Lockdown laws are lifting: the 12 best waterproof backpacks to have you prepped and ready

Courtney Smith
·14-min read

There's never a good moment to arrive somewhere with a soaked bag full of damp belongings. Enter the waterproof backpack. With more restrictions set to lift, and British weather being what it is, a waterproof backpack is an absolute must-have.

A novel visit to the office, a nail-biting cycle through traffic you never thought you’d miss, a hike in the longed-for outdoors, maybe even a damp kayak ride down the river if you’re feeling particularly daring. The skies the limit, and there’s no harm in starting the planning – or shopping – early.

Whether you’re hoping to scale a hilltop or just go on your usual bike commute to work, a good waterproof backpack can spell the difference between having to abandon your rain-soaked lunch and enjoying the meal you woke up at the crack of dawn to prep. But what exactly constitutes a good waterproof backpack?

Waterproof vs water resistant backpacks

There are a lot of backpacks out there labelled as water resistant, so why not one of those? Well, most times when it comes to water resistant backpacks your belongings will only be safe in a drizzle as the materials can withstand a certain amount of water but nothing more. Not necessarily a bad thing, running backpacks for instance are often only water resistant as they need to be more lightweight.

Waterproof backpacks mean no more weather worries, as your belongings will be dry in even the most torrential of downpours. We’ve based our selection on what would survive any weather or a good deal of water exposure elsewhere, but don’t go throwing them in the nearest body of water just yet. If they are fully submersible, we’ll mention it.

On that same note, most waterproof backpacks have external pockets (sometimes even your leggings with pockets aren't enough storage) that are only splash proof so, if you’re storing items in them, you’ll want to make sure they aren’t your valuables.

What to look out for when picking the right waterproof backpack

When you’re looking to purchase a waterproof backpack there are a few features you want to think about.

  • Function: You don’t want to show up to work looking like you’re about to scale Everest. Some waterproof backpacks are great for outdoors, but a bit too big for your daily exploits, while others are perfect for commuting, but not necessarily what you’d want on your back when navigating a body of water.

  • Comfort: It’s important to pick a backpack that is comfortable. How comfortable you need it to be, will depend on what you’re using it for, but a good place to start is with adjustable, padded shoulder straps and a ventilated, padded back panel. If you’re going to be lugging it around for long periods, a chest strap is useful to keep the shoulder straps in place, along with a waist strap to help distribute the load from your shoulders to your hips.

  • Weight: If you’re known to cram your bag full to the brim, a lightweight waterproof backpack will be a better option, as the heavier it is to begin with, the less weight you’ll want to add.

  • Volume: Waterproof backpacks come in a wide range of capacities, so you’ll want to pick the one you think will suit your needs the most. If you plan on using your bag for hiking over long periods, you’ll want to get one with a larger volume to accommodate all the gear, food and maybe even a selfie stick or two, you’ll need to take with.

  • Pockets: If you’d like the option of Marie Kondo-ing your belongings, picking a backpack with a variety of pockets and compartments may be a better fit for you. You’ll also want to make sure there is a padded compartment for your laptop, if you’ll be using it to travel to and from work.

  • Colour: Colour choice can either be good-visibility-based or outfit-compatibility-based, depending on what works for you. If getting lost on a mountain or knocked off your bike is a worry, we recommend going bright and looking out for options with added reflective features.

All that considered, picking a back-hugging hero is still no simple task. That’s why we did the digging for you to find the 12 best waterproof backpacks for any activity, whether it’s for a city commute or a weekend trail run, we’ve got your back(pack)….

Best Waterproof Laptop Backpack

1.1. Helly Hansen Stockholm Backpack

How much? £60.00

Volume: 28L

Weight: 0.99kg

Laptop compartment: yes

This waterproof backpack will have no trouble fitting in all you need for the day. Lunch, gym gear, a change of clothes, you can pack it all thanks to the roomy main compartment. Made with a waterproof durable fabric, you no longer need to worry when those dark clouds start gathering and there’s little shelter in sight. There’s also a laptop compartment at the back for quick convenient access, so any forgotten emails can be typed out in a flash, and the straps are padded and adjustable to make all the weight you’re lugging feel light and easy.

2. The Friendly Swede Graneberg Backpack

How much? £54.00

Volume: 15L

Weight: 0.68kg

Laptop compartment: yes up to 13”

A lot of waterproof commuter backpacks have clearly been designed with men in mind and tend to be bulky and not that great to look at, which is why this one from The Friendly Swede is so refreshing. Unisex, but still managing to be a sleek and stylish waterproof backpack with a minimal design, you won’t mind being spotted with this on your back. Made from non-toxic, waterproof tarpaulin, it is easy to clean (if you were eyeing out the white colour-way this will come as a relief) and extremely hardy. The roll-top and welded seams also make the main compartment a reliable fortress for anything seeking refuge from the damp. With three exterior pockets, an inner pocket and a 13” laptop sleeve, it is also not short on compartments. God bless the Swedes.

Best Waterproof Roll Top Backpack

3. Rains Rolltop Rucksack

How much? £89.00

Volume: 18L

Weight: 0.91kg

Laptop compartment: yes up to 15”

Trust us, waterproof backpacks that are easy on the eye are not easy to find. But Rains can always be relied on to provide quality bags that look so good you’d forget they were made to protect your things come rain or shine. This one is no exception and, while it was designed to be a cycling backpack, we think you’ll be using this for a lot more than your daily spin. As with all backpacks, comfort is key, so the back is padded and there are adjustable shoulder and chest straps to support the weight. There is a large main compartment and a front pocket, but for all those workaholics out there, there is also a laptop compartment with side access. Available in five soft appealing colours, you’ll have a hard time choosing.

4. Adidas Future Roll-Top Backpack

How much? £70.00 was £100.00

Volume: 26.5L

Laptop compartment: yes suitable padded pockets

We’re not sure what you get up to on your daily exploits but, whatever the case may be, this waterproof backpack has you sorted. Made from X-Pac fabric it is tear-resistant and extremely durable. With 26.5L capacity it is also huge! So, for those days where you seem to pack everything but the kitchen sink, this guy is your go-to. The many pockets and padded straps will help with this too. Available in Bold Gold, you’ll be sure to stand out whether you’re in a sea of traffic or a sea of trees.

5. Lefrik Roll Backpack

How much? £68.75

Volume: 15L (folded) 19L (unfolded)

Weight: 0.6kg

Laptop compartment: yes up to 15”

This is one good looking, feel-good, waterproof roll top backpack. Winning on both the style and sustainability fronts, Lefrik uses eco-friendly fabrics, made from recycled plastic bottles, to create aesthetically pleasing bags perfect for the city. The roll top is secured by a zip and magnets, and can be closed in two different positions depending on how full you plan on packing it. There is also no shortage of compartments, with two exterior, easy-to-reach pockets, a padded laptop sleeve and internal mesh organisers to arrange your bits and bobs as you please. Aiming to satisfy all, the backpack is vegan-approved by PETA so vegans across the land can join in on the fun. Be quick though, a lifetime of didn't-get-there-fast-enough-for-the-cute-waterproof-backpack regret is a real thing! (Ok, we made it up but don't risk it.)

Best Waterproof Cycling Backpack

6. Ortlieb Velocity Rucksack

How much? £90.00

Volume: 17L (23L & 29L also available)

Weight: 0.81kg

Laptop compartment: yes (removable)

Chances are, if you cycle in the UK, you will be cycling in the rain for a large portion of the time. So a waterproof cycling backpack is essential to prevent the devastating disappointment that comes from discovering soaking belongings upon arrival at your destination (we’ve all been there, let’s not talk about it.) Not something your future holds, once you get your hands on Ortlieb’s waterproof backpack.

The shoulder straps are foam padded, and there is a detachable waist belt that will come in handy when traveling heavy, but that we won’t judge you for wanting to ditch when using your bag as more of a fashion piece. The back panel of the bag is well ventilated, so you can stay sweat free as you race your way to your destination, and a handy holder allows you to attach a light or helmet. Made to last a lifetime, you can even have the Velcro on the roll-top replaced, if it wears out overtime. Sustainable and cycling savvy.

7. Elops Waterproof Bike Backpack

How much? £49.99

Volume: 25L

Laptop compartment: yes up to 17”

Combining the three most important details when it comes to cycling with something on your back; waterproof certainty, comfort and visibility, this waterproof backpack is your new best biking buddy. It is made for even the heaviest of downpours, and reflective strips will have you visible from any angle, at any time of the day. Like we said, comfort is a priority, with a back panel and shoulder straps that fit to the shape of your body, and extra support being provided in the form of added foam at the hips and a chest strap. If you’ve ever spent ages securing your roll top, only to realise that what you need is sitting pretty on the inside of your now-closed bag, this one’s for you, because an easy-access side zip will allow you to reach the main compartment without having to unravel your hard work. Phew…

Best Waterproof Hiking Backpack

8. AquaPac Toccoa Hiking Rucksack

How much? £48.95

Volume: 28L

Weight: 1kg

Laptop compartment: No

Thanks to a lovely year long stint of on-again-off-again lockdown, most people have already started planning all manner of nature-packed day-trips. If you just so happen to be one of those adventure-eager folks, this waterproof hiking backpack is for you. As tough as they come, it’ll have you prepared for anything.

The fabric is, of course, waterproof, but also just really sturdy if you take a tumble or get caught in a thicket (we don’t know, it’s a trying world out there). Welded seams mean no leaks and, if you accidentally drop it in a body of water (clumsy people hike too), it will float on by. In terms of comfort, it has the usual padded, adjustable straps and chest and waist belts, but it also has some extra padding by the shoulder and lower back areas. Professional hikers will be happy with the lash points for light attachment and a daisy chain for accessories, but for those not so regular hikers, you may be more impressed by the mesh side pockets where water and snacks will remain within arm’s reach.

Best For-Any-Adventure Waterproof Backpacks

9. Earth Pak Summit Dry Bag Backpack

How much? £46.20

Volume: 35L, 55L

Weight: 1.13kg

Laptop compartment: no

This waterproof backpack is suggested for every activity from boating, camping, fishing, rafting and outdoor trips so, once you have one in your grasp, you’ll have the perfect excuse to get started on a lifetime of adventuring. Made by two eager explorers, for those eager to explore, they have thought of it all with regards to design. Padded straps and back support that both fit to your shape, make for a snug wear, whilst the chest and waist belts help you to carry your load evenly and easily.

D rings can attach to the straps or looping on the front for those days where you find yourself on the water, otherwise the looping is great for any accessories you may want to bring along. There is a mesh compartment, key ring and pocket on the inside for your valuables, and for anything not too water-opposed (think secret stash of wine gums), the external pocket will provide an easy-to-get-to storage spot with splash protection.

Not even your trusty friend the mobile phone has been overlooked, as each bag comes with a waterproof phone case. Finally, for those times when you find yourself still outside when it gets dark, the reflectors will improve your visibility.

10. Overboard Classic Waterproof Backpack

How much? £49.99

Volume: 20L (30L & 45L also available)

Weight: 0.72kg

Laptop compartment: no

We have another floater! A perfect feature for a waterproof backpack, from a brand with the name Overboard. Should it actually end up overboard, there’ll be little chance of you winding up with soaked stuff, as it is made for quick submersion and designed to float. Apart from protecting your goods from all things H2O, it will also provide additional protection from sand, mud and dust, should it need to. At 20L, it is not too bulky but large enough to meet your day-trip needs.

The top is secured by a roll neck and buckle, and a mesh side pocket makes for perfect stowage of your water bottle, should you get thirsty mid-exploit. There are also 3 D rings for attachments, and the reflective panel at the front will make you well-spottable. They went just the right amount of overboard on the practical features.

Best All-Rounder Backpack

11. Fjällräven Ulvö 30 Backpack

How much? £145.00

Volume: 30L

Weight: 0.9kg

Laptop compartment: yes up to 15”

A brand you’ll likely recognise from many a hipster’s back, Fjällräven have not stopped there and have made the ideal waterproof backpack for city and outdoor adventures alike. The waterproof fabric is made from 100% recycled nylon and is tough enough to withstand the stresses of everyday life or an impromptu hiking trip. The roomy main compartment is divided into two sections to ease the minds of those big on organisation, and there are extra pockets for anything you may need to grab on the go. In addition, compression straps on the sides mean that if you can’t find 30L of goods worth carrying, you can easily reduce the size. Not keen on splashing out on both a waterproof commuter backpack and a waterproof hiking backpack? That’s understandable. This ingenious bag does both, so you don’t have to.

Best Luxury Waterproof Backpack

12. Troubadour Off Piste Backpack

How much? £201.00

Volume: 19L

Weight: 1kg

Laptop compartment: padded section for up to 16”

Ok, so it may be waterproof, but at £201 you might still find it difficult to expose this luxury backpack to anything other than the safe space that is your own home. If you are brave enough to take it outdoors though, it has been made with waterproof fabric, zippers and lining, to keep your belongings nice and sheltered.

It is undeniably pricey, but every aspect has been designed with you in mind, from the angled opening to allow for easier access, to the many internal pockets that let you compartmentalise to your fancy. There is a sleeve that lets you slide your backpack over a suitcase handle, for any trips to the airport you may have (hopefully sometime soon), and a bottle holder that is retractable. Smart features, that make the price point seem worth it. The five-year guarantee doesn’t hurt either.

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