How to waterproof a backpack

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Any outdoor enthusiast will know the euphoric feeling of spending a day in nature. Long winding hikes with beautiful viewpoints, invigorating glass-like lakes, and adrenaline-filled white water rafting – they all offer an incredible experience. However, they come with some risks: soggy clothes and water damage.

What if we told you that you could have awesome experiences in nature without a single worry? To make your outdoor adventures stress-free, all you have to do is learn how to waterproof a backpack. 

It’s not always possible to keep your backpack dry but there are many ways to help that your gear remain safe and sound. In this post, we’ll show you four ways to ensure you have a waterproof backpack to keep your essentials dry. 

Start with a Water Repellent Backpack

First and foremost, it’s important to understand the difference between waterproof versus water-resistant. Most backpacks will be water repellent which means they can withstand light rain, for example.

However, if your hiking backpack has a zippered pocket or opening, it’s more likely that water can seep inside through the stitching. Waterproof zippers also have stitching. In situations that involve water submersion or heavy rain, water can make its way inside and cause damage to your belongings. 

If your destinations have a small chance of rain, water-resistant backpacks should be enough. If you are looking for extra security and more versatility from your backpack, though, keep reading to find more solutions.


  • Readily available to purchase
  • Suitable for most trips
  • Act as a good base 
  • Versatile 


  • Not fully waterproof
  • Needs additional accessories when visiting wet environments

Put Your Gear in Individual Plastic Bags

As mentioned, water-resistant backpacks can only give you so much protection. One solution in how to waterproof a backpack is to protect individual items with plastic bags. 

To keep your items dry inside your primary backpack, you could use:

  • Ziploc bags
  • Reusable plastic shopping bags
  • Trash bags
  • Small dry bags

Dry bags offer the most protection but it’s unlikely you will own multiple. For this reason, Ziploc bags are the best choice here as long as they have sealed seams. 

You should put items into categories to make things easier to grab. Have a Ziploc bag for electrical items, one for spare clothes, one for money and keys, one for a first aid kit, and so on. 

When sealing the plastic bags, make sure to squeeze out any excess air so that you can create more space in your backpack.


  • Inexpensive
  • Readily available in stores and online
  • Easy to use
  • Come in a range of sizes


  • Doesn’t prevent water getting inside your bag
  • You need to ensure the seals are secure
  • This method requires careful packing

How to Waterproof a Backpack with a Rain Cover

Have you checked the weather forecast? While weather forecast apps are super useful, they can’t always be 100% accurate. In this case, it’s best to be prepared for the elements.

Most outdoor enthusiasts will know all too well that a small chance of light rain could turn into something totally different. Sometimes, light rain can become a heavy downpour instead.

If the likelihood of this happening is few and far between, you might want to add a rain cover to your outdoor adventure kit list.

Pack covers are pieces of fabric that cover your entire backpack for extra protection. They are so simple to use and can be stored in your bag with no preparation needed.


  • Easy to use
  • Inexpensive
  • Time-saver
  • Compact.


  • Harder to access packed belongings 

Put Your Backpack Inside a Dry Bag

On your search for how to waterproof a backpack, you may have come across dry bags. So, how does a dry bag work? Dry bags have a roll-top closure and are made from waterproof material. 

how to waterproof a backpack1

Unlike typical backpacks, dry bags don’t usually have zippers. This helps to ensure that there are no opportunities for water leakage.

This means you get a very high level of protection. You are free to endure wet weather, river crossings, and even white water rapids with these handy bags.

Dry bags come in a variety of sizes, so make sure to research the size you will need. You can carry one around with you rolled up for emergencies or use one in place of a backpack as some come with padded straps.

If you use a dry bag, you’re not only protecting your essentials but you are also protecting everything important – including that expensive gear you invested in.


  • Come in a range of sizes
  • Multipurpose
  • Fully waterproof
  • Readily available in stores and online


  • Difficult to access items once they’re inside 
  • Harder to carry


Seeking answers for how to waterproof a backpack can open you up to a lot of options. While these four different ways of waterproofing your bag are great, it’s time to weigh up the pros and cons of each and make the right decision. 

It’s always a good idea to start with a water-repellent backpack as your base. They will protect your belongings from light rain and splashes of water. They’re ideal if you don’t anticipate too much wetness.

However, if you want a good level of protection to keep your gear dry, you may want to consider plastic bags and rain covers.

Both of them are easy to access and are relatively affordable. Plastic or Ziploc bags are good for forward planners. When you pack your bag, you can organize your belongings into each bag and have the confidence that you’re protected against any type of weather.

If you prefer to do things on the fly, a rain cover is another great option.

For those on an outdoor adventure with guaranteed wetness such as water sports or a downpour, give yourself peace of mind with a trusty dry bag.

With plenty of options to choose from, you’re now fully equipped to deal with wet environments and enjoy your trip.

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