10 Dec

How to Choose the Best Waterproof Motorcycle Backpack

Riding a motorbike is a way of life for most bikers. Powerful machine underneath, open road in front and unparalleled sense of freedom are what keeps die-hard bikers on the highways and roads on the first sign of spring. Some motorcycle lovers are occasional bikers, some need a ride every day, and there are more and more serious travelers that cover vast distances on their motorcycles. Regardless of the type of biker or motorcycle, most of them need a reliable way to pack their stuff. Although there are some nice motorbike top and side cases and boxes, bikers also tend to like backpacks. Especially a waterproof motorcycle backpack. One of the reasons is the overall appeal and looks, and other is that they are very practical.

Man driving motorbike through forest
Riding through forest. Photo: Jan Fillem

Motorcycle backpacks are a more modern alternative to the saddlebags. For long distance travel you will probably still need both boxes, cases and a backpack, but in this article we’ll focus on how to choose the later.


Riding a motorcycle is a way of life.

There are a couple of things that are very important when choosing motorbike backpack. Weight, fit and durability are all important, and we will address all of these later on in the article. However the most essential feature for any motorcycle backpack is protection from weather, mainly rain and dust. With that in mind, we have prepared a guide that answers the question what it means for the backpack to be 100% waterproof. You will also learn what else you have to look for when getting best waterproof motorcycle backpack.

Why Should You Get a Waterproof Motorcycle Backpack?

Rain falling on an empty road perfect for motorcycle
There is no bad weather, just bad gear. Photo: Noah Silliman

How often do you ride is the first question you need to answer? This is important for two reasons. If you can’t make it through the day without your motorbike, your backpack needs to be durable and waterproof. For casual riders, you can pass with a regular backpack or even no backpack at all. When the weather is bad you just stay at home. But even for casual drivers and motorcycle commuters to work, we would recommend a waterproof backpack. You never really know how your ride and the day will unfold.

Bikers are exposed to weather condition. A quick summer shower, light spring drizzle or first autumn rain that catches you on the highway will be even less fun without appropriate equipment. Brands of 100% waterproof motorcycle backpacks like DryTide will keep your belongings safe and dry even in the worst weather condition. You won’t have to worry about clothes or electrical equipment like laptops or cameras.

What Makes the Backpack 100% Waterproof?

In some places a waterproof motorcycle backpack is a must
Some places are so rainy and the rainfall can be so strong that hawing a waterproof motorcycle backpack is a must. Photo: Oliver Sjostrom

The first thing you should look for is material. If you’re looking from purely design and attractive looks point of view then regular backpacks might seem a better option. Making a regular backpack is much easier and allows for more design freedom. They are however manufactured in such a way that they can not protect your stuff in the rain. The cloth used in regular backpacks and the way the material is woven together always leave room for the water to get in. What you need is unique production process and 100% waterproof fabric. These are your only option for real water protection.

Waterproof laminated fabric, welded seams without stitching and fold down closure are three essentials of a waterproof backpack.

The weakest link for any waterproof motorcycle backpack are the openings. No closure system is really 100% perfect, even if some manufacturers falsely claim so. This can be an issue in extreme circumstances that occur in outdoor water related adventures. If there is a chance that you will literally end up in the lake, sea or river, then this is something to keep in mind. When it comes to motorcycle use, a waterproof motorbike backpack really offers 100% protection. There is absolutely no chance that even the heaviest torrential tropical storm can get in your backpack while riding your motorcycle. Off course under the condition that you have a high quality waterproof motorcycle backpack that you have closed properly. 

The Four Levels of Waterproof

We could grade types of backpacks (check the link for more detailed explanation of waterproof levels) according to how well they keep the water out.

  • The lowest level backpacks are made from conventional materials that are not suitable for rainy conditions and don’t stop the water at all. 
  • Next there are bags made of materials that try to stop the water but also have some breathability. These ban can stop the rain for a short amount of time.
  • This is where the first serious waterproof backpacks are. They are made using waterproof materials, but still use stitches. Stitches are where the water can get in.
  • Real 100% waterproof motorcycle backpacks are made out of the waterproof material that will not leak even under water and they also use production technique of Ultrasonic Welding instead of stitching. With this production process heat connects two impermeable layers making a watertight seal and leaving no holes for the water to get in.


Because of the more complicated production process pockets in waterproof backpacks are usually found in higher end models.

A backpack from this last category will withstand heavy rain and even being soaked in water. They will pretty much take every water or dust challenge that you can think of. Their weakest link are as said above the openings, but when using backpacks like these on a motorcycle the only real issue can be with outer zippers.

External Pockets

Mid range models can have simple pockets and usually regular zippers. Regular zippers do not work well when it comes to stopping the water from getting into the pockets. These kind of pockets are not really meant to keep your things dry, you need to use the main compartment for that. If you want pockets that don’t let the rain in you want a rainproof or a waterproof zipper. For motorcycle backpacks, both types of these zippers will suffice with one condition. You need to pull the zipper all  the way. Otherwise, all the material, production and waterproof feature will not help, cause water always finds a way. Since 100% waterproof zippers are extremely expensive, go with rainproof ones. A really good rainproof zipper usually stops the water even if the pocket is submerged in the water.

Most Wanted Features for Motorcycle Waterproof Backpack

100% Waterproof

How can you recognize a 100% waterproof motorcycle backpack? The first clue that the backpack that you are looking at is not genuinely waterproof are the stitches (see the photo below). If your pack has them it’s probably not 100% waterproof. It might still provide some protection from rain depending on the material used in production and possible additional sealing of the stitches, but it is not the real deal. The backpack has to be constructed with above mentioned Ultrasonic Welding to eliminate stitches.

Welded seams on a waterproof motorbike backpack
This is how welded seams look like. Notice that also every feature on the backpack (pockets, padded back…) needs to be welded to it, not sewn. This is how a perfect waterproof motorcycle backpack should look. Photo: Mowgliii

Best system for closing waterproof backpacks is fold-down closure. You need to fold the fold down closure in a 100% waterproof backpack like DryTide three to five times and then buckle the ends together or to the side of the bag. For motorcycle backpack, this will seal it completely. Unless you plan to drive with Aquaman under the ocean, your stuff will remain dry.

Fit and Adjustability

What you are looking for here are adjustable shoulder straps, hip belt and padded back. This will help you get a good fit and will make the backpack comfortable to carry. Motorcyclist especially needs perfect and comfortable bond between body and backpack. A nice additional feature found in DryTide backpacks is the use of non-water absorbing foam for the shoulder straps and back padding. This kind of foam will not soak in water and will be dry much faster than regular foam.

Volume and Pockets

Pockets and compartments are an essential features that make the backpack. Usually higher end backpacks have more pockets, giving you more options to organize your things. You will also find than only a few top of the line backpacks have pockets designed to be waterproof and equipped with high quality rainproof zippers.

The size of the backpack should partly be related to your height and constitution and partly to the intended use. Most bikers that will pack for more than one day and take with them some clothes, maybe a laptop, camera and personal hygiene essentials, bags between 40 and 60 liters are ideal. So for the main compartment, the middle ground that you should look for is a volume of around 50 liters.

If the backpack has an internal laptop pocket this is a nice plus. 

Other Things to Consider

Once you choose a waterproof backpack, there are also some other features you need to address. 

Heavy Duty Materials

Toughness is another essential feature, especially for die-hard bike fans that can’t stand a single day without a ride. For long and frequent rides, you need to have a durable backpack.  Go for a heavy-duty and sturdy backpack that can take whatever you throw at it. The good thing with waterproof models is that they are relatively lightweight.  At the same time they are also quite durable, so they check all ticks regarding quality and sturdiness.

motorcycle waterproof backpack for bike travels
Exploring the of the beaten track places with your motorbike and a backpack. Photo: Iswanto Arif

Drag

Another critical thing for bikers is the drag factor. This is why it is really important that you can adjust the backpack so it sits on your back perfectly.
The backpack has to fit nicely so adjustable shoulder straps, and a hip belt are a must.

Design also plays quite a big role here, a slim simple design is best as it creates the least drag. The plus with waterproof backpacks is that the material producers use is really smooth minimizing drag from the material itself. Also, if you look at the design, these kind of packs are usually also pretty slim and compact. Then again the design is also important when it comes to that cool factor. So make sure you not only get a backpack that works but also one that looks good:)!

Protection

Although it’s not their primary purpose, waterproof motorcycle backpacks and backpacks in general do provide extra support during accidents. Having a backpack can decrease the chances of sustaining a back injury, however a backpack should never be a replacement for real protection.

Motorcycle Backpack Packing Tips

Packing for motorcycle travel
When it comes to packing, less is more. Photo: Annie Spratt

Once you choose your gear, it’s time to pack your stuff and hit the road. Here you will find a couple of packing rules and tips for motorbike travel. By packing correctly you can just focus on enjoying the ride.


You should roll your clothes because they will take less space than when folded.

Put smaller stuff into bigger like for instance, rolled up t-shirt into a boot. You should always pack with the same system, put the laptop in its compartment, clothes always rolled and in the same place. This way you will always know where your things are. Use the pockets wisely and try to keep documents, toiletries, and other stuff always in the same compartments/pockets. The overall philosophy of packing for a bike ride should be less is more for the apparent reason of space scarcity. It is in our nature that we take more stuff than we actually need. How many times did you return home with a pile of clean clothes that you did not use. Keep that in mind when packing.

For more packing tips from motorcycle travel experts (also for a list of things to take with you) you can check Ride Adventures packing article or Ride Stop n Go bike packing article (especially if you are a woman biker).

DryTide

You have probably noticed that we have mentioned the DryTide waterproof backpack a few times in the article. It is of course our suggestion for your waterproof motorcycle backpack. Why? Big main compartment, big back pocket with rainproof zipper, smaller top pocket also equipped with rainproof zipper, removable inside laptop pocket with added mesh pocket and two side water bottle pockets will help you organize your belongings, so they are always ready and at hand.

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