The Best Waterproof Backpack – Reviews in 2017
Whether you’re planning on a canoeing trip through Minnesota’s Boundary Waters, sea kayaking in Ensenada, or trekking in Belize, one of your primary pieces of gear will be your pack. And you can’t just plan on using your old reliable Osprey or REI bag that you hiked Moab with last fall. You’re going to need a 100% waterproof backpack. Read on for what I believe are some of the best ones currently on the market.
Best Waterproof Backpack
There are several different price points represented here, so whether your trip is spring break on Daddy’s dime, or you’re living in a van down by the river, you’ll find a pack here that’ll keep your gear dry, and your wallet happy.
Before we get to the list, let’s talk about how to choose a pack to begin with. There are really a few key points that you’ll need to think through before you decide:
What’s the main purpose of the dry pack? For example, will it be used mainly on a watercraft, or will you be hiking with it? This is important because some of the packs are rated as waterproof for quick submersions, and some will keep your gear dry for an extended period.
So for example, the Rockgator listed below would be a pretty good choice for a hunting bag. But even though it’s got the welded seams needed in a dry bag, the manufacturer only calls it “quick submersion waterproof”. So for a bag that’ll be sitting in an inch of water in the bottom of your canoe for a full day of paddling, it may not be quite the best choice.
How much capacity do you need? Is this a weekend float trip, or a three-week rainforest expedition? A weekend trip, depending on the season, would probably warrant a 40 liter pack, maybe up to 60. But if you’re going walkabout for a while, you should probably be looking more in the 70 or 80 liter range.
What’s your price range? Waterproof packs come in a wide variety of price points. The BackSack is a full-on welded seam PVC pack, and it’s about $60 on Amazon. The Chrome 180, on the other hand, is a professional-quality messenger bag, and it’s priced well north of $300.
And what exactly does “waterproof” mean? Well, much like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it seems that water resistance is as well. Typically, when we say a hiking daypack is water resistant, we mean that it’ll keep out everyday splashes, and certainly intermittent rain. If you trip while crossing a stream and get right up, your gear will remain pretty dry.
But waterproof is something more. Waterproof is when your bag goes over the side of the raft, and you grab it 2 miles downstream floating in a pool guarded by a gorgeous 18” Cutthroat trout, and you pull your bone-dry Nikon out of there. So what’s it going to be, water resistant or waterproof?
Now that we’ve given you a lot to think about, let’s get to some specific bag choices, shall we?
The Gecko is a nice lightweight daypack-style bag. It’s made of 210D nylon that’s been polyurethane coated. It’s available in multiple colors, and at $30, it’s the lowest-cost entry on our list. This bag won’t be appropriate for your kayak trip, but it’d be perfect for keeping your stuff dry while you’re on the log ride at the water park.
The BackSak is a much more heavy-duty bag. It’s made of 500 denier PVC, and it’s also quite a bit bigger than the Gecko at 35 liters. With adjustable straps and a chest harness, this is more of a wilderness backpack. It comes in several colors including a nice high-visibility yellow. So if this baby goes overboard on the rafting trip, you won’t have to worry about losing sight of it. And with that PVC material, you won’t have to worry about your camera staying dry either!
Heavier duty still is the RG-25. It’s made out of tough 600 denier material. It’s available in camo, black, and high-viz yellow. It’s a bit more of a tactical looking waterproof pack. For example, it has that standard webbing loops that you’d normally see on a tactical bag. At 40 liters, it’s also a bit bigger than the BackSak. This would be a great choice for wet weather hunting, or other stealth trips.
Taking a detour (see what we did there?) from the wilderness bags, the Chrome BG-180 is an urban focused messenger style bag. But this is no normal messenger bag. The BG-180 is big enough to carry a full file box inside, keeping it safe and dry behind 1050(!!) denier cloth and fully welded seams. This behemoth 60 liter bag even comes with special stabilizer trays for keeping the contents upright and safe.
Here’s another urban-inspired waterproof backpack, although far less serious than the Chrome. This Meru pack comes in a wide variety of colors, and is priced at around $30. You’re obviously not taking this one any further afield than your local cafe, but it’s a hip looking alternative, it gets pretty good reviews, and it’s plenty big enough for your laptop, charger, and your daily carry items.
So there you have it. Five very different bags, for five very different situations. Maybe you’re headed for the great outdoors of the beach, the river, or the waterpark. Or maybe you lean more towards the great indoors of a coffee shop after a rainy commute. Either way, count on us for the best information, gear reviews and buying guides. Till next time, stay dry!