Outdoor activities in Britain are always undertaken with the knowledge that rain is an ever-present risk, and while getting the garments you’re wearing wet is one thing, a downpour drenching your sleeping bag, spare clothes, map, camera, laptop or phone can be a real disaster.

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Sometimes ‘showerproof’ and ‘weather resistant’ just doesn’t cut the mustard. When you’re heading out on wet-weather walk, climbing into the clouds, embarking on a soggy cycle or planning an aquatic adventure by kayak or canoe, you need a backpack that can truly cope with water.

Here we look at the best bags on the market for keeping your kit dry and fit for purpose. Note, only some of the following are IP-rated as waterproof to the point of being submergible, but all reliably protect contents from even the heaviest rain without requiring an external cover.


Lifeventure Packable 22L Waterproof Backpack

A star rating of 3 out of 5.

Best on test for travelling light

An ultralight, easily transportable waterproof backpack, perfect for travelling

Lifeventure Packable Waterproof Backpack 22L

This clever little compressible Cordura backpack weighs just 150g and crushes down into a stuff sack (supplied) that fits into the palm of your hand and can easily be thrown into a larger bag when you’re travelling, to give you a waterproof pack option when you want to go exploring for the day and rain threatens. It will even fit into a jacket pocket, so you can shed layers or pick up items throughout the day and have a waterproof bag to cart them around in.

With a nifty roll-top design, this bag has a Tardis-like capacity that belies its tiny size, and it can easily be used to carry a fleece, lunch, books and much more besides. Pockets on either side comfortably hold water bottles and the bungy web on the front can take more layers if required. The harness is surprisingly comfortable, and there’s a waist belt to help distribute the load.

RRP £35


Ortlieb Atrack 25

A star rating of 4.5 out of 5.

Best technical pack on test

A superhero, submergible backpack for serious aquatic adventurers

Ortlieb Strack 25 waterproof backpack

With a waterproof (and dustproof) rating of IP67, the Atrack pack is an impressive piece of kit that will keep contents safe and dry even if fully submerged. This unusual and highly technical bag opens via a waterproof TIZIP zipper that runs vertically down the rear of the pack, ensuring it remains mud free. It isn’t a pack designed for repeated mid-activity opening, but positioned immediately behind the main opening are two baffles with four zipped sub compartments, so you can organise smaller items and keep them handy.

The backpanel has a lightweight metal frame for rigidity and is kept proud of your body by comfortable ventilating pads, and the harness is excellent, with an easily adjustable chest strap and a substantial waist belt with large hip wings, each with a zipped pocket for snacks and essentials. There are compression straps across the exterior and multiple hoops and loops for attaching everything from skis and helmets to bike lights. There’s no hydration bladder facility, but there are two mesh pockets for water bottles on the sides.

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RRP £185


Exped Typhoon 15

A star rating of 4 out of 5.

Best budget option

A sensibly priced, small roll-top waterproof pack with great features

Exped Typhoon 15 burgundy

Good waterproof backpacks can be a pricey piece of kit, but this lightweight (380g) roll-top pack from Swiss brand Exped is an excellent cheaper option. Made with tough 210d Robic HD ripstop nylon, it’s relatively small, with a 15L interior and no hydration bladder compartment, but there are two deep mesh pockets on the sides, plus twin lines of daisy chain hoops, a pair of hiking pole/climbing axe attachment loops and a light attachment on the front, offering ample options for external equipment carry.

Inside there’s a zipped pocket for valuables, and the main compartment is large enough to take most laptops and some clothing if you’re using it to commute. The mesh back panel is comfortable against your back and it has an easily adjustable sternum strap and waste belt.

RRP £55


Sea to Summit Flow 35 Dry Pack

A star rating of 4.5 out of 5.

Best for everyday use

A pricey but fantastically well-featured, fully waterproof, fold-top backpack, fit for all sorts of adventures on the wet side

Sea To Summit Flow 35L Dry Pack

Sea to Summit were one of the first brands to make genuinely 100% waterproof backpacks with proper harnesses, and they have been refining their design for the last 15 years. This is an expensive but excellent and highly durable roll-top pack, which works exactly like a dry bag, made with tough TPU laminated 420D nylon and with all seams fully sealed. The harness system and waist belt is all substantial, very comfortable, highly breathable and easy to adjust.

The rear panel of the pack has indents, but can get a little sweaty on your back when worn for a while in warm weather. There are two mesh water-bottle pockets, one on either side, and a front pocket protected by a showerproof zip, although we’d advise putting non-submergible electronics in the second zipped pocket, which is inside the main compartment.

The pack has a dedicated pouch for a hydration bladder (with a Velcro hook for hanging the reservoir), an excellent grab handle on the top, two compression straps on either side (with aircraft-quality alloy buckles) and myriad loops and attachment points for fixing things to the outside if you so desire (annoyingly, bungees are sold separately). The 35L capacity is ideal for all kinds of adventures, and the interior is white to make the contents more visible.

RRP £185


Columbia OutDry Extreme 28L

A star rating of 3.5 out of 5.

A bucket-top backpack excellent for commuting and wet-weather travelling by foot, saddle or paddle

Columbia OutDry Extreme 28L Backpack

This tough, seam-sealed pack boasts a large zipped mouth, which isn’t waterproof itself but is protected by a hood overbite that keeps the contents dry in even the most furious weather. With no need to roll the sides down to achieve waterproofing, the capacity of this pack seems larger than 28L, and the extra-wide lid makes finding what you’re looking for nice and easy.

Inside there are multiple pouches and pockets for organising the contents, including laptop and tablet compartments (with a Velcro overloop to secure devices in place), two mesh pockets, one zipped and fleece-lined pocket, and an interior bottle holder. There are carry handles and hoops on the side and top, and a pass-through sleeve for luggage attachment.

The only exterior pocket is cleverly positioned on the lower back (right side), with a vertical zip and fleecy interior – this is for a phone, which is then reachable without removing the pack. The harness has reflective details, but it isn’t breathable and, although there’s an easily moveable sternum strap, this pack lacks a waist belt, which seems an odd omission.

RRP £130


Montane Trailblazer LT 20L Backpack

A star rating of 3.5 out of 5.

Best on test for trail running

A super lightweight waterproof backpack for fast adventures in feisty conditions

Montane Trailblazer LT20 - front

Made with ultralight ‘Raptor Fly Lite’ TPU-coated 40-denier siliconised nylon ripstop fabric, this pack weighs just 300g. It’s angled towards adventure racers, runners and fastpackers who want to remain nimble but have something dry to put on when needed. The pack shuts with a roll-down system, tightened and clipped into place with integrated cords and tiny buckles. This works, but feels fiddly and flimsy. The harness and backpanel are both made with breathable mesh, and there are two easily adjustable click-and-go cross-chest straps, plus a small waist belt, so you can pull the pack tight and avoid jiggling while moving fast.

There are no internal pockets, and the main compartment of the pack (also available in a 28L version) is simply a stuff sack for dry clothes and perhaps a very lightweight sleeping bag. On the outside, however, storage is generous. There are zipped pockets on both sides of the harness, perfect for phones, sweets and trail treats, and a pair of triangular zip-shut pockets on the hips. Two deep mesh pockets are big enough for water bottles, there’s a pouch and hook for housing a hydration pack, handsfree pole-carrying attachments and a bungy for stashing extra layers.

RRP £100


Patagonia Guidewater 29L Backpack

A star rating of 4.5 out of 5.

Best eco-friendly pack on test

A fully submersible, super-versatile, waterproof-zip–top backpack, ideal for myriad aquatic adventures from fishing to coasteering and canyoning

patagonia Guidewater waterproof backpack
  • Buy the Guidewater 29L Backpack from Patagonia (£280)

With an ingress protection certification of IPX7, the expensive but excellent Guidewater can actually be fully submerged (in up to a metre of water, for half an hour) without letting H2O in. Made with 100% recycled nylon, webbing and polyester, the pack opens via a chunky water- and corrosion-proof YKK zipper, which extends right around the bag, making it easy to locate things.

Inside there are pockets (one zipped) and pouches for organising kit. On the outside various hoops, lashpoints and D rings offer options for hanging extra gear, and there’s a fishing-rod holder, which can be repurposed to carry poles.

The harness straps are designed to repel water instead of absorbing it, and therefore aren’t very breathable, but otherwise they’re comfortable. Likewise, the foam backrest feels nice and soft, but can get sweaty on hot days (no problem if you’re splashing around in cool water). The pack has strappy chest and waist belts, both of which can be tweaked but aren’t as easy to adjust as some others. There’s no facility for a hydration bladder, and no pockets for carrying water bottles externally.

RRP £280

  • Buy the Guidewater 29L Backpack from Patagonia (£280)

Chrome Urban Ex 2 Rolltop 20L Backpack

A star rating of 3.5 out of 5.

Best on test for cycling and commuting

A stylish waterproof wonderbag for cycling commuters and tourers

Chrome-Urban-EX-Rolltop waterproof backpack

Designed for cyclists who venture out in all conditions, this waterproof backpack is ideal for year-round commuting, but can also be useful for hikers as well as bikers, in a whole range of soggy situations. The roll-top closure system automatically compresses the main compartment to cut down on wobble when you’re in motion. The rear panel sits proud of your back to reduce sweatiness and the harness features breathable foam. There’s a chest strap, but no waist belt, which makes it more comfortable when you’re in a riding position. Also reflecting the primary focus on cyclists, who typically carry water bottles on their bikes, there are no outer pockets, nor a pouch for a hydration bladder.

The hoops on the front hold a D-lock, and the lower part of the pack is made with a smooth material, so you can easily wipe off muck thrown up by wheels. There are two excellent carry handles just inside the lid, and a strong grab handle on the back. Inside you’ll find a storage pouch for a laptop, plus other pockets for organising little things (although none are zipped).

RRP £147


Osprey Transporter WP 30L Pack

A star rating of 4 out of 5.

A reliably waterproof backpack for keeping contents completely dry during any adventure on the wetside

Osprey Transporter Roll Top waterproof backpack

This bluesign-certified roll-top backpack is 70% made from recycled material and comes with a waterproof rating of IPX6. It’s not designed for sustained submersion, but will keep contents dry even when being hit by high-powered water jets coming from all directions. The main compartment features an internal organiser with a pocket large enough for a laptop, plus a zipped pocket.

The Osprey Airscape backpanel prevents excess sweatiness, and the harness is also highly breathable. The sternum strap has an emergency whistle and can be moved up and down, but the waistbelt is a bit thin and strappy, and there are no hipwings. Neither is there any capacity for carrying a hydration bladder. Additional non-waterproof external storage takes the form of one huge stretchy pouch on the front, which can accommodate plenty of layers and water bottles, and there is a secret zipped pocket within this. There’s a strong carry handle and attachment points for safety lights.

RRP: £160

  • Osprey were scheduled to launch this new version of the Transporter Pack in autumn 2022 – see Osprey.com to check out availability

Deuter Amager 25 + 5

A star rating of 4 out of 5.

A premium pack that perfectly protects contents from downpours and comes with an excellent harness

Deuter Amager 25 plus waterproof backpack

This day-adventure proportioned backpack is extremely comfortable and reliably keeps contents dry in all kinds of conditions. The back is well ventilated, and the highly breathable harness is excellent. There is no pouch for a hydration pack, however, and just one pocket on the outside.

RRP £160


Red Original Waterproof Backpack 30L

A star rating of 3 out of 5.

A robust, roll-top, water-ready rucksack made with recycled plastic bottles

Red Waterproof backpack

Famous for their excellent stand-up paddleboards, Red also produce clothing and accessories, including this waterproof 30L roll-top bag made with Cyclepet fabric, a yarn produced from recycled plastic bottles. Ideal for both commuting and adventuring, the back contains a removable internal organiser for securely storing laptops and other devices, and features reflective safety elements.

A foam backpanel keeps the pack proud of your back and facilitates good airflow, and the harness is breathable. There’s an easily adjustable sternum strap, but sadly no waist belt. On the front the pack boasts a very generous pocket protected by a showerproof zip (store non-submergible electronics in the main compartment if you’re venturing out on the water – there is an internal zipped pocket for valuables).

There are large mesh water-bottle pockets on either side, but no facility for using a hydration pack. Hoops on the front, combined with a couple of bungy pulleys on either side, can be used for extra carry capacity and the pack has a sturdy carry handle on the top.

RRP £99.95


Dare 2B Ardus 30L Waterproof Backpack

A star rating of 2.5 out of 5.

A tough tarp backpack made for walking and commuting in heavy rain

Dare 2B Ardus waterproof backpack

Constructed from hard-wearing tarpaulin material, and with heat-sealed seams to complete its waterproofing credentials, the Ardus is a no-frills weatherproof bag that will suit pedestrian and pedal-powered commuters, and occasional wet-weather countryside walkers.

The main compartment is accessed from the top and sealed with a roll-top system, just like a simple drybag. There are no internal or external pockets or pouches at all. The foam-padded rear panel is ribbed, which facilitates some airflow, and the harness is also padded and has a breathable mesh on the inside. There’s a sternum strap, but no waist belt. A strap on the front means you can compress the bag when it’s not full, although this does tend to round out the back.

The Ardus boasts a bike light/reflector attachment loop, and is available in high-vis fluro yellow for cyclists, or black and ebony for more discreet walkers.

RRP £80


Reviews by Patrick Kinsella

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For more backpack reviews, check out our favourite hiking backpacks of the year.

Authors

Black and white image of Pat Kinsella
Pat KinsellaOutdoor writer and gear reviewer

Author of numerous books about the outdoors, including: 100 Great Pub Walks (National Trust)

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