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How Do I Waterproof My Backpack?

What's the best way to keep pack contents dry. Pack covers and pack liners have failed repeatedly. Should I just rely on zip lock bags?


How to waterproof your backpack Use these tips to waterproof your backpack before hiking in the rain. (iStockphoto / Maridav)

What’s the best way to keep pack contents dry if I don’t have a waterproof backpack? Pack covers and pack liners have failed repeatedly. Should I just rely on Ziplock bags?

Submitted by - Ed, Waxhaw, NC


Hey Ed,

Unless a pack cover or pack liner is ripped, it should work just fine in terms of keeping your gear dry. Ziplocks work great on smaller items, but good luck trying to get your sleeping bag in one.

Here’s the deal: You’ve got a lot of options for keeping your gear dry, but it really comes down to personal preference.  Want my opinion? (I’ll assume the answer to that is yes, since you wrote me.)

Pack covers

I think pack covers are a pain in the butt. You have to stop to put them on when the rain starts, and when you want to access something, like a water bottle in a side packet, they get in the way.

Pack liners

SeaToSummit_UltraSilPackLinerPack liners (like Sea to Summit’s Ultra-Sil Pack Liners) are a good option that I sometimes use. They come in a variety of sizes, weigh next to nothing, and it’s nice to not have to worry about individually bagging each water-sensitive item.

Cheapskate option? Line your pack with a heavy duty garbage bag instead.


SeaToSummit_eVacDrySackWhen I know that wet weather is inevitable and things could get really ugly, I always feel safer with a system of smaller waterproof stuffsacks. That way, I can keep my clothes in one, my bag in another, and other doo-dads in a smaller one.  I can access each without exposing the others to the weather.

Some favorites: Granite Gear eVent Sil Compression Drysacks and Sea to Summit’s eVac Dry Sacks. Neither one has ever failed me, despite tons of nasty weather, and they both come in a variety of sizes to fit any type of trip.

Plastic bags

Of course, I always have a couple of ziplocks in my pack as well: for my map, notebook, and tp stash.



  1. kylemchristian

    I also like to use things like garbage disposal bags. These are thicker than normal garbage bags, and do not tear as easily, and I have one or two that I have taken on several trips with me without it wearing out or tearing early on in the trip, if at all.

    They are big enough that you can line the inside of your pack with one, put your gear inside the pack, and either fold the top over, or take another one and make your own “lid” or covering. Obviously, be careful doing this because if a bunch of water gets in, you basically create a pool with wet gear, but in six years of backpacking, I have never had that happen.

    Profile photo of kylemchristian
  2. Tom Morley

    I use dry bags for everything. One large to line the bag, and smaller ones for contents that have to stay dry. Color code them and you will always know where things are. I will use a cover just to keep the bag drier than not using one.

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