If you are looking for a waterproof backpack then you are at a point where you feel you need one and that you will benefit from using one. Usually, the first question people ask is which is the best waterproof backpack as you naturally want to make sure you are spending your hard earned money on something which is going to last.
What you will find is that there is not a single answer to that question as determining which is the best waterproof backpack will depend on a few factors. The main factors to consider are the activity you are participating in, the severity of the expected weather conditions, the length of time you will be using it and last but not least, the budget you have.
Trust us when we say you will need one with padded straps. Once you have wearing a backpack for a while you understand why you need straps which are padded. The padding will stop the straps from digging into you and causing you discomfort, which is the last thing you want.
Breathable straps create ventilation by allowing air to flow and circulate around your shoulder area which reduces sweating. It also allows the straps to dry quicker when they get wet. Sometimes this is an under estimated feature of a waterproof backpack and it might be something you decide you don’t need but it’s definitely something to consider.
As with padded straps, a padded back is all about comfort and making sure that nothing is digging into you. Although how you pack your backpack will help, the padding is something which ensures it’s not an issue in the first place.
One Handed Strap or Handle
Some waterproof backpacks come with a handle which enables you to carry it with one hand. Quite often it is the large waterproof backpacks that have the handle and it is useful for when you need to just quickly pick it up or if you need to carry it a short distance. It might not be a breaker but it’s a useful feature to have depending on how you will be using your backpack.
These are usually bungee type cords which normally cover the majority of the surface at the rear of the backpack. A corded exterior is great for storing wet clothing or anything else that you either can’t fit in or don’t want in the main compartment. It’s also handy for storing some of the gear you may need to carry but it doesn’t matter if it gets wet.
Mesh netting is quite often on the side of the backpack and are great for storing easy to access items like water bottles and snacks. It’s something that might not be on your list of must haves but you will find they are very handy when you have them.
Chest straps ensure a safe and secure fitting of your waterproof backpack which means that, in the event that you are caught off guard, your backpack will stay in place. This means you don’t have to worry about losing it. This feature is more useful for certain kinds of activities such as kayaking, paddle boarding and climbing. If you are walking then this may not be a feature you need.
The Difference between Waterproof, Water Repellent and Water Resistant
Water Resistant - Has the ability to resist the penetration of water to a degree but not completely. This is considered the basic level of water protection for your backpack. This means that due to the materials used, or a coating which is applied at the materials at the manufacturing stage, it is more difficult for water water to get inside your bag. Generally you can expect this to give you protection from light rain showers.
Water Repellent - not easily penetrated by water, mainly due to being treated with a surface coating to improve it's effectiveness. This coating can be on the inside, the outside or sometimes on both and is a form of thin-film nantechnology. It is an improvement on water resistant and this will give you better protection but not as much as waterproof.
Waterproof - your backpack is impervious to water (water cannot penetrate it). Sometimes you will see this advertised as 100% waterproof but it all means the same. The material will stop water from penetrating the backpack and therefore keep your gear dry. This offers protection form heavy rainfall, falling in rivers and even if your backpack pack is completely submerged in water. Because of this they are also airtight.
As you will want to ensure your gear is definitely and that the backpack will perform how it should, we recommend reading reviews as this is how they have performed in the real world, rather than just accepting what the manufacturer says.
Types of Waterproof Backpack Material
In the modern world we live in, manufacturers are always looking at ways to improve waterproof material and are therefore designing new materials every year. That being said you will find that current waterproof backpacks will be made from one of 2 types of material, Nylon or Vinyl.
The majority will be made from Nylon and although as standard it isn't a waterproof material, it is given a waterproof coating before it is used to construct the backpack. Silicone is the most common chemical used for the coating but you can also find that some are laminated with a thin plastic. Nylon is available in different thread counts, the higher the thread count the better quality the Nylon e.g. 600D is better quality than 500D.
Vinyl, or PVC as you will see it described, is quite often used in smaller bags. In some cases you will find it used in lower quality bags. A great upside with Vinyl is that it is quite easy to patch them up in the event that they tear - quite handy if this happens when you are on a trek or out on the water.
Best Waterproof Backpacks
We have already established that the best waterproof backpacks are not necessarily the cheapest backpacks. We have also established that you need to look at where, and how, you will be using it and therefore what features you will need.
Value, value, value is where your focus needs to be as getting the best waterproof backpack for you and your activity while getting it at the best price is exactly how you will get good value.
No matter what you buy, getting the right one will save you money in the long term.
I have listed the top waterproof backpacks available and you will find these cover a range of budgets.
As with everything we recommend, we have also based our findings on actually customer feedback and reviews as we know from experience that this is the true test of any backpack.