How to Waterproof a Backpack: Expert Strategies for Outdoor Adventures

Don’t let water ruin your next adventure! If you are an avid outdoor adventurer, then chances are you have had to deal with a wet backpack at some point. You can avoid this problem by following these simple guidelines for how to waterproof a bag.

Learn how to pick the suitable material and seal it so that water doesn’t get in, how to treat the seams, how often you should re-proof your bag, and more expert strategies for waterproofing backpacks.

To fully comprehend the degree of protection your backpack requires, you must be familiar with these phrases. There’s a significant difference between “water-resistant” and “waterproof,” and it might make all the difference in whether or not your bag gets wet or stays dry.

Water-resistant bags are less expensive and lighter than waterproof ones, but they can only do so much. They’re usually made of a fabric with a water-resistant coating or treatment on the surface to repel moisture. Water-resistant backpacks might be great for light rain, foggy days at high altitudes, or moderate snowfall. Still, a downpour or blizzard will most likely leave your belongings soaked.

Waterproof backpacks are made of waterproof, breathable material that can stand up to wind and rain for days at a time without getting wet inside. Some even have taped seams to prevent leaks from the outside. However, they may not be as durable due to the extra fabric and waterproof treatment.

Different ways to waterproof your backpack

Though it may seem like just putting your backpack in a large trash bag will do the trick, we don’t recommend this as an effective waterproofing method.

You don’t want to set out on your next outdoor adventure only for it to be cut short because of bad weather. Protect yourself and all the items in tow with some serious waterproofing!

Using a rain cover

Rain covers are perfect for your backpack. They’re lightweight, easy to pack, and they fit most standard-sized bags. It’s an ideal solution for entering wetter climates during the months that are typically known for rain.

Rain covers come in various colors and styles, some with multiple pockets for storage and others made explicitly for skis. Most rain covers are reflective, which adds to their value.

Using a trash bag

It is a quick and dirty way of making sure your backpack stays dry. Without fail, just about any kind of heavy-duty plastic bag will do the trick. Wrap it around your pack, cinch it closed with whatever means possible (twist-ties are ideal), and you’re good to go! Just remember to make sure the bag is sealed entirely around your pack.

Using a pack liner

Pack liners, also known as pack covers or just simply dry bags, are lightweight and waterproof. It is the best solution for keeping soiled items separate from clean ones while keeping everything dry.

Using a wax or spray sealant

You needn’t look further than your garage for the solution to keeping your pack dry. The same waxes and spray sealants that protect horses, boats, and other equipment can be used on your backpack. It is one of the best waterproofing solutions because it lasts forever (or at least for many years). The spray-on version won’t leave any residue on your pack, but it will also wear over time and need to be reapplied.

Using a plastic bag inside your backpack

This solution is better than the first two because it keeps moisture out of the backpack itself. It’s not nearly as good as using a trash bag outside of your pack or using a rain cover. Keep in mind that any moisture the bag itself may absorb is now trapped against your back!

Use a roll-top waterproof dry sack inside your backpack

This solution is still better because it protects both the pack and its contents. It’s not as convenient or quick to deploy as some other solutions, but it is highly effective.

Using a dry bag inside your backpack (best solution)

The best waterproofing method for keeping contents dry in your pack is to use an actual roll-top dry bag with the top of the bag rolled down four times to form a gasket around the opening. This solution provides complete protection against water entering the pack itself. It is effective against water entering from any angle.

This solution is time-consuming because you must unpack your backpack to roll down the top of the dry bag just right before closing off the top of it. If weather conditions turn bad fast, you don’t want to rely on this method because it’s such a pain to close and then re-pack your backpack quickly.

Using a roll-top dry bag inside another dry bag

This solution works better than using a single dry bag because it provides extra protection against the water entering the pack from any angle (including if you’re sandwiched between two people with backpacks). The roll-top sack goes inside another sealable sack; then this second dry bag goes inside your pack. You can buy these sacks at any outdoor store or online.

How to waterproof a backpack

We recommend employing a combination of all of these techniques to waterproof your backpack correctly. Whichever method you use to waterproof your bag, you must test its effectiveness. Take it out in the rain before hitting the trail.

A waterproof, dry sack is the best way to keep your most important stuff safe and dry. Paper maps and other easily damaged goods are also worth saving. The following items should be treated with particular care:

  • Documents relating to the client’s bank account and personal identification numbers
  • Maps and travel guidebooks
  • Park permits
  • Smartphones
  • Video cameras and video recorders
  • A GPS tracker
  • Lamps and flashlights

Make use of your rain cover when you’re out hiking in the rain. Make extra sure that you protect important documents with a dry sack inside your pack.

Extra tips for waterproofing your backpack

While there are many ways to keep your things dry, you still need to take extra precautions. Use the following tips to protect your belongings at all costs:

  • Keep your backpack inside a plastic bag when it’s not in use
  • Rigid containers can be used as holders for maps and other easily damaged goods
  • Don’t let the inside of your backpack get damp (this is why you use a dry sack inside your pack)
  • Make sure the exterior of the pack matches the contents; don’t store delicate maps in a backpack that’s full of rocks and branches
  • Waterproofing solutions for your sleeping bag and tent
  • The most common cause of water damage to sleeping bags and tents is condensation. In many cases, the condensation may be absorbed by your gear, and you’ll never have to worry about it. On other occasions, your bag may get wet from the inside out from the moisture produced by a wet sleeping pad or a damp tent floor.
  • On rare occasions, there’s a chance that water might find its way inside the sleeping bag from light rain or you brushing against the wet ground while getting in and out of your tent. The only way to ensure that this doesn’t happen is by using a dry sack inside your backpack.
  • If you want to waterproof your sleeping bag while out hiking, then bring along a large garbage bag that you can use for the same purpose. Don’t trust plastic bags because they’re usually not strong enough. It’s best to line your backpack with a trash bag and store your sleeping bag inside the garbage bag when traveling in wet conditions.
  • Waterproofing solutions for your mobile devices
  • If you plan on bringing your smartphone, GPS tracker, or tablet computer on the trail with you, then don’t rely on waterproofing alone to protect your devices from water damage. If you’re caught in a rain shower and can’t find shelter fast enough, then take extra precautions by wrapping your device in plastic and stuffing it in the bottom of your backpack. Keep all electronic devices away from water to avoid damage caused by humidity or condensation.
  • The only way to make sure you don’t have to worry about waterproofing is by bringing used gear on your outdoor adventures or visiting an outdoor store with great deals on new equipment. Waterproof backpacks are easy to find in outdoor specialty stores.
  • If you’re planning on taking your new waterproof bag out with you for the first time, then be sure to test its effectiveness against water before hitting the trail. If you think that backpacks are too high-maintenance for your needs, or if it’s not worth spending money on waterproofing equipment, then consider investing in a low-maintenance tent.

Wrap Up

No matter what kind of outdoor adventure you’re going on, a waterproof backpack is essential. Whether you’re flying down white water rapids, mountain climbing in the snow, or trekking through a rainy day, keeping your equipment dry should be a top priority.

Every adventurer should know how to waterproof their bag when they need to, and there are tons of cheap products on the market that can help you do it.

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Z Hashan

Z Hashan

I’m Z Hashan, an entrepreneur, but more importantly (well, to me at least), a traveler.

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