How to Waterproof your Backpack

There are several different approaches to ensuring that your gear stays dry inside your pack. As with all things in life, it’s just about finding out what works for you.

Sue and Dudley Float their pack down The Colo River

The important starting point is realising that your pack (unless it is a ‘drybag’, no matter what the shop assistant tells you) is not waterproof. It’s a little like raincoats… there’s no such thing as a waterproof rain jacket.

The most popular approach is to line your empty backpack with a large tough plastic garbage bag or two (the strong orange ones seem to be good) or commercially available pack liner or dry bag. Then everything simply gets packed into this as per normal.

Barrington Tops National Park, NSW
Notorious for needing to waterproof your pack!

This method has some advantages, especially if you know you’re going to be canyoning or using your backpack as a float/pack-raft along rivers. When you go to seal the liner, you can make sure that there’s a good amount of air trapped inside which will aid buoyancy.

Another approach is to use a Pack Cover like the one in this photo taken in Barrington Tops National Park during my Tops to Myall Heritage Trail trip.

However, for most trips, I use a method that sees the individual items waterproofed. (For me, I find that the all in one liner bag tricky to negotiate, whilst still ensuring a tight pack to my bag.)

Overnight Canyon Trips – Essential to keep dry 
Bowen Creek South, Wollemi NP, NSW

So in my approach, I have my clothes in a lightweight Drysil bag, my First Aid Kit is inside the waterproof plastic containers and all my food is in Ziploc bags.  Therefore, the only thing I need to waterproof is my sleeping bag. (If needed, I can put my matt inside a Ziploc bag also).

So here’s a video that shows you a little trick about how to waterproof your sleeping bag.

Q: Have you got another method that works for you?

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    • says

      Unfortunately Danny, Scotchguard products are water repelling, not water proofing. They will probably be ok for short periods of time in light conditions, but when you’re outside for extended periods of time in heavy rain, they won’t use won’t cut it. Especially if you’re going to be immersing your pack in creeks, rivers, etc.

      One of the major places that water gets in is through zippers. This is why single compartment packs, with only one access point through the top, are best.

  1. Danny Strong says

    Thanks for your advice. I was just hoping. I put a garbage bag in the pack first and then put other stuff in a smaller sealed bag that I need/want kept dry. Zip locks copped a flogging too. Of to the Border tracka dn Albert river track tomorrow afternoon. 4Lt of water, 6 meals and 3 days. Try out the new Tarptent Notch!

    Again, thanks


  2. says

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  3. Janey says

    Great tip, thanks for sharing. My current system is to pack all my gear into a Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Pack Liner and the sleeping bag into a Sea to Summit eVent Compression Drysack. Stuffing a down sleeping bag into a small sack is a great way to warm up on a cold morning!

  4. says

    Hello Jose, you can simply follow the blog through WordPress or by clicking the subscribe button and adding your email. It should appear at the bottom right of your screen. Glad you like it.

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