Want to know how to waterproof a backpack? The best way to waterproof a backpack is to use a waterproof pack liner on the inside of your bag. You can also place important items in dry bags to provide them with extra protection from the rain and the snow.
We’re all been there: You’re out on a hike in the mountains on a bluebird day when the clouds start rolling in. Not long afterward, the sun disappears behind a ceiling of thick clouds and a torrential downpour begins.
Like any good hiker would, you put on your rain jacket and protect yourself from the elements. But then a thought flashes through your mind: What about your backpack? All your gear is going to get soaked!
If you’ve ever been in this situation, know that you’re not alone. Getting caught out in a rainstorm is a rite of passage for any outdoor adventurer.
Thankfully there are ways to protect your gear while you hike in the rain including pack liners, pack covers, and dry bags. In this guide, we’ll show you exactly how to waterproof a backpack so you can focus less on your gear and more on your time outside.
If you spend enough time outside, you’re bound to get soaked once in a while. But while getting wet on the trail is expected, it certainly isn’t pleasant—especially if you get all your gear soaked in the process.
Keeping yourself dry is important for preventing hypothermia and other cold-related maladies as you hike, but protecting your gear from the rain is also critical. That’s because wet gear can easily malfunction when you’re out and about.
Sensitive electronics that you rely on to help you navigate in the woods, such as a GPS or a headlamp, can cease to work if they get soaked with water. Plus, as anyone that’s ever slept in a sopping wet tent can tell you, curling up in a warm, dry sleeping bag at night is substantially more pleasant.
It’s also worth mentioning that some kinds of insulated clothing, like down jackets, can’t keep you warm if you get them wet. Those little tufts of down that are stuffed into your puffy jackets clump up when wet so they can’t trap air next to your body to help keep you warm. The result is the perfect recipe for hypothermia, which isn’t exactly the type of thing you want while you hike.
Moral of the story? Keeping your gear dry should be a top priority whenever you head outside. As a result, it’s imperative that you understand the different techniques available to you for waterproofing your backpack.
Share This Image On Your Site
<a href="https://outforia.com/how-to-waterproof-a-backpack/"><img style="width:100%;" src="https://outforia.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/How-to-waterproof-a-backpack-infographics-01062022.png"></a><br>How to waterproof a backpack Infographic by <a href="https://outforia.com">Outforia</a>
How to Waterproof A Backpack
Learning how to waterproof a backpack is an essential skill for any outdoor enthusiast. However, there are multiple techniques you can use to keep your backpacking gear dry while you’re outside.
We can categorize these different techniques into 2 broad categories: interior and exterior waterproofing solutions.
Interior waterproofing solutions require materials, like dry bags, that you place on the inside of your backpack in order to shield your gear from the rain. The benefit to these methods is that they can’t be blown away or ripped off your pack as you hike. But they do allow the exterior of your pack to get wet, which can be a bummer.
Exterior waterproofing solutions, on the other hand, include things like pack covers that wrap around the outside of your bag. These have the benefit of protecting your entire pack from the elements, though they’re more likely to rip or get blown away in a storm.
Up next, we’ll take a closer look at the 4 most popular interior and exterior backpack waterproofing methods so you can decide which option is right for you.
If you’re serious about keeping your gear dry while hiking, your best bet is to use a pack liner like the Osprey Ultralight Pack Liner.
Pack liners are durable pieces of waterproof fabric that look a lot like oversized stuff sacks. They’re designed to line the entirety of your pack from the inside. This stops water from reaching your gear, preventing your equipment from getting soaked while you hike in the process.
Using a pack liner is a tried and true method for protecting your equipment. Pack liners can’t get blown away or ripped in high winds, either, so they’re great for use in stormy locales. Plus, it’s often easier to throw loose gear into a pack liner than it is to try and pack a slew of smaller stuff sacks into a backpack.
The downside to pack liners is that they tend to be fairly expensive. But pack liners are reusable, so you can easily get many years of use out of a single model.
If you’d prefer to save a bit of money, you can opt to use a garbage bag rather than a purpose-built pack liner. However, using a new garbage bag on each hiking trip leads to a lot of plastic waste. Garbage bags also tend to rip after a few days of packing and unpacking your bag.
Our advice? Opt for a purpose-built pack liner whenever possible. You’ll thank us later.
The second option on our list is a good strategy that you can use either on its own or in conjunction with the other methods that we’ll discuss in this article.
Waterproof stuff sacks (often called dry bags) are popular in kayaking and other watersports, but they’re just as useful for hiking. They’re small stuff sacks that are made with waterproof fabrics so they can protect any gear that’s placed inside them from the rain.
Note that some kayaking dry bags can withstand being submerged in water. But most hiking models, like the popular SealLine Blocker Dry Sack, aren’t designed to handle anything more than heavy rain.
To use this method, you simply need to pack all the gear that you want to keep dry into dry bags. Then, place all of your dry bags into your backpack before hitting the trail. If you want an extra layer of waterproofing, you can place your dry bags into a backpack that also has a waterproof pack liner.
If you just have a few key items that you want to keep dry, like your sleeping bag, the waterproof stuff sack method is pretty great. But buying all those stuff sacks can get expensive, and trying to pack them into your backpack can be challenging. You could use Ziploc bags instead of dry bags, too, but that creates a lot of plastic waste and Ziplocs aren’t 100% waterproof anyway.
As a general rule, we’d recommend using this technique in conjunction with the pack liner method for maximum waterproofing rather than using stuff sacks on their own.
One of the most popular methods for waterproofing a backpack is using a pack cover, like the Osprey Ultralight Raincover.
These pack covers are made from waterproof fabrics like ripstop nylon and they’re designed to fit over your entire backpack. They’re quick and easy to install on your pack when it starts to rain so you can waterproof your gear at a moment’s notice. In fact, some backpacks now come with their own pack covers that are tucked inside a special pocket for quick deployment in the rain.
The biggest advantage to using a pack cover is convenience. Pack covers also keep your whole pack dry—not just your gear.
But pack covers aren’t ideal in windy or stormy locales. Trust us when we say that we’ve seen our fair share of pack covers blow away in high winds.
Pack covers also tend to rip if you’re hiking below treeline or off trail as they get caught easily on branches and other debris. One hole in a pack cover can spell doom for your entire waterproofing system.
Also keep in mind that pack covers won’t protect your gear very well during river crossings. While they work well for rainy days on the trail, they’re limited in their overall ability to keep your equipment dry throughout your adventures.
If you do want to use a pack cover, consider using one in conjunction with some dry bags. Always keep your essential pieces of equipment (i.e., anything that simply cannot get wet) in dry bags, just in case your pack cover fails.
The last option for waterproofing a backpack is to use a waterproof backpack.
Okay, okay, we get it—this isn’t really a method of waterproofing, but it is a great way to keep your gear dry as you hike.
Waterproof backpacks aren’t very common in the hiking world because they’re expensive and not very comfortable to carry over long distances. But some models like the SealLine Bigfork Dry Daypack, which were originally designed for paddlers, can work surprisingly well for short day trips.
These waterproof backpacks are made with heavy-duty polyurethane-coated polyester and welded seams to keep water out at all costs. They also have roll-top closure systems to prevent water from getting into your pack in the rain or during river crossings.
Again, waterproof backpacks aren’t a great choice for longer backpacking trips or any expedition where you need to carry lots of heavy gear. But they can be a suitable option for short day trips when lots of rain is in the forecast.
You may also like: Deuter vs Osprey: Which Brand is the Best Backpack For You?
Using a pack liner, pack cover, or dry bags is just one part of the process of keeping your hiking gear clean and dry while you’re outside. Here are 5 other top tips for protecting your equipment while you’re trekking through the mountains.
As we’ve mentioned dry bags can be an invaluable asset on the trail. With the right dry bags, you can protect your sensitive electronics and other vital pieces of gear while you hike, no matter what the weather is doing.
That said, if you’re serious about keeping your gear dry, you may want to double bag your most important pieces of equipment. Using 2 dry bags for your GPS, phone, camera, and sleeping bag can give you the peace of mind you need to know that your gear is protected from the elements as you hike.
When in doubt, double bag any piece of equipment that simply can’t get wet while you’re outside. That second layer of protection for your gear can work wonders when you’re caught outdoors in a rainstorm.
When we think about techniques for keeping our gear clean and dry, we often focus on protecting our equipment from the wind and the rain. But more often than not, our biggest nemesis in the quest for dry gear is ourselves.
One of the most common ways that our gear gets wet and dirty is inside our tents at night. Many campers inadvertently track lots of mud and water into their tents when they bring their hiking shoes and backpacks inside for the evening.
Your boots and pack are already covered in water and dirt, so there’s no reason to bring them inside and soil the rest of your gear. If you want to protect your pack and shoes from the rain at night, tuck them into your tent’s vestibule, but don’t bring them inside.
If we had one waterproofing-related piece of advice for all hikers it would be this: Use a pack liner!
Pack liners are some of the most underrated pieces of gear on the trail. While pack covers might seem flashy and cool, they’re simply not as effective as pack covers.
Anyone that’s serious about waterproofing a backpack should fully commit to the pack liner lifestyle and use smaller dry bags to protect essential pieces of equipment. Believe us when we say that, when used properly, no pack waterproofing method works better than the humble pack liner.
There’s a common misconception out there that seam seal and waterproofing spray can take a regular hiking backpack and turn it into a completely waterproof vessel for all your gear. Unfortunately, this just isn’t the case and no amount of spray-on waterproofer is going to prevent water from seeping through your backpack in a deluge.
That isn’t to say that seam seal and waterproofing spray are useless, though. In fact, when used properly, seam seal and waterproofing spray can greatly increase the natural water resistance of your pack’s fabrics.
So if you’re going hiking in a rainy locale, consider seam sealing your pack and treating it with some waterproofing spray before you go outside for an extra layer of protection for your gear.
Finally, always remember that, despite your best efforts, some of your gear will get wet if you go backpacking or hiking.
If your gear gets wet while you’re outside, don’t fret. Just be sure to take advantage of any sunny afternoons that you get on the trail for drying off your gear.
Getting to camp early after a day of heavy rain can give you the rest of the afternoon to set up a makeshift clothesline for drying your equipment. Try to find the sunniest spot in your campsite and lay out all your wet gear so the water can evaporate with the help of the sun’s heat. But remember to keep a close eye on your gear so that it doesn’t blow away in the wind.
Keeping your gear dry while hiking is of the utmost importance. Using a pack liner, pack cover, or dry bags can all help waterproof your backpack to ensure that your equipment stays in good working order whenever you need it most on the trail.
You May Also Like: Explore These 11 Best Winter Camp Destinations That You Should Know About!
Waterproof Backpack FAQs
Here are our answers to your most commonly asked questions about waterproofing a backpack:
How can I make my backpack waterproof?
The easiest way to make a backpack waterproof is to line the inside of your pack with a durable garbage bag or pack liner. You can also use a rain cover on the outside of your backpack or you can pack all of your gear into small waterproof dry bags for an extra layer of rain protection.
Can you waterproof spray a backpack?
You can waterproof spray a backpack, but this won’t make your bag fully waterproof. At most, waterproofing spray will make your backpack slightly more water-resistant. A better option for waterproofing your pack is to line the inside with a garbage bag or a purpose-built pack liner. Doing so will protect your gear, even in heavy rain.
How do you seal a backpack?
You can seal a backpack by applying seam sealer to the inside of all the seams of the pack. This is a slow, sometimes tedious process, but it can provide an extra layer of protection for your gear. Note that this process alone won’t waterproof your backpack. Be sure to use a pack liner or a pack cover to fend off the rain while you hike.