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Waterproof backpacks are a nice idea in theory.
Sorta like unicorns.
But can you get your hands on one?
Excellent question, dear hiker.
Let's find out.
Hikers live in fear of getting wet if the temperature is below what you would consider a balmy, mild summer day.
Lots of reasons:
...to name just a few.
So evading water drops is not just a unicorn quest, it's a necessity on the trail.
No unicorns will be hunted in order to answer these questions.
To be fully waterproof is a tall order for a hiking backpack.
So here's the pivotal question to ask yourself as a hiker:
Do you really need a fully waterproof pack?
Answer yes, if you:
You might just need a waterproof pack cover to go over your water repellent backpack.
Or buy a dry bag to protect the camera or sleeping bag.
You could use a large heavy duty plastic garbage bag over your pack for a day hike. (Not recommended, by the way, unless you also have duct tape to repair the inevitable rips and holes.)
Everything depends upon the level of risk of getting wet you want to assume, and the amount of money you are willing to invest in a pack that can stand up to the demands of your hiking trip(s).
I have both kinds of backpacks:
water repellent day and backpacking packs with fitted waterproof covers that attach via straps and elastic, like this one from Deuter:
... and ...
fully waterproof backpacks like this Mountain Hardwear Ozonic 50 OutDry Pack, with dry bags inside (I'm an over-planner, what can I say?) for river/hike combo trips.
So pick your poison!
Personally, I'd rather skimp on the shirt I'm wearing, and pay
more for a backpack that will stand up to whatever Mother Nature throws
The features of a waterproof pack include:
Here's one similar to the one I use (I bought mine several years ago, so this is as close to mine as I could find): Sea to Summit 65L Hydraulic Pack.
This pack is not built for extended periods of hiking, but it can be used to haul gear during a portage or when bushwacking to a campsite.
That's how I used it, and I know it works well.
Just keep it away from sharp rocks or unsheathed blades...
Not every hiker should chase the holy grail
of waterproof packs.
They are expensive, can be heavy, and most don't fit well enough to be used for lots of mileage.
However, they are absolutely necessary when you are up against wet conditions or will be mixing extensive water travel with hiking.
Dry bags inside your water repellent backpack are a great solution to keeping certain items of technology (GPS, camera, phone, stove) safe and dry inside your water repellent pack.
Please don't skimp on keeping your gear dry, unless you really have no other options.
Getting wet outdoors is risky even in warm weather, and because we live in such a technology-heavy world there's no reason to take chances with hypothermia.
A happy hiker is a warm dry hiker. Repeat after me...
Now read these tips on how to be a happy backpacker!
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