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?
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 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
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.
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.
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.