Sometimes you need a completely waterproof container for your gear, and at such times there is no room for compromise. A little water getting into your bag is as bad as a lot. OverBoard specialises in waterproof bags and cases, and I’ve been trying the Pro-Light Waterproof Backpack.
When you are out and about for multi-day adventures, it is a real downer to find the fresh gear you thought was being kept dry to put on at the end of the day is, in fact, wet. Trust me, I’ve had leaky rucksacks, and slept in leaky tents. It’s not fun finding that tomorrow’s socks are wet before you put them on, and worse if water creeps into a stowed sleeping bag.
Fortunately, companies like OverBoard deal with this problem. At £79.99 the Pro-Light Waterproof Backpack might seem expensive, but if my testing is anything to go by you’ll have it for a long time, and if you treat it with care it will keep your socks dry for years.
The Pro-Light Waterproof Backpack is in a different league to the Exped Cloudburst 15 I reviewed a couple of years ago. I have been using that bag at least once a week since reviewing it. No, I don’t get into wet and watery conditions once a week, but that bag has functioned as a perfect daysack able to carry my laptop and bits and pieces through city and country rainstorms with total reliability.
The OverBoard Pro-Light Waterproof Backpack is a different beast. It only has 5 litres greater capacity than the Exped, but I would not even dream of using it day to day. This is specialist equipment that is chunky and solid where it needs to be. It is made from very tough thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) that should be difficult to rip. This material is used in things like life jackets, life rafts and diving gear so its waterproofing credentials are not up for questioning.
It is rated waterproof for short submersions – such as if it falls out of your boat or kayak, and yes, if it does fall into water, it floats.
There’s a great deal of ‘neck’ to this sack, and part of the closing process involves rolling this three or four times, creating a proper watertight seal. A word to the wise. Don’t think you can overpack the bag and cut down on the rolling. If you think you’ll need more storage – buy a bigger bag rather than compromising on the seal. There are very similarly designed 30 and 50 litre versions of this pack.
Once you’ve done the rolling you can secure the two ends of the neck together using the clasp – the same system as with a waist strap and the same as is used on my Cloudburts backpack. Then you pull a thick strap over the top and secure the closing loop in place – to stop it getting snagged on things and to provide that extra layer of protection.
There is a second option, and this is ideal if you want to really compress the contents of the OverBoard Pro-Light Waterproof Backpack down when storage space is really tight. Make the rollover as before, and then use compression straps on the two sides of the sack to pull the top down into the sides.
Inside the bag there is a reasonably sized pocket. A pocket is something I miss on the Cloudburst – I sometimes resort to using a drawstring bag. Not only does the pocket let you stow little bits and pieces for easy access, it also offers a double layer of protection against water for really important stuff – your passport for example.
There are a couple of outer pockets too. On one side there’s an elasticated mesh pocket that’s ideal for a water bottle, while on the front there’s a zipped mesh pocket. Both are generously sized. There’s also a pull strap on the front which you can use to help pull the bag together to as small a size as possible.
I’ve already mentioned that this is a very solid product, and it weighs 0.79kg before you even stow anything into it. That’s down in part to the TPU fabric and also in part to the very solid backpack straps. There’s no half way house here – the best, most comfy and weight supporting backpack straps do tend to be pretty robust in build.
In this case the straps are adjustable at the top, so you can get the weight loading just right on your shoulders. Shorties like me will really appreciate this – I can find non-adjustable straps are uncomfortable. There’s a waist strap of course, and that’s essential for proper distribution of backpack weight around your body. Sometimes these are thin and almost an afterthought, but here the waist strap is as chunky as the shoulder straps. There is also a chest strap – something that’s again useful for weight distribution and also for keeping the backpack secure against your body.
You’ll notice also on the picture above a carrying handle. This is great for lifting the bag about when it is full.
The back of the pack is padded as are the shoulder straps, and the overall fit is very comfortable – I never filled it to the point where it was really heavy, but this padding is a crucial feature if you do have to carry a heavy pack for very long.
Putting this backpack through its paces while kayaking has been a positive experience. It sits snugly in the back of the kayak, and while I get wet as I paddle and the outside of the pack gets wet too, what’s inside stays bone dry. I’m quite sad it has to go back, actually.
I’m a big fan of specialist gear that doubles up for every-day use, but there are times when that is simply not appropriate, and this is one. The OverBoard Pro-Light Waterproof Backpack is designed for rough and tough conditions, and has come through my somewhat moderate testing with gold stars. If you are into watersports – and that’s anything from kayaking to sailing or diving, this is a piece of gear that should be a good long term investment.
- Very hardwearing
- Adjustable chest straps
- It floats
- Inner pocket
- Two outer pockets
- Compression straps
- Difficult to fault!