Tsunami-Proof: Best Waterproof Luggage For Savage Conditions


I’ve watched from the plane window as everyone’s luggage got drenched on the tarmac. I’ve even seen blood dripping from a bag on a luggage carrousel in Africa (with an actual cow hoof sticking out!) Listen, if you plan on traveling to rugged, off-the-beaten-track locations, I highly recommend investing in some solid expedition-quality waterproof luggage.

If there is one thing I’ve learned in my journeys it is this: Be prepared for the unexpected!

Finding true expedition-quality waterproof luggage is actually not that easy. Hopefully, I can save you some time and research here by sharing what I’ve found to be the best options out there.

Frankly, I’ve been very disappointed with how few quality options the luggage industry has in terms of truly waterproof luggage especially when it comes to suitcases. Our choices are mostly limited to water-resistant dry sacks, a number of good duffels, a few backpacks, and rarest of all, decent waterproof suitcases.

Please Note: All of the waterproof luggage I recommend here are fully submersible(100% waterproof) except for a couple of “honorable mentions” which are highly water-resistant.

Also, bear in mind that my recommendations are not the cheapest, but they are definitely among the highest quality and toughest waterproof luggage money can buy.

If you are in a hurry my top pics are below.

Best Waterproof Suitcase

Pelican AIR TRVL Suitcases

Best Waterproof Drybag

Discovery Deck Dry Bag by SeaLine (Amazon Link)

Best Waterproof Duffel

YETI Panga 50 Duffel

Best Waterproof Backpack

Filson Backpack Dry Bag

Who Needs Waterproof Luggage?

As I mentioned earlier, I do a lot of travel in the developing world where extreme humidity, rain, and dust are commonplace. But those aren’t the only circumstance waterproof luggage comes in handy. I kid you not, having your luggage strapped onto a roof rack beside multiple peeing-goats is an everyday thing here.

Needless to say, waterproof luggage has been a real game-changer for me. No matter where I am, I never have to worry about my gear getting wet, muddy, or dusty whether it is strapped to a roof rack, a donkey, thrown onto a rusty truck bed, or rammed into the dusty undercarriage of the national bus line.

I realize my situation is unique, but there are plenty common uses for waterproof luggage:

  • Roof racks
  • Open pick-up truck beds
  • Overland adventures
  • Whitewater rafting
  • Expeditions / Exploration
  • Snowmobile touring
  • Motorcycle touring
  • Hunting
  • Rainy/tropical destinations
  • Military deployments
  • Disaster Response
  • Canoe trips
  • Boating
  • Multi-day backpacking
  • Rough Camping
  • ATV adventures
  • Travel in the developing world
  • Mineral Exploration
  • Fishing
  • Remote Research/Surveying

What Kind of Waterproof Luggage Do I Need?

Selecting the right waterproof luggage mostly depends on your specific needs. For example, a 4×4 overlander and kayaker have vastly different gear requirements.

If you are not quite sure what to get, I’d recommend going for a good quality mid-sized(40-45L) waterproof duffel bag (like the Yeti Panga on Amazon.) Duffel bags are excellent multitaskers. They offer great capacity, easy access to all your gear, multiple-carry options and can be crammed into almost any space. The only disadvantage to waterproof duffel bags is that they are not crush-proof and can be heavy to carry over long distances, unlike wheeled waterproof suitcases.

If you canoe or kayak, an rugged abrasion-resistant drybag is often sufficient, but also consider a duffel for the gear you need to access more frequently.

If you do frequent expeditions or carry sensitive equipment get a waterproof suitcase.

If you are a hunter/angler a waterproof backpack would make a very wise choice since you’ll need your hands free and be accessing to your gear more frequently.

Best Water Proof Suitcases

Fact: Airport baggage handlers don’t work any faster in the rain…and they don’t care how much stuff is piled on top of your sensitive electronics. While you can’t always control who touches your luggage in transit, a professional-grade waterproof suitcase will massively reduce the risk of damage to your gear.

Since waterproof and crushproof suitcases are bulkier, they are best suited for vehicle or boat-based adventures, professional exploration, or travel with sensitive equipment.

Waterproof suitcases offer the following advantages over soft-sided waterproof luggage:

  • More capacity
  • Most secure watertight seal
  • Superior organization
  • Crush protection
  • Wheels

I’d much rather put my gear into a crushproof hardshell suitcase if it was going to be lashed to a roofrack. Duffels and drysacks may keep water out but they do nothing to prevent damage from impacts and crushing forces.

Unfortunately, suitcases like this tend to be bulky. There are very few waterproof suitcases specifically designed with airline travel in mind. There is one notable exception to the rule:

1. Pelican Air TRVL Suitcases

My Pelican AIR TRVL suitcases aboard a leaky African canoe

Rating: 100% Waterproof

Sizes: Carryon & Full Size

Pelican is easily my number one recommendation for waterproof luggage, especially for the international traveler. Pelican cases have been lost at sea for months and recovered with the contents fully intact and dry. Thanks to a proprietary HPX resin, Pelican Air TRVL line is up to 40% lighter than comparable waterproof suitcases. The TRVL series complies with maximum airline luggage dimensions.

See my full review of the Pelican Air 1535 TRVL carry-on here.

I own both the carry-on and suitcase versions, and in my opinion, they are absolute legends. I use my Pelican AIR TRVL cases for my travels in West Africa. In fact, on my last trip to Benin, an enthusiastic Air France flight attendant stopped me and asked about my carry-on and how where she could get a Pelican Air case too. Credit where credit is due: she knew quality when she saw it.

Pelican cases redonculously tough. For over 45 years Pelican has been making the toughest waterproof professional hard cases in the world for the likes of the military, film industry, and medical fields.

Pelican AIR TRVL Features

  • Mesh lid organizer with rear zip compartment
  • Two mesh packing cubes
  • Secure push-latches
  • TSA locks
  • Side and Top handles
  • Tamper-proof address label sleeve
  • Stainless steel padlock hasps
  • Air/watertight gasket
  • Air pressure equalization valve
  • Telescoping trolley handle
  • smooth running wheels.
  • Unconditional lifetime warranty
  • Made in the USA

As with all Pelican products, the Air TRVL suitcases are made in the USA products and come with an unconditional lifetime warranty that even covers accidental breakage.

The Pelican TRVL lineup is actually a subseries of Pelican’s wider “Air” family of professional hard cases which, thanks to a proprietary, are up to 40% lighter than standard hard cases making them ideal for air travel or expedition travel.

The Pelican AIR TRVL suitcases are available in two sizes: a full-sized suitcase or carry-on. They also comply with airline luggage size restrictions for their respective category.

2. SKB iSeries

SKB iSeries 2918-10

Like to Pelican, SKB is similarly priced and is a very highly respected professional hard case company. Along with an unconditional lifetime warranty, SKB offers a $1500 protection warranty if your gear is damaged(certain models). SKB’s main drawback is that they are very heavy and very drab. For example, the full-sized suitcase(iSeries 2918-10) weighs 26lbs and the carry-on(iSeries 2011-7) weighs 12.5lbs empty!

While I have no question that these are very tough waterproof suitcases, I feel the Pelican Air TRVL beats the SKB iSeries in terms of weight, convenience and looks. One final quibble: I find SKB’s website to be a real pain to navigate.

Features:

  • Stainless steel padlock hasps
  • Cushion grip handles on three sides
  • Trigger release latch system.
  • Ambient pressure equalization valve
  • Resistant to UV, solvents, corrosion, fungus
  • Resistant to impact damage (MIL-STD-810F).
  • Lifetime Warranty.
  • $1500 Content Coverage.
  • Made in the U.S.A.

Honorable Mention: LOGEL VOJA Series

Rating: Weather Resistant (not submersible)

Sizes: Carryon, Medium, Full Sized

The Logel Voja line is not waterproof but straddles the middle ground between a full-on professional hard case and an everyday jetsetter. It boasts a very unique synergy of mountain-man brawn with understated luxury that is very unique in the luggage industry.

While this suitcase is not submersible, it will shrug off monsoon rains and take a heck of beating no matter how far off the beaten track you go.

Logel, as a brand, had its beginnings in Japan. Their unique emphasis on practical functionality is refreshing and really separates them the crowd. The Logel Voja uses metal clasps, not zippers and instead of cheap polycarbonate they use crush-proof pure polypropylene(similar to Pelican cases.)

The Logel Voja comes with a standard 10-year warranty against materials and defects.

Best Waterproof Duffel Bags

Duffel bags are easily the most versatile kind of luggage. They can often be slung as backpacks or side-carried. They offer larger capacity, and easy access to gear while providing exceptionally durability for the price. Also, duffels can be packed into odd shaped spaces and compressed when not in use.

If you don’t need crush protection, duffels make the best all-round waterproof luggage option.

Yeti Panga Duffel

Rating: 100% Waterproof

Sizes: 50L, 75L, 100L

YETIis famous for more than just coolers. They also make the best waterproof duffel bags on the market. The YETI Panga is easily the first choice of most professionals and has been an industry benchmark. They aren’t cheap, but you can certainly see why it is a cut above the rest.

Yeti Panga features:

  • 100% watertight zipper
  • Laminated, high-density nylon shell
  • all-metal hardware
  • Puncture resistant EVA molded base
  • multiple carry points (backpack, normal carry, or end handles)
  • Nylon loop lashing points
  • Hi-vis blue Interior to see your gear more easily
  • Two Interior mesh pockets

Filson Medium Dry Duffel

Filson Medium Dry Duffel

Rating: 100% waterproof

Sizes: 54L, 70L

The Filson Medium Dry duffel is fully submersible, tough as nails and looks great too. With roll-top closure and dual locking fastener, the Medium Dry duffel is constructed from an extra-tough TPU encased 740d nylon fabric. The bag also features a removable shoulder strap wrap-around rugged nylon webbing handles.

Filson makes some of the finest quality outfitter gear in America and their Medium Dry Duffel is an excellent example of their attention to detail.

Available in hi-vis orange or green, there is no question, this duffel bag is a head-turner.

Sealine Classic Zip Duffel

Sealine Pro-Zip Duffle

Rating: 100% Waterproof

Sizes: 40L, 70L, 100L

The Sealine Pro-Zip duffel is sumbersible down to 1 meter for 30 minutes! Its made in the USA, sports a waterproof YKK Aqua-zip zipper, all metal hardware, can be carried as a backpack, and has grab-handles on all sides. Sea Line is certainly a trusted drybag brand because they consistently make waterproof luggage like this.

The Pro-Zip Duffle is, a truly impressive piece of kit that deserves serious consideration when you’re headed to extreme locations.

Features:

  • Submersible(1 meter for at least 30min)
  • YKK Aquazip waterproof zipper(diagonal)
  • All metal hardware
  • Daisy chain side lashing points
  • Multiple Grab handles
  • 600D polyester fabric and 18oz TPU coating(24oz on ends and bottom).
  • Oval consturction prevents rolling around

Honorable Mention

I think its worthwhile to mentioning two legendary expedition-quality duffel bags. While they are not submersible they will certainly handle insane abuse, driving rain, snow, and mud with batting an eye.

These two duffels bags are, easily the most prolific professional expedition duffels in the world.

The North Face Base Camp Duffel

I own two Base Camp duffels(Amazon Link). Let me tell you, these things are bullet-proof beasts!

Simple, water resistant, rugged, and available in tons of sizes and colors. This is, by far, The North Face’s best selling line of bags.

Patagonia Black Hole

The Black Hole is a very popular workhorse duffel for outdoor adventurers with water resistant tpu coating on both outside and inside liner for extra protection.

This is also Patagonia’s best selling bag and available in plenty of sizes too.

Best Waterproof Backpacks

Waterproof backpacks offer many practical advantages over other forms of waterproof luggage. Having your hands free is especially important for avid anglers and hunters.

1. Filson Backpack Drybag

Filson Backpack Dry Bag

Rating: 100% Waterproof

Size: 28L

As far as waterproof backpacks go, Filson’s Backpack Dry Bag is the most feature-rich when compared to other premium waterproof backpacks. For example, this backpack has multiple external mesh pockets, an external waterproof pocket, tons of D rings, a compression strap, and a hip belt with 12-gauge shell loops. Clearly, a lot of thought went into the design of this backpack.

Features:

  • Built with tough and flexible 840D nylon TPU
  • RF-welded seams for lasting integrity
  • Breathable, padded back panel and removable, adjustable hip belt
  • Adjustable, padded shoulder straps with sternum strap
  • Exterior clear zippered, storage and water bottle pockets plus interior zippered-mesh pocket
  • Heavy-duty waterproof TIZIP® main zipper
  • Adjustable nylon grab handle and compression strap
  • Elastic shell loops on hip belt hold six 12-gauge shells

2. Yeti Panga Backpack

Rating: 100% Waterproof

Size: 28L

The Yeti Panga Backpack is a formidable, fully submersible beast with a well-respected reputation and minimalistic design. The single large compartment is accessed via a waterproof zipper. The Panga also has daisy chain loops for lashing points and side carry handle and very ergonomic shoulder straps. Certainly, you are paying a premium for the name, but this backpack is arguably the most durable waterproof backpack on the market.

Features:

  • Thick puncture/abrasion resistant TPU skin
  • Side-carry handle
  • Interior sleeve
  • Interior mesh pocket
  • Removable chest strap and waist belt
  • Exterior daisy chain lashing points
  • Metal hardware
  • Broad comfortable shoulder straps

3. Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible Backpack

Fishpond Thunderhead Backpack(Amazon Link)

Rating: 100% waterproof

Size: 28L

The Fishpond Thunderhead (Amazon link) is designed specifically for anglers, but it is certainly multi-mission capable. This backpack is constructed from a super-rugged 1680d nylon and TPU coating. Fishpond also offers modular accessories for the Thunderhead such as reel holders, shoulder strap accessories, and a chest pack. THE Fishpond offers multiple “water-resistant” accessory pockets but I wouldn’t trust my phone in them if you go under.

Features

  • 1680D TPU coated recycled nylon
  • One set of Lariat gear straps (included)
  • Waterproof TIZIP® ZipperD
  • Water resistant zipper closure on the front pocket
  • Foam shoulder strap, hip belt, and molded back panel
  • Removable hip belt
  • Coated webbing daisy chain and D-Ring.
  • Interior organization with one zippered pocket and one clear stash pocket

Best Dry Sacks (Almost Waterproof)

NOTE: Contrary to popular belief, most dry sacks are not completely submersible. They will float just fine, but if submerged water will seep in through the roll-top.

Dry Sacs are generally more suited to multi-day kayak and canoeing expeditions where you don’t need to access your gear too often and full submersion is unlikely. While dry sacks are more affordable, they often lack carry options and exterior pockets. Since they are top-loading it can also be a pain to access items at the bottom without removing everything.

1. Sealine Discovery™ Deck Dry Bag

SeaLine Discovery Deck Dry Bags

Rating: Nearly Waterproof

Sizes: 10L, 20L, 30L

As far as Dry Bags go, Sealine’s Discovery Deck line of dry bags(Amazon link) are world-class in terms of durability, and features. The Discovery Deck series are constructed from 18oz polyurethane-coated 300d polyester. A convenient waterproof air-purge valve allows you to compress the dry bag and a removable shoulder strap makes portaging a whole lot easier. These dry bags can handle bumps and abrasions without an issue.

Features:

  • Purge-air valve(waterproof)
  • Ajustable carry strap
  • Oval bottom prevents rolling
  • Light colored interior for easier visibility
  • Durable construction
  • Roll-top seal

2. Sea to Summit HYDROLIC Dry Bag

Sea to Summit Hydrolic Dry Bag

Rating: Nearly Waterproof

Sizes: 25L, 35L, 65>

Sea to Summit makes some very rugged professional gear designed extreme adventures. Their line of Hydrolic dry bags are the toughest of all. A 600D fabric laminated fabric with UV-resistant TPU coating ensures excellent water-proofing and robust abrasion resistance for whatever you may drag this bag through. Large lashing points and an oval bottom ensure this dry bag doesn’t go “walk-about” without your permission.

Features:

  • 600D TPU-laminated fabric- waterproof and very abrasion-resistant
  • Non-wicking TPU roll-top closure
  • Welded construction for permanently sealed waterproof seams
  • Withstands cold temperatures
  • Heavy duty lash loops for secure attachment
  • Oval base to resist rolling
  • Field-reparable clasp

Conclusion

Finding “waterproof” luggage is one thing, but setting yourself up with the kind of waterproof luggage that will protect your gear for decades is quite another. Yes, you can get away with using cheaper thin-skinned “waterproof” luggage for occasionally. However, if you are into any serious adventures, just save yourself peace of mind and step up to something you will use for years to come without any worries. This is especially true if you regularly bring cameras, computers, or drones along on your adventures.

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Don Longworth

Don was born and raised in sub-saharan Africa. Now based in Canada, his extensive experience in non-profit work has served him well over multiple deployments in Africa. Don's experiences have made him a practical "to-the-point" type person. He is a no-frills, low-key guy who appreciates quality and simplicity.

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