Singapore—bustling, modern, and perpetually drenched. The country sees abundant rainfall all year round, even in the non-monsoon season, and because of its proximity to the equator, can also be unbearably humid. Similar to climbers who need to acclimate to the heights of the Andes, the weather in the country takes some getting used to.
And it’s not just people who need to adapt to the climate. Any hiker hoping to successfully trek through Singapore’s numerous nature trails and wetlands needs the best waterproof backpack to keep out aserious amount of water. No one wants to end up in a scenic reservoir only to discover their expensive digital camera ruined by a sudden downpour, or desperately shivering inside a tent in the middle of the night because of wet clothes. The last thing anyone kayaking through Palau Ubin needs is to worry about their phone getting wet.
Adventurers need a pack that can put them at ease, a backpack they won’t have to worry about as they charge through rain, mudflats, and marshes. Flimsy rain covers won’t cut it. Many brands advertise waterproof material, but are only really waterproof to a certain extent--often never as much as promised on the label.
If you want your valuables to stay dry while you’re roaring through the rapids of the Ayung River in neighboring Indonesia, or shredding through Singapore’s many wake parks, you’re going to need a backpack with a truly waterproof system. These can be hard to find, so we’ve made a guide on how to tell if your pack will float, or if your things are in for a soak.
What is it made of?
There’s no better material to look to for waterproofing than the same fabric used for building rafts and rubber kayaks: nylon-coated PVC tarpaulin. The strength of nylon is measured in Denier (D), and hiking packs commonly fall between the 450-600D range, with the durability increasing the higher you go up the scale.
Nylon also has one property that is very important for waterproof bags: it is lightweight. A bag that keeps your items dry is no use at the bottom of a river. Most nylon-coated, waterproof backpacks are made to be buoyant. So if your pack isn’t made of the same material, at least make sure to test if the bag can float if you do accidentally drop it.
How was it made?
You can’t just build a pack out of nylon and call it waterproof. How a backpack is constructed is as important as the material it is made from. Waterproof backpacks have to be seamless. If you spot thread joining the panels or any part of your backpack together, then it’s most likely not waterproof. A seamless backpack’s parts are machine-welded together, leaving no holes for even the smallest dust mote to sneak through.
Most waterproof packs are built with traditional sealing methods like waterproof zippers--although most advertised waterproof zippers are really just “water-resistant”. This means that if it gets pelted by a particularly strong thunderstorm, or dunked long enough, it will let water through. The best backpacks avoid the problem by doing away with zippers altogether, instead opting for a roll-top system that folds the bag twice or thrice from the top and the sides to secure openings. The closing mechanism seals the mouth of the bag, allowing no way for the water to enter.
Is it comfortable to lug around?
It’s hard enough to trek in the rain, let alone struggle through the canopy feeling like you have a small bear strapped to your back. Hikers, especially those fond of going off the beaten path, should choose a pack with an ergonomic back support, which will allow for hours of exploring without risking injury. Ergonomic means that the pack doesn’t simply buckle around your waist. Look for a backpack that offers full torso support: padded lumbar supports for your lower back, padded shoulder straps, and adjustable sternum straps.
Given the country’s extreme humidity, even a light trek can feel like an underwater slog. As important as it is to keep the bag close to your core back muscles to avoid overstraining, you need a pack that doesn’t stick to your back when you start to sweat. Well-ventilated backpacks help keep you cool by allowing for enough air to pass between your back and the bag.
And because you’re going to be using the backpack under extreme conditions, you’re going to need durable straps and carry handles. Handles should be sturdy enough to get yanked around without buckles breaking or tearing the fabric.
Are there enough pockets and are they easily accessible?
A simple waterproof backpack or dry tube does the bare minimum and keeps water out. However, the best ones are fully-functional, designed around the comfort of the user down to the smallest details. Internal dry pockets give electronics such as your smartphone added protection against the elements, but also make it easy to find your smaller items. No one enjoys rooting around a 60-litre bag for a set of keys.
Stretchy mesh pockets on the outside of the bag are also a good feature to look out for. Roll-top system bags, while completely waterproof, are harder to open. Mesh pockets allow you quick access to items that you might need to use frequently, like a flashlight or a water bottle.
Good packs also have metal rings or “D-rings” placed around strategic locations around the bag, where you can hook pouches, hiking equipment, and other external attachments while keeping them conveniently out of the way. You wouldn’t want a flask banging awkwardly against the backs of your arms or thighs while on a difficult hike.
Whether you’re a casual or veteran hiker, an intrepid camper, or a water sports enthusiast, a waterproof backpack is invaluable. The perfect pack keeps equipment dry, protects you from injuries, and keeps you comfortable through hours of adventure.
We can help you find the perfect pack for your trips, one that can keep up with you on any terrain. Check out our OverBoard waterproof backpack sale, where you can find the best in waterproof packs for as much as 20% off.