Are Hiking Backpacks Waterproof? Is a Waterproof Backpack Necessary?

Hiking in a rainstorm sucks! It’s cold, wet, and miserable, but things could be worse. If you’re not careful your entire pack could get soaked. This brings up the question: Are Hiking Backpacks Waterproof?

It’s rare for a hiking backpacks to be completely waterproof. The polyester/nylon shells make packs water resistant, but water will seep in through the seams. I recommend using a pack liner and rain cover to keep the inside of your pack dry.

If you’re concerned about moisture leaking through your pack I highly recommend reading the rest of this article. I will teach you how to make sure everything in your pack stays dry.

Do I Need A Waterproof Hiking Backpack?

There are a few manufacturers that make waterproof hiking backpacks, but they’re an oddity. They’re really expensive, uncomfortable, and unnecessary for the average hiker.

I have the 35 Liter Sea to Summit Flow Dry Pack (pictured above). It’s great for specialty trips where I’m kayaking, hiking through flooded canyons, or strapped to the back of my motorcycle, but I wouldn’t want to hike more than a few miles with it.

There’s just no ventilation with a waterproof pack. Your back will be completely drenched in sweat within 20 minutes. That’s not a big deal when you’re already wet, but it would suck hiking.

Personally, I would recommend buying a normal hiking backpack and learning how to waterproof it. You can get a bag that’s basically waterproof for less than 20 bucks.

Waterproofing A Hiking Backpack

Waterproofing your pack won’t get it 100% water tight, but it will be able to withstand the average rainstorm. For a few bucks you can waterproof any hiking backpack.

There are three main components to waterproofing your pack. Use dry bags to protect the most important gear, a pack liner (compactor bag) to protect the inside contents, and rain cover to protect the outside of the bag.

Pack Liner Is Crucial

Your pack liner is the first layer of defense when trying to waterproof a hiking backpack. It’s by far the most important piece of waterproofing equipment. The liner protects the entire inside compartment of your bag.

There are 2 main trains of thought when picking out a pack liner. You can either choose a commercial liner like the Osprey Ultralight Liner, or use disposable compactor bags. The commercial liner is the more permanent solution, but both methods work well.

Compactor bags have 2 major advantages over a dedicated liner. They’re lightweight and very cheap. You can also use a regular heavy duty garbage bag in a pinch, but contractor bags are less likely to tear.

It’s pretty obvious how to use a pack liner. Empty out the contents of your pack and line the inside with the liner. Load up all your gear and you’re good to go.

I still like to use a waterproof compression stuff sack for my sleeping bag just in case. My ALPS Mountaineering Compression Stuff Sack cuts down on the space my sleeping bag takes up and guarantees it stays dry.

Pack Rain Cover

A backpack rain cover serves multiple purposes. It protects the top of your bag and outside pockets and prevents rain from leaking into the pack. Covers also protect the outside of your pack when hiking through dense vegetation.

Rain covers help protect the top of your pack from getting wet and saturated, but water will still seep in down your shoulders. You will experience leakage if all you’re using is a rain cover.

Most people address this issue by using liners and dry bags to protect important gear. A rain cover will also help protect gear in external pockets and strapped to the outside of your pack.

Dry Bags and Compression Stuff Sacks

Do yourself a favor and pickup a waterproof compression stuff sack for your sleeping bag. They cut down the size of your sleeping bag and guarantee it doesn’t get wet. I might not even bother with a pack liner if the weather looks nice.

I really like the Alps Mountaineering Compression Stuff Sack, but there are a bunch of other brands. It’s really durable and comes in a bunch of different colors/sizes. A compression sack will really help you maximize space in your pack.

Use dry bags for your spare clothes, food, and the rest of your important gear. Any cheap pack of dry bags will work. Pick up a pack of different colors/sizes and see what works.

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Hiking Authority

About The Site Owner

Hi, I’m Justin the owner, content manager and primary writer on TheHikingAuthority. I grew up in a small Ohio town just outside of Cleveland. My parents started me off right and I’ve been camping/backpacking since before I could walk.

Throughout the years I’ve spent countless hours researching gear and perfecting my backpacking setup. Now I want to share what I’ve learned with you. Feel free to ask me questions by following the contact us page below.

Amazon Affiliate Disclaimer

“We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.”

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Can You Use A Regular Backpack For Hiking?

Hiking is a great way to exercise outdoors and a good way to spend time with your family and friends, and even just yourself. But if you are someone who hikes frequently, you will want the best gear for your trips.

Other than a good pair of shoes, having a backpack is one of the essential tools you can have while hiking. Your backpack will need to hold your food, water, and equipment without weighing you down too much.

If you are someone who is just starting your hiking journey, you may be wondering, “can you use a regular backpack for hiking”?

A regular backpack is sufficient for short hiking trips when you will not be carrying much gear and do not expect to encounter poor weather. Hiking-specific backpacks offer improved comfort, lighter weight, added organization, higher storage capacity, and better weather resistance.

With that in mind, let’s dive in to see what else you should consider before making your final decision!

Backpack Types to Choose From

When people think of a backpack, they tend to think of the stereotypical backpack that you wear over should shoulders at school. You know – the type meant to carry books, pencils, etc…

While this type is certainly common, it’s not the only kind of backpack!

The truth is that there are many types of backpacks available for different purposes. These purposes can range from carrying books on campus to protecting expensive equipment.

Let’s quickly take a look at some of the available backpack options!

The Oasis1100 by TETON Sports is an 18-Liter backpack that comes with a leakproof 2-Liter hydration bladder and is thoughtfully designed with plenty of room for all the gear you want to keep handy. You can adjust the shoulder, chest, and waist straps to get a custom fit. It comes in a wide variety of colors and includes features normally seen on more expensive packs.

Daypack

Daypacks are very similar to backpacks, but they do feature a few key differences.

The biggest difference between a daypack and backpack is that daypacks tend to be smaller. This size difference allows people to store only the essentials in a daypack without compromising comfort or organization.

Daypacks are a good option for those who are going on short hiking trips. A daypack is less likely to weigh someone down, as they are lightweight in material and smaller in size.

Two front pockets for extra storage & organization. Front valuables pocket to keep your stuff safe. Easily adjustable single cording with sternum clip.

Drawstring Bags

Drawstring bags are popular for their simplicity. They are small bags that are tied together by tightening strings that also serve as straps.

Drawstring bags are perfect for packing light and easy to carry around. Not only do they not hold much, but their straps can quickly become uncomfortable on long hikes. I’d only recommend this style of backpack for your shortest trips.

With an iconic design and practical features, the Gootium Backpack collection is known for its style and sturdy construction, allowing you to travel in comfort and style.

Knapsack

Knapsacks are also very similar to backpacks.

Knapsacks are bags that are carried on the back by two straps. These bags are usually made out of leather or canvas material and are frequently used by hikers.

While they provide more organization and carrying capacity than the previous options, they are sometime heavier than desired and usually not the most water resistant of packs.

The Scout 3400 is a high-quality backpack that’s loaded with features like a sleeping bag compartment, multi-directional compression straps, and multiple compartments and pockets for strategic packing.

Frame Backpacks

Frame backpacks are backpacks designed to carry a lot of things while also being easy to carry!

For this reason, the frame backpack is well-loved by many hikers. If you have seen a show or advertisement that features a hiker, they are most likely wearing a frame backpack.

While frame backpacks may look bulky, they make the process of hiking a lot smoother for those who are carrying large quantities of supplies.

If you need to carry a lot of heavy gear or will be going on an extremely long outing, this style of pack is your friend!

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This Norwegian, Swedish and Danish military-approved mega pack holds up to 125L and is suitable for even the heaviest and bulkiest loads. Designed to carry extremely heavy content over a period of time the backpack is built around a unique aluminum frame which provides stability, balance and comfort.

Tactical/Military Backpack

Military-style backpacks are meant to be used by those in the military or traveling long distances on foot.

These backpacks are a step above most backpacks and contain features that most backpacks don’t or can’t contain.

For the average hiker – these features (and price tag) are typically unnecessary.

Will a Regular Backpack Work for Hiking?

With that in mind, the biggest questions that you’ll need to answer before making your decision will be:

  • how much stuff you plan to bring with you (volume and weight)
  • how long you will be wearing the backpack

If you are taking a simple trip that does not require many supplies, a backpack will work just fine as long as it is sturdy enough to be worn for long periods of time and big enough to carry what you need.

Backpacks are good to use on a standard hiking trip. Should all of your supplies fit comfortably in your backpack, you can use a regular backpack for your hiking adventures.

Every hiking trip should be accompanied by proper hydration and nourishment.

However, there are situations in which you may want to switch the size of your bag. If you are hiking in winter weather, you are going to need to pack bulky clothes. You may also bring extra equipment to help warm you up.

If you are going on a trip that will extend into the next day, you’re going to need more supplies. A regular backpack will most likely not have the storage needed to carry all of your equipment in these cases.

Each hiking trip is unique, and the bag you use for storage should fit the trip accordingly. Even if you can close a bag, it doesn’t mean that all of your stuff fits properly. Your supplies should fit comfortably within your bag and should not hurt your neck or your back.

When to Downgrade

Bigger is not always better, especially if your hiking trips are short. If you do not require many supplies on your trips, you may want to consider swapping your backpack for a smaller bag.

Having an unnecessarily bulky bag on your back can weigh you down and cause discomfort during your hiking trip. Daypacks and even drawstring bags can work in your favor if you are packing light.

Having less weight on your back can also help prevent you from getting overheated if you are hiking on a hot day. The last thing you will want while you are outside sweating is to have to deal with an uncomfortable backpack.

If you choose to use a smaller bag to carry your supplies, it is important to keep an eye on your belongings. Some hikers will mark their bags with a neon color that will stand out wherever they leave the bag.

When to Upgrade!

On the contrary, at times, you will want a bag that contains more space.

Hikers who like to travel for hours and cover a lot of ground will want to bring many supplies to ensure their physical safety. Frame backpacks are a great option, as they provide a lot of storage without causing unnecessary strain on the back.

Frame backpacks also work well for winter hiking, as hikers will be able to store winter gear. Hiking can occur during any time of the year, but you will want to be well prepared for the weather you are hiking in.

Some hikers also like to use military or tactical style backpacks. These backpacks are also large and are designed to be used while traveling long distances on foot. Tactical backpacks are typically weather-resistant, and some even have technology built into them.

Hikes can often extend into camping trips. For this reason, hikers like to have bags that can carry large amounts of equipment to supply these trips.

The weather-resistant material on a tactical backpack often comes in handy for camping during rainy or winter seasons.

On any trip that lasts more than one day, it is advised that you bring a frame or tactical backpack for the trip. Your body will likely thank you for it later!

With that in mind, the vast majority of hikers will be best served by getting a mid-sized day backpack.

I find the sweet spot to be somewhere in the range of 18 to 30 liters.

Best Hiking Daypacks

These bags allow you to carry plenty of gear for a day, without the added bulk (or weight) of larger bags.

Are Hiking Backpacks Waterproof? Is a Waterproof Backpack Necessary?

Hiking in a rainstorm sucks! It’s cold, wet, and miserable, but things could be worse. If you’re not careful your entire pack could get soaked. This brings up the question: Are Hiking Backpacks Waterproof?

It’s rare for a hiking backpacks to be completely waterproof. The polyester/nylon shells make packs water resistant, but water will seep in through the seams. I recommend using a pack liner and rain cover to keep the inside of your pack dry.

If you’re concerned about moisture leaking through your pack I highly recommend reading the rest of this article. I will teach you how to make sure everything in your pack stays dry.

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Do I Need A Waterproof Hiking Backpack?

There are a few manufacturers that make waterproof hiking backpacks, but they’re an oddity. They’re really expensive, uncomfortable, and unnecessary for the average hiker.

I have the 35 Liter Sea to Summit Flow Dry Pack (pictured above). It’s great for specialty trips where I’m kayaking, hiking through flooded canyons, or strapped to the back of my motorcycle, but I wouldn’t want to hike more than a few miles with it.

There’s just no ventilation with a waterproof pack. Your back will be completely drenched in sweat within 20 minutes. That’s not a big deal when you’re already wet, but it would suck hiking.

Personally, I would recommend buying a normal hiking backpack and learning how to waterproof it. You can get a bag that’s basically waterproof for less than 20 bucks.

Waterproofing A Hiking Backpack

Waterproofing your pack won’t get it 100% water tight, but it will be able to withstand the average rainstorm. For a few bucks you can waterproof any hiking backpack.

There are three main components to waterproofing your pack. Use dry bags to protect the most important gear, a pack liner (compactor bag) to protect the inside contents, and rain cover to protect the outside of the bag.

Pack Liner Is Crucial

Your pack liner is the first layer of defense when trying to waterproof a hiking backpack. It’s by far the most important piece of waterproofing equipment. The liner protects the entire inside compartment of your bag.

There are 2 main trains of thought when picking out a pack liner. You can either choose a commercial liner like the Osprey Ultralight Liner, or use disposable compactor bags. The commercial liner is the more permanent solution, but both methods work well.

Compactor bags have 2 major advantages over a dedicated liner. They’re lightweight and very cheap. You can also use a regular heavy duty garbage bag in a pinch, but contractor bags are less likely to tear.

It’s pretty obvious how to use a pack liner. Empty out the contents of your pack and line the inside with the liner. Load up all your gear and you’re good to go.

I still like to use a waterproof compression stuff sack for my sleeping bag just in case. My ALPS Mountaineering Compression Stuff Sack cuts down on the space my sleeping bag takes up and guarantees it stays dry.

Pack Rain Cover

A backpack rain cover serves multiple purposes. It protects the top of your bag and outside pockets and prevents rain from leaking into the pack. Covers also protect the outside of your pack when hiking through dense vegetation.

Rain covers help protect the top of your pack from getting wet and saturated, but water will still seep in down your shoulders. You will experience leakage if all you’re using is a rain cover.

Most people address this issue by using liners and dry bags to protect important gear. A rain cover will also help protect gear in external pockets and strapped to the outside of your pack.

Dry Bags and Compression Stuff Sacks

Do yourself a favor and pickup a waterproof compression stuff sack for your sleeping bag. They cut down the size of your sleeping bag and guarantee it doesn’t get wet. I might not even bother with a pack liner if the weather looks nice.

I really like the Alps Mountaineering Compression Stuff Sack, but there are a bunch of other brands. It’s really durable and comes in a bunch of different colors/sizes. A compression sack will really help you maximize space in your pack.

Use dry bags for your spare clothes, food, and the rest of your important gear. Any cheap pack of dry bags will work. Pick up a pack of different colors/sizes and see what works.

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  • by Justin
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Hiking Authority

About The Site Owner

Hi, I’m Justin the owner, content manager and primary writer on TheHikingAuthority. I grew up in a small Ohio town just outside of Cleveland. My parents started me off right and I’ve been camping/backpacking since before I could walk.

Throughout the years I’ve spent countless hours researching gear and perfecting my backpacking setup. Now I want to share what I’ve learned with you. Feel free to ask me questions by following the contact us page below.

Amazon Affiliate Disclaimer

“We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.”

Ezoic

report this ad

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