8 of the best waterproof backpacks put to the test

Going ashore can be a wet affair. Yachting Monthly went in search of rucksacks built to carry your essentials and keep them dry

A dependable rucksack that’s comfortable, big enough to hold the essentials and waterproof enough to keep them dry is invaluable for anyone cruising.

Sailing is a wonderful activity to access parts of the world others find difficult to reach. However, the ride ashore in the tender, can be an adventure in itself, and sometimes a very soggy one.

Dinghies leak, wind can pick up while ashore and invariably, in the scrabble to get in the dinghy, a bag will get placed on the floor and will be soaking wet by the end of the trip.

What to look for in a good dry bag

But how waterproof does such a piece of kit need to be? Opinion varied between members of the YM team but we all agreed that were you to carry a phone or camera ashore in what was said to be a dry bag and fall in with it or drop it into a wet dinghy, you would be far from pleased to find its contents wet or water damaged.

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Trips ashore often entail a degree of exploration and usually involved a bit of a walk, so the dry bag must be comfy to carry on your back. It also needs the ability to hold a reasonably heavy load, such as bring provisions back from the shop.

The design of waterproof rucksacks tends to be simple but there were still an array of different features on each dry bag. For example, external pockets are handy for water bottles, and internal pockets good for small items like your phone and keys.

Above all, we paid attention to quality of manufacture, looking for something that could be kept on board for years to come and provide solid reliable service.

best-dry-bags-group-test-how-we-tested-underwater

The best dry bags should be able to stand up to a proper soaking

How we tested the best dry bags

As each manufacturer made different promises regarding water resistance of its dry bags, we felt it was important to test thoroughly what the bags could be subjected to beyond what it and its contents would be regularly exposed to. This is because waterproof rucksacks compromise heavily on features when compared to their non-waterproof counterparts.

We chose sizes of 20L-40L as a good size for a day ashore. The fabric of all of the dry bags could handle spray, being hit by waves or general sloshing in a tender, so to help distinguish the best, we submerged each rucksack with a piece of dry cardboard inside, as if you had fallen in to see how they coped, even if this is well beyond what they are designed for.

Each dry bag was used on a daily basis by the YM team, on and off the water, to test comfort, design and quality. The team looked carefully at all of the individual features and this is what we found…

The best dry bags available right now

best-dry-bags-group-test-musto

A valve built in to the construction made the Musto dry bag easy to compress

Musto DynaMic 40L waterproof backpack

Musto’s design is aimed specifically at sailors and has some good features, such as a see-through panel that makes it easier to find things inside the bag – other bags are like a black hole in comparison.

Another is a built-in valve that makes compressing it easier once closed. However, there is no back padding and the top seal only worked moderately well.

Specifications

Size: 40 litres
External pockets: Yes
Internal pockets: No
YM waterproof rating: 5/10
RRP: £100

Musto DynaMic 40L waterproof backpack deals

Buy it now on Wetsuit Outlet

best-dry-bags-group-test-zhik

The neoprene pocket on the outside of the Zhik dry bag can hold a 1-litre bottle

Zhik Dry Backpack 35L

Best dry bag on test

The Zhik proved a great balance of solid construction, functional design and low weight. Made to last, it uses thicker waterproof plastic for the base and has a well-padded back.

Internal storage is separated with an iPad pocket, while a zipped external pocket is ideal for keys or other essentials that don’t need to be kept dry.

Two neoprene pockets on the outside were big enough for a 1-litre water bottle. We liked the bag’s design, including the reflective details that ensure it is visible in the dark.

Specifications

Size: 35 litres
External pockets: Yes
Internal pockets: Yes
YM waterproof rating: 8/10
RRP: £108

Zhik Dry Backpack 35L deals

Buy it now on Amazon (UK)

best-dry-bags-group-test-gill-race

The adjustable cord lets you tuck a jumper or lifejacket to the outside

Gill Race Team Backpack 35L

The Gill Race Team backpack was a good balance of size and comfort, big enough to carry a moderate shopping load. Internal pockets mean the inside of the waterproof compartment is separated. There is no waist or chest strap, but the two straps are adequately padded and ergonomically shaped.

The fold-over design and side buckles keeps the closure out of the way, unlike some designs. The seal wasn’t the best on test.

Specifications

Size: 35 litres
External pockets: Yes
Internal pockets: Yes
YM waterproof rating: 6/10
RRP: £55 / $99

Gill Race Team Backpack 35L deals

Buy it now on Amazon (UK)

Buy it now on Amazon (US)

Buy it now on eBay

Note: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site, at no extra cost to you. This doesn’t affect our editorial independence.
best-dry-bags-group-test-aquapac

All the pockets are external, including space for a water bottle

Aquapac Toccoa Heavyweight waterproof Daysack 28L

British brand Aquapac’s Toccoa stands up on it’s own due to a shaped base, a simple feature that made it easier to fill, while a carry handle on the top helped for passing it aboard.

There are no internal pockets, but the outside of the bag has water bottle pockets and the roll-top closure keeps the pack neat. Padding on the back and straps is limited, so not so well suited for heavier loads.

Specifications

Size: 28 litres
External pockets: Yes
Internal pockets: Yes
YM waterproof rating: 6/10
RRP: £50

Aquapac Toccoa Heavyweight waterproof Daysack 28L deals

Buy it now on Amazon (UK)

Buy it now on eBay

best-dry-bags-group-test-ortlieb

The highly adjustable strap system is ideal for heavy loads

Ortlieb Gear-Pack 40L

Industrial design and construction are the chief appeal of this heavyweight rucksack from German outdoor brand Ortlieb. We can see it lasting a very long time, though the seal didn’t work as well as we expected and it isn’t cheap.

A highly adjustable back system incorporates a well-padded waist strap, making it ideal for carrying heavier loads. It also has a detachable water bottle

Specifications

Size: 40 litres
External pockets: Yes
Internal pockets: No
YM waterproof rating: 7/10
RRP: £129.99

Ortlieb Gear-Pack 40L deals

Buy it now on eBay

waterproof-backpack-group-test-decathlon

It may be cheap but this bag is waterproof and solid all round

Decathlon Itiwit 20L

Best budget dry bag on test

This rucksack from French company Decathlon is easily the cheapest on test. Initially, the design struck us as feeling a little cheap, which of course it is. However, the bag’s folding mechanism was easily the most reassuring we tested, giving a very positive seal and neat closure.

Big enough to take the basics ashore, its padded straps are more suitable for lighter loads. The most surprising thing? It was the only bag to survive our rigorous test completely dry inside.

Specifications

Size: 20 litres
External pockets: No
Internal pockets: Yes
YM waterproof rating: 10/10
RRP: £29.99

Decathlon Itiwit 20L deals

Buy it now on Decathlon

waterproof-backpack-group-test-overboard

The bag is light and has an air-flow back panel and two-way sealing system

Overboard Pro-Light Waterproof 30L

Unlike most on test, the Pro-Light sports several non-waterproof outer pockets, making it a practical everyday rucksack. The electronically welded construction is on the light side, keeping the bag weight down, but we thought it might not last as long as others.

The back is well-padded and the rucksack has both chest and waist straps, though both on the light side. It has reflective strips on the shoulder straps, and an air-flow back panel. It can be sealed at the back or the side.

Specifications

Size: 30 litres
External pockets: Yes
Internal pockets: Yes
YM waterproof rating: 9/10
RRP: £94.99

Overboard Pro-Light Waterproof 30L deals

Buy it now on Amazon (UK)

Buy it now on eBay

waterproof-backpack-group-test-henri-lloyd

The bag is compact and has a handy front mesh pocket

Henri Lloyd 25L dri pac rucksack

Henri Lloyd’s latest dry rucksack design is one of the smallest we tested and has a simple design aimed at those wanting to take the essentials ashore. There are no internal pockets and the small mesh pocket on the outside has no zip, rendering it not very useful.

A tough PVC fabric means this bag should stand the test of time while it’s low profile means it will also pack away into a locker easily as it is not very bulky.

Specifications

Size: 25 litres
External pockets: Yes
Internal pockets: No
YM waterproof rating: 7/10
RRP: £49.90

Henri Lloyd 25L dri pac rucksack deals

Buy it now on eBay

best-dry-bags-group-test-how-we-tested

Which were the best dry bags?

What quickly became clear with this test is that dry bag rucksacks are a compromise. They must be highly water resistant while also functioning well as an everyday rucksack. Getting this right is a challenge for each of the bag’s designers.

As a long-term investment that will last many years and many runs ashore, we were very impressed by the truly industrial construction of the Ortlieb. Its highly adjustable and well-padded back system makes it perfect for hauling heavy loads to and from your boat.

An excellent balance of form and function was delivered by the Zhik, some smart design features combined with quality construction make this the choice for someone that’s going to use a dry bag ashore as well.

However, while lacking the heavier feel of its brand name rivals, the Decathlon Itiwit proved itself the most waterproof on test. This, coupled with its low price, means it is excellent value for money.

It is certainly worth considering if you want to keep expensive electronics safe. In bright orange, you won’t miss it in a crowded anchorage!

First published in the Summer 2018 issue of Yachting Monthly.

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Source: Yachting Monthly

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