11 Best Waterproof Backpacks for College and Beyond

If you are on the hunt for the best waterproof backpack for college then it’s a give in that certain carry features are important to you - large compartment for books, padded laptop sleeve, plenty of pockets for school and personal items. But in the world of fully waterproof backpacks these features aren’t as common as you might like to think. This is due in part that most waterproof backpacks are made for special sports and activities like surfing and fishing.

Luckily we did some serious digging and found a few waterproof backpacks that would actually work for students. But before we get to our top picks let’s set some things straight. There is a difference between a waterproof backpack and a water resistant backpack.

waterproof vs water resistant backpack

Fully Waterproof - Coated exterior fabric, welded seams, waterproof zippers or rolltops. No water is going to get in no matter how hard it rains. 100% waterproof.

Water Resistant - Coated exterior fabric with regular zippers and seams. Since the seams and zippers aren’t waterproof they may cause water to soak through if you are unlucky enough to be stuck outside during a heavy downpour. But the coated fabric allows the water to roll off the exterior so your stuff stays dry in a light rain or snow.

We list the level of protection as either waterproof or water resistant with each backpack so you can make a better choice while deciding on which backpack to buy.

For the record - completely waterproof backpacks are usually more expensive than water resistant backpacks. This is because high quality water repellent coatings and welded seams cost more money to produce.

So before we begin this buying guide you should be honest with how much protection you really need. Do you go to college in a snowy or rainy climate? Or do you just need a laptop to protect you books from the occasional shower? 

Now let’s move on to the backpacks.

Best Waterproof Backpacks for College

Showers Pass Utility Backpack - best waterproof backpack for college

Showers Pass Utility Backpack

The Showers Pass Utility Backpack is a 100% waterproof backpack that is made of rugged ballistic nylon with waterproof TPU coating, welded seams and fully waterproof zippers. What makes this backpack stand out from other fully waterproof bags is it’s great organization options and pocket variety. 

The Utility backpack features separate padded laptop and tablet sleeves and multiple fleece lined and waterproof media pockets for things like phones and other tech. It’s also decently sized with a generous 26.8 liter main compartment that fits multiple textbooks, binders and more.

Very few 100% waterproof backpacks offers the storage capabilities of the Showers Pass Utility which is why it’s our top pick for anyone looking for the best waterproof backpack for college. If you want to learn more about what this backpack has to offer make sure to read our full Showers Pass Utility Backpack review.

Features at a glance:

  • Protection level: Fully Waterproof

  • 100% waterproof welded construction with TPU coating

  • Made of tough 849D Ballistic Nylon

  • Capacity: 26.8 liters

  • Tons of pockets for items big and small

Timbuk2 Rogue - waterproof laptop backpack for college

Timbuk2 Rogue Laptop Backpack

The Timbuk2 Rogue is a versatile laptop backpack that is popular with college students and city commuters alike. The backpack is water resistant thanks to its tarpaulin material that repels water on contact. Although not 100% waterproof the Rogue’s design and materials does a great job at repelling water on rainy days due to its secure top lid that doesn’t let water sneak into the main compartment

If you are looking for a serious water resistant backpack for college then the Rogue is a great choice thanks to it’s 15-inch laptop sleeve and organizer pockets for everything from pens to tech chargers. The outside features even more storage options with mesh side pockets for water bottles and daisy chain webbing for attaching external items to the front of the backpack. 

Features at a glance:

  • Protection level: Water Resistant

  • Flap lid and tarpaulin exterior keeps rain and snow out

  • Capacity: 25 liters

  • 15” laptop sleeve in main compartment

Chrome Urban EX - best waterproof college backpack

Chrome Urban EX Rolltop Backpack

The Chrome Urban EX takes the superior protection of a drybag and transforms it to a jack of all trades for everyday carry. If you are on the hunt for the best waterproof backpack for college and beyond then you’ll love the Rogue’s welded waterproof seams, waterproof zippers and a classic rolltop design that ensures that your stuff stays dry no matter how bad the weather gets.

The Chrome Urban EX offers a roomy main compartment for college textbooks, binders and more thanks to its large 28 liter capacity. For storage of smaller items the backpack includes a small waterproof pocket on the top for small items like a wallet or phone. Inside you’ll also find 15-inch laptop sleeve and a dedicated tablet sleeve with additional pockets for organizing small items. 

Features at a glance:

  • Protection level: Fully Waterproof

  • 100% waterproof rolltop design with welded seams

  • Capacity: 28 liters

  • 15” laptop sleeve with separate tablet pocket

Osprey Packs Transport - waterproof backpack for college

Osprey Transport Zip Top Backpack

One look at the Osprey Transport Zip Top and you’ll notice that it doesn’t offer much as far as external pockets. This is because Osprey opted for a clever waterproofing design that keeps all of the organizers and compartments tucked away under a nylon fabric that is double coated with TPU for amazing water repellency. Although not 100% waterproof this design minimizes any water from ruining your stuff during a downpour. 

College students will love the large 30 liter main compartment that is more than enough for a full day of books and a change of clothes. The inside also features plenty of clever pockets for organization such as internal water bottle pockets, padded laptop sleeve and mesh pouches for small items like pens, keys or a phone.

Features at a glance:

  • Protection level: Water Resistant

  • Made of water resistant TPU double coated nylon

  • Capacity: 30 liters

  • Tons of clever internal pockets and organizers

Markryden waterproof backpack for college students

Mark Ryden Compacto Pro Backpack

The Mark Ryden Compacto Pro is the best waterproof backpack for college students who refuse to compromise style for functionality. The backpack itself is made out of a PU coated polyester with an additional internal lining that prevents water from penetrating during heavy rainfall. Unfortunately, the Compacto Pro doesn’t feature waterproof zippers to make it fully waterproof but the backpack’s sloped design and water repellent coating draws water away from the top of the backpack to help keep your items dry in the rain. With these waterproofing features the Mark Ryden Compacto Pro is one of the best budget options at under $60.

When it comes to carry features the Compacto Pro does a good job at maximizing internal space for diverse carry. The main compartment includes a padded laptop sleeve and the bag wall is lined with extra slip pockets for organizing smaller essentials. The roomy main compartment, smart pockets and light weight makes the Mark Ryden Compacto Pro a series contender for those looking for a modern and stylish backpack for college.

Features at a glance:

  • Protection level: Water Resistant

  • Made of water repellent PU coated polyester

  • Minimalist design with plenty of internal pockets

  • Features an external USB charging port

Patagonia Refugio - water resistant backpack college

Patagonia Refugio Backpack

Patagonia is known for their durable outdoor backpacks so it’s no wonder they apply the same attention to detail to daily carry backpacks like the Refugio. This backpack is incredibly water resistant thanks to its plain weave 630 nylon construction that is not only coated with polyurethane but features a DWR finish. Plain english translation: it’s going to keep your important stuff dry.

Students looking for the best water resistant backpack for college will love the Patagonia Refugio’s awesome organizers and storage options. The front compartment is dedicated to organizing smaller items with plenty of pockets for power cords, pens and more. The main compartment includes a 15-inch laptop compartment and plenty of room for daily essentials.

Features at a glance:

  • Protection level: Water Resistant

  • Made of polyurethane coated nylon a water repellent DWR finish

  • Capacity: 28 liters

  • Also available in a women’s version

Shieldon laptop backpack - water resistant backpack for college

Shieldon Laptop Backpack

The Shieldon Laptop Backpack is for college students who need a reliable way to carry their books and tech without the bulky profile. It’s also one of the most affordable backpacks on our list as you can usually grab one for under $50. What we love about this backpack is that although it’s inexpensive, the quality is still top-notch. Smooth zippers, convenient pockets and tough materials are what we have come to expect from Shieldon backpacks and this laptop backpack is no exception. 

This backpack is made out of a water resistant polyester that that is abrasion resistant and easy to clean. This isn’t a completely waterproof college backpack but it does a good job at repelling water and preventing it from penetrating the inside. If you are looking for the best water resistant backpack for college on a budget then the Shieldon Laptop Backpack is definitely our top choice.

Features at a glance:

  • Protection level: Water Resistant

  • Made of polyester with water resistant coating

  • Capacity: 21 liters

  • Includes a rain cover for use in heavy downpours

Topo Designs Rover Pack - best waterproof backpack for college students

Topo Designs Rover Pack

Handmade in the USA, the Topo Designs Rover Pack is ideal for college students looking for a rugged medium size backpack that will stand the rigor of daily use. The main compartment on the Rover Pack is large enough for books and notebooks while the outside zipper pockets makes stashing smaller items a breeze. The backpack also has a padded internal sleeve for a laptop up to 15-inches.

One glance at the Topo Designs Rover Pack and you can see that it was designed to keep your important items dry. The bag itself is made out of a tough water resistant 1000D Cordura nylon with a water repellent pack cloth upper. The Rover Pack also features a lid and cinch-top closure design to ensure that the main compartment is safe from rain or snow.  If you are looking for the best waterproof college backpack that is versatile enough to carry on weekend adventures then the Rover Pack is for you. 

Features at a glance:

  • Protection level: Water Resistant

  • Made of 1000D Cordura nylon with water repellent finish

  • Capacity: 20 liters

  • Handmade in Colorado

Level8 waterproof laptop backpack for college

Level8 Laptop Backpack

Level8 offers an impressive laptop backpack for college that proves you don’t have choose between carry features and keeping your stuff dry. The backpack is made out of a water resistant 1680D polyester that prevents rain and snow from seeping into the bag. Although it’s missing some of the more serious waterproofing features seen in more expensive 100% waterproof bags such as waterproof zippers and welded seams - we still think the Level8 Laptop Backpack is a good option for those worried about walking in light rain between classes.

The Level8 laptop backpack is a great choice if you are on the hunt for a water resistant college backpack with some serious storage. This is thanks to it’s large 31 liter capacity, countless pockets, and comfort-driven back panel and shoulder straps. One of the bag’s best features is its special shock-absorbing laptop sleeve. Made out of 3D EVA foam padding, the laptop sleeve can be found in its own zipper compartment so you have easy access to your tech when you need it most.

Features at a glance:

  • Protection level: Water Resistant

  • Made of water repellent 1680D double-pile polyester with a PU leather bottom

  • Capacity: 31 liters

  • Tons of pockets and organizers for school items

  • Shock absorbing laptop sleeve

Haglofs Helios VX - water resistant backpack for college students

Haglöfs Helios VX Backpack

Haglöfs is a Swedish brand that has made their mark with innovative outdoor products for hiking, mountaineering and more. With the Helios VX backpack, Haglöfs focuses on a urban daily carry pack that is perfect for commuting while still incorporating weather-resistant features, tough materials and a modern design that we have come to expect from the brand. 

The Haglöfs Helios VX is made out high-performance X-Pac fabric, a durable and weather resistant material made to take a beating. When combined with the Helios VX’s rolltop lid and water resistant zippers, this backpack can withstand rain and snow without worry. As a college backpack, 25 liters means the Helios VX is large enough for books, binders and a 15” laptop while still keeping a sleek profile.

Features at a glance:

  • Protection level: Water Resistant

  • Made of water resistant VX 21 Dimension Polyant X-Pac with water resistant zippers

  • Capacity: 25 liters

  • Unisex design

  • 15” padded laptop sleeve

Ortlieb Commuter Daypack - waterproof backpack for college

Ortlieb Commuter Daypack City

The Ortlieb Commuter Daypack City is a great option for anyone looking for a good waterproof backpack for college, weekends or city commutes. The backpack is 100% waterproof thanks to it’s PU-laminated nylon material and rolltop design that prevent water from leaking into the main compartment. Ortlieb also did a great job at designing a back panel and shoulder straps that stay dry while still being comfortable to wear. The back panel is made out of quick-drying foam panel strips and the shoulder straps don’t have additional padding that turn into sponges during a rainfall. It’s small design features like these that set Ortlieb apart from other waterproof backpacks. 

What makes this waterproof backpack stand out from other dry bags is the removable notebook sleeve and organizer panel that allows you to quickly grab you laptop and smaller items when on the move. The only con we could find is that the backpack features a front stash zipper pocket that unfortunately isn’t waterproof - but the pocket is still a welcomed feature on dry days where you need quick access to small items.

Features at a glance:

  • Protection level: Fully Waterproof

  • Made of PU laminated nylon

  • Volume: 21 liters

  • Removable organizer with padded sleeve for laptop and other tech

How to choose a waterproof college backpack

When deciding on a waterproof college backpack a good place to start is with the type of access you’ll have to the main compartment. The majority of your important items will be stored in the main compartment and often times things like text books, class notes and laptops can’t afford to get wet. 

When it comes to waterproof backpacks there are three main types of main compartment entries you’ll encounter:

Showers Pass Utility Backpack  with waterproof zippers

Showers Pass Utility Backpack with waterproof zippers

Zipper access

The majority of school backpacks use a single zipper to access the main compartment. For a waterproof or water resistant college backpack you are going to want to pay attention to the type of zipper the bag uses. Most zippers are not waterproof and offer little protection in the event of a sudden downpour. If you prefer a backpack with zipper access then you should stick with a backpack that offers waterproof zippers.

Waterproof zippers are usually coated with polyurethane to keep water and moisture from entering the backpack. Common waterproof backpack zippers include YKK AquaGuard and Aquaseal zippers.

Timbuk2 Rogue  backpack with lid

Timbuk2 Rogue backpack with lid

Lid Access

Backpack lids are flaps that fold over the main compartment entry to provide extra protection from the elements. This allows for a barrier between the top of the backpack where rain and snow is most likely to land and the entry to the main compartment. A backpack with a lid will often times have either a zipper or drawstring underneath to close and secure the main compartment completely.

Lids are most common in outdoor and technical backpacks where waterproofing is important but you’ll often see them added to school and everyday backpacks as well. 

Chrome Urban EX  Rolltop Backpack

Chrome Urban EX Rolltop Backpack

Rolltop Access

Rolltop backpacks have extra fabric on the top of the bag that you “roll” down to close the main compartment. This type of access is the most popular with waterproof backpacks because of its reputation for water resistance. When a rolltop is compressed it creates a seal and reduces water entry.

Rolltop backpacks are popular with outdoor speciality backpacks where water protection is important. They are very common with bicycle commuting, hiking, surfing and snow backpacks. When choosing a rolltop backpack it’s important that the backpack itself is made out of either waterproof or water resistant material to avoid water penetration when wet.

Waterproof Materials

The next point to consider when choosing a waterproof backpack for college is the type of material the backpack is made of. Materials should be either water resistant or coated to be waterproof.

Water resistant fabrics are tightly woven to prevent water absorption. Some examples of water resistant fabrics are high denier nylon, polyester and canvas. Types of nylon such as Cordura and Ballistic nylon are naturally water resistant and are usually a good starting point when shopping for a water resistant backpack for college. Other fabrics such as X-Pac and sailcloth are also naturally water resistant.

But when it comes to waterproofing a backpack you’ll often need more help than just the fabric alone. This is why most waterproof backpacks are coated to prevent water from seeping into the fabric. Below are three types of common backpack coatings.

TPU coating on the  Showers Pass Utility Backpack

TPU Coating - TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane plastic) is a fabric coating that provides great abrasion resistance making it a popular choice with backpack manufacturers. What’s great about TPU is that it is less prone to cracking than other coating types while still remaining flexible. 

DWR Coating - DWR (durable water resistant) is a very popular coating with rain jackets and other outdoor clothing. Its breathability and strength has made it a popular coating with waterproofing backpacks and bags. DWR maintains it’s breathability because it coats individual fibers instead of laying on top of the textile. This application allows water to roll off of the fabric before it can penetrate.

PU Coating - PU (polyurethane) by itself is often used as imitation leather in bags and small goods. In fabrics PU provides a durable and abrasion-resistant coat with great waterproofing properties while still maintaining breathability and light weight. Many backpack manufacturers prefer PU coating for its relative low cost when compared to TPU and other waterproofing methods. 

Other features to look for

College student with waterproof backpack

What size backpack do you need?

The first thing you should decide when looking for a backpack for college is its size. Larger backpacks (23L+) usually have roomier main compartments and extra pockets for smaller items. If you plan on carrying lots of text books, binders and notebooks around campus then a larger backpack may be the correct choice.

But not everyone need a huge main compartment for school. College students who use their laptops for note-taking may do well with a smaller and lighter backpack with a secure laptop compartment. 

Avoid bucket style dry bags with little organization pockets.

Avoid bucket style dry bags with little organization pockets.

Consider Organization

When shopping for a waterproof backpack for college don’t skimp on organization. Most waterproof backpacks are made for special activities such as biking, surfing and fishing and because of this they won’t have all of the pockets and organization feature you may need for school. 

Avoid bucket style dry bags and instead choose a backpack with more pockets for everyday items like pens, a cell phone and a laptop. Waterproof dry bags are great for a beach day but they will lack the necessary features for a busy day on campus.

Waterproof or Water Resistant?

The last point worth noting is that you’ll have many more backpack options if you go with a water resistant backpack than a fully waterproof backpack. Water resistant backpacks are good enough for most college students who need protection from sudden showers and short rainy day commutes. Unless you plan on studying in a climate that is incredibly rainy or snowy chances are you’ll be fine with just a water resistant backpack for college. 

Waterproof backpacks for college aren’t impossible to find but there are less options overall and are generally more expensive than their water resistant counterparts. So decide on how much protection you really need before making the plunge (pun absolutely intended.)