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While everyone else is trying to find a waterproof backpack review for a bag that can protect their electronics from a light drizzle, you’re here, trying to find the hands-down very best waterproof backpack to bring out on the sailboat.
That’s an entirely different caliber of quality you’re after, which is why we’ve scoured for the cream of the crop, and displayed them below.
You’re hopping onto that boat with a plan for adventure, and a small amount of personal belongings that deserve to be protected. Let’s get you the right waterproof bag to act like armor, and keep everything in check.
Our Reviews Of The Best Waterproof Backpacks
FE Active 30L Eco-Friendly Waterproof Bag
FE Active simply created the best sailing backpack in all areas, hands down, but they got there through a lot of trial and error on previous models.
Their 30L backpack is designed to withstand whatever life throws at it, regardless of what water sport you enjoy. Whether it’s sailing, surfing, or using an SUP on rapid rivers, this will rise to the occasion.
First and foremost, you have a small number of compartments, but they are all designed with a specific purpose in mind.
Your main chamber holds the most amount of items, but you’ll also get a side mesh pocket for water bottles, as well as an interior zipper pocket for valuables.
Apart from the excellent capacity, this also comes with a drawstring extension pouch on the back to store larger items. These strings stretch out so you can attach a jacket or poncho onto the exterior, giving you a few additional liters of space.
But the real reason we’re all here is to see just how waterproof this thing really is. Users report these literally going down the river and up against volcanic rocks without a single shred of wear and tear, or a drop of water getting in.
FE Active’s durable exterior shell protects your belongings in far more ways than one.
BackSak Waterproof Backpack
The second best water resistant backpack came close to topping the list with its similar traits; we had a hard time choosing a first place winner.
The ultralight BackSak waterproof backpack comes with two different ways to seal the top and get that superior waterproofing, and sticks to a similar construction style: one main chamber.
There’s still a couple of interior organization pockets for valuables, currency and anything that you want to be doubly sure won’t get wet, though that’s not going to be an issue.
Apart from the fact that the shell is made of 500D PVC, it’s waterproof enough that you could leave this floating in the water for days on end, and nothing’s going to seep inside.
They also did a fantastic job with the straps, which is usually an afterthought for many of their competitors.
BackSak stays lightweight and well ventilated, thanks to the adjustable straps with a formidable amount of padding for your shoulders.
The BackSak is most often enjoyed by sailors as well as motorcyclists who are trying to transport a 15” laptop and clothing from place to place. Unlike water resistant backpacks, this repels absolutely all moisture that comes its way, and comes in two sizes.
The Friendly Swede Waterproof Backpack
Let’s kick this one off by talking about The Friendly Swede as a company before we get into the bag. They’re known to have one of the best customer service teams available (with a name like that, it’d be ironic if they didn’t).
That’s good, because this backpack comes with a lifetime warranty—nothing is going to get through this, or it’s on them to send you a replacement.
You’ll also get a few more compartments than the other bags we’ve reviewed so far. This backpack works well for sailing, but was designed to work with hikers who are bringing along a few gadgets for the ride.
You get a 15” laptop sleeve with enough padding to keep it safe against light shock, as well as a few external mesh pockets, and one internal mesh organizational pocket.
There’s a lot to cover, but the most important aspect is the waterproofed material itself. You’re covered in 500D PVC, which stands the test of time by not molding or stretching beyond its means.
While that means you’re limited to the 33.6L capacity with no room for expansion, we’d take the longevity of this bag and guaranteed waterproofing over expandable space.
Pop the top seal down, and you’re ready to tackle the day and all that comes with it. The straps could have been a bit more comfortable, but they fulfill their purpose of keeping this tight on your back.
Especially with the locking buckle on the chest strap with a built-in whistle. You’ll also get a reflective property on the straps if you’re planning on taking this out at night or on a snowboarding trip.
Earth Pak Waterproof Backpack
The Earth Pak was one of the first major fully waterproof backpacks to really kick off and attract interest, and for good reason.
Not only do they offer a 100% waterproof bag with a top roll seal, but you also get all the functions of a standard backpack that goes beyond waterproofing.
They promote better carrying methods thanks to the supportive straps, accompanied by the supportive back panel. It’s padded to help you out with fatigue prevention, while cutting down on sweating thanks to the ribbed exterior that creates a channel of air to keep you cool.
In terms of compartments, it does fall a bit flat. You only get two compartments, one being the main chamber, and the other being an exterior access zipper pocket. You can’t store much in that small pocket, but it does come in handy.
We were a bit upset that there’s no water bottle mesh pouch, but instead you get asn IPX8 waterproof smartphone case that withstands full submersion for short periods of time.
SealLine Pro Portage Pack
If space is a major concern for you, this is just the ticket. Longer sailing trips require more space in your backpack, which is exactly what the Pro Portage pack gives you: 115L of capacity.
They only give you the main chamber to store things in, but with that much space, not having zippered pockets isn’t exactly an issue.
Built out of synthetic materials, this is designed to keep 100% of water out, and is backed by the SealLine limited lifetime warranty.
Family camping, extremely extended sailing trips, and anything else that you can think of. This bag is also huge in the prepper community to keep dry food, well, nice and dry.
There’s an external suspension system that’s been added onto the pack, giving you a ton of support if you’re actually carrying this on your back and it’s loaded to capacity.
Despite having such a large capacity, SealLine was able to make this as efficient as possible with a total of 6.3 lbs of empty weight. For the wet and wild adventures that are coming up, this is the last max storage bag you’ll need.
Waterproof Backpacks FAQ
What is the Difference Between a Waterproof Backpack and a Dry Bag?
A waterproof backpack is multifunctional, whereas a dry bag is basically a big waterproof pill-shaped pack that you take kayaking, canoeing, or on any water sports.
The difference here is that we’re showing you excellent all-weather options with multiple pockets, great aesthetics, and multiple functions that don’t just have to pertain to sailing.
While we’ve looked out for your best interest by ensuring all these bags are 100% waterproof, watch out for items that push themselves as waterproof when they’re actually only water resistant.
The difference between these two is extreme, yet the wordplay that’s used is almost identical.
It’s why a lot of consumers get upset when their backpack arrives, only to find out that it isn’t what the marketing materials made it seem like.
Nobody wants to be duped. We make our list exclusive, short, sweet and to the point to avoid all those issues.
When a bag is water resistant, it’s just going to repel small amounts of water, and that’s usually because of a chemical element that they’ve coated the backpack with.
That means it’s not going to last for long, and heavy rain or full submersion will soak through the bag, and damage your belongings.
Dry bags are also very vibrantly colored in the off chance that your bag pops off the kayak and starts to flow downstream.
It’s not going to be easy to see a green army bag up against the brush of the riverbed, but a hazard yellow or orange pack? You’ll be able to spot that a mile away.
Waterproof backpacks usually stick to more contemporary themes and colors, which is how it mimics the qualities and aesthetics of an everyday backpack while still being a perfect option to bring out on the sailboat.
The good thing is that whether you get a truly waterproof backpack or a dry bag, they’re both built out of materials that naturally keep water out, and protect everything inside from electronics to clothing.
How to Waterproof Your Backpack?
There’s one thing you should know before you decide to waterproof your backpack: it will not be submergible.
You can still make your backpack completely resistant to rainfall, but a backpack that was not designed to be waterproof will not be as resistant or watertight.
You can use a waterproofing spray on the outside of just about any backpack material, and make it waterproof for a short amount of time.
Waterproof spray is durable, but will begin to wane after three to six months post-application.
If you don’t want rainfall soaking through your backpack and potentially damaging your electronics, this is an okay solution, but it won’t be good to bring out on the sailboat.
When a backpack is built with a waterproof goal in mind, machines weave together fabrics in an impossibly tight fashion that we wouldn’t be able to do by hand.
This creates a watertight finish just merely by construction, but that’s not all.
Your backpack is porous, but it’s also not likely to be made out of the same material type that waterproof backpacks are crafted from.
Materials like PVC, nylon and leather all have a natural waterproofing element, which gives them an immediate advantage over a microfiber or canvas bag.
Are Nylon Backpacks Waterproof?
A fully waterproof backpack needs two things: a truly waterproof material, and a viable seal that isn’t going to allow a drop of moisture inside.
The material that we see most often in waterproof backpacks is 500D PVC.
The D stands for denier, a measurement that determines the thickness of threads or raw materials that make up the garment in question.
The lower the denier count, the softer and more malleable the item is going to be.
You’ll see ratings like 20D – 50D on items like thin sweatshirts and dress shirts (though these aren’t usually the measurements that companies output when trying to sell casual clothing).
Denier ratings are really only used when it comes to outerwear with an expectation of insulation or waterproofing. You’ll see denier ratings commonly referenced in camping attire and gear.
Other excellent waterproof materials are TPU, nylon, polyester, vinyl, plastic and a proprietary material called Gore-Tex.
We want to touch on this for a moment because Gore-Tex is not a viable solution for waterproof backpacks.
It’s used in work boots, jackets, and hunting gear.
It makes waterproof materials slightly breathable, but also brings the potential issue of mold or bacterial growth and isn’t recommend for open ocean use.
Are Electronics Safe in the Waterproof Backpack?
In almost all scenarios, yes, your electronics will be safe in your rainproof daypack or 100% waterproof backpack.
If something is truly waterproof, it creates a watertight seal (usually through a tri-roll and fastening system), and if you held it underwater, it’s not going to allow any inside of it.
Does that mean you should push your luck? Of course not. While your waterproof backpack is basically armor between your belongings and the ocean, you never want to put your electronics into an unnecessary situation.
Let’s say your bag just falls overboard and had a 17” laptop inside of it and a Kindle ereader. If it’s sealed and the bag isn’t too dense, it’s going to float and protect all of your belongings.
Do Waterproof Backpacks Float?
If the best waterproof daypack were to fall into the ocean, would it float, or just sink to the bottom?
The answer is a little more scientifically complicated than that.
You’ll see some inflatable backpacks that come with air pressure valves, some of which you have to pump up before you head out on your sailboat.
These aren’t the best option, because inflation and deflation put stress on the materials. Truly waterproof materials are your best bet.
If the density of your backpack is heavier than the density of water, then it will sink. If it’s less dense than water, it will sink.
Let’s say you’re stashing clothes, a laptop, and some snacks in a 30L backpack that is 1005 fully waterproof.
No water gets in, so it can’t soak it and match density. It’s going to float. But if you fill a 115L backpack with nothing but bricks, it’s going to sink. What you put into the backpack matters.
You’ll notice that in the five backpacks we reviewed, they don’t mention flotation on the sales pages.
That’s because brands can’t determine what you’re going to put in your backpack, and they aren’t going to make you a false promise.
So long as you’re packing normal things to go out to sea with, your waterproof backpack should float just fine since there is also air trapped inside of it.
Why Are Waterproof Backpacks a Must-Have Item for Sailing?
You’re surrounded by the very thing that could damage or destroy your personal belongings: water.
At that, saltwater, which is worse if it gets into your clothes than freshwater.
A water proof rucksack gives you peace of mind when you’re crashing through rough waves, or when a storm rolls overhead, especially if you weren’t expecting it.
Sure, you could keep your belongings below deck, but is that going to guarantee that there won’t be an issue?
If you swamped a bit and water got below deck, it’s not going to be good for your personal belongings.
If we’re assuming that you might have gotten swamped a bit, then it’s also safe to say that things got jostled around below deck from a rough ride out at sea.
Your waterproof backpack not only keeps things dry, but also keeps them all together in one compact space. Waterproof bags also have a durable shell (at least the ones that we reviewed did), which will protect your items from physical damages.
You want to avoid water resistant backpacks. Those are designed for commuters and businesspeople who are walking around town with their phone, tablet and laptop in their bag.
The external materials will either be treated with a waterproofing spray or have a beading technology in the fabric, which beads up raindrops and sends them rolling away.
However, heavy rainfall and submersion will soak through the backpack in no time at all.
You need a backpack that’s truly built out of waterproof materials, like PVC or synthetics.
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