A waterproof backpack can be an essential piece of gear when out in the wild. The best waterproof backpacks keep your gear dry no matter the conditions.
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How to Choose the Best Waterproof Backpack
Not all waterproof backpacks are created equal. As fly fishermen we know a thing or two about waterproof backpacks. Many backpacks claim to be waterproof but in reality there are only two types of backpacks that are really waterproof and not just water-resistant.
The first of these two are so-called waterproof rolltop backpacks. They are made from an entirely waterproof fabric and are closed by rolling the top so no water can get inside. Then there are so-called submersible waterproof backpacks. They provide the utmost in protection from the elements since they feature waterproof zippers. As the name suggests, they can be fully submerged unter water and will still keep everything on the inside dry.
In this review we want to give you our favourite options from each category. Waterproof backpacks, and especially submersible ones, are more expensive than normal (water-resistant) backpacks. Since the technology behind these waterproof backpacks is more elaborate (especially the zippers) there is a reason for that. From our experience you should make no compromises when it comes to keeping your gear dry. Especially if you are going to remote places, the least thing you need is your gear to not hold up to your expectations.
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Best Waterproof Roll-Top Backpacks
In this first part of the review we want to take a look at waterproof roll-top backpacks. As mentioned above they close by rolling up the top and securing it with a buckle. These waterproof backpacks are a little less expensive than the submersible ones. They will keep your gear dry unless you plan on submerging your backpack. (If that’s the case check our favourites further down).
DIMENSIONS: 20″H x 12 ½”W x 6 ½”D; CAPACITY: 28L
The Filson Dry Backpack is one of our favourites for its clean and minimal look. Yet, at the same time it offers 100% waterproofness due to its PU-coated 840-denier nylon. The Filson is incredibly durable and one of the only roll-top backpack that is fully submersible. For their Filson Dry Backpack, the company uses a stitching technique that is applied for white-water rafting gear, making sure the backpack lives up to its promises no matter the conditions.
On the backside the Filson Dry Backpack features a breathable pack panel and very comfortable padded shoulder straps ensuring all-day comfort. We liked the fact that this backpack is equipped with D-rings so you attach extra gear such as a GPS or water bottle. A sternum strap makes weight distribution easy. The Filson Dry Backpack features a small mesh pocket on the outside (not waterproof) and one for your essentials on the inside.
- Fantastic built quality made for the harshest environment
- Small outside pocket (not waterproof) provides easy access to essentials
- Fully submersible
- A few more options to attach additional gear would be great
SPECS: Made from 300D Polyester Ripstop. Comes in one size and two colors.
Montana-based manufacturer Simms produces some of the greatest outdoor gear in the world of fishing. They know a thing or two about producing waterproof gear (take a look at their waders). Their brand new Dry Creek Rolltop Backpack is an excellent choice if you are looking for a tough waterproof backpack (non-submersible).
The Simms Dry Creek Rolltop Backpack comes in two colors and has been boiled down to the essentials. On the inside it features a mesh-pocket for easy storage organisation. The small outside pocket can hold essential gear that you need quick access to, such as car keys. The shoulder straps are now cushioned quite similarly to the Filson and also provide good comfort. The waistband ensures a tight fit. Simms also added a water bottle pocket on each side (which can also serves as rod holders). A D-ring allows for the attachment of a fly fishing net.
- Multiple pocket options on the side allow you to bring a water bottle or a canSmall outside pocket (not waterproof) provides easy access to essentials
- Multiple attachment options for additional gear
- Comfortable shoulder straps
- Not ideal for smaller people since this backpack is fairly large
DIMENSIONS: 1171 g (2 lbs 9.3 oz) 23″H x 13″W x 12″D – CAPACITY: 45L (2746 cu in)
The Patagonia Disperser Roll-Top Pack 40L is the right choice for you if you are looking for a big rolltop waterproof backpack (capacity 45L) and the utmost in versatility. It features the same easy-to-roll mechanism like the two previous backpacks. On the inside the Patagonia Disperser Roll-Top Pack 40L features one small mesh pocket for essentials. Other than that all your gear goes into the big main compartment.
On the outside the Patagonia Disperser Roll-Top Pack 40L offers great versatility. Two web loops allow for the attachment of a fly rod or other gear. The external lashing can hold a rain jacket for example. The Patagonia Disperser Roll-Top Pack 40L is made from 800-denier 100% nylon that is fully waterproof (non-submersible).
- Most sturdy material of all backpacks in this test
- Rod tube attachment option on the side is a plus
- Plenty of possibilities to attach additional pieces of gear
- Rolltop-closure is not the best on the market
DIMENSIONS: 35L: 28″H x 13″W, 8″D / 65L: 33.5″H x 14″W x 10″ D – CAPACITY: 35L/65L/90L/120L
The Sea to Summit Hydraulic Dry Pack is another solid option. It comes in four sizes (35L, 65L, 90L and 120L) and three colors. It’s made from a very durable fully waterproof (10,000 mm hydrostatic) PVC free fabric that closes with a rolltop and buckle. This bag is not submersible since water can technically seep in through the rolltop closure although we didn’t have that happen during our tests.
The Sea to Summit Hydraulic Dry Pack comes equipped with very comfortable shoulder straps. A sternum strap and a wide waist strap (in the 35L version that we tested) ensure a tight fit and provide wearing comfort all day long.
- Highly adjustable shoulder strap system with waist belt
- Fits long items easily due to its shape
- Like the Simms, a fairly large bag not ideally suited for shorter people
DIMENSIONS: 24”H (when rolled 3 times) x 12”W x 8”D – CAPACITY: 38L
The Fishpond Wind River Roll-Top is one of the most thought-through waterproof rolltop backpacks out there. It comes with a set of gear straps that can be attached on either side of the backpack to attach extra gear such as a fly rod. The front mesh pocket allows easy and quick access to your essentials (not waterproof).
The padded back, shoulder straps and and extra wide waist strap make the Fishpond Wind River Roll-Top comfortable to carry even when fully loaded. Organisation on the inside is easy thanks to a zippered pocket and a clear stash pocket for small items. If you are a fly fisher, the Fishpond Wind River Roll-Top is a great choice since it is compatible with other Fishpond gear such as chest packs.
- Rod tube holder is best in the game
- Wide waist belt provides excellent support when fully loaded
- A few more attachment options across the pack would be a plus
Best Waterproof Backpacks Submersible
Now that you have a good overview of some of the best roll-top waterproof backpacks out there, we want to give you our favourites of some of the best submersible backpacks on the market. As mentioned before these backpacks provide the utmost in waterproofness. They all feature waterproof zippers that allow you to fully submerge your backpack without getting the gear inside wet.
The reliability is a crucial aspect here. Imagine you’re carrying some expensive camera equipment. The least thing you can afford is for water to get inside your backpack. The best submersible backpacks on the market are made by brands that know a thing or two about durability of products. One thing to keep in mind: since these waterproof zippers are expensive and high tech, these submersible backpacks most often feature only one big zipper that opens and closes the main compartment. Some products in this review feature further pockets inside, some others have pockets on the outside to hold essentials. These pockets outside the main compartment are not waterproof. Let’s take a look now at some of the best submersible backpacks on the market in 2023.
DIMENSIONS: 18-3/4”H x 10-1/4”W x 8-1/4”D – CAPACITY: 28L
The Filson Backpack Dry Bag is the right choice for you if you are looking for a waterproof fully submersible backpack that still offers a high degree of versatility. The centred, clear zippered pocket comes in handy, for example if you want to carry a fishing license that you can show without taking it out of the pocket. The zippered pocket on the side can hold a small water bottle. Both of these outside pockets are not waterproof.
The Filson Backpack Dry Bag‘s main compartment is protected by a TIZIP® zipper (the same as the Patagonia one). On the inside you find a mesh pocket for easy organisation. The top grab handle allows for easy carrying of the backpack if it’s not on your shoulders. The adjustable hip belt is removable.
- Highly versatile pocket options
- See through pocket is a plus for licenses, etc.
- Shape is a little bulky
DIMENSIONS: 20″H x 12.5″W x 7″D – Weight: 3.9lbs – CAPACITY: 28L
American manufacturer YETI has made a name for itself in recent years for producing some of the best outdoor gear on the market, most of all coolers. Their lineup also features some high-end waterproof gear such as the Yeti Panga Backpack 28. This fully submersible backpack is incredibly durable and incredibly simple.
The Yeti Panga Backpack 28 features sturdy handles on both sides and on top making it a joy to carry no matter the situation. The Hydrolok™ zipper makes sure no water can enter the main compartment. On the inside it features a mesh pocket for your essentials and a sleeve to hold a laptop for example. Removable chest and waist straps provide great flexibility. YETI calls their shell “Thickskin” – for a reason – it feels like the skin of an elephant. If you are looking for the utmost in durability and abrasion resistance you can’t go wrong with the Yeti Panga Backpack 28.
- Most sturdy submersible backpack on the market
- Plenty of options to attach extra gear across the front
- A waist belt would be a nice feature
SPECS: Main Shell: 420D Nylon Double Ripstop with TPU coating
The Simms Dry Creek Z Fishing Backpack has been completely reworked for the season. It’s fully submersible since it features a Tru Zip™ zipper that keeps everything inside the main compartment dry. The zippered exterior pocket holds your essential but is not waterproof. A D-ring on the front side allows for the attachment of additional gear.
Since the Simms Dry Creek Z Fishing Backpack was built with the fly fisher in mind, it has some nice little features such as a centred net holster to comfortably hold your fly fishing net. Pockets on the side of the Simms Dry Creek Z Fishing Backpack can hold a fly rod or a beverage for long days on the water.
- The most flexible fabric of all submersible backpacks tested for our review
- Great pocket system
- Shoulder straps could use a little more padding
DIMENSIONS: 21″H x 12″W x 9″D – WEIGHT: 2.8lbs – CAPACITY: 28L
The Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible Backpack is made from Fishpond’s ultra durable 1680d TPU recycled nylon. The super sturdy TIZIP closure ensure your gear stays dry no matter what. The gear straps (included) allow for the attachment of extra gear on either side of the Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible Backpack. On the outside it features a small zippered pocket for quick access (not waterproof).
A daisy chain and D-ring on the front panel of the Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible Backpack offer even more possibilities to attach gear. On the inside it features a zippered pocket and a clear stash pocket. Just like its rolltop brother, the Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible Backpack is compatible with other Fishpond gear.
- Like its rolltop counterpart, the Fishpond sets the standard for versatility
- Extremely sturdy
- A little on the bulkier side
The Patagonia Guidewater Backpack 29L has been in the market for years (has been renamed Guidewater now, was the Stormsurge before) and proven its durability over and over again. It comes in black and blue and features a TIZIP® zipper that has an excellent reputation for providing 100% waterproofness.
The main compartment can hold a 15″ laptop or your camera equipment. Padded shoulder straps and a removable waist belt provide great comfort. On the outside the Patagonia Guidewater Backpack 29L features two gear straps to attach a fly rod or some other gear. On top of that you can attach more gear using the external lashing options. A new feature of the reworked backpack is the internal organizer pocket that can also be attached to the external lash points. A neat, little feature.
DIMENSIONS: 960 g (2 lbs 2 oz) – 21″H x 13.5″W x 9″D – CAPACITY: 29L (1770 cu in)
- Most minimalistic submersible backpack
- Very thought-through attachment options
- Waist belt for extra support when fully loaded would be neat
Best Waterproof Backpack: Bonus
As you can see from our review above, all of these waterproof backpacks more or less have the same features. The rolltop ones all close by rolling up the top and closing it with a buckle. The submersible ones feature waterproof zippers that open and close a big main compartment.
Quite recently German manufacturer Ortlieb (well-known for their waterproof cycling gear) introduced a waterproof backpack with a revolutionary design that we fell in love with: the Ortlieb Atrack. The clue behind it is the fact that it opens and closes like a bag which makes accessing your gear a lot easier.
The Ortlieb Atrack also features a TIZIP zipper making it completely waterproof. The zipper is on the side close to your back so it prevents someone from accessing your gear while you wear it. The Ortlieb Atrack is incredibly thought-through, very comfortable to wear due to the great padded straps and really builds a bridge between backpack and travel bag. Comes in a variety of colors and sizes.
Conclusion on the Best Waterproof Backpack
As you can see from our review, there are many options out there if you are looking for a backpack that’s waterproof. The decision you have to make is whether you (just) want a waterproof one or a backpack that is even fully submersible. No matter what you opt for, the products reviewed above all stand up to our own expectations and will make sure your gear stays dry no matter the weather situation.
A waterproof rucksack is essential if you want to keep your gear dry no matter the conditions. Complete waterproofness is crucial when you are bringing expensive gear such as a camera. If you want the utmost in waterproofness, you should go for a fully waterproof, submersible backpack.
A waterproof backpack is 100% waterproof. Be careful though with water resistant backpacks which are not fully waterproof. From our experience it is best to pick a waterproof rolltop backpack or a fully submersible waterproof backpack.
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