Do you need a dry backpack? Overboard Waterproof Backpack Review

My life takes me through all kinds of conditions. As a regular run and cycle commuter in England, I never know what weather I’m going to be facing in my 5 mile (8 km) trek to work. It can go from bright sunshine and blue skies one minute to a torrential downpour with howling winds the next. On top of this, I’m a keen paddle boarder and have just started learning to sail dinghies – none of these activities guarantee that my lunch (or my laptop) will avoid taking the unexpected swim!

Overboard Waterproof Backpack

In fact, this was last weekend after an impromptu sail on the Laser dinghy when it did double duty of picnic hamper and leg warmer on Friday, before being pressed into service carrying various electronics on an 18.5 mile (30 km) hike on the Sunday through various squalls.

So, how does it fare in my daily life?

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Overboard Classic Waterproof Backpack 20L Review

The waterproof backpack is making inroads into the general consumer consciousness, at least in the UK. Since receiving mine for Christmas 2019 I’ve seen two of the other cycle commuters I encounter (read nod at as we pass daily) with the same dry bag backpack, and the owner of my gym also has one, albeit he has gone for the Overboard Premium Waterproof backpack – with the front elasticated webbing that is not present on the classic version.

Overboard Classic Waterproof Backpack Overview

This backpack has filled a niche that I wasn’t even conscious existed in my life until I bought a paddleboard and started using it as a tender to my boyfriend’s boat. Until I got this at Christmas, transporting important electronics involved Ziploc bags, traditional dry bags and standard backpacks with lots of care!

In addition to coping with weekend adventures, I hadn’t really considered the value of applying a dry bag to my regular commute. Prior to the waterproof backpack entering my life my commute to work required checking the weather morning and evening and deciding whether I needed to pack everything essential into Ziploc bags (one of my colleagues kindly purchased a multipack of various sized Ziploc bags from Costco for me… they are very hard to find in the UK).

The Overboard Classic Waterproof backpack protects your important items from sand, water, dust, and dirt. The fold-over (Rolling top) sealing and seamless PVC tarpaulin fabric make it dunk proof with an IP66 rating, but you must roll the seal at least 3 times tightly to create the waterproof seal.


The Good and the Bad

The Good:

  • Floats
  • Dunk proof with a Class 3 IP66 rating
  • Multiple attachment points for the provided carabiner
  • Padded Shoulder Straps with a Sternum Strap
  • Plenty of colour choice – I have the yellow one as you can see but it’s also available in black, blue, green, gray, pink, red, and white
  • Three different sizes – mine is 20L capacity, but you can also have it in 30L or 45L

The Bad:

  • I’m now finding it comfortable, but in the beginning, I struggled to get used to the fit after having spent 5 years with an Osprey Tempest 20 as my daily backpack
  • It fits me (a muscular 5’2″) but my boyfriend (6’4″) can’t wear it, not that me carrying his electronics upsets him in any way!
  • No internal pockets, so organization is a bit suspect, you spend a lot of time rummaging around inside it because everything is inevitably at the bottom – but they have an optional add on solution to solve this.
  • Some customers have reported issues with material durability

Who is the target user of the Overboard Classic Waterproof Backpack?

The Overboard Classic Waterproof Backpack is aimed at two subsets of the population – those who are involved in any form of water sports, and those who undertake outdoor activities.

I know prior to receiving this bag for Christmas if I wanted to take a dry bag full of stuff on my paddleboard (I bought the Ultimate Red All Rounder Inflatable Stand Up Paddleboard from Sandbanks Style SUP in Dorset last Easter weekend) that I needed to attach a standard dry bag to the front of my board with the bungee cords. Being a bit paranoid about having to chase my Mac book across the river I also tended to tie it onto one of the conveniently placed D-rings. This backpack is far more convenient as all buttoned up with the sternum strap buckled it’s going to stick with me regardless!

A Quick Summary of the Features of the Overboard Classic Waterproof Backpack

  • Class 3 IP66 waterproof for quick submersion – floats when it inevitably ends up in the drink!
  • Waterproof rolling seal also keeps out dirt, dust, and sand – but make sure you roll it at least 3 times in line with the included instructions.
  • Reflective elements on both the front and on the ergonomically padded shoulder straps, so you can be seen from behind or in front
  • 3 D-rings on the front and two attachment points on the straps for securing anything with the provided carabiner (my surf keys are regularly attached to the strap – although depending on where I am I sometimes replace it with a locking carabiner for extra security
  • Large side mesh water bottle pocket granting easy access to your water bottle on the move

Overboard Waterproof Backpack Key Accessories

If you’re after any form of organization at all you will need something to add into your Overboard Waterproof Backpack. Contrary to the photo above, I spend more time with my face in the bag rummaging for my wallet or my Mifi box, rather than warming my feet in it.

Overboard has produced a solution to this problem, with the velcro in Overboard Backpack Tidy, one size to fit all backpack capacities. Unfortunately, there seems to be a number of negative reviews criticizing the quality of its construction. There are also warnings to check the size of the laptop that you wish to carry as apparently the statement that it fits laptops up to 15″ means making sure that the overall size of your laptop is 15 inches or less, not the screen size!

Update: 29 July 2021: I bit the bullet and bought the insert (carefully checking that it was the right size for my MacBook Pro). I’d highly recommend it for the additional organisation it brings to the backpack.

As an added bonus – it has a hard back that stops pointy things digging into you, and also adds a bit more structure, which I really prefer. I rarely use the backpack without the Tidy insert now – even if I don’t have a computer with me.

Final Verdict of Overboard Waterproof Classic Backpack

After a bit of a rocky start with my Overboard Waterproof Classic Backpack while I spent a few weeks trying to get the straps and sternum strap adjusted for comfort it all of a sudden seems to have come to an agreement with my body and the comfort level has considerably increased. In the end, I increased the number of rolls in the top of the bag to 5 which brought the height of the bag away from interfering with my head movement and made a huge difference to the comfort.

This bag has reduced the prep time required for a day hike, where I used to have to consider which items got packed into small dry bags or Ziplocks to protect them, it’s easy with the Overboard Waterproof Backpack. The downside of the bag is effectively just a sack style dry bag with backpack straps is that everything gets lost inside, so having checked the size of my laptop will be buying the Overboard Backpack Tidy to increase the value I get from my Overboard Waterproof Classic Backpack.

How about you? Have you tried a waterproof backpack? I’d love to know what you think in the comments section.

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2 Responses

  1. Another good post. I have had a similar bag in the past and found it very useful. Before that I had a whole selection of dry sacks which were fantastic and I also have a large North Face bag (about 60l), which is fully waterproof. I tended to throw my bag in the water and tow it behind a canoe knowing it would be there at the end. I really like your bag, I may even buy one, they look great but the only additional I would have liked to see was a strap around the waist, but you can’t have everything.

    • Lisa says:


      I do love a good drybag, this one is the third in my collection – one standard 30L, one 65L duffle style, and this 20L dry bag backpack. Of the three this one is the easiest to use, and I originally also thought it would benefit from a waist strap, but after using I don’t think the 20L does – it might be of benefit on the larger sizes but the way the straps are cut on the 20L its perfectly well balanced without!


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