17 Apr

Waterproof Laptop Backpack Buying Guide or How To Never Again Worry About Rain

Working on a laptop outdoors

The basic reason for having a laptop backpack is to help you carry you laptop around while leaving your hands free. The second reason is protection. Protection against scratches, protection against damage if you accidentally drop it etc… Quite a big part of the protection, depending where you live and where you take your laptop of course, is protection against water. Water and computers and other electronics in general don’t go well together. You could say they are worst enemies. This is where a waterproof laptop backpack comes in.

Why Would You Want A Waterproof Laptop Backpack?

The Extremes

Your everyday ordinary laptop backpack is never really waterproof. There are some brands/backpack models that use words water resistant, water repelent or even waterproof but you have to be very careful. Majority of these are not really waterproof. They will stop the water for a bit, survive a little rain, but that is it. If things get wet you will want to have a real 100% waterproof laptop backpack. A real waterproof laptop backpack will safely carry your laptop and other gear like dry clothes, books, snacks, of photographic equipment even through heavy torrential rains, river upstream treks, boat rides… It will even float on water if dropped into the sea, giving water zero chance of entering.

Everyday Use

Some of these examples sound quite extreme. Not many people will find themselves in these situations, especially with their laptops. So you might ask yourself, do you really need a waterproof backpack for your laptop? These examples were just a few extremes to show what a pack that is really waterproof can handle. Here are a few more common instances where a fully waterproof laptop backpack can come in handy:

  • waterproof materials used in construction will not only stop water, they will also keep out  the moisture, so these kind of packs are great for those humid places on the planet;
  • there are a number of people who use bicycle or motorcycle for their commute while carrying their laptops in a backpack. What if it rains on one of those days when you are going to work on a bicycle or motorcycle? If you have a waterproof backpack, you don’t have to stop and look for shelter. You can keep going and be confident that your laptop is safe.
  • gadgets are everywhere – phones, laptops, cameras, drones, speakers, power banks, video games, headphones… I could go on. When travelling, going on trip, vacations etc… people usually take these with them, laptops included. Having a peace of mind while travelling, not worrying about the weather, about the water during boat rides, about where your backpack was dropped while in the hands of airport baggage handler is a nice bonus of owning a waterproof pack.
  • and finally for all those unplanned accidents like slipping and landing in a pool of rainwater, spilling your coffee all over your backpack… in times like that you will be happy your laptop backpack is waterproof.
Waterproof laptop backpack floating on lake surface

This is what a really waterproof laptop backpack can do. Don’t try this with your regular laptop backpack, at least not with laptop in it 🙂

How can you tell if the backpack that caught your eyes is really waterproof? What makes a 100% waterproof laptop backpack? And what is the difference between a waterproof and a regular backpack? Find out in the rest of this guide.

Differences between a Regular Laptop Backpack and a Waterproof One

The obvious difference between a regular backpack and a water-resistant one lies in the ability to prevent water from damaging your laptop. Regular backpacks are made to protect your laptop from damage due to scratches and falls. Some of them may also be water resistant, meaning they have the ability to keep the water out to a limited degree (like very light rain). However, anything more that, I wouldn’t trust them with my laptop.

On the other hand, waterproof laptop backpacks can prevent water from damaging your computer even in the most extreme case – when you drop them into the sea, lake, pool…etc. A real waterproof laptop bag can handle an hour of floating in the sea without a problem.

The reason for this difference is not only in the materials used. It is also in the production process. So what does it take to make a backpack really waterproof?

Features To Look For


The materials from which the bag is made have to be fully waterproof. Usually fabrics used in backpacks have pores (since all fabrics have pores). With some high end fabrics these pores are so small they (mostly) prevent water from passing through. This helps the fabric “breathe”. However, the ideal material for a waterproof backpack is one that has no pores at all. This will ensure that no water seeps through when the backpack gets in contact with water. Even if you leave it in water for a month.

But making a laptop backpack from 100% waterproof materials like tarpaulin, PVC, TPU…  is not the same as making it waterproof. There are many laptop bags out there that are made using waterproof materials but will not protect your computer in a strong rain. They will be able to handle some rain much better that your everyday backpack, but that is about it. Why? Because of construction.



Before waterproof fabrics are joined together to make the backpack, they are, first, cut into panels. These panels are then put together to make a backpack. Regular production technique, when you sew these panels together, creates holes which allow the water to get into the backpack. This might not happen during a short rain shower, but if the rain is stronger or if you have to leave your backpack in rain for a longer periods of time these holes will be the reason for the water to get in. And if the worst happens – these holes will surely leak if your backpack is dropped into a pool of water. Some manufacturers use silicone to block the needle holes but that is not a permanent solution. With time the silicone will break up and allow water to seep through the holes.

Ultrasonic Welding

The best waterproof laptop backpack for college (this is probably the most common use of laptop backpacks) is produced without sewing ensuring that no holes are created when pieces of backpack are being attached together. Instead of stitching, the materials are welded together using ultrasonic welding (a method that melts and bonds different panels of a backpack).

Waterproof zipper

Zippers are not the best way of closing the backpack if you want to keep it waterproof although the one pictured works pretty well

This construction technique is not that common and is reserved for products that are required to be 100 percent waterproof. The method involves the use of expensive machines which can only be operated by skilled technicians. Two different panels of the backpack are pressed together and ultrasonic waves directed to the aligned pieces. The energy heats up the two materials and permanently bonds them together. When the entire process is complete, the backpack should have no perforations whatsoever. Only then can you say that you have a waterproof laptop backpack.

Quick Waterproof Check

If you want to quickly check if your laptop backpack is really waterproof look for the stitches. If they go through the material into the main compartment, no mater what the tags say, the backpack is not really waterproof.


Given the intricacies involved in the manufacturing of a waterproof backpack, you should expect to pay a premium for it. First, the materials must be waterproof and are more expensive than the traditional materials. Second, ultrasonic welding must be used. The machines with the ability to do that are expensive and people operating them as well. Therefore, a backpack that’s 100 percent waterproof is more expensive than a regular one.

The Design

Waterproof backpacks usually don’t look very similar to regular backpacks. Due to material and construction limitations they look much less “fashion” and more “outdoor”. They usually also don’t have lots of extra pockets and features as these are expensive and difficult to make with this construction technique. So some people find them odd looking. Some better waterproof laptop backpacks however also have pockets and lots of other features. And they look good.

Waterproof laptop backpack for travel

Waterproof laptop backpack for travel

For a more in depth waterproofing guide check this article.

Waterproof Laptop Backpack Buying Tips

The Size of Your Laptop

The size of your laptop will determine how big the waterproof backpack needs to be. In most cases, laptop sizes range from from 13-inch to 17-inches. These sizes describe the screen size, not the size of the laptop itself. So be careful with some laptops whose physical size isn’t the same as the screen size. An old 15″ laptop can be much bigger and bulkier than a moder ultra thin one with almost no bezel.

Usually the size of the backpack itself is not a problem, you should however check the size of the laptop sleeve/compartment. On the other hand, not many waterproof backpacks even have a laptop compartment. The main goal here is to keep the water out. You can use your neoprene everyday laptop sleeve and put it inside the backpack to keep the computer protected. If the backpack has a special laptop sleeve then it should also have a label clearly indicating the laptop size that fits into it.

That being said, most of the waterproof backpacks available will fit a 15-inch laptop and off course consequently also smaller sizes such as the 11-inch and 13-inch. For a 17-inch laptop, you will have to use your own sleeve.

Other Things You Bring With You

Apart from the laptop size also think about how much other things you want to carry with you. If you are looking for a waterproof laptop backpack that you will use for travel then it should be way bigger than if you are looking for one to just bring your laptop to college everyday. Travel version should be around 50l, everyday college version somewhere 20-30l.

Top-Loaders, Zippers and Fold Down Closures

Fold down

The third thing that I did not mention before and also plays a crucial role in making a laptop backpack waterproof is how you close it. Every backpack obviously needs to have openings so you can put things inside the backpack. Closing these opening without letting the water in is a challenge. The most secure, tested and dummy proof method is the fold down closure. This means the backpack will have a large opening at the top with a spacious main compartment that allows for the storage of much more than just the laptop. You roll down the top of the backpack and buckle the ends together creating a waterproof closure.

Waterproof Zipper

As an alternative, there are also waterproof zippers that can be used for closing waterproof backpacks. Again, same as with the laptop backpacks themselves be very careful when waterproof zippers are mentioned. Waterproof zippers are a new invention and are at the moment extremely expensive. This means that there are only a few backpacks out there that use these. Most of the so called waterproof or water resistant zippers only have additional flaps over the zipper teeth that stop some of the rain from reaching the zipper. A real waterproof zipper can withstand a submersion without a problem. So right now the roll down closure is your best bet for making your pack completely waterproof.

Anything besides these two options and the backpack you are looking at is not really waterproof.

Purpose of the Bag


There a number of people who need a waterproof laptop backpack solely for travel purposes. Others need a backpack for work and the rest for college.

Traveling with your laptop

Traveling with your laptop

If you want to use the backpack for travel then make sure it will fit all your travel gear, not only your laptop. This means bigger size. As I have mentioned it before, around 50 liters is the ideal size for a travel backpack. Also – if you will choose the roll down closure, you can regulate the size of the backpack by the amount of times you fold the top.

For stopping the water you should fold it 3-5 times. But if your backpack is empty you can fold it a bit more. By folding it a bit more and letting all the air out of the backpack your will also be able to take even a 50l backpack with your on a plane as a carry on luggage. This is a great characteristic of waterproof laptop backpacks – their size and also shape is adjustable. Same backpack that can fit loads of gear can also be used as a carry on. Suitcases and regular backpacks with rigid backs can not do this (but are more suitable for carrying heavy loads). Also, for a travel waterproof backpack some external pockets for things you must reach quickly are a must (passport, wallet, phone etc…).

College and Work

The best waterproof laptop backpack for college or work may not be as spacious as one for travel. Usually you will not be bringing so many thing with you to work. Even so, it should protect the laptop from damage from scratches, falls, and water. It could have enough space to carry a book, pen, sweater or jacket, snacks and other things you use daily in college or at work.


As you can see, getting a real 100% waterproof laptop backpack isn’t hard. Not many backpacks out there tick all the waterproof boxes though so you need to be careful. Look for the features mentioned in this guide and your laptop will be 100% safe from water.

24 Feb

Ultimate Waterproof Travel Backpack Guide

The ultimate is such a big word, especially because with things like backpacks everyone has their own needs. But when we let go of the details and focus on what really matters in a waterproof travel backpack it’s obvious what the ultimate is. We are not talking about the size of the side pocket, zipper length, color etc. We are talking about the main things that make or break a waterproof travel backpack.

3 Essentials of the best waterproof travel backpacks

There are three main things that the ultimate waterproof travel backpack must have:

  • First it must be a backpack that will protect your things no matter what mother Nature throws at you. Sun, rain, snow, hail, fog, sand, wind, lakes, rivers, seas. The insides of the backpack must stay safe and dry.
  • Second, you have to be able to organize your things so they are quickly available when you need them. It must also be big enough to pack everything you need for traveling.
  • And third, it must be comfortable enough to carry.

Sounds quite simple, but in real life it is not. It is actually quite hard. Here is a guide that will help you find a backpack check marks all three. At the same time you will learn everything you need to know about buying waterproof travel backpacks.

Adventure travel

Traveling for more and more people no longer means lying on the beach or sightseeing. It means exploring the wilderness, going on adventures, doing sports… living an active life. You know the saying: “At the end of the day your hair should be messy, your feet dirty and your eyes sparkling”. For many, outdoor sports or activities are beyond a hobby. They are a a way of life. So not only during travels and vacations, for many being out in nature is a must on a weekly basis. The ultimate waterproof travel backpack is a companion that will follow you through all of this. It is an all in one backpack for active travelers going to rainy corners of the Earth, doing water related activities.

The call of the wilderness

The call of the outdoor adventure

This calling, the lure of being in touch with our environment hits more and more people every year. The busy way of life, too many screens around us, always being in a hurry, traffic jams… they all contribute to the call of nature. Healing power of outdoor combined with physical activity is what puts our minds at ease. Adventure tours in the past were aimed at those few adventurers and adrenaline junkies. Today they are the mainstream of tourist offers around the world.

These is no bad weather, just bad equipment

If you are reading this you are probably one of those people that can’t be stopped by obstacles, lousy weather or demanding terrain. You want a backpack that can cope with all of that. If by a chance you are not, then first check out a few examples where a full on waterproof travel backpack can come in handy.

When and where do you need a waterproof travel backpack?


Traveling obviously:). Depending on your travel destination and your travel style a waterproof backpack for travelling can be a real savior. If your travels include rainy locations, open trucks, motor bikes, boat rides, lots of walking outside… if there is a possibility of you getting caught in the rain, a waterproof travel backpack will keep your mind at ease so you don’t have to worry what will happen to your things if it starts to rain.

In some locations it doesn’t even have to rain. With all the humidity in the air your clean clothes will soon start to feel damp if left in a regular backpack. And secondly, it is not just the travelling itself. It is also all the activities that you do while travelling. Why carry and extra backpack just for these when your travel backpack can cover it all. One backpack for the travelling itself and all the adventures where you can get wet. Here are just some examples where it can come in handy.

From surf trips to jungle hikes


About ten years ago, near the end of my New Zealand visit, I went on The Classic, 8 days and night of trekking around Milford Sound, one of the most beautiful Southern Island fiords. Besides pristine nature and breathtaking sights, one thing you should bear in mind is the unpredictable weather. Regardless of the season, at any time it could pour in heavy rain or snow. Milford Sound has up to 700 mm of rain per month, and we were caught up in this rainy bit of weather.

I had a regular high-end backpack that I thought could stay dry on the inside under the heavy rain, but it didn’t. Not that it ruined our track, but I was worried about my electronic equipment. Taking photos was one of my girlfriends most important activities, so having the right waterproof travel backpack would have saved me a lot of troubles.

Heavy rain is also unavoidable in all tropical trails, and the rain forest has that name for a reason.

Fishing comes in many forms and they all involve water 🙂


Have you ever been trout fishing? Trout live in a very clean environment and rivers suitable for this species have pretty cold water. Standing in the crystal clear, fast stream of water on a warm summer day is one of the best feelings there is. Serenity is absolute, nothing but a silent buzz of water and the waiting. Standing for a couple of hours in this beautiful place gives you another perspective. You stil need to have something to eat and drink, and maybe a smartphone or camera to capture the big fishing moments. One convenient way to store your stuff is a 100% waterproof backpack.

Rafting, kayaking, canoe…

River, lakes, and sea are also perfect for kayaking. And while rafting is a sure bet for getting all wet, with a kayak you can actually travel around. Multi day trips, exploring secret bays, escaping the crowds… kayak travel is increasing in popularity. Regardless of your kayak quality or the style of your paddling, water will get into your boat eventually.  Whether you’re exploring Adriatic archipelago or Thailand Islands, again a waterproof backpack can save you. And when your park your kayak on a hidden dream beach of your choice? Land exploration can begin using the same backpack.

Touring kayaks and exploring the otherwise inaccessible coastline is an adventure that you have to put on your bucket list.

Surf trips

A dream surf trip usually means: lots of water, boats, sand, tropical locations with possible tropical rain storms. It is obvious why a good waterproof travel backpack is a must for surfers. Even for everyday surf back home a backpack like that will solve your “dripping wet wetsuits” problem.

Boat trips are surfers dream

Stand up paddling, hunting, going to the beach…

These were just some of the outdoor adventures where a waterproof travel backpack can either save your ass or at least be very useful.

How to keep your clothes and gear dry

If you hang out with experienced adventurers that have +20 years in their tracking/hiking/outdoor activities, you could hear lots of tips and tricks on how to preserve your things dry. They range from using your everyday plastic shopping bags and pre-wrap everything you put in your backpack to putting things into a dry bags, and then into the backpack. But none of these are really good solutions. What if there is another way? Not just a little dry bag but a regular full blown backpack. One that stops even a single drop of water from getting in? A waterproof travel backpack that can save your DSLR camera in relentless rain in the jungle. That will survive wild river trips and keep all of your clothes dry. And that at the same time doesn’t cost a fortune?

The market for waterproof backpacks blossomed in the last few years. However not all waterproof backpacks will really keep your things dry. From those that will, not many are really suitable for traveling. They are just too simple for more versatile and demanding use. Here is what you need to look for.

Regular backpack vs. waterproof backpack

There are a lot of high-quality “regular” travel and adventure backpacks that will serve you perfectly if you are traveling across Europe by train or even in controlled outdoor activities. They could even sustain some rain and keep things dry inside. Depending on where and how you travel you might never encounter heavier rains where a full on waterproof backpack would be the only solutions. But besides keeping your stuff dry, a waterproof backpack gives you something else. A peace of mind. It is an insurance that if things go wrong and by wrong I mean wet, you won’t have to worry.

Stand up paddle trips can last a few days with the right equipment

So what separates a regular and a waterproof backpack? The main differences between the two are the materials used and the way backpacks are assembled. The way regular backpacks are produced they can NEVER be 100% waterproof. We have a whole article dedicated to different levels of waterproof. If you want a really in depth explanation check it out. Here is a summary:

Waterproof backpack materials

Fabrics by their default are not waterproof. Backpack fabrics and cloth, in general, are woven together from individual fibers. In between these individual fibers there is always a little room. This is where the water gets in. Even the thinnest fiber woven very closely together can not stop the water 100%. To make the fabric 100% waterproof the only option is by laminating the fabric and completely closing all the holes. This material will not breathe, but it will perfectly do its job of protecting from the water. You can leave it floating in the sea forever and water will not get through.

There are some more expensive materials that can breathe and hold water at the same time. In real life it turns out their waterproof capabilities are limited. In heavier conditions sooner or later water gets in. If you want a real waterproof backpack then the material must be 100% waterproof and NOT breathable.

Production process

The other important thing is the production process. Regular production process involves stitching. Stitching makes holes in the fabric and this is where the water gets in. Even with 100% waterproof material, if it is stitched together the backpack will not be waterproof. You would be surprised how much water can get in through a few stitching holes when you expose the backpack to heavy rain or drop it into the sea. Combining the material and production technique, we can sort all the backpacks into several levels of waterproof.

From water resistant to really waterproof

Companies use the term waterproof very loosely these days. Here is my explanation what water resistant and waterproof means. Learn how to look past the labels that marketing departments put on the products. If you are shopping for a really waterproof backpack, you should read this section before you go out and buy it!

But let’s see what really makes a backpack waterproof? I could grade backpacks with levels from 0 to 3.

Level 0: Ordinary backpack

At the lowest waterproof level there are backpacks made of conventional materials. Your standard fashion, business, college…etc backpacks. They can withstand light drizzle if you run for cover right away. These backpacks usually don’t even mention water resistance in their description. Obviously they don’t stop the water even for a bit and they are not meant to.

Level 1: Water resistant backpack

The next level are water resistant backpacks. These level 1 backpacks are made from materials that try to stop the water, but also have some breathability. The price of the materials in this group determines how long they will keep the inside of a backpack dry. They can withstand lighter rains for a while without a problem. Prolonged exposure to rain will reveal their insufficiency in water protection. Water will also get in through stitches.

Level 2: Waterproof materials, regular production

At this level we already have some serious players. Level 2 backpacks are made of materials that are 100% waterproof. The material itself will not leak even when it is soaked in water. The problem is in the production process. The production process is the real obstacle with waterproof backpacks. Getting the right materials is easy, but making a backpack out of them is hard. Level 2 backpacks although made out of waterproof materials are stitched together. Sometimes the stitches are even additionally taped to make them more waterproof. Even with this extra protection this is not a backpack that you want to drop into the sea. Especially if they have taped seams you can use these in rain even for a longer time without a problem.

Level 3: The ultimate waterproof backpack

That leads us to the ultimate level of waterproof backpacks. These babies are 100% waterproof. They are made out of the same waterproof material as level 2 backpacks, but no stitches are used in the making process. Instead production uses a technique called Ultrasonic Welding. Special machines use a high level of ultrasonic waves that are pointed into the fabric. These waves transform into heat which bonds two waterproof layers together making the seal completely watertight.

Waterproof travel backpack floating in the sea

An example of the ultimate travel backpack from this category is the DryTide backpack. Backpacks like these can survive indefinitely long walks under heavy tropical rain, the will survive lying in a water-filled kayak, floating by the fisherman in the river, falling overboard into the sea, they will even survive a short submersion.


1. No matter what anyone tells you, there are no completely 100% waterproof backpacks. The reason is not in the fabric or the production process. The problem are the openings that backpacks need so we can fill them up with our things. These openings are their weakest link and none of the closing methods are ideal. This is why we wrote under Level 3 that backpack will survive a shorter submersion. We talk more about the closing systems later on.

2. The 0 to 3 level ranking comes from my own experience combined with some online sources. It is not an official ranking system meaning the sales person in an outdoor store will have no idea what you are talking about if you mention that you want to buy a level 3 waterproof backpack:).

With materials and production process explained, here is a list of features you want in an ultimate waterproof backpack for travelling. This can be your waterproof backpack shopping guide.

What to look for in an ultimate waterproof backpack?

Packed and ready to go

The essentials


Obviously. If it is not made out of laminated fabric using ultrasonic welding, then its probably not really waterproof. In your waterproof travel backpack, you want heavy-duty 100% waterproof cloth that can keep water out regardless of the exposure time. It has to be constructed without stitches using high frequency welded seams protecting the inside from dust, sand and water. An added plus of this is that the inside the waterproof backpack becomes trapped once you close it. This means these kind of backpacks will float on the surface of the water. Of course, you can let the air out before closing it if you want to.


Carrying small dry bags for the essentials that can not get wet is not very practical. Wouldn’t it be better if everything you own would stay dry: your camera, wallet and keys as well as all your clothes, snacks and other things you carry with you. The size of the backpack depends on your travel needs, but basically you want a backpack with a big around 50 liter waterproof main compartment. This gives you plenty of space for a few days of travelling. A good thing about waterproof backpacks is you can easily regulate their size but more on that later when we come to closing systems.


Carrying 50l of gear is not a walk in the park. This is why regular dry bags are useless for serious travel. You need a real backpack for that. Look for a backpack that has real shoulder straps. They should be wide, adjustable and padded. Using non-water absorbing foam that will not soak in water is a plus. Also look for a backpack that has a hip belt that will help distribute some of the load on to your hips and prevent the backpack from moving around too much.


100% waterproof material is not breathable. This means your back will get even hotter and sweatier than with a regular backpack. A padded back makes quite a bit of difference. Again, look for non water absorbing foam.

Closing systems

Closing a waterproof travel backpack in a way that doesn’t let the water in is one of the bigger challenges with these kind of backpacks. In fact it is such a challenge that none of the backpacks can survive being submerged into the water for a really long periods of time. This is also the reason that these kind of backpacks are usually very plain without many opening and closing options. Here are all the available closing methods:

Even the heaviest tropical rain storms can not penetrate these backpacks


This is currently the best system for closing waterproof backpacks. You fold
the top of the backpack three to five times and then buckle the ends together or to the side of the bag. This will seal the backpack and stop the water from entering. This system is best because it is simple and fail proof. It is the closest you can get to 100% waterproof.

Be aware that water will however still get in if the backpack is submerged for a longer period of time. The pressure of the water will slowly push the water through the fold down closure and water will slowly get in. I have repeated slowly two times on purpose – this does not mean the water will flush in and your stuff inside the backpack will get soaked. You will have more than enough time to react before the folded part is compromised, so there is no need to panic even if your backpack is pushed under water.

USING FOLD DOWN TO REGULATE THE SIZE: Another upside to the fold down closure is that you can use it to regulate the size of the backpack. The more you fold it, the smaller the backpack gets.


The biggest downside of waterproof zippers is that real waterproof zippers are extremely expensive. They also have to be pulled all the way or of course water will get. This makes them a little less fail proof, you have to be really careful every time you close the backpack. Because of the price these are seldom used and not really worth it. I hope they get cheaper in time.

There is also a more affordable (but still expensive) version of these zippers that are rated as rainproof. These zippers are very tight and stop the water quite successfully, but they could not be rated as completely waterproof. They can survive heavy rain but when dropped into water the water will get in. By the way – do not confuse these with regular zippers that have rain flaps over them. These are quite cheap and don’t stop the water much better that a regular zipper.

Other features

Without keeping the water out of the backpack, all the extra features are useless. But once we have solved the waterproof equation, it’s time to move on to other key features that you want in your backpack. The best waterproof travel backpacks will also have some of these:

Pockets, straps, bungee cord… You can also see the laminated fabric and welded seams that make this backpack 100% waterproof


This is the main feature in this section. External pockets are extremely useful for organizing your things but quite rare in waterproof backpacks. Only top of the line backpacks feature real outside pockets. There are two reasons for this. First is that the above mentioned waterproof production process is a lot more demanding than regular stitching, so pockets are complicated and therefor expensive to make. And second, pockets again have openings that are hard to make waterproof. And you would expect waterproof pockets on a waterproof backpack.

Cheaper models have simple mesh pockets that are of course not waterproof and don’t even need closing, what would be the point. Top of the line backpack however should have pockets with high quality zippers that will have no problems stopping rain. Anything less than that and outside pockets will only be useful for things that can get wet without a problem (like your flip flops, water bottles etc… ). An ultimate waterproof travel backpack should have a pocket or two that can survive walking in the rain so your wallet, phone, snacks etc…are always close by.


Everybody owns a laptop so an internal laptop pocket is a nice feature to have inside the main compartment. If the laptop pocket/sleeve is removable even better.


I have already mentioned that when closing a waterproof backpack air will get trapped inside. You can get rid of most of the air by squeezing the backpack and pushing the air out before closing it. But if you really want “all” the air to go out then look for a backpack with an air release valve. An air release valve will let you push the air out of the backpack after the backpack has been closed. It will also stop the water from getting in through the valve. In my opinion this is an optional feature.


Some bags and backpacks are partly made out of transparent material, they have a window that you can use to look inside of the backpack without opening it. This way you can check where your things are before reaching into the backpack. This is also optional, especially if you have external pockets.

Why aren’t waterproof backpacks more widely used?

There are lots of misconceptions regarding waterproof backpacks for travel. Two questions stand out the most.

100% waterproof backpacks are expensive.  Not true at all. You can find top of the line waterproof backpacks for under 200USD. Yes, this makes them a bit more expensive than some regular backpacks, but the added benefit of a backpack being fully waterproof is more than worth the difference. On the other hand, even regular backpacks can be up to 2 or 3 times more expensive.

Waterproof backpacks are considered fragile. Not true. Heavy duty laminated cloth and welded seams make these kind of backpacks really sturdy so they don’t puncture and tear any easier that regular backpacks. Some caution is for sure needed because if you puncture a waterproof backpack water will get in. If you tear a regular backpack…well, it wasn’t waterproof in the first place.

A few tips for using and travelling with your waterproof backpack

Backpack care

Don’t put sharp objects inside the backpack and also avoid putting or dragging your backpack over sharp surfaces like sharp rocks, thorns etc… Waterproof backpacks are durable but since puncturing it will ruin the whole idea of owning a waterproof backpack it pays to be a bit careful.

If your backpack gets dirty, you can easily wash it with fresh water. If you were using it in saltwater make sure you rinse the zippers to avoid the salt from jamming the zipper. Do not wash the backpack in a washing machine.


Backpacks and air travel

Can you take your waterproof travel backpack with you on the plane as a personal item/carry on luggage?

This of course depends on the size of the backpack, but even more on how much did you fill it. Unlike suitcases that have a hard shell and hold their shape no matter how much things you put inside them, the size of waterproof backpacks is adaptable. This means that if you fill your let’s say 50l backpack to the top it will for sure be to big and you will have to check it in. But you can fill this same backpack just halfway and you can take it on board without a problem. Roll down the top of the backpack to make it smaller and make sure you squeeze out the air before that.

In I have traveled with a waterproof backpack plenty of times going to Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Indonesia, Italy etc… and I never had any problems. The only “problem” was that carrying black waterproof backpack makes you look a bit like a navy seal I guess :).

Checking in your waterproof backpack into the hold of the airplane

Make sure you don’t leave anything valuable inside, take your camera, laptop and things like that with you. Also, as with all the backpacks – all the straps and buckles on backpacks can get caught in narrow places possibly damaging the backpack. If you want to be extra safe, put your backpack into a plastic bag.


A few packing tips and trick for easier travels:

  • When packing a backpack keep in mind which things from the backpacks main compartment will you need first and then put them on top. For instance: if you are going to the airport, you will have to take out the laptop at the security check so make sure it’s ready at the top.
  • Put plane tickets, passports, small snacks etc… in external pockets so they are quickly available and you don’t have to open the main compartment to get them.
  • I also like to put all my clothes in an extra cotton bag before putting them into the backpack so they stay together in one piece. Otherwise after taking other items like camera, snacks…etc out of the backpack a few times your clothes will be all over the place.
  • If you are going surfing keep an extra drybag or a changing mat for your wet things after the surf session so you don’t mix them with your dry clothes then put the wet things in first and dry clothes on top of them. If your your boardshots, swim suit is wet you can use external pockets for that.
  • Pack light. You will have to carry everything on your shoulders so the lighter the backpack the more enjoyable the trip will be.

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