How To Waterproof A Backpack [Tips for Any Backpack]

hiking in the rain

If you’re planning a day hike or other outdoor adventure, then you might want to consider how waterproof your backpack is (in case it rains on you). While plenty of high end packs some with rain covers, your average cheap daypack does not.

So, what do you do if there’s a chance of rain in the weather forecast?

Easy. You can go the DIY route and waterproof the backpack yourself using one of the methods available to you.

Intrigued? We’ve got tips for you on doing this before you head outdoors.

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5 Ways To Waterproof Your Hiking Backpack

You can use the tips below to protect your hiking backpack contents from rain, or any other backpack that you’re using outdoors.

1. Use Dry Bags

I know what you’re thinking – putting bags inside of another bag, wtf? But if you’re an avid outdoors person then you probably already own some dry bags (or should).

⇒ Don’t have any dry bags? Check out the great selection at REI

If you’re a water sports aficionado, then you know how awesome these are for keeping your gear dry since you can seal the seams of the dry bag. So, get yourself one (or a few) of these to stash your gear in and then carry it inside your backpack.

Fortunately, dry bags are relatively lightweight, so you shouldn’t notice too much of an increase in pack weight.

2. Use A Rucksack Liner

Like a dry bag, you can seal the seams of a rucksack liner. That makes it a good option for keeping water out of your gear that’s inside your pack.

And since the seams can be sealed, these backpack liners are waterproof. Also like dry bags, rucksack liners are lightweight and don’t add much to your overall pack weight.

Osprey makes some great pack liners, which you can buy at REI.

osprey pack liner

3. Apply Waterproofing Spray

Though it’s not quite as effective as the options listed above, you can treat the exterior of the backpack with waterproofing spray. Just keep in mind that if you’re out in a torrential downpour, this stuff won’t protect your gear.

As you shop for waterproofing spray, you should know that there are two types:

  • water repellant gear spray
  • waterproof gear spray

The better option, and the one that offers you more protection, is the waterproof gear spray. You’ll find a few different options at REI, but hands-down the best waterproofing spray for your backpack is Nikwax Tent and Gear SolarProof Waterproofing Spray

Nikwax Tent and Gear SolarProof Waterproofing Spray4. Buy A Rain Cover

If your backpack didn’t come with a rain cover, and you’re not interested in the solutions above, then you can just buy one that will fit your backpack.

REI has plenty of different backpack rain covers to choose from, and they come in a variety of sizes. 

REI backpack rain cover

You can buy branded rain covers, like those from Osprey, or you can buy more generic REI Co-Op brand rain covers that are designed for a variety of different size packs.

Click here to view the best backpack rain covers at REI

Using a rain cover is my preferred way to keep my backpack gear dry when I’m out in the rain on a trail.

5. Use Ziploc Bags Or Trash Bags

If you’re on a budget and looking for the cheapest DIY option for waterproofing you backpack, then trash bags and/or Ziploc bags are the answer.

First up, put everything that’s inside your backpack into the Ziploc bags or trash bags. If you’re using the trash bags, then you’ll need to make sure the openings don’t let any water in.

Next, if you don’t mind how it looks, you can use a trash bag to cover and protect the exterior of your backpack. You’ll likely need to cut it some to fit, which means that it will end up looking like a poncho for your backpack.

These aren’t really the best options, but in a pinch they will work for keeping your gear dry (or mostly dry) in your backpack.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, you’ve got several options when it comes to waterproofing that backpack before you head out. 

So, evaluate your options before you hit the trail to determine which backpack waterproofing method best meets your needs. Personally, I recommend the rain cover, followed by the dry bags or pack liner to keep things dry.

You can even double up on some of these methods just to ensure that all your gear stays dry.

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