Gear Guy

Just how waterproof are these waterproof packs?     Photo: flau31/Thinkstock

Q:

What Are the Best Waterproof Packs?

Grand Canyon tested and approved

A:Whether you’re planning a rafting trip or just need a commuter bag for fall, it’s good to have a quality waterproof daypack stashed in your closet.  

We tested the following four packs during an 18-day Grand Canyon trip in May. Reviewers strapped the bags to boats, wore them on about a dozen side hikes, then continued to test them throughout the summer after returning from the river. 

Here are the results:

Patagonia Stormfront 28L Pack ($299)

  Photo: Courtesy of Patagonia

I stashed my high-end camera equipment in the Patagonia Stormfront during the Grand Canyon trip. This is the most expensive pack on the list—and you get what you pay for, including peace of mind. I never worried about strapping my camera gear to the front of the raft when it was in this bag, made from burly 800-denier TPU fabric and a zipper that looks like it belongs on a drysuit.

During 18 days on the river, the Stormfront kept water out of the main compartment. That wasn’t the case with the front stash pocket, which isn’t 100 percent waterproof; it consistently felt damp. Bonus points: The cushy waist belt and stretchy chest strap made the pack comfortable to carry through tight slot canyons.  


Seal Line Black Canyon Boundary Portage Pack 35L ($100)

  Photo: Courtesy of Sea Line

The Seal Line pack is exceptionally durable. One tester clambered, squeezed, and swam with it through the calcified creek in Havasu Canyon without inflicting any damage. Plus, the roll-top design kept water out of the main compartment. Neither the chest straps nor hip belt are padded, making the pack less comfortable to hike with than other bags we tested. It also has the slimmest back padding, so it packs down small but won’t be ideal for bike commuters who want a bit more cush.


Sea to Summit Rapid 26L Drypack ($170)

  Photo: Courtesy of Sea to Summit

One tester found the Sea to Summit Rapid so versatile that it’s become his everyday pack since taking it out on the Colorado in June. “The fact that it’s waterproof is an added bonus,” he says. The Rapid is made from 100 percent waterproof TPU and didn’t show any signs of tearing after multiple scrapes against sandstone. The pack cinched down tightly on testers’ backs, and we found the shoulder straps to be both breathable and comfortable.   


Boreas Scrimshaw ($60)

  Photo: Courtesy of Boreas

The Boreas Scrimshaw traveled to the Grand Canyon twice, and we found it to be supremely comfortable for side hikes and scrambles. Boreas nailed it with its Super-Tramp suspension system, which you can swap out depending on activity or weather. One tester loaded the Scrimshaw with 25 pounds of gear and hiked with it down the Bright Angel Trail. “For a bag with a tiny webbing hip belt, it carried really well,” he says. The pack also breathes well thanks to a gap between its frame and the hiker’s back, and well-ventilated shoulder straps.

Although it carried the most comfortably of any other bag on this list, the pack was the least waterproof. During both trips down the river, gear in the pack would get damp—not soaked—after a day on the water. This makes the Scrimshaw a great option for commuters, but you’ll want to keep it out of a river.

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