survive being under water. If your things inside the pack do get wet, it’s one of two things – either they sold you a backpack that’s falsely labeled and advertised, or you didn’t zip it up well.
A final word of advice – if you’re set on kayaking or rafting, be sure you get something that’s rated 100% waterproof and has a decent number of reviews that testify to that effect. You can never be too careful.
5 – Phantom Aquatics Walrus 25 Premium Waterproof Backpack Dry Bag
The Phantom Aquatics Walrus is a great choice for anyone going rafting, kayaking, or just hiking through the woods of Oregon (well, the North Coast, at any rate) or tropical rainforests of Central America (whichever jingles your jollies). If you happen to drop it in water, you can fully expect it to float, and you can even use it as a flotation device if push comes to shove. It’s made of a 100% waterproof fabric that comes in six distinct flavors, so you can take your pick – Black (more like dark gray, to be honest), Blue (surprisingly vibrant), Olive (nice and mellow tone), Pink (though not flashy), Red (sort of leans towards orange) and Yellow (visible for miles around). Granted, it’s only the front panel that comes in different colors (everything else is black, from straps to webbing). If the colors are not vibrant enough for you, the Walrus comes with a number of super-reflective patches on the front. Speaking of the front, it also features a bit of elasticated webbing, so you can hook on some tools or fit a water bottle. It comes especially handy considering there are no side pockets.
This puppy should keep out not only water, but also dust, dirt and sand, as well as all but the most determined critters (think bears and raccoons). On a more serious note, though, the backpack is indeed quite sturdily built, and comes with a two-way sealing system. Provided you roll it and seal it correctly, you don’t have to worry about anything but yourself getting inside. The shoulder straps are amply padded, though they aren’t waterproof – they won’t get soaked as a sponge, but they still get wet. It also features lumbar support, not as comfortable as that on a high-end backpacking backpack, but still decent enough to get some weight off your shoulders and upper back. On top of that, the back features a nice and breathable panel that should cool you off to some degree.
4 – HEXIN Backpack / Day Pack
If you’re on the market for something with plenty of space and compartments to organize your stuff, you might want to check out the HEXIN Backpack. Whether it’s for an over-the-weekend hike or everyday commute, this daypack can definitely come in handy. It’s available in two variants, depending on the capacity – 20L and 33L, which measure 16.92 x 10.63 x 7.08 and 19 x 13 x 8.2 inches, respectively. As far as the (unloaded) weight goes, the difference is even more negligible – 0.46 pounds for the former to the latter’s 0.5 pounds – you’ll be pretty much carrying just the weight of the stuff you pack inside. Both variants are well within size restrictions for carry-on, if anyone’s wondering.
The backpack is made of tear-resistant nylon and should be fully waterproof, though whether it’s able to float is an entirely different matter. One thing is sure – your gear will be dry as bone after some light drizzle, and it will weather (pardon the pun) heavy rain just as well. Submerging the backpack, however, would require having your things enclosed in Ziploc bags, and only then packed. On the plus side, the material is very durable, and all the key points are further reinforced using bar tacks, giving you at least several years’ worth of intense usage.
One of the best things about this backpack, and, indeed, its most major selling point, is the lifetime warranty you get with the purchase – provided it wasn’t caused by you, any rip, tear or rusty zipper will be grounds enough to claim warranty. Also, as an aside, you can get it in seven distinct flavors – Black, Blue, Green, Orange, Pink, Purple and Red.
3 – Aqua Quest Sport 30L Waterproof Dry Bag Backpack
The Aqua Quest Sport 30L Waterproof Dry Bag Backpack is pretty much what it reads on the tin – a 100% waterproof backpack ideal for outdoorsy types, able to survive anything from a day-hike to hardcore trekking. Granted, it doesn’t have the hipbelt of a framed backpacking backpack, but the shoulder straps and the waist strap are amply padded and plenty flexible, so they should contour nicely to your body. If not, keep in mind they’re also fully adjustable, so you can fit them to your needs. Speaking of comfort, it’s important to note that the back panel features an Air-Mesh design, which allow your back to breathe and cools you off pretty effectively. Still, it’s not only for adventuring, you can just as easily use it for daily commute if that’s more up your sleeve.
The Aqua Quest Sport will keep your things dry as bone and safe from dirt, dust, sand, rain, snow, and whatever else the weather can dish out. The fabric is fairly strong, and should withstand years of wear and tear. It’s DWR-coated (not as good as sailcloth, but much more budget-friendly) and TPU-laminated. Moreover, the seams are heat taped, so nothing will get in there in a hurry, that’s for sure. As an aside, you can get it in two colors – Charcoal Gray and Red (and for once, the pictures do justice to the products in this regard).
As far as versatility goes, the Aqua Quest Sport features plenty of options – you can make nice use of the side pockets for water bottles or cans of bug spray, while the webbing loops on the front panel can have plenty of tools and other assorted whatnots hooked onto them. If the reinforced webbing doesn’t quite cut it for you, there are also a couple D-rings on the shoulder straps (total, not per strap), so you can use those as attachment points. Granted, the backpack’s not having inner compartments is a minor gripe, especially if you like everything to be organized neatly. On the flipside, though, it’s plenty spacious, and you could fit a decent number of bulky items in there, or a lot of clothes for any kind of weather.
Another nice touch is the 2-year “No Worries Warranty” by Aqua Quest, which covers pretty much their whole range of products.
2 – SKORCH Dry Bags and Backpacks – Waterproof Matching Set
If you’re looking for a waterproof backpack that you can dive with, you might want to check out the SKORCH Backpack (with matching dry bags). Now, obviously, you won’t be intentionally taking them with you into the water, but if you do have an accident, or happen to pass under a waterfall, you can fully expect that these puppies will keep your belongings nice and dry. You can get it in three distinct flavors – a couple of 20L dry bags (yellow and blue), a 20L backpack (purple) with a matching 10L bag, or as a 30L backpack (white with black straps) with a matching 5L dry bag.
From sailing, paddling, rafting, canoeing and kayaking on the one side, to snowboarding and skiing on the other, these things perform admirably. As we mentioned earlier, these backpacks are not actually intended to be fully submerged (on account of the Velcro enclosure that make take in a leak after prolonged sojourn underwater), but they will float, no questions asked. Granted, they’re not as comfortable or heavy duty as a specialist hiking backpack, but they are durable as heck and will last you for years to come (provided you keep at least some care of them). Speaking of care, if you need to wash your SKORCH backpack on the inside, it’s much better do it manually, thoroughly washing it with soap and then leaving it to air-dry upside down. Machine washing is also acceptable, but air-drying it is a must. Priming it on the outside is even easier – all you need is a damp cloth and some time.
1 – BackSak Waterproof Backpack
The BackSak Waterproof Backpack (sort of rolls off the tongue) is definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for a quality waterproof backpack, and are willing to splash out without breaking the bank. What we’re driving at is that it’s got excellent quality-to-price ratio. The BackSak is completely, 100% waterproof, and can survive being submerged for a brief period. Of course, prolonged submersion will get through, but in most cases, you won’t have any problems with your stuff getting wet. As far as light drizzle or heavy rain goes, it goes without saying that this puppy can handle them without skipping a beat. It’s available in three vibrant variants – navy blue, pink and yellow, and all of them feature highly reflective patches on the front, which makes finding it (if you lose it) or being seen (if you get lost) much easier.
Whether it’s kayaking, rafting, swimming, hiking, backpacking, mountain-biking on commuting daily, the BackSak is a great and handy piece of gear. Not only does it do an impressive job of keeping your belongings dry, but it also sits comfortably on your back thanks to its . There are two ways to close it – you can either roll the top down several times (4–6), clipping it on the top (you’ll know which clip when you see it), or use the side clips. Either way you go, it’ll be waterproof, and should withstand anything from light splashes and waves, through heavy downpour, sleet and snow, to mud, dirt, sand and dust.
The backpack features a large main compartment, without any interior dividers (which is a minor gripe, especially if you like things organized neatly), as well as a convenient outer pocket (splash-proof), where you can keep whatever you need to have easily accessible. On top of that, there are also two D-rings on each side, where you can hook various tools or other gear. The total capacity of the backpack (not counting the D-rings, obviously) is 35L. Best of all, and something we particularly liked, is the fact that if you decide you don’t like the BackSak, for any reason and at any time, you can simply return it and get a full refund, no questions asked.
See our full review here.
So, there you have it, the five best waterproof backpacks on the market. The belle of the ball is, definitely, the BackSak Backpack, mostly due to the fact it’s what you might call a poster-boy for waterproof backpacks – it’s comfortable, spacious, and every seam, nook and cranny are completely waterproof, so that you can enjoy some well-deserved peace of mind while canoeing down your river of choice. The SKORCH is a close second overall, but definitely the first if you’re looking for a budget-happy option. Aqua Quest has all the right to share the second place, but someone had to be third. Similarly, the HEXIN deserves to be higher up, if for nothing else, then for its lifetime warranty, while the Phantom Aquatics only sits at number five because we had to assign each backpack a number.