It’s dark, it’s wet, and you’re looking for the best waterproof backpacks, whether as a gift or to keep your gear dry.
Well, assuming you want the quick version of which backpack is totally going to float your boat, it comes down to this: the Showers Pass Waterproof Backpack ranks at the top of the best waterproof backpacks for cyclists or if you have a laptop. The Filson Dry Backpack is great for hiking or you need a fishing backpack. And the Matador FreeRain 24L Waterproof Backpack is less than a hundred bucks.
Of course, that’s the quick version. A detailed look means we need to look at the many other factors you’ll want to consider. Among them, sizing, materials, what they’re designed for and why you’ll be using your backpack of choice. So let’s do that, shall we? Pull up a chair and let’s talk bout the best waterproof backpacks for 2021.
Please note: the product links in this blog post are affiliate links and I’ll get a commission (at no additional cost to you) if you buy one, which I will promptly use to top up my Gilligan’s Island DVD collection. Because, come one! A world ruled by Gilligan would be a very happy place.
Best Waterproof Backpacks: At a Glance
Waterproof backpacks help keep your gear dry when you expect to get wet. The good news: there are tons of options for you, no matter what your buyer’s criteria. These are the best waterproof backpacks for your money.
Best 3 Waterproof Backpacks Rated:
I would give honorable mention to the Simms Dry Creek Z as well – although each of the 13 backpacks we’re going to talk about are worth a closer look.
Waterproof Vs. Water-Resistant: What’s the Difference?
The difference between water-resistant and waterproof backpacks comes down to the materials used in their construction. Water-resistant backpacks can take a light drizzle, but they won’t give much protection if you’re caught in a storm, they fall in a river – or spend 5 minutes in Vancouver 😉
Waterproof backpacks are made with thicker and more specialized fabrics. They offer better protection, and while you probably don’t want to send one over Niagara Falls with your Playstation 5 in tucked away in its compartment, they can take a relatively good soaking.
So it’s like this:
Water-Resistant – These are generally made with plain nylon and are ‘resistant’ to water based on their thread counts. The higher the thread count, the more water-resistant the backpack should be.
Waterproof – Waterproof backpacks are usually nylon but they’re also treated with silicone, acrylic or polyurethane to guard against water leakage. The best waterproof backpacks can even be submerged in water – though again, it’s best not to throw your electronics in your local swimming hole.
Can a Backpack Be Water-Proofed?
A normal backpack can have some protection against light rain with a waterproof spray or a rain cover. You can also line the inside of your backpack with a heavy duty plastic bag, although these will offer less protection than waterproof backpacks or one that it at least water-resistant.
What is a Dry Bag?
A dry bag is a water-tight container that seals and floats to the surface. They’re usually made of plastic or water-proof fabric that, when folded at least three times at the top, makes a water tight seal that can protect valuables and stuff you really don’t want to get wet.
There aren’t many things in life more miserable than spending the night in a wet sleeping bag.
A dry bag is not a backpack and they’re not big enough to hold all the gear you would need for through hiking or spend much time in the outdoors. Still, they’re nice to have, and you can always keep your gear in them within your backpack while you do your thing.
Waterproof Backpacks: All Shapes and Sizes
There are a few more points we need to consider before we jump in to our list of the best waterproof backpacks for your eager-to-get-your-outdoor-on rear end. We need to talk about sizes.
You an buy a waterproof backpack as a day pack, a weekend backpack or a multi-day full-on hiking trip. The details:
Daypacks – These usually have a 25 to 35 Liter capacity. That’s enough for a change of clothes, food, water and a few small items like your Vortex Diamondback Binoculars. Hence the name day pack. They can carry what you’ll need for about a day.
Weekend Backpacks – These are typically between 40 and 50 Liters in capacity. That added size means you can bring a few extras, like a sleeping bag, some toiletries and a few more clothing changes. Wanna go desert hiking? A weekend backpack is ideal for desert clothing and the extra layers you’ll need.
Multi-Day Backpacks – This is a 50 to 70 Liter backpack. They come with harnesses for extra gear and are both large and sturdy enough for supplies to last about a week.
Expedition Backpacks – At 70 to 90 Liters, expedition backpacks are bigger, tougher and have ample room for gear, clothes and enough stuff to keep you going indefinitely. Wanna backpack across Europe? An Expedition Backpack will likely be the way to go.
Whichever size backpack you choose, a waterproof backpack can help protect your stuff from the spills, storms and general wetness the outdoors can throw at you. That’s all the more important if you live in a wet climate like Vancouver or Seattle or you’re backpacking across multiple countries and eco-zones.
When it rains, it pours. The following waterproof backpacks are worth every cent if you don’t want to ruin your adventure with soggy stuff.
Waterproof Backpacks: Buyer’s Criteria
We’ve talked about sizes. But there are a few more factors we need to think about when we look for the best waterproof backpacks and to ensure your stuff stays dryer than a frog’s rear. These include:
Weight – There’s an old adage for backpacking across Europe. Before you go, load up your backpack and walk around town. Then, before you travel, get rid of half your gear and take twice as much money. My point? Weight matters with backpacks. Your full backpack should not be more than 20% of your weight. That goes down to 10% if you’re day hiking.
Carry Options – Building on the previous point, waterproof backpacks have a variety of straps to help you comfortably carry your gear. A day sling like the Simms Dry Creek Z may only have shoulder straps, which is all you need given its lighter capacity.
A heavier backpack, like the SeaLine Pro Dry Bag, has backpack straps, sternum straps, shoulder straps and even carry handles, all of which combine to give you a variety of ways to comfortable haul your stuff.
Seams and Closures – These are very important on waterproof backpacks. Most products will have either zipper closures or pull-down closures. You can make a zip tight by tucking it beneath a waterproof covering. For pull-downs, latch and seal them with a material like water-resistant velcro.
Best Waterproof Backpacks: The Quick Version
I get it – you’re starved for time and don’t want to go through this huge blog post. You want the best waterproof backpacks for hiking, cycling, travel and the best product that clocks in under $200, yes? Well here they are:
Best Overall Waterproof Backpack: Filson Dry Backpack
Best Waterproof Backpack Under $100: Matator FreeRain 24L
Best Waterproof Backpack For Hiking: Yeti Panga
Best Waterproof Backpack For Thru Hiking/Long Trips: Gregory Men’s Zulu 65L
Best Waterproof Backpack For Cycling: Showers Pass Transit Waterproof Backpack
Best Waterproof Backpack For Traveling (Short Trips): Patagonia Stormfront 28L
Now, with that out of the way, let’s look closer at each of these backpacks – and a few more for good measure.
Best Waterproof Backpacks Under $150
Waterproof backpacks don’t have to be expensive. Some of the best and most durable products are well under $200. And while there might be prettier options, if you want a waterproof backpack and you’re on a budget, these guys are the way to go.
#1 – Matador FreeRain 24L Waterproof Packable Backpack (Under $100)
At just $64.99, you can afford the Matador FreeRain 24L Waterproof Backpack. This is a day pack that’s as comfortable in the mountains or by your favorite swimming hole as it is while dodging traffic on your ethically sourced e-scooter.
Wait, do they make ethically made e-scooters? I dunno, but the FreeRain24 is light, with two mesh pockets on the sides for water bottles and a water-resistant front pocket for quick access when the skies open up.
Also, its light size means the FreeRain24L packs easily away – and it packs a surprising amount of stuff in those 24L. It’s big enough to pack a waterproof jacket.
- Quick-Access Front Pocket
- Mesh Water Bottle Pockets
- Can Pack Away Easily
- Some Complaints About Shoulder Straps
- Not suitable for multi-day adventures
Best For: Hiking (Day Trips), Travel
#2 – Cotopaxi Ostra 30L Pack (Laptop Compatible!)
The Cotopaxi Ostra 30L Pack wins the ‘Most-Eye-Catching’ design on this list of best waterproof backpacks for 2021. With 30L of space, there’s plenty of room for travel junkies, or students – or students who are also travel junkies. If you’re one of them, you can take further solace knowing the Cotopaxi Ostra has a convenient clam-shell opening at the top for easy access, along with a stretch-stuff pocket on the front and each side for water or a rain jacket.
Also…wait for it…the Cotopaxi has a pocket for a 15 inch laptop computer, making it one of the few waterproof backpacks that can carry a laptop.
As for its waterproof ability, it’s made of nylon and coated with a Durable Water Repellant (DWR) spray, making it water-resistant. This won’t give you as much waterproof protection as the Patagonia Stormfront 28L, but for a hundred bucks, and with that laptop pocket, it’s a decent option for students and travellers on a budget who want to carry their laptop and have moderate protection from rain and the elements.
- Attractive Appearance
- Several Different Colors Available
- Large-ish Daypack
- Under $100
- Water-Resistant – Not Waterproof
- Some Issues With Short Chest-Strap
Best For: Students, Travel (Day Trips)
#3 – Ortlieb Packman Pro 2 Backpack
Assuming you’re in the market for waterproof backpacks, get used to the name ‘Ortlieb’. They make waterproof outdoor gear, and their Ortlieb Packman Pro 2 Backpack is of particular interest for several reasons.
First, it’s a very durable backpack, with users saying you can take it out in the bush and give it tons of abuse and it still sits there politely asking if that’s the best you can do.
Second, at just $134.96 at the time of this writing, the Ortlieb Packman Pro 2 brings more than just protection for your gear in the bush and the elements in general – it packs a heckuva lot of value too.
- Under $150
- Very Durable
- Good Water Protection
- Light Size
- Ideal For Day Trips
- Comes in Different Colors
- Helmet Flap is Not Waterproof
Size: 25 Liters
Best For: Day Hiking, Day Fishing, Short Cycling Trips
Best Waterproof Backpacks For Cycling
You cycle to work and you want to know which waterproof backpacks are going to get the job done.
Well, we’re going to look at Ortlieb again. Why? They make small-ish backpacks that are both light and durable. They’re highly functional too, and with a price tag that’s typically under the $200 mark, your accountant won’t speak in expletives when you submit your receipt.
Got a little more to spend? We can do that too.
#4 – Showers Pass Transit Waterproof Backpack (Top 3 Waterproof Backpack)
Here’s the scenario. You cycle to work, you live in Seattle, Vancouver or my hometown of beautiful Victoria BC – and you have a laptop. Unless you want your MacBook to quit after a full-on blast of Pacific Northwest precipitation, you gotta do something.
The Showers Pass Transit Waterproof Backpack is up to the challenge, and greatly exceeds it. That’s because it goes ballistic when it comes to rain – literally. Well, OK, not with a nuclear warhead, but the ballistic nylon and waterproof coating helps protect electronics from some of the harsher downpours you’ll see when you cycle.
It’s also got a series of well-thought-out and convenient pockets and compartments, which your 17 inch laptop will enjoy with abandon. LED lights are included – a nice touch on those early winter evenings.
This is one of the best three waterproof backpacks. If you have a laptop, it’s pretty much essential.
- Very Durable
- Perfect For Cycling
- Has A Laptop Compartment
- Good (and Convenient) Design
- Larger Size
- Comes With LED Lights
- Over $250
Size: 36 Liters
Best For: Cycling, Commuting
#5 – Ortlieb Vario QL2.1 Backpack
Don’t have $263 for a waterproof backpack? If you’re a cyclist, here’s your next option. The Ortlieb Vario QL2.1 Backpack brings that same Ortlieb durability with plenty of functionality to keep your stuff dry. You can use it as a bike pannier (so it straps on to your rear bicycle wheel). It’s also got mesh side pockets for a water bottle and a helmet flap, along with reflectors to make you a little more visible on those dark rides home.
Now add that Ortlieb waterproof durability and its budget-friendly price point and congratulations – you just found the best waterproof backpack for cyclists under $150.
- Under $150
- Durable Construction
- Mesh Side Pockets and Helmet Strap
- Comes With Reflectors
- Can Be Used as a Rear Pannier
Size: 23 Liters
Best For: Cycling, Commuting
Best Waterproof Backpacks For Hiking
There may be 101 things you can do with a waterproof backpack, but if you’re on this website, hiking may be near the top of that list. We got you covered there – well, your back at least – with some of the sleekest, toughest and, as a hiker, most useful waterproof backpacks you’re going to find. Let’s start with the best.
#6 – Yeti Panga (Top 3 Waterproof Backpack)
Let me be clear: you want the Yeti Panga if you fly fish. It’s made of a thick skin shell nylon with a TPU coating and Hydrolok Zipper seal that pretty much tells water to take a hike (bad pun, but it’s my blog, so it stays in!) – even if you drop it in water. This sucker is air-tight, and comes with internal mesh pockets to keep your gear organized and tucked away tightly.
At $300, it’s not the cheapest kid on the block, but it’s one of the top three best waterproof backpacks for your money. Yeti has a fine reputation for making outdoor gear, and the Yeti Panga has clearly been designed for fishermen, hikers and anyone who really, really wants to keep their stuff dry. That 5 year manufacturer’s guarantee is pretty sweet too.
The only downside? At 28 Liters, this is still a daypack. Granted, it’s slightly larger than average, but you’ll want something larger for hikes longer than two days or so.
- Excellent Quality
- Has an Internal Hydrolok Zipperseal
- Good For Fly Fishing or Hiking
- It’s a Yeti!
- 5 Year Money-Back Guarantee
- It’s $300
- May Be Too Small For 3+ Day Trips
Best For: Hiking, Fly Fishing
#7 – Gregory Men’s Zulu 65L Pack (Best For Thru Hiking and Longer Travel)
Our first true ‘Multi-Day’ waterproof backpack on this list, the Gregory Men’s Zulu 65L is a good option for mid-range (as in multi-day) hikers who may be interested in a larger like like the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in California. The Gregory Men’s Zulu 65L is not a true waterproof backpack. It is, however, water-resistant, and while I don’t suggest you throw it in the Pacific Ocean, it should be able to take a drench – something you will most certainly need if hiking in the Pacific Northwest.
I have a personal interest in this one. I have owned a Gregory Forrester backpack (now discontinued) since waaaaaay back in 2003. It’s taken me across Europe, Asia and even shark cage diving in California with Great Whites..
At 65 Liters, the Gregory Men’s Zulu is big enough for your food, gear, and enough clothes to keep you going for about a week. It’s also got a rain cover and two convenient bottle pockets, along with a sleeping bag access panel.
Speaking from experience, Gregory backpacks are both durable and well-designed for a long-day’s hike. If you want a water-resistant backpack for through hiking or a week in the woods, this is a very good option.
- Big Enough For Longer Adventures
- Has a Rain Top
- Removable Top Lid
- Good Design (You Can Easily Attach Gear and A Sleeping Bag)
- Excellent For Hiking
- Water-Resistant – Not Waterproof
Type: Multi-Day Backpack
Best For: Hiking, Traveling
#8 – Granite Gear Men’s Crown2 60 Pack (Super-Light!)
Before we get in a snit that the Granite Gear Men’s Crown2 60 Pack is 5 Liters smaller than the Gregory Men’s Zulu, check out this next part: it’s lighter too. As in, it just squeaks in at over 2 Ibs – yet it’s big enough to slog around 35 Ibs of your stuff.
Super light and super-comfy, the Crown2 has a much-loved adjustable hip-belt pocket for easy access and is a utilitarian’s dream, with mesh side pockets, a removable top and a unique ‘suspension’ frame that makes the Crown2 feel like you’re really not working that hard.
It may look like it’s straight out of the military, but if you want a good-sized water-resistant backpack for through-hiking or that Grand Canyon Rafting tour you’ve been dreaming about forever, the Crown2 more than steps up to the plate.
- Good Size
- Ideal For Through Hiking
- Adjustable Hip Pockets
- Water-Resistant – Not Waterproof
Type: Multi-Day Backpack
Best For: Hiking, Thru Hiking
Best Waterproof Backpacks For Travel
So you’re not a NavySeal and you don’t need a waterproof backpack to hike 20 miles in six feet of snow. You just want something for, say, Disneyland, or a good waterproof backpack for Prague in October (hint, it rains more than you might think).
There’s an answer for that too. Let’s look at the best waterproof backpacks for travel and help you pick which one is gonna keep your spare socks dry in those inevitable summer downpours that only happen when you’re on vacation.
#9 – Patagonia Stormfront 28L Backpack (Best Waterproof Backpack For Travel)
C’,mon, you just knew it was a matter of time before Patagonia snuck its way on here, right? The Patagonia Stormfront 28L might be, simply put, the best waterproof backpack for travel if you’re on a weekend adventure or need something for, you know, Vancouver, Seattle, or somewhere else where the Rain Gods are a little more influential.
It’s 28L of sheer waterproof backpack utility, made with thick nylon and a TPU coating that helps make the Stormfront 28L one mean rain-hatin’ customer. At this size, you can easily fit the Stormfront in an overhead carrier on your next flight. With a mesh back panel that wicks moisture, it breathes well too. Now add a lifetime guarantee from Patagonia, and you just found the best waterproof backpack for travelling.
- Ideal For Travel
- Should Fit in Most Overhead Travel Compartments
- Very Waterproof
- Good Breathability
- Lifetime Manufacturer Guarantee
- It’s Patagonia(!)
- It’s $299
Best For: Traveling, Fishing
#10 – Filson Dry Backpack **TOP PICK**
You might love or detest its rugged appearance, but if you have a problem keeping your stuff dry on the way to work/school/parts unknown, the Filson Dry Backpack is one mean water-hating customer. Well OK, maybe it doesn’t hate water, but as you might expect with construction like this the Filson Dry can definitely protect your gear from even the meanest of downpours.
It’s a roll-top backpack and abrasion-resistant. What that means in laymen’s terms: take it with you in the bush on short adventures and you’re less likely to scratch it. And here’s another reason it does so well: you can use it for pretty much any outdoor activity or travel for 24 hours. That includes fishing, hiking, kayaking or travel. Bonus points: you’ll look like a bad-ass while you do it.
The Filson Dry Backpack is my pick for the best overall waterproof backpack in 2021.
- Versatile (Can Be Used For Hiking, Fishing or Travel)
- Good Water-Proof Construction
- Doesn’t Scratch Easily
- Light Size
- Ideal For Fishermen, Kayakers, Hikers or Travelers
- Could Use An Exterior Water Bottle Pocket
Best For: Fishing, Hiking, Traveling
Best Waterproof Backpacks For Fishing and Kayaking
Fishermen and kayakers like waterproof backpacks. Who’da seen that coming? Our criteria for waterproof backpacks for fishing and kayaking are going to be a little higher than, say, a travel daybag because, well, you’re actually going to be on the water and your stuff might fall in. Relax, we got that one covered. These are some of the best waterproof backpacks for fishing and people who kayak.
#11 – SeaLine Pro Dry Pack (Two Sizes – Big and Huge)
When you travel by water with lots of stuff and you absolutely, positively have to keep it dry, the SeaLine Pro Dry Pack should get your attention. It’s made with PVC-Free waterproof materials and the seems are welded – yes, welded – so if you drop in the water, you should still be fine.
This is a large bag, with the base model being 75L and the bigger option clocking in at an eye-popping 120L of sheer gear-haulin’ power. You shouldn’t have trouble carrying it though – it’s both supportive and comes with an adjustable harness that can be customized to your torso, or removed completely. It’s also got plenty of padded straps and it can even be lashed on to boats, cars, heck, a horse-drawn carriage if you prefer.
Keep in mind the Sealine Pro Dry Pack may be more than you need. But if you travel by water, and you’ve got stuff, it’s a keeper.
- Two Large Sizes (75L and 120L)
- Welded Seams
- Very Durable
- Adjustable/Removable Harness
- Can Be Lashed On to a Boat
- Large to Very Large
Size: 75L or 120L
Type: Expedition Backpack
Best For: Long Fishing Trips, Kayaking or Canoe Trips
#12 – Simms Dry Creek Z 15L (Best For Day Trips in Very Wet Conditions)
The SeaLine Pro too big for you? Let’s scale down a little – in size, not quality. The Simms Dry Creek Z 15L is a great option for kayakers or fisherman who need something that’s easy to carry for a shorter trip on the water.
This is a sling pack, meaning it’s designed to easily ‘sling’ over your shoulder. The SeaLine Pro this ain’t – but it’s got just as much waterproof ability, with PU-coated 300D Polyester ripstop laminated with TPU and a TruZip Zipper. In non-geek terms: that means it’s highly waterproof, even when submerged in water.
If that didn’t get your attention, the lifetime guarantee just might. The Simms Dry Creek Z 15L is a small but mighty waterproof backpack. Tough, light and very high quality, it’s perfect for fishing and short trips on the water.
- High Waterproof Ability
- Can Be Fully Submerged
- Light and Easy to Carry
- Extra Lashings For More Gear
- Padded Straps For Easy Hiking
- Lifetime Guarantee
- Not Suitable For Longer Trips
Best For: Kayaking, Hiking
#13 – Orvis Waterproof 21L Backpack (Great For Fishing Day Trips)
Want another light waterproof backpack to fulfill your deepest and most gratuitous fishing and kayaking fantasies? I don’t know how deep we want to go there, but if you want a waterproof backpack with a little more size than the Simms Dry Creek, try the Orvis Waterproof 21L Backpack.
Like the others, the Orvis can take a spill and ask if that’s the best you’ve got. Made with 500D nylon and TPU-coating, it’s got a Flexseal YKK zipper that acts like a water-tight seal to the front pocket and main compartment.
Granted, I would not suggest you put your MacBook inside before your morning dip in the lake, but why would you bring that with you when you’re kayaking anyway? Unplug, friend. Then put your stuff in the Orvis Waterproof 21L backpack, then relax and know you won’t have wet socks when you need them most.
- Side Pockets For Gear and Hiking
- Can Take a Heavy Rainfall
- Perfect For Day Trips
- Almost $300
Best For: Fishing (Day Trips), Kayaking (Day Trips)
FAQs About Waterproof Backpacks
Do you have further questions about waterproof backpacks? Hope this helps!
Do I Need a Waterproof Backpack?
You tell me. Do you carry your current backpack in a wet climate? Do you camp, hike, fish, kayak and/or travel by water? Then you probably do.
Unless your current backpack has at least minimal water-resistance (with a high thread nylon count – or, better yet, one that is full-on water-proof), there’s a good chance you’re gonna have soaked stuff the next time you’re caught in a torrential downpour – or the next time said backpack falls in the drink.
Can I Make My Current Backpack Waterproof?
If you don’t currently have a waterproof backpack, you can make it more water-resistant with a waterproof spray or a rain cover. This doesn’t make it waterproof, but it might give you more protection the next time you’re caught in a drizzle.
What is the Difference Between Water-Resistant and Waterproof?
Water-resistant backpacks are generally nylon and made ‘water-resistant’ with a slightly higher thread count than a normal backpack. A waterproof backpack is also typically made of nylon, but they’re also treated with a chemical waterproof coating. They may have thicker zippers and covers as well.
For example, the SeaLine Pro Dry Pack has welded seams – and it can be fully submerged, along with several others in this blog post.
In other words, a water-resistant backpack should be OK in light rain. A waterproof backpack can take a bloody monsoon, get thrown in a river and still keep your stuff dry.
What is the Most Waterproof Backpack?
All of the backpacks we’ve talked about here offer at least decent water-resistance. Some are more waterproof than others. The most waterproof backpacks will likely be:
How Much Does a Waterproof Backpack Cost?
Anywhere from $70 to $300. You’re generally going to get better quality in the mid to high end of that range. That said, the Matador FreeRain 24L is just $65, and while it won’t offer the same waterproof protection you’d get with something like the Filson Dry Backpack, it offers decent water-resistance and it won’t hurt your bank account.
Can I Put My iPhone or Laptop in a Waterproof Backpack?
You can, but I wouldn’t dunk it in the river behind your house. A high quality waterproof backpack can protect you from a mean downpour, but if you want to test your waterproof backpack’s ability to go fully submerged on your next fishing trip, test it with socks – not your iPhone.
Which Waterproof Backpack Do You Most Recommend?
That depends what you want. If you’re a student or cyclist, think about the Showers Pass Transit. For hikers, try the Filson Drypack. My personal favourite? I like the Simms Dry Creek Z. It’s light and packs exceptional waterproof ability. And that, dear friend, is what the average person needs.