Best waterproof backpack and other gear for rainy season travel?
June 23, 2019 7:48 PM   Subscribe

I'm traveling to the Philippines very soon, and it's the rainy season--I'm told to expect it to rain heavily pretty much all the time. I'll need to carry a backpack with a laptop in it around with me many days. Please recommend a good waterproof (or -resistant) backpack! Ideally 20-30L, not particularly hike-y or sport-y looking, available in black, and with a side bottle pocket. Any other gear recommendations are welcome, as well. I'll already be packing a light rain jacket, quick-dry synthetic clothes, and shoes that can get wet.
posted by rhiannonstone to Travel & Transportation around Manila, Philippines (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Several years ago i had an older model of this North Face Itinerant backpack (150 USD) with rolltop and found it completely waterproof in sustained heavy rain.

I’d note that one of the few negative reviews on the site is a complaint about the water bottle pockets, however.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 7:59 PM on June 23, 2019

No backpack recs but as someone who spends as extensive amount of time in the rain, I will highly highly highly recommend using a backpack liner no matter what material the pack is made of. By which I mean a thick, durable trash bag. Very low cost and you have 2x layers of waterproofing.
posted by ToddBurson at 8:20 PM on June 23, 2019 [4 favorites]

Are you backpacking, doing work in Manila, or something else? Most modes of work and transport a traveller is likely to use are covered and conditioned. Within cities like Manila there are whole stretches you can walk under cover.

I highly recommend a bag with some sort of outside pocket and a good quality umbrella. Umbrellas are very common there both for rain and sun.
posted by a halcyon day at 8:50 PM on June 23, 2019

I’ve been happy with this Patagonia black hole bag. It may not meet your ‘not too hike-y’ requirement, though. The side pockets can fit a 1L water bottle and it has survived a lot of time outside in rain and humidity. I recently gave it a bath (leaked shampoo) and until I submerged it, the inside stayed dry.
posted by queseyo at 9:00 PM on June 23, 2019

Check out North St. Bags. They're waterproof, have side pockets for water bottles, and can come with a laptop sleeve. The style is more urban Pacific Northwest thank hiking. I use one for commuting and it's held up through all the weather.
posted by kendrak at 9:06 PM on June 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Sounds like you're up for something urban looking? Can I recommend Arcteryx's Granville backpack? They have a smaller size too.
posted by tamarack at 10:22 PM on June 23, 2019

Ortlieb Packman Pro.

The only backpack I know that I would not hesitate to drop in a swimming pool if I had reason to do so.
posted by Stoneshop at 10:33 PM on June 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Unless you go with a legit dry bag, you will probably get some leaking with almost any backpack. Even my truck-tarp-lined Chrome beast eventually gets some seepage on truly wet days, and if you're travelling, you won't be able to easily pull out your laptop and rescue it from the moisture. I definitely suggest using a pack liner *and* pack cover, as well as a waterproof laptop case.
posted by halation at 11:28 PM on June 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Are you working in Manila?

I've spent about 6 weeks there, and most of locals that I saw there with backpacks wore them on their chest, due to theft concerns. If you're going to be hiking and moving about, then a backpack would be good, but otherwise I would probably go with a shoulder bag that could be worn cross-body.

If you are in Manila, petty theft can be a problem even in areas that are generally very safe -- I almost got my briefcase stolen out from under my feet in Makati, which is generally a very safe area, precisely because I got too comfortable and got complacent after a couple weeks. Even in the provinces it can be an issue. Be aware of your surroundings at all times.

In terms of bag recommendations, Red Oxx makes incredibly durable and water-resistant bags. They aren't the cheapest, or the most stylish, but they have high-quality, buy-it-for-life gear that will handle anything you throw at it. And if it gets damaged -- even accidentally! -- they will repair or replace it free of charge, for life.
posted by vitout at 6:18 AM on June 24, 2019

I would highly recommend a rain cover for waterproofing and also high visibility, as monsoon rains can be very powerful. Many bag makers include rain covers in some of their bags, including Osprey and Deuter, so they may be worth a look.
posted by apcmwh at 8:34 AM on June 24, 2019

I carry my 15" laptop around in the biggest ziplock bag I've ever seen in my life, inside my nominally waterproof laptop backpack. Kept the computer completely dry on the day I was so distracted looking for my raincoat that I forgot to zip up the bag before going out in the pouring rain. I believe the brand is Hefty, and the size is 2.5 gallon.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 5:13 PM on June 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Large ziploc bags can be found at Wal-Mart and Target. I would not swim with them, but they will work under regular circumstances in a water-repellent backpack.
If you are really concerned about failure points, add a bit of duct tape along the sides and bottom. Then the failure point is the top seal. Because it is transparent, you will see any condensation inside due to a humid environment.
Desiccant packets may help keep your electronics dry inside the sealed bag. In the past I've used a hearing aid dryer which can be reactivated in a microwave.
Another alternative is a dry bag for the laptop. If it holds air after closure, it still works.

I would not rely on a backpack or briefcase alone to keep electronics dry.
posted by TrishaU at 9:08 PM on June 24, 2019

On the gear and clothing question -- here is one discussion about cotton vs synthetics and Goretex/waterproof footwear vs quick drying footwear.
My personal recommendation is to bring underwear and lightweight bras in both cotton and microfiber and use what works better. Clothes can usually be purchased while travelling but nice footwear and bras are harder to source.
I'm usually all about Fruit of the Loom, but the ExOfficio brand does get good reviews by hikers alternating between two pairs each day, one to wash and one to wear. I'd bring more and change several times a day.
Chub rub, bra rashes, foot care -- I'd bring Gold Bond powder and Body Glide stick and use what seems to work at the time.
Permethrin spray can be used on clothing to repel insects. If you go this route, check if it can be purchased while traveling for reapplication to clothes after multiple washes. I'd also bring a head net that works with a billed cap, just in case.
posted by TrishaU at 9:58 PM on June 24, 2019

Thanks, all! I ended up with a nice waxed-canvas bag (the Foundation pack) from Timbuk2, and some 2-gallon foodsaver bags tucked into the pockets for additional laptop protection just in case--and for the most part didn't need any serious waterproofing because it was more drizzle than torrential downpour most of the time. Umbrellas were definitely the preferred method of staying dry when the rains were heavier.

For anyone considering it, the Timbuk2 Foundation pack looks very nice and has just the right amount of organization for me, but it's pretty heavy and just on this side of too large to go under the seat in Economy.

While I was there, I found the Anello bags store, and they have a nice waterproof vinyl backpack that still looks professional (and apparently is quite trendy?)--and has side bottle pockets. I picked up one of those for future rainy-climate travels, and am sharing it here, in case others find it useful.
posted by rhiannonstone at 12:26 AM on July 8, 2019

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