As an avid reader of your column, I knew I could come to you for advice. Does anyone make a waterproof backpack? I commute to work on my bike and need my stuff to stay dry. Specifically, I would really like to find a weatherproof pack that can carry my laptop. (And we get a lot of weather over here in Iceland.) I've seen courier bags from Timbuk2 and Chrome, but nothing really sings out to me. And, while we're at it, why doesn't anyone make a bag out of Gore-Tex XCR or something similar? Douglas Keflavík, Iceland
And, indeed, there are very few choices out there. Vaude made several waterproof packs in the late 1990s, but has mostly abandoned that effort except for a messenger-style bag called the H2O Proof ($130 U.S.; www.vaude.de).
Why not get waterproof panniers? Ortlieb offers some excellent choices in this category. The Back-Roller Plus ($180 U.S.; www.ortlieb.de) can be used as a backpack with a strap system that makes for a superb bike-commuter piece. And it's totally waterproofI was touring with Ortlieb gear a month ago, and it withstood some real downpours. And I should think the weight of a laptop would be better placed low in a pannier, rather than on your back.
Otherwise, you could always buy a waterproof case for the laptop and stick the whole thing in a regular pack. Pelican makes a waterproof hard case for $105 U.S. (www.pelican.com). Or, get a kayaker's dry bag and put the laptop in that, then the dry bag into your pack. SealLine makes great, totally waterproof bags that shouldn't set you back more than about $25 U.S. (www.cascadedesigns.com/sealline).