We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.
It only took about a minute into testing for this article before I started asking myself why everyone doesn’t own a waterproof backpack. I have several bags of my own; backpacks, duffels, range bags, gym bags, carry-on luggage — you name it. You probably have an assortment, too. So why is it that they all turn into sponges as soon as the weather turns wet?
Backpackers will tell you that one of the most important pieces of gear they own is a rain cover for their pack. Once gear gets wet, it can be extremely difficult to dry it out and you can suffer serious health consequences as a result. Even if all you’re doing is commuting or going for a day hike, a soggy backpack can ruin the experience. That’s where the best waterproof backpacks come in.
To chase down the best products and deals out there, I scoured retailers, forums, and online communities to see what customers like and don’t like about waterproof backpacks. Then, I rounded up a selection to put through the wringer first-hand. Some are built for hiking, some are designed for use around town, and some are made to endure hours of hostile weather on the deck of a boat — no matter the intent or design, I had no mercy on these bags. To test real-world waterproof capability, they all got packed to the gills, sprayed with water, left in the rain for an hour, then thrown into a puddle. I also loaded each one with appropriate cargo and lugged it around to see just how good it was at being a normal backpack.
After testing some of the best waterproof backpacks on the market, I’d say opting for all-weather capability from the jump is the way to go. Here’s how all of our testing shook out — and which waterproof backpack is probably best for your needs.
- Best Overall: Sea to Summit Flow 35L Dry Pack
- Best Value: Osprey Ultralight Dry Stuff
- Editor’s Choice: SealLine Skylake
- Best Roll-Top: Sea to Summit Hydraulic Dry Pack
- Best for Hiking: Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 25
- Best Airtight: Yeti Panga 28
- Best for Travelling: Matador Freerain 28
- Best Everyday Carry: Fjallraven High Coast Rolltop 26
The difference between a good pack and a great pack typically isn’t apparent at first glance. Indeed, the difference is buried in the details — and those details are where the Sea to Summit Flow 35L Dry Pack shines.
When I pulled it out of the box, I was surprised by how small the Flow 35L Dry Pack felt, on par with packs that measure 10 liters smaller. The pack is just a touch larger side-to-side and front-to-back, and those incremental increases add up to a bag that carries much smaller than it actually is. The back panel, shoulder straps, and hip belt are padded. Taped seams and TPU-laminated, 420-denier nylon add excellent waterproof protection. The white interior may not seem like a big deal, but after exposing your eyes to the bright sun shining on the snow, a light-colored pack interior can make it easier to find what you’re looking for.
When it comes to sherpa duty, this is the pick of the litter. The padded shoulder straps and hip belt make it the best option on this list for carrying any substantial weight. Sea to Summit emphasizes this bag’s alpine chops on its website with pictures of powder skis strapped to the sides and climbers perched on remote rock formations. The photos are staged, but the capabilities are real. It’s a genuine backpacking contender that can take a beating, stay dry, and keep you comfortable mile after mile.
During the water test, everything in the Flow 35L Dry Pack remained nice and dry. A full hour of exposure to rain (enhanced by a visit from a watering can) left the outside noticeably soggy. Fortunately, none of that water made its way inside the bag. Ripstop fabric is a proven performer in terms of durability, so I have total confidence there, too.
The only downside to this backpack is its price, even if it is justified, and there are plenty of packs out there that cost half as much that are more than half as good. So, would the Flow end up in my house if I had $320 to spend on a waterproof backpack? Yes, it would. It does everything so well that it can replace several other bags. I’d use it for everything from hiking and skiing to filling an overhead compartment — and everything else in between.
- Capacity: 35 liters
- Weight: 2.7 pounds
- Closure: Roll-top
- Color options: Black, royal blue, yellow
- Intended use: Climbing, skiing, hiking
Ripstop fabric handles everything up to and including sharp skis
Pouches and straps for exterior storage
Padded shoulder straps and hip belt
Built-in compartment for a hydration system
Most expensive backpack on this list
A little big for single-day use
Might make your other backpacks obsolete
‘Ultralight’ isn’t exactly a vague term, but you’ll probably be surprised by how light the Osprey Ultralight Dry Stuff truly is.
This mighty little backpack arrived zipped into an integrated stuff sack. The fabric is translucent. The straps are made of see-through mesh and the buckles look like one-half scale models. The waxy finish inspires confidence in the bag’s ability to repel water, but it’s clear from the get-go that it’s not meant to carry anything much more substantial than a sweatshirt.
At one point during this test, the temperature was in the teens when I woke up and hit 50 by noon. This little Osprey is perfect for that kind of weather because you can layer up to stay warm and pop this bag in a coat pocket. When it warms up, stuff your coat into the bag and be on your way. If there’s precipitation, you’ll be covered. The aptly-named Ultralight Dry Stuff is so portable that it’s hard to think of an excuse not to bring it along. Just remember that staying this light requires Osprey to take a minimalist approach to construction, so loading it down with heavy items isn’t a good idea unless you want to feel every ounce digging into your shoulders.
This backpack’s low cost of entry is a good cause for skepticism when it comes to actually keeping water out — that, and the fact that it’s just about see-through. I partially expected it to be more water-resistant than waterproof. But thorough testing reveals all, and the Ultralight Dry Stuff didn’t let a single drop reach the gear inside. With that kind of performance in such a small package, this pack is a great option to keep in the car. After all, unexpected rain can strike any time, and this is pretty cheap insurance.
- Capacity: 20 liters
- Weight: 0.4 pounds
- Closure: Roll-top
- Color options: Venturi blue, shadow grey, tropic teal, electric lime, poppy orange
- Intended use: Day hiking, everyday carry
Fits into built-in stuff sack when not in use
Great backup to keep in the car
Totally reliable in the rain
Big enough for a change of clothes
Little to no support
Durability is inherently reduced to achieve lightness
Repacking it into the stuff sack is a challenge
Compared to the rest of this guide’s lineup of waterproof backpacks, the SealLin Skylake is an interesting animal. If you just looked at manufacturer-provided product photography online, you’d be hard-pressed to find a difference between this bag and the Sea to Summit Hydraulic Dry Pack aside from capacity. In reality, however, nearly all they have in common are the roll-top design and welded seams.
The Skylake is one of the lightest options here, at just 0.8 pounds. Its claimed capacity of 18 liters is less than the 20 liters offered by the Osprey Ultralight Dry Stuff, but my eyes swear up and down that this bag has more room. It seems to strike a useable balance between weight savings and rugged dependability.
In terms of portability, the Skylake can seem to disappear on your back if you pack it right. I took it on a hike across a frozen lake to see if I could catch a glimpse of the resident bald eagle family and filled the pack with soft goods, binoculars, a monocular, my camera, and a good LionSteel bushcraft knife. By loading the bottom and portion closest to my back with soft items, I was able to make this bag very comfortable. The front pouch was the perfect place for my gloves. On the way back I did the opposite and definitely noticed the harder items poking me in the back.
After the hour-long water test, I noticed that the top of the Skylake was soaked. It was clear that prolonged exposure had allowed water to permeate the material — not a good sign. Upon closer inspection, though, the inside of the bag was completely dry. The inner laminate had done its job flawlessly. Compromises in the name of lightness will rule this pack out from being your go-to hiking bag, but it strikes such an even balance between practicality, price, and size that I can’t help but think it would make a great addition to anyone’s gear set.
The downside to this Skylake is its lack of structure, and how you load it up with your gear will determine everything about how it carries. That’s fine by me because this isn’t supposed to be a hiking pack. It’s meant for short trips in nasty weather and, in that scenario, it does a great job. It’s also light enough to keep on standby for a rainy day. If you want a quality waterproof bag that doesn’t require a big investment, you can’t go wrong with this one.
- Capacity: 18 liters
- Weight: 0.8 pounds
- Closure: Roll-top
- Color options: Heather blue, heather green, heather gray
- Intended use: Water sports, adventure travel
Practical balance of lightness and capacity
Exterior pouch comes in handy when the weather cooperates
Won’t weigh you down at less than one pound
The price is right
Good at everything but not excellent at any one thing
Doesn’t offer much support
Treated fabric is very noisy
The Sea to Summit Hydraulic Dry Pack impressed right out of the box. Calling it robust would be a gross understatement: this bag feels like it’s ready to be loaded with scientific equipment and chucked onto the deck of an Antarctic research vessel. The material feels like a dry suit and every attachment is welded in place so water can’t follow stitching through to the interior. The plastic buckles are sturdy and large, while the load-bearing shoulder strap attachments are made from anodized aluminum. It’s not often I get a “you’re not worthy” vibe from a piece of gear, but this is one case where I do.
In many ways, the Hydraulic Dry Pack is a SealLine Skylake that’s had all its settings dialed up to 11. The capacity is larger, the straps are wider, the suspension system is padded, and the body is thicker and more robust. Speaking of shoulder straps, those can be removed in seconds to turn this backpack into a slick duffel.
It’s important to keep loads manageable because the 35-liter capacity can quickly overwhelm this bag’s design — not in terms of failure, but in terms of your desire to carry it. I’d happily lug a week’s worth of supplies a mile or so from a boat to a cabin, I just wouldn’t want this to be my only option for a week on the trail.
Shock of shocks, the Hydraulic Dry Pack stayed bone dry during its water exposure test. Even a gallon of water from the watering can rolled right off. There are a lot of good packs on this list that I would trust during a rainy hike through the woods. In the case of this backpack, I’d be perfectly content to fill it with gear and leave it on the deck of a boat all night during a rainstorm if need be. It’s that good.
- Capacity: 35 liters
- Weight: 2.3 pounds
- Closure: Roll-top
- Color options: Black, yellow, blue
- Intended use: Water sports, adventure travel
Built to an incredibly tough standard
Can be stripped down to a slick seabag in seconds
Quality components inspire confidence in this bag’s longevity
High-wear components can be replaced in the field
Not the most ergonomic bag
Main compartment is all you get
High price for such a focused piece of gear
At first glance, the Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 25 looks like your run-of-the-mill middleweight hiking pack. It has padding in the shoulder straps, a hip belt, a cavernous main compartment, a top pouch with room for the small items you use most, and a compartment for a hydration system. Large zipper pulls are easy to use with gloves. There are even loops for attaching extra gear like trekking poles to the outside, making this pack a great option for snowy alpine adventures. The waterproof fabric makes all the difference because, unlike most hiking packs, the Scrambler 25 has no need for a rain cover or a frantic dash to shelter.
To test this pack’s hiking chops, I took it into the woods for a few hours with some basic hiking essentials: a few spare layers, some water, a compact survival kit, my camera, and a Helle Temagami for good measure (of course). That isn’t a heavy load, but it’s comparable to what most people pack for a day on the trail. The Scrambler 25 distributes weight very well and I forgot all about it after the first 100 yards. The hip belt isn’t padded so it’s really better at holding the bag snug to your back when you pick up the pace than spreading the load.
During the rain test, even water from the can rolled right off the Scrambler 25. The coating on its fabric was promising right off the bat. After an hour of sitting out in the rain, I pulled the contents out and all was wel — –until I got to the bottom. The interior wasn’t soaked, but water had managed to seep through the base and get my camping blanket fairly wet. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it was definitely a let-down. Keep this pack off the ground and you’ll be in good shape. I’d hike through the rain all day with the Scrambler 25 — I’d just be careful where I set it down for very long.
- Capacity: 25 liters
- Weight: 1.9 pounds
- Closure: Top pouch
- Color options: Black, black multi, white
- Intended use: Day hiking, climbing
Excellent features and design
Carries like a traditional hiking pack
Removable top pouch for small items
Rugged fabric is ready for the trails
May be too shallow for larger items like sleeping bags
Could use a more robust hip belt
Top pouch retaining buckle wants to slip off
On first impression, the Yeti Panga 28 is an absolute monster, just as rugged and overbuilt as Yeti’s premium coolers. Calling the Panga 28 heavy-duty is literal in this case because the bag tops our list at nearly four pounds, almost double the weight of the next heaviest contestant, the 35-liter Sea to Summit Hydraulic Dry Pack. The fit and finish are excellent. Yeti claims this bag is submersible, so I zipped it shut and gave it a good, hard bear hug as soon as I got it. Sure enough, it’s airtight. Touche.
Aside from two vertical MOLLE strips on the face of this bag, there isn’t a lot of potential for customization with the Pranga. The main compartment has plenty of space but there’s no sign of smaller compartments for organization. Because of the price, the bag is overkill for most applications. Still, the photographer in me loves this bag. It’s tough, airtight, and reasonably comfortable to wear. I loaded expensive camera equipment inside with a little bit of padding and felt confident about setting off into bad weather for a demanding shoot.
So, did the Panga hold up to its water exposure test? Is it as good as promised? Of course. It’s airtight. The inside was bone dry and smelled as fresh as the day it came out of the box.
The real question is whether or not it’s worth the $300 asking price. If you want to hike in regions that get a lot of rain, there are better options. The same goes for anyone looking to store a lot of gear. What I would use this bag for is valuables like an expensive camera and extra lenses, namely because the zipper also adds a level of convenience that sets it apart from the roll-top alternatives. These features also make this pack a great commuter bag for people who carry a laptop or other sensitive electronics.
Anyone who walks, bikes, or takes public transportation to work should give this bag serious consideration. Besides, the more you use it the more reasonable the price becomes, right?
- Capacity: 28 liters
- Weight: 3.9 pounds
- Closure: Zipper
- Color options: Storm gray
- Intended use: Everyday carry
It’s not just waterproof, it’s airtight
Heavy-duty zipper is very secure
Care instructions and maintenance materials included
Great size and comfort for everyday use
Like its coolers, this Yeti bag is very expensive
Half-U zipper limits access to gear
Only available in gray
If you’re shopping online, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Matador Freerain28 is a close cousin to the Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 25. They look similar enough and have nearly the same amount of room inside. You wouldn’t know that the Freerain28 is less than half the weight of the Scrambler 25, weighing in at less than a pound. My first impression was that the Matador achieved incredibly lightness without feeling flimsy. Sure, support is minimal and I wouldn’t want to throw much weight in it, but there’s a time and place for this bag.
My first trip with it was a three-mile round-trip to run some errands and grab a few groceries downtown. Filling the Freerain28 makes its intentions very clear: this is not meant to be your go-to hiking pack. With mesh straps and no rigidity whatsoever, I liken it to the lingerie of backpacks.
So what’s it for, then? The Freerain28 is a travel pack. It folds down to the size of a softball so you can pack it in your suitcase when you travel and have something more practical than carry-on luggage when you reach your destination. You’ll feel hard items through the featherweight fabric, but that’s the price you pay for a pack that fits in the palm of your hand when you’re not using it. Keep the load reasonably light–think travel basics like a jacket, snacks, some water, and a battery bank–and you’ll be fine.
Like the Osprey Ultralight Dry Stuff, the Freerain28 uses incredibly thin fabric. Its 50-denier nylon is more commonly found on sleeping bags and tents than backpacks; even the reinforced base is only 70-denier. Nevertheless, it held up to its rain test without missing a beat. One feature that I like is the combination of a zipper and roll-top closure on this bag. The Freerain28 makes compromises in the weight-savings department that limit how much gear I want to carry, but it’s no slouch when it comes to keeping its contents dry.
- Capacity: 28 liters
- Weight: 0.8 pounds
- Closure: Zipper, roll-top
- Color options: Black
- Intended use: Day hiking, travel
Folds down to the size of a softball
Shockingly light for its size
Offers more support than expected at this weight
Exterior loops for trekking poles or other gear
You’ll feel everything you pack through this fabric
Not cut out for strenuous hiking with gear
Only available in one color
The Fjallraven High Coast Rolltop 26 is the fashionable choice in this group. As much as we like to imagine ourselves blazing a trail through misty redwood forests and swinging a machete through vines in a far-off jungle, the reality is that sometimes we just need to get across town without getting soaked. Don’t let the understated Scandinavian styling fool you, though, because this waterproof backpack is more than tough enough to withstand a sudden downpour. First contact with the waterproof shell and sturdy roll-top feels promising, and the zippered interior pouch for small valuables is a nice touch in a contrasting color that’s easy to find.
Urban use is where the High Coast Rolltop 26 is in its element. I used it as my everyday bag for running errands, urban exploring, and going to the gym. It carried everything from a binder full of tax documents to a weightlifting belt. Waterproof backpacks tend to be very technical in nature because they’re built for things like hiking in austere environments, water sports, and backcountry skiing or snowboarding. That makes them great at keeping gear dry, but they can look a bit too moto if you just want to carry your lunch and a few personal items to work or out on the town. With this pack, I feel (and look) totally at home on city sidewalks and still have everything I need for walks on the local hiking trails. Support is adequate, but not excellent. For a bag with a 26-liter capacity, it’s totally usable.
It seems like more often than not, products that look great are more about form than function. That’s not the case with the High Coast Rolltop 26. The Swedes have always had a way of making practical products look great without a bunch of bells and whistles, and that’s exactly what this bag does. An hour in the rain didn’t faze it. Being dropped in a puddle didn’t compromise it, either. If you want to get around town in style without soaking all your belongings, look no further.
- Capacity: 26 liters
- Weight: 1.0 pound
- Closure: Roll-top
- Color options: Shark grey, dark grey, navy, black
- Intended use: Day hiking, everyday carry
Simple, understated design looks great dressed up or dressed down
Excellent waterproofing built to withstand nordic storms
Elastic side pouches and an interior compartment for small valuables
Great size for an everyday carry bag
Somewhat limited utility outside city limits
Dark interior makes it hard to find things
Roll-top isn’t the most convenient for everyday use
Why you should trust us
We’ve tested all kinds of backpacks, including packs designed for hiking and range bags built for the firing line. It’s safe to say we know what kinds of materials and designs work in the real world. We took all that knowledge and sniffed out some of the best waterproof backpacks on the market. Then we got our hands on each one and put it to the test to see for ourselves if it was as good as advertised. In addition to real-world use, we tested the packs on this list for waterproofing, durability, and comfort with tests designed to expose failure points. Any piece of gear we recommend has earned a stamp of approval. Even if a certain waterproof backpack isn’t right for everyone, we made sure to explain exactly who it’s for and who should keep looking.
Types of waterproof backpacks
Waterproof backpacks come in all shapes and sizes. We’re lucky to have a wide selection of packs built for different uses, so you don’t have to choose between something that’s waterproof and something that does everything else you need it to do.
We consider most bags in the 20- to 30-liter ballpark to be a day pack. These are great for using as an everyday carry option, get home bag, or hiking pack for short day trips. Waterproof day packs come with a zipper or roll-top design. Both are fine, although roll-tops tend to be more reliable when it comes to heavy rain.
Day packs might be the most varied type of waterproof backpack. We found some options that are meant to be fashionable around town, and others that are built to take a beating on the trail. Pay attention to how each pack is built to make sure you get the organization and comfort features you need.
Hiking and camping packs often come with a removable rain cover, but some packs are waterproof on their own. We found solid options from brands like Mountain Hardwear and Matador that can carry more than 30 liters of gear in all kinds of weather.
Compared to other types of waterproof backpacks, these are much better at carrying extra weight. Ample padding and advanced suspension systems allow these hiking packs to distribute loads efficiently and comfortably. If you live in or regularly visit an area that gets a lot of rainfall, a waterproof hiking pack can be a lot more convenient than relying on a removable rain cover to keep your clothes and gear dry.
Sometimes you just need someplace dry to store your gear, and that’s where waterproof stuff sacks come into play. These bags come in a wide range of sizes and are usually extremely durable. Look for features like thick, rubberized fabric, welded seams, and roll-top closure like the Sea to Summit Hydraulic Dry Bag.
Because these bags prioritize waterproofing above accessibility, don’t expect much in the way of external pockets and features. Shoulder straps tend to be very basic and bags usually only have one compartment–like a seabag. This design isn’t great for organizing gear or hauling it long distances, but it can hold quite a bit and achieve a much better degree of water resistance than other waterproof backpacks.
Key features of waterproof backpacks
Every backpack on this list is waterproof, but there’s more than one way to achieve that goal. Keeping water out starts with the fabric. Some manufacturers use heavy-duty fabric like the 600-denier material on the Sea to Summit Hydraulic Dry Pack paired with thermoplastic polyurethane laminating. Others, like the Matador Freerain28, prioritize lightness with 50-denier nylon protected by a polyurethane coating.
You’ll notice that in addition to differences in fabric, waterproof backpacks use two methods of staying closed. Zippers can be made waterproof with tight tolerances and taped seams. Another design is the roll-top. You close these bags by tightly rolling the excess material at the top and buckling the ends either to each other or to the sides of the pack. This is often more secure because water has a much more difficult path to reach the interior of the bag.
Waterproof backpacks span the gamut from day bags to backcountry adventure packs. Maybe you want to keep your lunch dry during the morning commute, or maybe you need to protect equipment from the elements during a float trip miles from cell phone reception. That’s why we tested waterproof backpacks ranging from 20 to 35 liters. Beyond that, you’re probably better off with a traditional hiking pack paired with a waterproof cover.
Pack size is measured by volume. Manufacturers that cater to hiking and camping usually use liters, while manufacturers who serve the hunting and tactical communities tend to prefer cubic inches. One liter is equal to 61 cubic inches.
All waterproof backpacks offer protection against the elements, but that’s typically where the similarities end. Some people want a waterproof backpack for a whitewater rafting adventure. Others need to keep their sleeping bag dry when they hike into the backcountry with a pair of skis strapped to their pack. Just about everyone can appreciate a morning commute that doesn’t leave their EDC smelling like a wet gym bag.
The packs on this list serve a range of intended uses so you can find something that feels like it was built just for you. Regardless of whether a pack was built to be a backup travel bag or an expedition-ready gear repository, we tested it to make sure it could remain waterproof and haul a realistic load comfortably.
Pricing considerations for waterproof backpacks
You can score some great deals for less than $100 if you know where to look. One of our favorites is the super-affordable (and unbelievably light) Osprey Ultralight Dry Stuff, which you can land for just $60. It keeps up to 20 liters of gear dry and weighs less than half a pound. A few of our other picks aren’t far off, either. Catch them on sale to get either one for less than $100.
If you see a deal that looks too good to be true, it probably is. Be wary of no-name brands that make big claims about bags that cost a fraction of what the competition is charging. Soaking all your gear is a pretty painful lesson in getting what you pay for.
Many of our picks fall between $100 and $250. This is the price range where you’ll find awesome waterproof backpacks from Mountain Hardwear, Matador, SealLine, Sea to Summit, and Fjallraven. Here’s where you’ll start to see more versatile packs that can carry more gear over greater distances.
There’s a lot of diversity of purpose in this price range, to shop around to find what’s right for you. Some packs are designed for rugged alpine adventures and others are better suited to the daily grind. No matter which of our picks you choose, you’ll end up with dry gear and a damn good backpack.
Sometimes you just want to pull out all the stops and get the best gear out there. Maybe you have a big adventure coming up and you want to be prepared for anything. Maybe you have some of that sweet, sweet reenlistment cash burning a hole in your pocket. Luckily for you, there are some awesome waterproof backpacks roosting at the top of the food chain.
Packs like the Sea to Summit Flow 35L Dry Pack and Yeti Panga 28 offer unmatched build quality and performance once the weather turns sour. They serve different purposes, but each does a great job in its own way. Sure, they cost a fair bit more than most of the waterproof backpacks here, but who are we to say no to something this good?
How we chose our top picks
Every single piece of gear we recommend needs to perform as promised and represent a good use of your hard-earned money. If something sucks, we’ll tell you. To get our hands on the best waterproof backpacks, we hit up trusted brands like Sea to Summit, Yeti, and Mountain Hardwear. To avoid blind spots, we also brought in lesser-known manufacturers like Matador and fashion-forward brands like Fjallraven. Since there are many different reasons to buy a waterproof backpack, we targeted bags designed for everything from everyday wear to wilderness adventures. We included roll-top and zip-closure bags for those of you who have a preference. In other words, we chose gear we personally want to use.
FAQs on waterproof backpacks
You’ve got questions, Task & Purpose has answers.
Q. How much does a good waterproof backpack cost?
A: Our most affordable pick starts right around $60 and prices go as high as $320. Spending more will generally get you more durable construction and superior waterproofing, but most of our favorites cost about $100 and are a solid choice for most uses.
Q. Can you make a backpack waterproof?
A: Waterproof treatments are available and are popular for adding water-resistance to boots. You can use them on a backpack, but the treatment isn’t on par with what you see here and will wear off relatively quickly. Keep in mind that waterproof treatments can’t seal your pack’s zippers.