Water Repellent vs Water Resistant vs WaterproofThe terms water repellent, water resistant, and waterproof may all sound similar when you are shopping for a new backpack. However, there are differences in what each term means which is important to know so that you get the right backpack. While doing reviews on the top backpack list for this year, we took both water resistant and water repellent backpacks.

Water Repellent

This is generally a treatment to the surface of the backpack material that is designed to repel water that comes from rain or splashing. However, it does not make the material waterproof if for example the backpack was immersed in water. The water vapor still penetrates the backpack even if the water droplets flow across the surface.

Water Resistant

This is a very common term that means waterproof up to a certain, specified point. For example, a backpack might be found water resistant up to 30 feet which means that it can successfully hold back water up to that depth. This also means that it should be able to withstand the elements. Particularly a hard rain or getting wet from being doused with water from a pond, creek, river, and so forth.


This means that the material will successfully hold back water under most conditions which include prolonged immersion. Waterproof is a universal term, but there are still limits even if they are above and beyond what the backpack itself might experience.

Which Type is Better?

This will depend on large part on how you are going to use your backpacks. For those who are hunting, camping, or hiking, there must be some form of water resistance to protect the gear, clothing, food, and other items that are stored inside. How much protection will depend on your particular use of the backpack itself?

Of the three, waterproof material is usually the best. It does not allow for any penetration of water vapor into the interior of the backpack in most conditions. However, the water will usually stay on the sides of the backpack and in changing weather conditions may cause condensation to form inside. This is because the material itself does not breathe to equalize the moisture content in the air.

Water repellent material is very suitable to resist rain and splashing that occurs when near a body of water. The good news is that the material breathes so that there is little to no condensation that will occur inside the backpack. The bad news is that any form of water immersion will allow some of it to penetrate the backpack itself.

Water resistant material is a cross between waterproof and water repellent materials. It provides ample protection for most situations involving humidity, moisture, and immersion. Because the material breathes, it reduces the potential for condensation inside. Plus, a brief dip in a puddle, pond, or lake will not allow for the water to penetrate the material.

All things considered, water resistant backpacks may be most people’s best option for outdoor uses such as camping, hiking, hunting, or military missions in environments where exposure to the elements or sources of water is a possibility.


My name is John Winger, I was born and raised in Virginia. I spent a good part of my early adult life in the US military, namely the Army and served in Iraq. I saw my fair share of combat missions and thanks to that experience I have a better understanding and appreciate for what my country means to me and the world.

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