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The 5 Best Waterproof Backpacks Reviewed – [2018]

Protect Your Gear From Rain And Water With These Waterproof Backpacks and Dry Bags

Going outdoors for any length of time in rainy weather demands waterproof clothing and storage for your valuables and other belongings. In this article you’ll learn exactly what to look for in the best waterproof backpacks or dry bag backpacks

Some will be more suited to outdoor active sports like hiking and others better for stowing and wearing while on a motorcycle in the rain. To learn more about the features and functionality of the best dry bags see, How To Choose The Best Waterproof Backpack.

What Is The Best Waterproof Backpack?

Quick Answer: The 5 Best Waterproof Backpacks

  1. Nelson Rigg SE-3040 Hurricane 40L
  2. Cougar OUTDOOR Waterman
  3. Givi GRT701 Waterproof Backpack
  4. Vitchelo 30L Waterproof Dry Bag
  5. Firstgear Torrent Backpack

Best Waterproof Backpack

 Nelson Rigg SE-3040 Hurricane 40LCougar OUTDOOR WatermanGivi GRT701 Waterproof Backpack
editors choice
Material 24oz Tarpaulin PVC material PVC Vinyl material420 denier tarpaulin nylon
Waterproof 100% waterproof bags100% waterproof bags100% waterproof bags
Special FeaturesSide pockets for water bottles or fuel bottlesSeveral external pocketsxternal water bottle pockets
Customer Ratings4.4 / 5.0 Stars4.2 / 5.0 StarsN/A

Also see the Waterproof Backpacks Comparison Table.


Best Waterproof Backpacks Reviews

#1 Nelson Rigg SE-3040 Hurricane 40L

best waterproof backpacks for motorcycle

This PVC waterproof backpack is made to live somewhere between the frontcountry and the backcountry. With niche features like a laptop sleeve, it’s handy in the RV, motorcycle, or kayak.

  • 24oz Tarpaulin PVC material
  • One-way purge air valve
  • Side pockets for water bottles or fuel bottles
I have to say that I like this backpack for a wide array of outdoor sports. It’s made with a comfortable harness system that can be worn for longer periods. Plus, at a reasonable 40L size it’s not out of the question to handle loads on your back with this bag.

Nelson-SE-3040-Hurricane-Waterproof-Backpack view 2

For today’s EDC preppers, the MOLLE panel on the back provides room to attach everything tactical you can imagine. Or you can just remove it altogether if you don’t need the space to clip onto the webbing chains.

Whether you want to use the side pockets for water bottles if you’re riding a motorcycle or fuel bottles if you’re on a back country expedition – they’ll be there.

I think that features like these just show that this pack is positioned to do anything and everything. Best for versatile activities and adventurers that travel from the streets to the trails.


#2 Cougar OUTDOOR Waterman

While it’s not going to win any awards for ergonomics, the advanced backpack features make it clear this pack is meant to carry! It’s also hard to argue with a pack that comes in light on the wallet.

  • Several external pockets
  • Generous hip belt with pockets
  • PVC Vinyl material
I think of all the things this bag has going for it, the affordable price is one of the top. It’s hard to argue with details when you can get a functional waterproof dry bag backpack for the cost of dinner out!

Cougar-OUTDOOR-Waterman-Waterproof-Backpack view #2

I think any dry bag backpack should be rocking side water bottle pockets as this one dose. Whether or not the additional mesh and shock cord back pocket is necessary will be up to your preferences.

Cougar-OUTDOOR-Waterman-Waterproof-Backpack-hiking

I have to point out that the hip belt is really more like a chest belt. Since this pack is relatively short, the belt sits too high to be on the hips of just about anyone. It will, however, still help keep the bag stable while you carry it at least.

Best for an affordable dry bag backpack with standard features.


#3 Givi GRT701 Waterproof Backpack

Givi is known in the motorcycle world for making some of the best luggage and accessories. That’s why I’m not surprised to see the relatively high price tag on this waterproof backpack. Don’t be fooled, though, the quality is obvious!

Of course, you can get by with saving some money and going cheap on your dry bag. But you’ll probably lose out on comfort and finish. That’s where the Givi pack excels past competitors.

I like the longer design of the bag which keeps the center of mass a little lower and helps the bag hang sensibly. Since the bag has just sternum strap, a good hang is important because there won’t be any help from a hip belt.

GRT701-Waterproof-Backpack-Gravel-T-Range front view

Like the Nelson Rigg, this bag has an air removal valve so you can size it down and squeeze out air. Unlike the Nelson Rigg, it has less accessories and keeps things truer to the slim design of a simple dry bag at just 25L.

GRT701-Waterproof-Backpack-Gravel-T-motorcycle view

This bag is the perfect size and shape for a day bag on the water or on the motorcycle.


#4 Vitchelo 30L Waterproof Dry Bag

This bag might achieve the best balance of affordability and features on our list. Does that make it the best bag on our list? That’s up to you decide based on what features really matter for your needs!

  • Shock cord lashing
  • 2x water bottle pockets
  • Padded mesh back panel
If you’re a sucker for free goodies – watch out! This bag comes with a free waterproof pouch for your phone or MP3 player. Don’t be fooled though, you’re paying for it when you buy the pack.

Vitchelo-Waterproof-Backpack-Outdoor-Kayaking inside view

At 30L in size it’s a good medium size for day trips or very lightweight overnights. Since it’s not massive there’s really no reason to worry about a hip belt and this bag doesn’t.

While we don’t get as much information about the tech specs of this pack as I’d like – we do get a 60-day money back guarantee. There’s also a lifetime limited warranty, though the depth and breadth of that remain mysterious to me.

Fortunately, with tons of highly speaking user reviews I don’t think you’ll need that money back guarantee.

Best for an affordable small backpack hybrid that can go anywhere.


#5 Firstgear Torrent Backpack

Of all the waterproof dry bag backpacks on our list, none can beat the Torrent Backpack for style. This bag looks sleek and mean, but is that enough to make it worth your time? Let’s find out.

This pack is made to be a waterproof commuter backpack. The air-mesh back panel allows airflow to move around the pack as you ride so you don’t overheat. But don’t worry – that same rule applies if you want to take this on a hiking or kayaking trip.

I like the sternum strap and minimal hip belt. This pack isn’t big enough to warrant a full size hip belt but even small ones help stabilize your bag while you hike or ride.

Firstgear-Torrent-Backpack-USA waterproof motorcycle luggage
FirstGear Waterproof Outdoor and Motorcycle Luggage

Without a doubt this pack has more features for motorcycles than any other on our list. The D rings located around this pack are located so make it easy to lash down to a passenger seat. Being an avid rider myself, I know I would love to have a feature like this on my bags.

Best for daily motorcycle commuters who need a small waterproof backpack to keep everything dry and right!


Waterproof Backpacks Comparison Table

Best Waterproof Backpacks  MaterialWaterproofSpecial FeaturesCustomer RatingsPrice
Nelson Rigg SE-3040 Hurricane 40L24oz Tarpaulin PVC material100% waterproof bagSide pockets for water bottles or fuel bottles4.4 / 5.0 Stars$129.95
Cougar OUTDOOR WatermanPVC Vinyl material100% waterproof bagSeveral external pockets4.2 / 5.0 Stars$459.99
Givi GRT701 Waterproof Backpack420 denier tarpaulin nylon100% waterproof bagExternal water bottle pockets, Shock cord lashingN/A$108.00
Vitchelo 30L Waterproof Dry BagTarpaulin 100% Waterproof Dry Bag 2x water bottle pockets4.5 / 5.0 Star$62.50
Firstgear Torrent BackpackN/A100% Waterproof Dry BagMany external pockets, Sternum strap and waist belt5.0 / 5.0 Star$69.95

How to Choose the Best Waterproof Backpack for You

I never really understood the need for an enormous dry bag with backpack straps. That was until I spent a week paddling and portaging Michigan’s Au Sable river in its entirety. It was that trip which taught me the real beauty of having a nice-sized dry bag backpack and I would have traded just about anything to have one at the time.

best waterproof backpack reviews - how to feature image

Since you’re probably better prepared than I was chances are good that you’re here to find out which dry bag backpack to buy. That’s a really good thing because you’ll be glad you put the research in before you get left “high and dry” as it were.

What Size Do I Need?

This is a tricky question and it varies heavily from person to person. However, it is possible for us to narrow things down a bit and work within a few rules of thumb. I’ll give you some guidelines that you can work with so you’re not buying blindly.

  • 0-10L – Accessory bags for ditties
  • 10-20L – Enough room for day trips
  • 20-30L – Larger gear loads on day trips
  • 30-40L – Enough room for lightweight overnight trips
  • 40-60L – Enough room for overnight trips with heavy gear loads
  • 60-80L – Enough room for multi-day trips
  • 80+L – Enough room for extended expedition style trips
The thing with dry bags is that you have to roll them closed. On top of that, things never seem to fit snugly inside so the use of space tends to be inefficient. That said, it’s always easier to go a size larger than you need. You can always roll the top down more, but you can’t make the bag any bigger once you buy it!

It’s worth noting that carrying multiple smaller dry bags gives you some redundancy. If you’re concerned about dry bags breaking or rupturing, carrying two 20L instead of one 40L might be an ideal worth considering.

Choosing a Material

Today’s dry bags are becoming lighter and more effective every day. That said, they tend to still be made from one of two main materials.

Vinyl/PVC is a very thick, heavy, and durable waterproof material. It’s great for bags carrying rough or abrasive items. If you’re going into conditions where your dry bags will be exposed to abuse – such as whitewater trips in sandstone canyons – consider going for durability!

Silnylon is a lightweight waterproof fabric. This is a great material choice for backpacking trips or bags that will be sheltered inside a more robust pack. Silnylon is durable, but not nearly as durable as thick vinyl dry bags.

Both materials are relatively easy to repair. Just be sure to carry a well prepared repair kit and practice repairs before you need to perform them in the field. I’ve seen many vinyl and nylon dry bags live dozens of years in the field with repair patches!

Closing a Dry Bag

This is, arguably, the most important single operation in keeping your gear dry. Dry bags won’t do any good if you fail to close them properly. That’s why I always double check the dry bags when heading on a trip with other inexperienced people.

In order to properly seal a dry bag you need to roll the top at least three times. Then you can clip the top closed.

One thing to note is that if you clip the top roll seam the wrong direction it may unroll! Pick up your dry bag by the handle and be sure that the material isn’t going to unroll. Once you’re experienced with it, you’ll be able to tell which direction to clip the top closed so it holds itself but many beginners make this mistake.

If you overfill a drybag and try to close it, you may have trouble rolling the seam fully. Remember to leave room to fold the top down adequately.

Backpack Features

Dry bag backpacks have to be two things at once. They must function perfectly as waterproof bags and they need to be passable as backpacks.

Few, if any, dry bag backpacks attempt to be full featured backpacks. Instead, they usually have just enough backpack features to help you portage or load and unload from the dock.

Cougar-OUTDOOR-Waterman-Waterproof-backpack features

Shoulder straps on dry bag backpacks can often be an afterthought. There are two ways to look at this, though. If you’re rarely carrying the bag by the shoulder straps and only need to travel a few dozen yards through portages, this may be acceptable.

If, however, you’re carrying your dry bag backpack a considerable distance on a regular basis, poor straps may be unacceptable. An example of this would be sea kayakers carrying gear to and from camp every night.

Hip belts are a low priority for those in the “I don’t need to carry this very far” camp. However, for those with large dry bags and heavy loads, the shoulder straps just won’t be enough. Good hip belts are critical to spread out the load!

Hip belts are harder to find in dry bag backpacks, but if you feel these are a necessity, they are out there.

Additional Features

Some waterproof travel bags have flashy extra features. These can range from clear viewing windows to zippered access outer pockets.

Generally speaking, I prefer to avoid additional features. Every added seam, zipper, clip, and weld on any dry bag is another place that water can eventually get in.

Instead of fancy dry bags, I look for additional features on PFDs, backpacks, or boats that can take the place of fancy additions to my dry bags.

Nelson-SE-3040-Hurricane-Waterproof-Backpack features

In the case of drybag backpacks, durable external storage pockets, clips, and straps can actually be handy. Ensure that the bag you’re buying is of good quality, however, or these areas can be prone to delamination on cheap bags.

One feature that I do enjoy is the eVAC dry bags from Sea to Summit. These bags have a waterproof breathable material along the bottom which allows air to escape but keeps water out. Using these you can compress your dry bags – particularly those with clothes and sleeping bags – to make them smaller. I have enjoyed these dry bags for years!

A similar feature that sometimes appears on dry bag backpacks is a vent nipple. Like sleeping pads, you can turn these valves and let air out and then close them off. These valves are simple and rarely prone to failure or leaking so I like them!

Conclusion

Whether you’re using your waterproof pack for kayaking, bicycling, or anything in between there’s something here for you. Just remember that there’s no single “best” waterproof backpack because each person needs different features.

Think about how you’ll use your bag and what’s most important to you before you click that purchase button. That will save you from being frustrated and having to buy another one down the road in order to find what you really wanted in the first place.

I like to keep things simple when using waterproof dry bags. This means less hassle and less likelihood of things breaking or leaking. However, there’s something to be said about the convenience of advanced features!


Thanks for reading The 5 Best Waterproof Backpacks. We hope this article has helped you to discover the best dry bag or best dry pack for your needs and your preferences.  You might also be interested in our related review article, The 5 Best Motorcycle Backpacks Reviewed.

If you have any questions or comments for us just use this contact form.

Enjoy your dry bag backpack and always be safe in your outdoor adventures.

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R. L. Moore "El Tigre"

Richard M. aka El Tigre is an avid adventure traveler with extensive trekking experience throughout Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. In 1998 he weathered category 5 Hurricane Mitch on the northern coast of Honduras. He has mountain-biked, hiked and 4x4 toured extensively in Central America, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Mexico. In the summer of 2004 he lived among the Kuna Indians of the San Blas islands in Panama. Today, he manages a real estate investments company based in San Jose, Costa Rica and organizes adventure travel excursions to Costa Rica. He is a motorcycle enthusiast and enjoys sport touring and dual-sport riding. Richard lives in Arizona.

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