Rucksack Maintenance and Care

Waterproof vs Non-Waterproof Rucksack Care

Diving into the world of outdoor excursions means meeting one crucial challenge head-on: keeping your gear dry and safe. It’s a common misconception that all rucksacks offer the same degree of protection against the elements, but there lies a critical distinction between waterproof and water-resistant bags.

With extensive experience in trekking across varied landscapes and an understanding borne from countless camping trips, I’m here to guide you through the intricate maze of rucksack care.

Despite what many believe, most backpacks are merely water repellent; they fend off moisture to an extent but don’t promise thorough dryness under heavy rain or when submerged. This article is designed to unravel these nuances, equipping you with knowledge on how to maintain your trusty companion whether it braves torrential downpours or misty drizzles.

Prepare for clearer skies ahead as we detail vital insights that will help secure your belongings—no matter where adventure leads you. Keep reading; guidance awaits.

Key Takeaways

  • Waterproof rucksacks provide superior protection against heavy rain and water submersion, while water-resistant rucksacks offer limited protection against light rain and splashes.
  • Proper care for waterproof rucksacks involves regular cleaning with mild soap and water, avoiding machine-washing or fabric softeners, along with periodic reapplication of waterproofing treatments to maintain their protective properties.
  • When selecting a rucksack material, consider factors such as strength, weight, breathability, UV resistance benefits, and specific outdoor activity needs to find the most suitable option for your adventures.

Understanding the Difference Between Waterproof and Water-Resistant Rucksacks


Water resistance refers to the ability of a material or fabric to repel water to some extent, while waterproof means that it can completely prevent water from passing through. Different levels of water resistance exist, and understanding these distinctions is crucial for selecting the right rucksack for your needs.

Water resistance vs. waterproof

Water-resistant rucksacks can handle a bit of water, like light rain or splashes. They have special coatings that make the water bead up and roll off the fabric. But if they sit in water for too long or face a big storm, they might let some water in.

So while you’re out hiking or walking to work on drizzly days, your stuff stays mostly dry.

On the other hand, waterproof backpacks are built to keep every drop out no matter what. They’ve got seals and materials that won’t let any water pass through. You could drop them in a lake while kayaking or get caught in a heavy downpour, and everything inside would stay bone-dry.

Outdoor enthusiasts with valuable gear love these because they offer total peace of mind.

Both types need different care to stay good at keeping water out. With proper treatment, they’ll last longer and perform better whenever you head into wet conditions or just live your everyday life with potential spills around every corner.

Levels of water resistance

Backpacks come in different levels of water resistance. The material and how the backpack is made are important for keeping your things dry.

  • Not resistant: These bags don’t fight off water at all. If you get caught in the rain, your stuff inside might get wet.
  • Water-repellent: These bags can handle a light rain. The water forms beads and rolls off, but don’t put them in a puddle.
  • Water-resistant: Better than repellent, they can take on some rain and splashes. But heavy rain could still sneak through.
  • Highly water-resistant: Using special coatings, these can face heavy rains but not be underwater.
  • Waterproof (non-submersible): Very strong against water. They survive heavy storms but should not be thrown into a lake.
  • Waterproof (submersible): The toughest kind. You can dunk these in a river while kayaking, and they’ll keep your sleeping bag dry.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Waterproof Rucksacks

Waterproof rucksacks offer excellent protection for valuables and gear, ensuring they stay dry in even the harshest weather conditions. However, they can be heavier and less breathable than non-waterproof alternatives, making them less ideal for certain outdoor activities.

Durability and protection for valuables

Keeping your gear dry is key, especially when facing rain or crossing rivers. Waterproof rucksacks are tough and keep water out, so your things stay safe. They use materials like nylon which is strong and won’t let air or water pass through.

This means if you put a laptop, camera, or clothes inside a waterproof backpack, they’re protected from getting wet.

For campers and hikers who don’t want their stuff ruined by water, picking the right kind of pack matters a lot. After making sure your valuables are secure with a waterproof backpack, it’s smart to look at how to care for these bags correctly to keep them working well over time.

Weight and breathability concerns

When selecting a waterproof rucksack, it’s important to consider weight and breathability. Waterproof materials often add weight to the bag, making it heavier compared to non-waterproof options.

This can be a significant factor for those looking for lightweight gear, especially during long hikes or travel. While waterproof bags offer excellent protection from moisture, they may compromise breathability due to the dense nature of the material.

Non-waterproof bags allow better air circulation, preventing an uncomfortable build-up of heat and sweat against your back.

Proper Care and Maintenance for Waterproof and Water-Resistant Rucksacks

To ensure your waterproof rucksack remains effective, regularly clean it with a mild soap and water solution, avoid machine-washing or using fabric softeners. For water-resistant rucksacks, consider reapplying durable water repellent treatments to maintain their protective properties.

Cleaning and storage tips

To maintain your rucksack, follow these cleaning and storage tips:

  1. Use lukewarm water and a soft sponge or brush to clean the rucksack sparingly without causing damage.
  2. Wash the rucksack with pH – neutral soap or shower gel in a bathtub or large basin of water.
  3. Wait until the rucksack is completely dry before applying protective finishes like waterproofing sprays.
  4. Wipe the rucksack regularly with a damp cloth and mild detergent to minimize dirt buildup inside and outside the pack.
  5. If your rucksack is waterproof, wash it only once or twice per year to avoid lessening its ability to repel water.
  6. Spot clean affected areas with a damp cloth and soak the rucksack in cold water in the bathtub if necessary, gently scrubbing it.

Reapplying treatments

To keep your rucksack in top-notch condition, you’ll need to reapply treatments periodically. Here are some important steps:

  1. Clean the rucksack thoroughly before applying any waterproofing treatment. Use a mild soap and water solution to remove dirt and grime.
  2. Ensure the bag is completely dry before beginning the reapplication process.
  3. Choose the appropriate waterproofing product based on the material of your rucksack. Look for products that specifically mention compatibility with nylon, polyester, or tarpaulin.
  4. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to apply the treatment carefully. This might involve spraying, brushing, or wiping the product onto the fabric.
  5. Pay particular attention to areas such as seams, zippers, and pockets, where water can penetrate more easily.
  6. Allow the treatment to dry completely before using the rucksack again.

Alternatives to Waterproof Rucksacks

Consider nylon, polyester, and tarpaulin as alternative materials for water-resistant rucksacks to provide protection without the added weight and breathability concerns of waterproof options.

Nylon, polyester, and tarpaulin options

Nylon and polyester are common materials for waterproof rucksacks. Nylon is stronger, lighter, and waterproof. It resists shrinking and stretching, making it ideal for backpacks. Polyester, on the other hand, is durable but not as strong as nylon.

However, it has advantages in UV performance. Tarpaulin is also used in waterproof rucksacks. Compared to nylon and polyester, tarpaulin has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

When choosing a waterproof rucksack material, consider the specific features you need. If you prioritize strength and waterproof properties, nylon is an excellent choice. For durability with UV resistance benefits, go for polyester.


In conclusion, understanding the difference between waterproof and water-resistant rucksacks is crucial for proper care. Ensuring practicality and efficiency, these care tips are easy to implement and highly effective.

How might you apply these strategies to prolong the life of your rucksack? Emphasizing the importance of this topic, taking proactive steps can significantly improve gear protection and durability.

Remember, a little care goes a long way in keeping your belongings dry during adventures!


1. What makes a rucksack waterproof?

A rucksack is made waterproof by using materials like nylon, thermoplastic polyurethane, or Gore-tex that stop water from getting in. They often have taped seams and can be made with high-frequency welding to make sure no water slips through the stitches.

2. How do I keep my non-waterproof rucksack dry?

You can use a raincoat for your bag called a pack liner or buy a separate dry bag to keep things inside your daypack dry. You might also pick gear protection items like tarpaulin sheets to cover it when it rains.

3. Can you wash waterproof gear in a washing machine?

No! Waterproof gear like shoes or jackets should not be thrown into a washing machine because it can damage their water-resistant layers. It’s better to handwash them carefully following instructions from the online shop or tag on the item.

4. Is there any way to make my regular backpack resist water?

Yes! You can use sprays or treatments designed for synthetic fibers that add water resistance to fabrics such as linen, making them behave more like water-proof backpacks when they get wet.

5. Why are some plastics used in making kayaks but others in backpacks?

The plastics used for kayaks are usually harder and need methods like radio frequency welding for shaping due to their durability requirements, while those used in making backpacks-like thermoplastic polyurethane-are softer and help create flexible, waterproof fabric suitable for bags and clothing.