Waterproof vs. Water Resistant Backpacks

man cycling and carrying covered backpack

Have you ever wondered what is the difference between the waterproof and water-resistant backpack? If your answer is yes, then you need to read this. When hiking, you don’t want to damage your stuff and clothes, by submerging your pack into the water.

To avoid that kind of problem, you need to know the characteristics of each one backpack. Most people think that there is no difference.

But, here’s the kicker:

Precious trinkets and high-tech stuff need a protection from the outside elements like rain. And it is crucial to protect your most important items if you find yourself in the storm, or caught in a downpour.


In this article, we will explain the difference between waterproof and water resistant backpack, and which one is a perfect protection for your luggage in extreme conditions.

If you want to know more, just keep reading:

Waterproof Backpack

If you are looking for a backpack that you can completely submerge in the water without letting any moisture inside, then a perfect choice for you is a waterproof one. These packs are perfect for rainy day hikes and extreme conditions. Your stuff will stay dry, even if you raft down the water or walk through a waterfall.

But, you need to pay attention to some things. The pack itself can be water-resistant even if the fabric and zippers are waterproof. These bags can also be submerged in the water, but they will not stay completely dry.

So, for the extreme conditions go with the waterproof one. It denotes something that is fully impervious to water. Which means that no liquid can get in or out. Not only this material will protect your stuff from moisture, it will also prevent dirt, soot or dust from entering the pack.

These dry bags, as many people call them, minimize pores and usually are comprised of Thermoplastic Polyurethane or PVC. They require a unique construction method, because of their material. For example, they don’t have a toothed zipper.

Because of this, they cost a lot more than the water resistant one. The processes and techniques used to design these bags are quite expensive. As for the material, it is absolutely different from the natural or synthetic fabrics.

So, it is obvious that it’s going to cost a lot more than the normal pack. But, if you want your bag to stay completely dry, then be prepared to pay more for it.

waterproof backpack

The Downside of The Waterproof Backpacks

To make these bags waterproof, the designers need to make sacrifices and have narrow options. First, they need to make sure that the fabric passes a submersion test. After this, the components need to be assembled in a specific way.

It is important that there are no holes in the bag. But, you can create one when you sew pieces of fabric together. They will not make an important difference when you are in a storm, but if you submerge your bag in the river, lake or any water, it will let the liquid into the bag.

So, to prevent this, the designers used an ultrasonic sound wave to melt down pieces of fabric together. This process is called welding. It requires unique material to make a pack and it is very expensive.

Because of the limitation of welding, these bags must be of simpler design than the sewn one. They are made with one main compartment and maximum two pockets. So, their functionality is very much limited.

They are maybe great for keeping your stuff dry in the extreme conditions. But for the other circumstances, they are unideal because of their limitations in assembly and material. So, choose the right pack depending on your needs.

Water Resistant Backpacks

Water resistant refers to the ability to remove the moisture off for a certain period of time. This depends on the material that is used.  Hiking bags are usually made from cotton, polyester, and nylon.

But, the main thing that keeps the water from coming in the bag is a protective coating. They are usually thermoplastic elastomers (TPE), polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyurethane (PU).

The water-resistant pack will perform well in a downpour or it might keep your stuff dry in a drizzle. When buying this backpack pay attention on two things: fabric and zippers. If you want a bag that will perform well in a heavy rain, look for a coated zipper.

We all know that they are full of holes, but these will keep the water out of the pack. Some fabrics that are waterproof are made from nylons with a DWR (durable water resistant) coating. But, as you know, when you weave the fabric, it will always have some holes.

That means that the moisture will get in. Some cheaper fabrics use another coating to repel water, but that will only work for a while. Choose higher quality fabrics, for example, sailcloth, because they have multiple layers to repel moisture and keep protective coatings on.

This is a great way to keep your stuff dry. Sailcloth is designed to stand up to rough conditions. It is used for the sails of boats and it’s a very expensive material with the great durability and maximum performance.

So, when purchasing a backpack, choose the one that has sailcloth fabric in it, and make sure that your stuff stays dry.

water resistant backpack black

The Downside of the Water-resistant Backpacks

Traditional sewing techniques are usually used for the construction of water resistant packs. That means there are small holes in the material, so the water will get in eventually. Also, they generally come with the standard zipper that has tiny spaces.

On some backpacks, designers use splash guards to cover the zippers. This will increase protection against the liquid, but they are still not completely waterproof. So, if you are hiking in some extreme conditions, the best thing is to reconsider the waterproof backpack.


The main question to ask yourself when choosing a pack is which level of protection for water you will need. If you are hiking in the rainy areas, or you want to walk through a waterfall, then the best option for you is the waterproof backpacks.

For others, who don’t love to hike in extreme weathers, the best option is water resistant pack. But, be careful with it. When you find yourself in the downpour, your stuff might get wet.

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