The Best Waterproof Backpacks

The 14 Best Waterproof Backpacks 2020

So you’re on the hunt for a waterproof backpack but you have some doubts. Are they really worth the money? How do you know if they will really keep your stuff dry?

What if you buy an expensive backpack that claims to be waterproof but doesn’t stand up to the test in heavy monsoon rains? Don’t panic.

With the help of our community, we’ve put together this handy list of the tried and tested best waterproof backpacks available!

The links to online stores (like Amazon) on this page are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate South East Asia Backpacker earns from qualifying purchases. We always write our reviews before checking whether affiliate links are available.

The Best Waterproof Backpacks: Quick Answers!

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What is a Waterproof Backpack?

Before we dive any deeper into the packs, we should first define what exactly a waterproof backpack is and how it works. Defining a waterproof backpack is simple: it is a backpack that will keep water out so that all your gear on the inside remains completely dry. 

Some companies will market water-resistant backpacks as waterproof so be aware and read all the information carefully before making your purchase. Water-resistant backpacks work fine against the rain, snow or occasional unexpected detour into a puddle but they will not hold up to the sustained submersion that many waterproof backpacks will. 

In this article, we have included some water-resistant backpacks upon the recommendations of readers within our community but the majority of the packs are waterproof.

People on SUPs with waterproof dry bags.
Waterproof backpacks are great if you are planning on doing a lot of this! Pictured: DryTide Waterproof Backpack.

How do Dry Bag Backpacks Work?

How different companies go about creating waterproof backpacks varies but it always involves creating the bag out of some kind of waterproof material, be it something that is already waterproof like vinyl or some other fabric that has been coated or treated with a waterproof membrane.

Most of the time, the seams of the bag will not be sewn but instead, welded. This means that there are no little holes for the water to penetrate but some critics insist that this welding is not as strong as standard sewing. To counter these claims, most manufacturers will double, if not triple weld their bags to ensure the strength and longevity of the product. 

Obviously, there are always outliers and some companies will sew their bags. After doing so, they will generally treat the bags with a water repellent membrane or they will weld patches over the seams to prevent water from getting to them. 

The bags are usually sealed using the classic roll-top method but some manufacturers are leaning towards waterproof zips which have come on leaps and bounds in recent years. The best bags still use the roll-top to close the main pocket because it still provides are more reliable seal…providing you close it correctly!

How to Use a Roll-Top Bag 

For those that haven’t owned a roll-top bag before, they are super easy to use. It just takes some getting used to. Follow these simple steps and you’ll be well away!

  1. Make sure the bag is not overfull. You will be rolling the top down 3-5 times so will need a good 6 inches or so of empty bag to play with.
  2. Hold the top of the bag so the two edges are aligned.
  3. Close the two edges together and start to roll them down tightly. You can also squeeze some air out before this step if you need the bag to be a bit more compact. 
  4. Once you have rolled the top enough times, use the clips provided to seal it shut. 
  5. Try to squeeze the bag, if air escapes it is not going to be watertight so start again from the beginning.
  6. Remember, no bag is going to be 100% waterproof. If submerged for long periods, even the toughest of bags will start to leak. It won’t be anything dramatic but even a few drops of water in the wrong place can put a real downer on your day. 

How to Clean a Waterproof Backpack

If you will be using your waterproof backpack in messy environments, you might need to clean it now and again. Likewise, if you are going to be using it in saltwater, you will want to clean it regularly to stop the salt from eroding the material.

Unlike regular backpacks, you cannot put waterproof backpacks in the washing machine. The high temperatures combined with the constant battering can damage the bag in unseen ways. It might look nice and new once you’ve removed it from the machine but next time you get it wet there is likely to be small leaks that you hadn’t noticed.

Instead, you must wash the bags by hand, generally using cool freshwater where possible. A little soap or washing up liquid will do the job just fine.  Also, be aware that over time, rust and grime can build up on you zips so you will need to pay attention to remove as much debris as possible when cleaning. Don’t go too mad though. You don’t want to lose the waterproof properties of the zips just because you scrubbed too hard! 

Is a Waterproof Backpack Necessary for Travel?

The simple answer for most backpackers is no. However, for travellers braving a tropical region such as some parts of South America or Southeast Asia in the rainy season, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have one on hand.

For those of you who are big on jungle treks, fans of water sports or even planning to spend days on the beach a waterproof pack can prove to be a very valuable asset!

Man in jungle with waterproof backpack.
Waterproof backpacks are handy for jungle trekking. Pictured: DryTide Waterproof Backpack.

As humans, we require water to survive (who knew?!) but our expensive electronics definitely do not. If you are likely to face a soaking, for any number of reasons, it is best to be prepared and have your valuables wrapped up safely in their waterproof home. Nothing puts a downer on a trip like having water ruin your laptop, camera or phone!

The Best Waterproof Backpacks!

Waterproof backpacks come in many shapes and sizes depending on what you are using them for. Small waterproof packs (25-litres and below) will usually make great daypacks or for use on short trips. Larger packs are handier for multi-day hikes, long trips or expeditions that require a lot of gear and supplies.

To make life easier, we have split this list into small waterproof backpacks and large waterproof backpacks. If you know you need a bag of more than 25-litres jump ahead to the large section!

The 5 Best Small Waterproof Backpacks

Phantom Aquatics Walrus

  • Capacity: 25-litres.
  • Waterproof or Resistant: Waterproof.
  • Straps: Padded shoulder straps and chest strap.
  • Compartments: 1 main compartment with a small zip pocket.

Phantom Aquatics Unisex's 25 Liter Waterproof Hiking Backpack, Pink, One Size

Used by surfers and hikers alike, the Walrus 25 from Phantom Aquatics is an entry-level waterproof backpack that does everything you would expect from a bag of this price.

The 25-litre capacity means it is plenty large enough to use as a daypack but also substantial enough to carry gear for a longer adventure. The padded shoulder straps and back panel mean it is easy to carry this bag over long distances without getting sore. The pull chord “pocket” on the front means you can keep a water bottle, towel, or other non-valuable items attached to the outside for quick access.

There is a zip pocket on the inside that will keep your phone, wallet or other small items from getting lost with the rest of your gear. 

Users report that the seams are not the strongest and this bag won’t stand up to hard treatment over the long term. However, if you are not planning on throwing it around on a rocky beach, then this could be the bag for you! 

Sea To Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Pack

  • Capacity: 20-litres.
  • Waterproof or Resistant: Water-resistant.
  • Straps: Thin shoulder straps. 
  • Compartments: One large compartment.

Sea to Summit Ultra-SIL Day Pack, Pacific Blue, 20 L

The collapsible Ultra-Sil Dry Pack from Sea to Summit is a great addition to any adventurer’s arsenal. It is super lightweight and can be packed down really small into its own stuff sack. 

At 20-litres, this water-resistant rucksack makes a great daypack for people out on a short hike in the country or exploring a foreign city. It has not been made to be 100% waterproof and Sea to Summit are clear to point out that it is not designed to be submerged.

However, users report that providing the bag is sealed correctly, it easily survives a few minutes in water without leaking.  The main complaint about this backpack is the durability of the thin material that is used in its construction.

To be lightweight and packable, sacrifices had to be made so don’t be throwing this pack around on rough terrain and try to keep the cat away from it! 

Chaos Ready Waterproof Backpack

  • Capacity: 22-litres.
  • Waterproof or Resistant: Waterproof.
  • Straps: Padded shoulder straps.
  • Compartments: One main compartment with an external pocket.

Chaos Ready Waterproof Dry Bag Backpack | Marine Dry Bag For Kayaking, Fishing, Hiking, Camping for Men and Women | Heavy Duty Travel Backpack For Fishing or Boat Stuff | Padded Shoulder Straps | 20l Capacity

At 22-litres, the Chaos Ready Waterproof Backpack is the perfect size for use as a daypack or for a multi-day trip for those who don’t need many home comforts. The tarpaulin material used in its construction is surprisingly lightweight whilst being tough and abrasion-proof.

The seams are double welded to not only make the bag tougher but also make it 100% waterproof. Providing the roll-top is correctly closed, the bag will not let in a drop of water during short submersions.  There are small mesh pockets either side of the bag for carrying your water bottles but these are very short so carrying anything more than a 500ml bottle can prove to be a challenge. 

This small waterproof backpack also benefits from a small external pocket so you can have quick access to items like your phone, wallet, or passport. Be aware though, this front pocket is not waterproof so if you are going to get wet, do not rely on it to protect your gear!

In general, this pack has great feedback from users but a common complaint is that the stitching around the external pocket is not great and care must be taken to avoid tearing the pocket off when opening it. A few other users have complained that the stitching around the straps came loose after a couple of months of use.

For this price though, you really cannot go wrong with the Chaos Ready Waterproof Backpack, look after it and it will look after you!

FE Active Waterproof Backpack

  • Capacity: 20-litres.
  • Waterproof or Resistant: Waterproof.
  • Straps: Padded shoulder straps and chest strap.
  • Compartments: One main compartment with a small internal pocket and laptop sleeve. Two external mesh pockets.

FE Active Dry Bag Waterproof Backpack - 20L Eco Friendly Hiking Backpack. Ideal for Camping Accessories & Fishing Gear. Great Travel Bag, Beach Bag for Kayak & Boating | Designed in California, USA

This waterproof backpack from FE Active isn’t just your everyday dry bag. It will keep water away from your valuables whilst still allowing quick access to items such as water bottles or snacks via the mesh side pockets. 

It has been created using a two-tone material that takes away the cheap plastic look a lot of vinyl dry bags have. 

At 20-litres there is plenty of room for everything you’d need for a short trip or particularly light packers may find it is enough to keep them going indefinitely. The laptop sleeve within the main compartment adds extra peace of mind as not only will your electronics stay dry, they will also stay securely in place during transit. 

The exterior of the bag features two straps with oversized buckles, these are designed so you can carry items on the outside of the pack. From skateboards to towels, they are versatile enough to carry any item without issue. If you have a few items to attach to these straps, consider getting yourself a set of small carabiners to make the task even easier.

Waterproof Backpack with Speakers

  • Capacity: 20-litres.
  • Waterproof or Resistant: Waterproof.
  • Straps: Removable shoulder straps. 
  • Compartments: One main compartment.

Whilst it looks like your run of the mill dry bag, the Soul Gear dry bag from ZTARX has a little trick up its sleeve, or in it’s lining if you prefer. Built into this 20-litre pack is a Bluetooth speaker that can be recharged using the built-in solar panel or by plugging in a micro USB cable. 

The battery life of the speaker is up to six hours but it does require 10-12 hours of sunlight to achieve this. If you can plug it in, just two hours of USB charging will make you the life and soul of the party. Perfect for relaxed days in the kayak or parties on the beach, this bag will keep your belongings dry and even includes a free phone case so you can comfortably change the music without fear of your phone succumbing to water.

The straps on this bag are not the highest quality and simply attach to the bag using plastic clips. Realistically, you wouldn’t want this bag for a rugged adventure but the built speaker is a nice gimmick for lazy days and the waterproof capabilities are just as good as any bag on this list. 

Be aware, you must fully seal the USB port before getting the bag wet or water will get into your battery and speaker!

The 5 Best Large Waterproof Backpacks

DryTide Waterproof Backpack

  • Capacity: 50-litres.
  • Waterproof or Resistant: Waterproof.
  • Straps: Padded shoulder straps, non-padded hip belt and chest strap.
  • Compartments: Large main compartment, zip top and front pockets.
DryTide Waterproof Backpack 50L

The DryTide Waterproof Backpack looks much more like your traditional backpack than almost every other dry bag available on the market. The roll-top closing system is hidden beneath the lid of the bag but keeping the roll-top hidden isn’t its only purpose. The lid also contains a waterproof zip pocket so you can keep important items accessible at all times.

The bag also has a large front pocket that is perfect for storing small towels, swim gear or your tablet. As with the top pocket, the front pocket is sealed with a tough waterproof zip. These zips are hard to open and close but that is not a fault with the bag, instead, it ensures that they create a really tight seal that will keep water out. These zips are way more effective than the zips provided on other waterproof rucksacks but I still would be very wary of leaving valuable items in those pockets if you are expecting to submerge the bag.

Although the main pocket of the bag is not compartmentalised in any way, there is a removable laptop sleeve in there. This can comfortably fit a 15” machine and adds another layer of protection for your computer.  It even has a little mesh pocket attached to help keep cables, hard drives or other small items organised.

Providing you don’t fill the 50-litre bag to capacity it can easily be compressed down to carry on size which is almost unheard of for any backpack of this size. If you plan on using this pack for hiking there are great side straps that when combined with the mesh side pockets, can easily hold your hiking poles or even camera tripod!

Sea to Summit Flow 35

  • Capacity: 35-litres.
  • Waterproof or Resistant: Waterproof.
  • Straps: Padded shoulder and hip straps plus chest strap.
  • Compartments: One main compartment with one internal zip pocket and one external zip pocket.

At over $200USD, the Sea to Summit Flow 35 is one of the more expensive waterproof backpacks on this list. If you are after a cheap deal then this is not the bag for you but if you are looking for a durable, waterproof bag that is large enough for almost any occasion then you will want to check this one out. At 35-litres, this bag is small enough to be used as carry-on luggage yet large enough to carry almost everything you would need on an extended trip.

Originally designed with exploration and adventure in mind, the Flow 35 is tough enough to deal with the daily rigours that backpacking can throw at it. The rugged, laminated nylon is abrasion-proof so you don’t need to worry about the bag losing its waterproof properties after taking a few knocks or scrapes.

The interior of the bag is coloured white to make it easier to find your belongings when they fall into its depths, removing the need to empty your belongings just to find your room keys. Finally, this bag doesn’t actually look like most waterproof backpacks on the market and instead blends in with all the other packs you will see on your travels, which is a massive selling point for me personally.

Sea to Summit Hydraulic

  • Capacity: 35L/65L/90L/120L.
  • Waterproof or Resistant: Waterproof.
  • Straps: Removable, padded shoulder straps and hip belt. Larger capacity models come with a padded hip belt instead of the lighter non-padded version.
  • Compartments: One large compartment.

Sea To Summit Hydraulic Dry Pack - Black 65L

For you average backpacker, the lack of compartments and the overall weight of the Hydraulic Dry Pack make it an unappealing choice but for the adventurous traveller, this is a great pack to turn to.  

Sea to Summit’s Hydraulic Dry Pack comes in four different sizes. The larger sizes are more than capable of carrying all the gear you could want for a long trip on the water whilst the smaller 35-litre version is perfect for use on a motorcycle.  The single compartment makes it simple to load large, awkward items into but if you need to pack in an organised manner, grab some packing cubes and you’ll be well away. 

Whilst the pack has great reviews about its usability and overall durability, there are some concerns raised about the straps. Both the shoulder straps and hip belt are removable for ease of use when tying the bag to your boat, bike or just checking it at the airport.

These removable straps have a habit of coming loose whilst using the pack so make sure they are well attached as often as you can, especially if you are climbing or travelling over large expanses of water! 

Skog A Kust Backsak

  • Capacity: 35-litre.
  • Waterproof or Resistant: Waterproof.
  • Straps: Padded shoulder straps and chest strap.
  • Compartments: One main compartment with a small internal pocket. Small external pocket.

Skog Å Kust BackSåk Pro Waterproof Floating Backpack with Exterior Airtight Zippered Pocket | Blue, 35L

The Skog A Kust BackSak is one of the nicest looking dry bags on this list. The minimalist design is only enhanced by the multitude of bright colours that this bag is available in.

Whether you’ve played too much Call Of Duty and can’t get enough of digital camo, or your penchant for everything bright pink has gotten out of control, there is a colour option for you! Whilst this bag is waterproof for all day to day uses, the company who created it do stress that the bag will not hold up to continued submersion, so if you feel you are likely to lose your pack overboard during white water kayaking or while out to sea this is not the bag for you. 

The padded shoulder straps and back panel mean this bag is comfortable, even when full and as such, this makes it a great pack for hiking or cycling. The only downside being there is nowhere to store your water bottle for quick access.  The external zip pocket is not as waterproof as the rest of the bag, although it will hold up to a decent level of rain or splashes before water seeps through.

If you are going to be in a particularly wet environment, keep your valuables safe inside the main body of the bag or buy a small dry bag you can keep your stuff in. There is also a smaller 25-litre version of this waterproof backpack available for those who don’t need quite as much space for their adventures.

Earth Pak Waterproof Backpack

  • Capacity: 35L/55L.
  • Waterproof or Resistant: Waterproof.
  • Straps: Padded shoulder strap and non-padded hip strap.
  • Compartments: One main compartment with two small internal pockets. External zip pocket.

Earth Pak Waterproof Backpack: 35L / 55L Heavy Duty Roll-Top Closure with Easy Access Front-Zippered Pocket and Cushioned Padded Back Panel for Comfort; IPX8 Waterproof Phone Case Included

The Earth Pak Waterproof Backpack is a simple yet effective dry bag. The design is standard for waterproof backpacks with a few extra additions thrown in. There is a reflective strip to make the user more visible whilst hiking, cycling or when using it on a motorcycle.

The Molle system on the front of the bag allows you to tie it down safely when necessary so you can be sure your pack is well attached to your kayak without fear of losing it. If it does end up overboard it will remain dry inside and float on the surface until you can turn around to retrieve it. 

The thick material used for this rucksack is durable so the waterproof qualities will last you multiple trips or adventures. As with most waterproof zip pockets, the external zip on this one is not 100% waterproof. If you are going to end up getting completely drenched store your valuables inside one of the internal pockets for peace of mind.

So there you have it – the best waterproof backpacks in the world today!

Which one you decide to take on your travels will depend on where you are going and what you want to protect. With a global climate that is becoming more and more unpredictable – having one of these on hand will surely prove to be a good idea!

Tim Ashdown | Gear Specialist

After a life-changing motorcycle accident, Tim decided life was too short to stay cooped up in his home county of Norfolk, UK. Since then, he has travelled Southeast Asia, walked the Camino de Santiago and backpacked South America. His first book, From Paralysis to Santiago, chronicles his struggle to recover from the motorcycle accident and will be released later this year.

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