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Unless you live, work, and play in the desert, coming into contact with water while recreating outside is inevitable at some point. So how do you keep all your gear safe and dry in your backpack? Instead of using prone-to-fail rain covers or trying to shove your backpack under your raincoat, why not simply start with a fully waterproof backpack instead?
As waterproof could mean everything from rainproof to submersible, the level you need will depend on its intended use — whether it’s for rainy commutes to and from work or paddling trips where the pack could easily fall into the water. We picked our favorite backpack across all lines of the waterproof spectrum.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 35 OutDry Backpack
Whether you are hiking, climbing, or skiing, this waterproof pack will keep your gear dry thanks to a roll-top closure and OutDry waterproofing technology on the main compartment. OutDry technology uniformly laminates a custom shaped waterproof membrane to the inner surface of the pack, sealing both the seams and fabric in one step — so you no longer need to protect all your gear with garbage bags.
The Scrambler offers 35 liters of storage capacity in the main compartment as well as a separate hydration sleeve with drainage if you want to carry a hydration reservoir. Two deep side pockets hold water bottles, and a large front stash pocket — also with drainage — is perfect for storing wet or dirty gear. A loop and bungee system on the front of the pack can securely hold ice axes or trekking poles when not in use. Designed with a suspension system that conforms to the shape of your back and a padded hip belt and shoulders straps, the waterproof pack is comfortable enough for all-day use. The Scrambler is available in a variety of colors including gray, orange, brown, and black.
Best Budget: Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Day Pack
This ultra-lightweight daypack from Sea to Summit is completely waterproof due in full to siliconized CORDURA fabric and taped seams. A double Hypalon® roll-top closure adds an extra level of security against the elements. Weighing just 3.2 ounces, the tiny pack folds down into its own mini stuff sack so you can throw it in your luggage, larger backpack, or even pocket until needed — making it an ideal travel daypack or even summit pack. The main compartment offers 22 liters of storage space, while a compression lacing system along the front of the pack can be used to store an extra jacket or other gear. You can pick up the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Day Pack in sky blue, lime, or black.
Best Design: SealLine Urban Backpack
SealLine may be best known for their dry bags, but the brand brings the same rugged waterproof performance to their line of backpacks. Whether you live someplace rainy like the Pacific Northwest or get snowed on half the year out East, this waterproof backpack will protect your urban essentials regardless of weather.
The Urban Backpack is constructed with 100-percent waterproof materials and all the seams are welded to ensure no water can leak through. The roll-top closure adds an extra level of security against the elements while giving you quick access to your stuff. The 17-liter (size small) main compartment offers plenty of storage while a splashproof external zip pocket holds your quick access essentials such as wallet, phone, and keys. An internal frame sheet makes it more comfortable to carry heavy or awkwardly shaped loads. Color options are plentiful; choose from blue, green, gray, orange, or red.
Best Commuter: Ortlieb Commuter Daypack
Better looking than your average backpack, the Ortlieb Commuter Daypack will protect your laptop, phone, papers, and other gear from getting wet as you ride to and from work. The pack — available in ink (blue), pepper (gray), and coffee — is made from waterproof Cordura fabric, but it's made to look like a woven fabric for more of an urban vibe. A roll-top closure offers an extra level of safety against the elements as well as quick and easy access to the 21-liter main compartment. Inside, you’ll find a padded sub-compartment for your laptop or iPad. Ventilation channels in the back padding along with air-permeable shoulder straps ensure you don’t show up to work a sweaty mess. If you need extra security while riding in and out of traffic, there is a removable chest and waist strap to keep your pack from flopping around. The front of the pack features loops for a reflector or U-Lock and a zippered pocket for quick-access items like your office fob or keys — note this pocket is not waterproof.
Best for Watersports: Yeti Panga Backpack 28
Dunk it, sink it, or leave it out in the rain, but the inside of this pack isn’t getting wet. Whether you're kayaking or waist deep in water trying to land a rainbow trout, the submersible storm gray Panga will keep your valuables bone-dry. Similar to Yeti's soft-sided coolers, this backpack is both airtight and waterproof thanks to a puncture- and abrasion -resistant shell made of high-density nylon with thick TPU lamination. The HydroLok Zipper also works to keep even the most torrential downpour out while sealing the air inside. The main compartment offers 28 liters of storage space with a mesh pocket and sleeve to help organize your gear. The backpack straps are both durable and comfortable to wear all day, and for those times you need to hike to the lake or the river, a removable chest strap and waist belt add extra stability and security.
Best for Climbing: Exped Torrent
Constructed from an 840-denier nylon fabric with PU coating on the outside and TPU film laminate on the inside, this backpack will stand up to both the harshest weather and the roughest granite. A light suspension system with combination mesh- and foam-padded back panel make for comfortable carry of heavy loads. The padded hip belt is removable if you are trying to go as light as possible. The roll-top closure enables quick access to your gear while protecting it from the elements, and a reinforcement strap over the top can be used to secure a climbing rope. The 40-liter main compartment provides plenty of space for storing your rack, harness, shoes, apparel, and other gear required for a day in the mountains or on the rock. A small mesh pocket on the inside lets you keep your keys, phone, and other essentials easily accessible. If it won’t fit inside the pack, your helmet can be latched to one of three daisy chains on the front and sides of the pack. Depending on whether you're looking to stand out from the crowd or blend in, you can pick up the pack in black, olive, or bright lime.
Best for Skiing: Arcteryx Alpha SK 32
This lightweight, waterproof, and durable pack is designed to carry the essentials for safe backcountry travel in winter. With 32 liters of storage space in the main compartment, the pack is perfectly sized for a full day of skiing or snowboarding. A separate front pocket with drainage is designed to store and organize your shovel, probe, snow assessment tools, skins, and other gear, keeping them readily at hand while ensuring the pack’s main compartment stays secure and dry. While the pack’s lid is designed to securely carry a helmet, it’s also ideal for stashing ropes and other bulky items, keeping them out of the way, yet instantly accessible. A small, waterproof zippered pocket at the top of the pack also offers a secure place to store keys, phone, and other essentials.
The Alpha SK 32 comes with two 50 cm TPU straps for diagonal ski carry. You can purchase an additional three 50 cm straps if you prefer A-frame style carry, and for snowboarders, there is a 65 cm strap accessory for vertical carry. Choose from black or everglade yellow.
Best for SUP: Aquapac Deluxe Expedition SUP Backpack
If you want to venture further on your SUP, you need a place to safely stow your gear. Aquapac built the bright orange Deluxe Adventurer SUP exactly for this purpose. With 36-liters of capacity, you can store enough gear for an overnight. Quick-dry shoulder straps let you comfortably wear it as a backpack or, if you would rather strap it to your board, the pack includes four different lash points. A clear pocket at the front lets you safely store a map while two mesh pockets at the sides are perfect for stowing water bottles. The roll-top closure creates a waterproof seal an attaches to a set of compression straps to cinch down your load.