How to Choose a Pack Cover

How to Choose a Pack CoverWhen rain hits in the backcountry and you still have places to go, a pack cover keeps your backpack clean and dry. An often overlooked item, pack covers are thin and lightweight enough to slip into your pack without much thought. But choosing a suitable waterproof cover requires some consideration before making the purchase. With the proper fit, you can hike into the uncertain weather of the wild with confidence.


Difficulty: Easy

Step 1
Define your pack frame type---external, internal or frameless rucksack---and measure its dimensions fully loaded. Pack covers come in an array of sizes, so knowing your pack's dimensions is important. When you research trustworthy name brands in outdoor magazine reviews and at local retail outlets, you'll find that many products specify the packs that they fit best.
Step 2
Choose a lightweight cover that is easy to attach and is also adjustable so it will stay in place during high winds and bushwacking. The best designs use a bungee loop cord or drawstring with a toggle lock that fits over the pack like a shower cap. When removed, the cover should fold up very compactly and have a stuff sack for protection.
Step 3
Decide what quality of material best suits your needs and price range. Most are variations of coated nylon or siliconized nylon which stretches and resists tears. Seamless construction of many pack covers eliminates that notorious weak-area seepage, which is what makes packs themselves so permeable, despite claims by manufacturers.
Step 4
Look for special features like external pockets, reinforced bottom and drain holes for accumulated moisture. A brightly colored pack cover is worth considering for emergency situations and for good visibility during hunting season.
Step 5
Take your pack along when purchasing, if possible, to guarantee a good fit.

Tips & Warnings

If a pack cover fails to suit your purposes, consider a waterproof pack liner that slips inside the pack and seals securely. This option is especially worthy if you will be crossing streams, rivers, wetlands or bodies of water. Under extreme conditions, consider using both.

Article Written By Vaughn Clark

Living in Boise, Idaho, Vaughn Clark has been a freelance writer for 18 years. His articles have appeared in "Backpacker" magazine, "The New Times," the "Ventura County Star," and "Santa Barbara News-Press." He has also published poetry and written three full-length adventure screenplays.

Don't Miss a Thing!

All our latest outdoor content delivered to your inbox once a week.



We promise to keep your email address safe and secure.