Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+ Sign up for Outside+ today.
It’s been raining for a few hours. First a light drizzle, then a downpour. Now, shivering, you finally decide it’s time to stop playing chicken and put on that rain shell. You wipe a wet tendril of hair from your eyes and bend to open your pack—only to have your daydreams of dry layers shattered by the sloshy sight of all your clothes, totally waterlogged.
Alternative option: Invest in one of these waterproof daypacks before the forecast starts to slide. With taped teams, waterproof zippers, and impenetrable coatings standing between you and the weather, you can stride on knowing that your electronics, insulating layers, and snacks are all safe and dry whenever you need them—no matter how much precip Mother Nature decides to unleash.
Exped Typhoon 15
The lightest pack in the test, the Typhoon 15 emerged as our top choice for quick missions under threatening skies. Taped seams, a waterproof, PU-coated polyester liner, and an external PU coating kept out both rain and snow during a season of testing in Washinton’s Issaquah Alps. The Typhoon’s 210-denier ripstop nylon carbonate exterior is durable enough to deflect branches, though the pack’s low profile meant it didn’t snag easily. “I found myself grabbing this pack regularly for steep trail runs like Mailbox Peak, which has 4,000 feet of gain over 2.5 miles,” says one Washington tester. “There, it’s often sunny at the base but raining at the top.” The pack’s small size means a light suspension—just a narrow webbing hipbelt and a thin foam backpanel—but it was plenty sufficient for loads under 10 pounds. Organization is minimal, but we appreciated the zippered inner pocket for stashing keys and the side water bottle pockets. “Those pockets let me grab a drink without exposing my other gear to the rain,” reports one tester.
$79; 13 oz.; Buy Now
Ortovox Traverse 30 Dry
High capacity, outstanding organization, and superior carrying comfort made the Traverse 30 Dry our go-to for longer dayhikes in rain or snow. We were able to fit insulating layers, shells, and an emergency shelter in the main packbody, while gloves, hat, and other essentials found a home in the roomy zippered toplid. “Even in sopping conditions, the pack always kept my clothes dry,” said one tester after a season in New England toting the Traverse 28S Dry (the women’s version). Durability is also outstanding: The pack’s welded seams never leaked, and the TPU-coated polyamide material is a whopping 420 denier, the highest in the test. The Traverse emerged from tangles with rocks and tree branches in Vermont’s Green Mountains without a scratch. Strategically placed padding behind the shoulder blades, lateral lumbar, and lower back create deep air channels, which promote airflow on warmer days. We also appreciated the rigid plastic framesheet, load-lifter straps, and wide hipbelt wings, which evenly distributed loads up to 40 pounds. “It hugs the body so well that you can even trail run with it,” one tester says. “I felt like my body was one with this pack.”
$140; 2 lbs. 11 oz.; Buy Now
Fjällräven High Coast Rolltop 26L
We have a lot to thank the High Coast Rolltop for. More specifically: a homemade wild huckleberry pie. On off-trail berry-picking missions in the Pacific Northwest, the durable 210-denier nylon on this hybrid commuter/hiking pack kept out clawing branches, letting us bring home our precious cargo unharmed. A waterproof coating and taped seams also thwarted heavy precip. “All the pack’s contents were completely dry after four hours of hiking in the rain,” said one Washington tester after a trip to Kitsap County’s Green Mountain. The High Coast Rolltop also gets brownie points for its 100 percent recycled fabric, and testers found the trim, monochromatic canvas to be the most stylish-looking in the test. A simple webbing hipbelt and contoured shoulder harness, along with a mesh-covered foam backpanel, provided sufficient support for up to 17-pound loads on 14-mile dayhikes in Olympic National Forest. (Ding: The backpanel isn’t very breathable.) The High Coast’s biggest misses are organizational; while the pack does boast two handy internal pockets, it has no hipbelt pockets, and the deep water bottle sleeves are tough to reach while you hike.
$110; 1 lb.; Buy Now
Ortlieb Atrack CR Urban 25L
Outstanding durability and a duffel-like opening made the Atrack CR Urban 25L a favorite of adventure travelers and packrafters. The pack opens via a long zipper down the center of the backpanel, which meant we could throw it down in the mud without worrying about clogging external pockets or zippers. The design also allowed us to access all our gear without flipping the backpanel into the muck. In warm weather the Atrack CR Urban breathes well thanks to mesh-wrapped foam padding along either side of the spine, and we were able to access water via bottles in the single side pocket (not quite big enough for a Nalgene) and via a reservoir hose, which runs through a waterproof port above the shoulder. We loaded this pack with 30 pounds for air travel, though the narrow webbing hipbelt meant our shoulders preferred 15-pound loads for hiking. After a season of testing near Fairbanks, Alaska, we can verify that the waterproof zippers, welded seams, and PU-coated cordura were no match for rain, snow, and scrapes with rock and concrete. (The Atrack CR Urban is also the only pack in the test that’s rated for temporary submersion.) But there is a price for all that durability: This pack is the most expensive in the test, and it’s also the heaviest.
$260; 2 lbs. 14 oz.; Buy Now
Auk 27 Liter Dry Pack
We trusted the 27 Liter Dry Pack for everything from bushwhacking through wet scrub to full-on creek swims on expeditions along North Carolina’s Eno River. While the pack’s lightly padded hipbelt wings and molded foam backpanel felt most comfortable with lighter loads, one tester decided to fill it with 30 pounds for a backpacking trip in the Shining Rock Wilderness. “I was surprised at how much I could fit in the packbag,” he said. “I took three days of food, two liters of water, a JetBoil, a pot, some clothes, and eight cans of Shock Top—don’t judge.” The pack carried the weight fine, though he did experience some shoulder soreness afterward. Throughout the season, the 27 Liter Dry Pack’s taped seams, TPU-coated zippers, and TPU-coated polyester roll-top sealed out sideways rain; we never had a leak. The 210-denier polyester (a lighter fabric than the 210-denier polyamide on the High Coast Rolltop, above) also withstood gentle scrapes with rocks and trees, but it was no match for cactus spines. “They went straight through,” said one tester after a trip to Big Bend National Park. “However, the pack seemed to stay waterproof when I got caught in a lightning storm a few weeks later.”
$129; 1 lb. 7 oz.; Buy Now
Outdoor Research CarryOut Dry Pack 20L
Want reliable waterproofing without any extra bells and whistles? The CarryOut Dry Pack’s simple, stripped-down profile and light weight made it an ideal daily carry pack for everything from rugged hikes to pedestrian commutes. We used the internal sleeve to hold a light sweater while we were on the trail and a laptop while we were in town. A roomy external pocket with a non-waterproof zipper held snacks and essentials. The fully seam-taped, TPU-laminated ripstop nylon on the main packbody kept out precip during sudden showers in the Colorado Rockies. And when it wasn’t raining? The pack breathed surprisingly well, thanks to a cushioned backpanel and a honeycomb of open mesh on the shoulder straps. The 70-denier ripstop nylon is light, but one tester found it sufficient for short sections of bushwhacking on off-trail hikes in Colorado. The only thing we didn’t like? Hydration options were lacking. “There isn’t a place to easily access your water bottle and no way to use a bladder,” lamented one tester.
$99; 15 oz.; Buy Now