The best waterproof backpack in woods

10 Best Waterproof Backpacks for Water-Based Adventures in 2017

Water. It comprises 90% of our body weight, is the giver of life, washes our bodies, baptises our babies and nourishes the very plant life we put on our plates. In certain circumstances it’s also, however, a mighty pain in the posterior. Ever spent a long trek eagerly awaiting that moment when you could whip out your fresh socks only to find them sodden by intrusive rainstuff? We feel your pain, dear CooloftheWilder! That pain, however, is largely avoidable. H20 is remarkable stuff. It has ways of evading the protection of even the best backpack raincovers and sometimes even manages to permeate the ‘impermeable’ waterproof materials so boastfully highlighted by our backpacks’ producers.

We at Cool of the Wild, however, got a bit tired of soaked socks, soggy sandwiches and nights spent in involuntarily waterbed-like sleeping bags. We said ‘no’ to H20 and a big almighty ‘yes’ to finding the best waterproof backpack for all your outdoor adventures. Here’s a sneeky peek at our top ten choices, but for more information on each you can skip down to our reviews of each backpack.

ProductBest useCapacityWaterpoofnessCost
Sea To Summit Hydraulic Dry PackHauling and storing gear on water based journeys35,65, 90 and 120 litresFull submersion$$$$
SealLine Black Canyon Boundary PackHauling and storing gear on water based journeys35,70 and 115 litresFull submersion$$$
Aquapa Toccoa Wet & DrybagWater or land-based day adventures28lShort submersions$$
Ortlieb Velocity BackpackWater or land-based day adventures20lStormproof$$
Sea To Summit Flow DrypackHiking in wet conditions35lStormproof$$$$
BackSak Waterproof BackpackWater or land-based day adventures35lStormproof$
SARKI 30L Waterproof Backpack-Dry BagHiking in wet conditions30LStormproof$
Big Horn Products 30L Waterproof BackpackWater or land-based day adventures30LStormproof$
OverBoard Waterproof Pro-Vis BackpackWater or land-based day adventures30LShort submersions$$
Umpqua Tongass 1800 Waterproof BackpackWater or land-based day adventures30LFull submersion$$$$

Before we reveal the top drenching-deniers our water-infested little planet has to offer, let’s take a look at a few of the specs and features we used to gauge their levels of goodness and how these might affect your choice…

What Makes a Great Waterproof Backpack?

Waterproofness

This no-brainer merits inclusion merely because there are, it seems, varying levels of how waterproof a pack can be. While some packs are able to withstand complete submersion on a kayaking, canyoning or canoeing trip, others are only waterproof as regards the stuff that falls from the sky – and in varying quantities at that. Knowing what level of waterproofing you need will simplify the selection process and help make sure you aren’t spending too much or otherwise getting something unsuitable for your outdoor adventures’ wetness levels. For canyoning, for example, you’ll probably need something 100% waterproof. For canoeing or kayaking, the same is true only if you happen to do a lot of rolls or are prone to involuntary capsizing. For hiking, cycling and other sports on dryish land, on the other hand, you can probably get away with something not fully submersion-proof.*

*Unless you live in the Pacific Northwest. Or Scotland.

Comfort

As with any backpack, waterproof or not, you want yours to be comfortable on your back. Essential to comfort are the padding on the pack’s strap and back, the load distribution (how evenly the weight is shared across your shoulders, back and waist), and other features such as ventilation panels and a chest strap.

Weight and size

The less your bag weighs, the more gear you can potentially carry or the lighter the load on your back…always a bonus! Be sure to check your pack doesn’t lose too much in the way of capacity if it features a roll-top closure system. Some packs offer both this and an alternative closing option such as side clips, meaning you can vary the capacity to suit your load.

Best use/versatility and functionality

Certain packs excel in or are custom made for certain activities. While a kayaking pack might serve you relatively well on a wet hiking trip, it will likely lack many of the features you’d look for in an out-and-out trail pack such as multiple compartments, added comfort from padding, better load distribution, hydration bladder compatibility and lightweight materials.
Conversely, a decent waterproof hiking or cycling pack might just not be waterproof enough for seaborne adventures, m’hearties, so going for something of the PVC, moulded material, seamless, submersion-proof variety will serve you better!

Ok, now we know what we’re looking for, let’s get down to our review of (drumroll)…

The ten best waterproof backpacks for all your outdoor adventures

Sea To Summit Hydraulic Dry Pack

Sea To Summit Hydraulic Dry Pack

On our hunt for the supremely waterproof pack we came across something which is not only that but just might be bombproof too! The awesome S2S Hydrualic Dry Pack is a highly versatile, tough, durable, comfortable and superbly functional beast of a pack that will keep your gear and goodies dry even in the event of a biblical flood. At 35l, you might not be able to squeeze in as many animals as old Noah did his ark, but the hydro comes in 65, 90 and 120l sizes too, so you can at least take a few of your furry friends along with you. And they’ll be dry. Very dry.

The S2S Hydraulic Dry Pack is made of tough 600D laminated fabric and features a welded construction to avoid water sneaking in through any seams. The padding on the shoulders and back is ample and the waist belt removable, meaning wherever you go, you’ll go in comfort (even with two penguins in there).

Pros

  • Heavy duty 600d laminated fabric
  • Comfy waist strap
  • User-friendly harness and strap system
  • Weighs just over a kilo
  • Best for canyoning, kayaking and canoeing; comfortable enough for dayhikes

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Penguins not included

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | REI | Backcountry


SealLine Black Canyon Boundary Pack

SealLine Black Canyon Boundary Pack

Reasonably lightweight, durable and not quite as pricey as the S2S Hydraulic Dry bag, the Black Canyon offers stiff competition to its rivals in the fully dunkable dry bag category. It also comes with one winningly standout feature in particular – it’s bloody huge! At 115 litres, the capacity of the SL Black Canyon is the largest in our review and enough to throw in a few water-fearing family members should you wish. What’s more, this frankly enormous sack is entirely PVC-free, so it provides an environmentally-friendlier option for the eco conscious adventurer. While comparable to the Acquapac, S2S Hydraulic and Umpqua Tongass (below) in terms of comfort and waterproofing, if space is what you’re looking for, this is your guy/gal!

Pros

  • Huge! 115l capacity
  • Very light given its capacity
  • Cheaper than the S2S Hydraulic
  • Can deal with a dunking
  • Best for kayaking and canoeing but maybe a bit large for canyoning

Cons

  • Not quite as hard-wearing or durable as the S2S Hydraulic or Umpqua Tongass
  • Pricey

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | REI | Backcountry


Aquapac 28L Toccoa Wet & Drybag

Aquapac 28L Toccoa Wet and Drybag

The Aquapac Toccoa is an all round excellent and versatile waterproof backpack that is as at home on the river or under a waterfall as it is trekking through heavy rainfall. It has more padding and greater capacity than the Ortlieb Velocity, and more waterproofness that the S2S Flow. It also competes fiercly with the Overboard ProVis in almost all areas other than the lack of internal pockets where the ProVis has the upper hand. The Toccoa makes up for this with two highly useful side mesh pockets and daisy chain loops to clip gear onto the outide of the pack. Additionally, the roll top seals either at the top or the sides of the bag which further adds to its verstility. This is a super comforable, durable and fully submersible day pack that is highly stable when carried in higher energy situations.

For more detailed information on the Aqaupac Toccoa, read our full review.

Pros

  • Super comfortable
  • Bombproof
  • Versatile for land and water-based adventures
  • Can deal with short dunks
  • Good value

Cons

  • No internal pocket
  • Only available in 28 litre capacity

Find the latest price on:
Amazon


Ortlieb Velocity Backpack

Ortlieb Velocity 20L Backpack

For a versatile, light-load day-pack with excellent waterproofing capabilities, the Ortlieb Velocity offers a tidy, well-made alternative to its bigger brethren. At 20l, this little pack is lacking in the capacity stakes and the multiple rolls required to fasten the velcro top closure can shave off a further few inches of storage. That said, the Velocity makes up for its diminutive proportions and relatively large price tag with very durable materials, a detachable waist belt and a useful inner pocket for keeping smaller bits and bobs separate. A decent option for the minimalist-minded, but all-in-all comes up just short of small pack competitor the Aquapac Toccoa in almost all specs and features (including size!).

Pros

  • Well made
  • Rear foam padding helps ventilation
  • Handy removable inner pocket
  • Detachable waist belt
  • Best for day-hikes, cycling trips and short sea, river or lake outings

Cons

  • Not a great deal of padding – can be uncomfortable with heavy loads
  • Only 20l and, hence, fairly pricey for its size
  • Quite heavy for its size (1kg/2.2lbs)
  • Not ‘waterproof’ enough to withstand submersion (but good enough in heavy rainshowers)

Find the latest price on:
Amazon


Sea To Summit Flow 35L Drypack

Sea To Summit Flow 35L Drypack

For hikers or multi-sport adventurers seeking something that is hugely versatile, the S2S Flow just might be the pack you’re looking for. Boasting the comfort, compartmentalised storage and overall functionality of a standard hiking pack and the waterproofing capacity of a canoeing pack, this is a true all-rounder that is at home in any environment. While not as sea or lake-worthy as its S2S cousin the Hydraulic Dry Bag, the S2S Flow has you covered for just about everything else you could get up to, barring a complete dunking. Far superior in terms of versatility and comfort to all other items in our review and offers a bit more storage space than the similarly versatile Aquapac Toccoa. Pity about the price tag…

Pros

  • Possibly the most waterproof hiking pack you’ll find
  • Very well made
  • White interior for increased visibility
  • Hydration sleeve
  • More compartments than other items in our review
  • Very comfortable
  • Lighter than competitor the Umpqua Tongass
  • Best for…a bit of everything!

Cons

  • Verrrrrry pricey
  • Just a touch heavy (1.2kg)
  • Better options available for ‘full-submersion’ activities

Find the latest price on:
Amazon


BackSak Waterproof Backpack

BackSak Waterproof Backpack (35L)

With tough, welded seams, durable 500D PVC material and decent capacity, the Backsak 35L offers a very reliable and nicely priced alternative to its pricier competitors. While it may not offer complete dunkability, it will easily handle a downpour and is ideal for rainy trekking or cycling adventures. Features-wise, it boasts handy interior and exterior pockets for smaller items you don’t want to get mixed up with the rest of your gear, and a side-closure option to maximize storage. Bargain!

Pros

  • High vis (bonus for cycling)
  • Cheap!
  • Great value for money
  • Decent padding on back and shoulder straps
  • Best for short hikes, cycles and canoeing trips when full-submersion is unlikely

Cons

  • Not suitable for long periods of submersion (the manufacturers, very honestly, even say so themselves)
  • Minimalist waist belt a bit high for female users

Find the latest price on:
Amazon


SARKI 30L Waterproof Backpack-Dry Bag

SARKI 30L Waterproof Backpack-Dry Bag

The quirky-looking Sarki Dry Bag is another budget option that provides a solid, versatile alternative to those looking for dry gear without an empty wallet. All-in-all, this is a decent all-rounder that can be used in any activity short of those where full submersion is likely to be on the cards. While it doesn’t offer as much in terms of durability and dunking capacity, it does, nonetheless, boast some very nice features. These include a handy exterior pocket, nicely padded straps and a couple of mesh pouches for water bottles. It also comes with a slightly random but nonetheless practicable pouch which can be worn on your arm or clipped to the bag to stow a few small accessories.

Pros

  • Very cheap!
  • Free pouch!
  • Comfortable: nice padding on back and shoulders
  • Good in any situation or activity not requiring full-submersion waterproofing

Cons

  • Not as durable as other options
  • Not suitable for full submersion

Find the latest price on:
Amazon


Big Horn Products 30L Waaterproof Backpack

Big Horn Products 30L Waterproof Backpack

Durable, reasonably lightweight and pleasingly inexpensive, the Big Horn 30L is another decent all-rounder for those on a budget. The exterior webbing and draw-cords are handy features for drying wet gear on-the-go and side mesh pockets ideal for stowing water bottles. Compared to other budget competitors the Sarki and Backpak, the Big Horn offers a little less comfort-wise but is marginally more streamlined for canyoning or canyoneering pursuits.

Pros

  • Cheap!
  • Lightweight (1.2lbs)
  • Durable
  • External webbing lets you hang wet gear to dry
  • Best for short hikes, cycles, canoeing and kayaking without full submersion

Cons

  • Short on back padding
  • Not as comfortable as other budget options
  • Not suitable for full submersion

Find the latest price on:
Amazon


overboard-pro-vis-waterproof-backpack-20-litres-side-ob1157hvo

OverBoard Waterproof Pro-Vis Backpack(20l)

While the OverBoard Pro-Vis is a touch on the skimpy side capacity-wise, it does a lot of things rather well. It’s very well-made, featuring a welded construction, high-vis and durable PVC, compression straps, reinforced side and bottom panels, good padding and a few handy pockets inside and out for organizing your gear. It offers less storage than the other budget options in our list and is similar in terms of waterproofing, but has the advantage of ergonomic, padded straps. These offer plenty of cushioning and a ventilated back panel as good as any you’ll find on a mid-range, out-and-out hiking pack. Compared to other low-capacity packs such as the Ortlieb velocity, the Overboard offers a more comfortable carry. For a bit more space and superior waterproofing, the Aquapac Toccoa is a better bet.

Pros

  • Reasonably light (0.95kg)
  • High vis
  • Ventilated back panel
  • Reinforced sides and base
  • D-rings and bungee webbing for external attachments
  • Comfortable: good padding on back and shoulder straps
  • All-rounder

Cons

  • Low capacity – 20l (30l available)
  • Suitable only for short submersions

Find the latest price on:
Amazon


Umpqua Tongass 1800 Waterproof Backpack

Umpqua Tongass 1800 Waterproof Backpack

Boasting complete dunkability, durable 420D welded nylon material, superior compartmentalisation to its competitors and a host of handy features, the UT 1800 is a love-it-at-first sight kinda pack. There’s a catch though, one that hangs by a little thread at the bottom of the sack and begins with a $ sign. Yep, all that goodness comes at a cost… For your extra $, however, the UT 1800 goes a lot further than most of its competitors. With an internal hanging pocket (which can be clipped on inside or out), a secondary roll-top compartment, waist belt pockets, fishing rod carriers, storage space between the two compartments, water bottle pockets and web tool attachment points on the shoulder straps, the features on this are rivalled only by the S2S Flow in terms of convenience, practicality and storage options. Compared to other high-end packs the SealLine Black Canyon and S2S Hydraulic Pack, the UT 1800 provides similar waterproofing and less in terms of storage, but a lot more in way of comfort, useful features and versatility.

Pros

  • Versatility: suitable for any activity
  • Can deal with a dunking
  • Very comfortable
  • Feature rich
  • Rugged and durable

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • Heavy (almost 3.8lbs)
  • Name nigh on impossible to pronounce

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry


Keeping your gear (or penguins and family members) dry while out in the elements is a big deal and a tricky business. Whatever you plan on getting up to and whatever your budget, however, we’re sure in the above list of waterproof wonders you’ll find something suitable for your upcoming adventures!

Happy (and dry) adventuring!

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