Are The North Face Backpacks Waterproof?

The North Face backpacks have been around for years and are a proven, trusted brand for bags.

These backpacks are made of quality materials and are packed with a lot of well-thought-out features.

Personally, I like the organizational capabilities that The North Face backpacks offer.

Mini BorealisYesNo
Fall LineYesNo
Active Trail*YesYes
Amk Spectre*YesYes
*Mountaineering, Hiking, Skiing, and Snowboarding backpacks.

As you can see, not all TNF backpacks are impervious to water. Most of them are water-resistant but not waterproof.

The North Face doesn’t make a waterproof backpack for urban areas.

While you might be baffled by this news, most TNF bags are designed for the regular person, meaning that the backpacks will survive a light rain, but that’s pretty much it in terms of water protection. 

Why was I under the impression that The North Face backpacks are waterproof?

The straight answer: Marketing.

The North Face never said that their backpacks are waterproof but never made an effort to contradict those saying otherwise. TNF resellers were marketing some backpacks as being waterproof, hence the confusion.

Still, as you keep reading, you will see not all TNF backpacks have the same level of water resistance.

Waterproof or water-resistant?

Water-resistant backpacks are made from common materials with a water-repellent finish.

Seams and zippers are not water-resistant, though, and these are the places where water leaks into the pack.

The backpacks made from water-resistant materials will resist rain for a limited time.

You can’t submerge a water-resistant backpack – well, you can if you want to add some extra weight to your belongings. 🙂

On the other hand, waterproof backpacks are made from special materials, and they can be submerged in water without any issue.

Waterproof backpacks are more expensive than regular water-resistant backpacks because waterproof fabrics cost more.

For the average Joe, a water-resistant backpack is more than adequate, as it will protect your laptop or other electronics from the elements when you go to school or work.

If you are a hardcore traveler and planning a trip to the Amazon or the North Pole, then a waterproof backpack would be the way to go – it will protect your belongings even if you drop your backpack into the ocean. 

Are all North Face backpacks water-resistant?

Yes, most of them are water-resistant but keep in mind that the water-resistant level is not the same from model to model.

Let’s dive in and see how water resistant your North Face backpack is.

First, you need to know what model of backpack you have – check the TNF tag that is located in the main compartment of the backpack.

Now that you’ve figured out what model you have, let’s check them one by one.

As I write this article, I realize that you might need to visualize it to better understand the water-resistant level. But any score I or other websites might show is somewhat misleading, and I will explain why: not all backpacks are created equal.

For example, The North Face Borealis might be made from 300d or 600d polyester and might have a water repellent finish or not. 

Wait, what does this mean?

Multicolored backpacks will have a tiny amount of water repellent finish applied or none at all. 

If water resistance is your main concern, the best color to buy is black or another dark color.

Avoid brightly colored TNF backpacks and stick with a mono-color version. This tip holds true for all water-resistant backpacks regardless of the brand name. 

I did include a water resistance meter just to help you visualize it better, but take it with a grain of salt.

Is The North Face Borealis backpack waterproof?

I don’t know why but for some reason, the North Face Borealis backpack was advertised as being waterproof, but no, the Borealis is not a waterproof backpack.

Rain will not easily get into your Borealis backpack, but don’t let your guard down too soon. Water will get into your pack sooner or later.

Depending on the color and your backpack model, it might have a water repellent finish or not.

You will see mixed opinions about Borealis water resistance because of this.

If you plan to go into the wilderness with it, be careful not to stay too long in the rain because eventually, water will seep into the pack.

Is The North Face Recon backpack waterproof?

No, the North Face Recon is not a waterproof backpack; the seams and zipper are not waterproof. As with other models from The North Face, some say this model is waterproof, but it’s not.

This particular backpack is made from nylon, with the boot being made from 1680D ballistic nylon to add extra protection against friction.

Keep in mind that this model has a special water-resistant coating (non-PFC DWR finish) that protects the pack from rain.

This coating will wear off with time, though. After a couple of years, the water resistance level of this backpack will be almost nil.

The North Face decided to use a coating instead of water-resistant materials to keep the overall cost low.

Is The North Face Jester backpack waterproof?

The North Face Jester is not a great backpack for hiking or spending time in a wet environment.

This model is not waterproof, but it does have a waterproof coating: a non-PFC Durable Water Repellent Finish was used for this product.

The Jester is made from 600D or 300D polyester and offers some water-resistant capabilities with the coating.

The water-repellent finish of this particular backpack will wear off more quickly compared to other backpacks.

This model is not designed for outdoor trips, but it’s suitable for work or school.

Is the North Face Vault Backpack waterproof?

No, this is not a waterproof backpack.

The water-resistant level of this backpack is limited. This model is made from 600D recycled polyester and has a non-PFC durable water-repellent finish.

You should keep it out of the rain if possible, and don’t use this particular backpack for a full day outdoor excursion because you will be disappointed.

Also, some counterfeit Vault backpacks have made their way into the U.S., so you should buy this particular model only from reputable shops and stay away from obscure deals or discounts.

Is The North Face Surge backpack waterproof?

No, this is not a waterproof backpack.

I was hoping that this backpack would have the same water-resistant level as Borealis, but it seems that The North Face decided otherwise.

This model is made from nylon with a durable water-repellent finish, but even so, water will seep into this backpack with ease. Therefore, you shouldn’t buy this particular backpack if water resistance is a concern for you.

However, this is a good product for air travel. In addition, you can use it as a personal item because it fits easily under the seat or in the overhead bin of any plane.

Is The North Face Pivoter backpack waterproof?

No, this particular North Face backpack is not a waterproof one.

This model is made from 600D recycled polyester or 300D heathered polyester. Although it comes with a DWR finish similar to Borealis that will shed light spills, you should avoid the rain as much as possible.

Depending on the coloring, the DWR finish may or may not be applied. At least this backpack will not get soaked in light rain.

*based on customers’ opinions.

Are There North Face Waterproof backpacks, then?

No, there aren’t. Currently, The North Face doesn’t have a reason to make waterproof backpacks. However, you can find other brands that manufacture waterproof backpacks and offer the same level of quality.

Here are a few of those brands:

  • Mountain Hardwear
  • Aquaquest
  • Ortlieb
  • Osprey
  • Fjallraven

I want to mention that I asked around about these brands since I didn’t know anything about them, and the name Aquaquest popped up more than once as a trusted waterproof backpack. 

I’ll leave a link to Amazon if you want to see their backpacks.

Hint: If looks don’t matter, but you want a waterproof backpack without spending a lot of money, check out the nearest Army surplus store.

You might find something in their inventory for half the price of a brand-name backpack; not to mention that military backpacks tend to last longer than commercial ones.

Are waterproof backpacks suitable for daily use?

Yes, they are, but there are a few things you should know about them.

Waterproof backpacks will not last as long as regular backpacks.

That’s because the materials used are designed with waterproofing in mind and not endurance.

Another minor issue is the overall appearance. Waterproof backpacks look like waterproof backpacks. Once in a while, someone will make a joke about your pack, asking if you are prepared for the zombie apocalypse.

Some of the packs require maintenance. For example, once every 2 years, you will need to wax the zippers and seams.

Of course, not every waterproof backpack requires maintenance, but this is something to keep in mind when you buy a new product.

How can you waterproof your backpack?

Easy – buy a waterproof backpack.

Probably not the answer you are looking for, but it’s the best option.

Truth be told, if you need a waterproof backpack, it’s better to just buy it instead of using one of the options that I will list below.

As you keep reading, you will realize that every option has its drawbacks.

These are your options to waterproof your backpack:

Waterproof cover

For a few dollars, you can buy a waterproof cover that will protect your backpack.

It doesn’t take up much space when you store it inside your pack, not to mention that the cover will protect your backpack from scratches and dirt.

 A rain cover also has an unforeseen advantage: it will protect your pack from pickpockets.

They would need to remove it or cut it to gain access to the backpack’s zippers.

Cheap backpack covers are just a thin waterproof material, but others have 2 or 3 layers.

If you are planning to overstuff your backpack, then you should buy a slightly larger cover.

There are some minor drawbacks, though.

Once you put the cover on, you have to take it off again to access the interior, and then put it back on.

If you need to reach the interior of your backpack frequently, you might become increasingly frustrated.

Most rain covers will leave the back and the two shoulder straps slightly exposed.

Also, you need to have it with you to use it. If you have only one backpack, then it’s easy because you can store it inside and forget about it, but if you have a couple of backpacks as I have, it can be easy to leave behind… for some reason, I always forget the cover in the “home backpack.”

If you invest a little more, then you can buy a fully submersible backpack cover. With a fully submersible cover, you shouldn’t have any concerns for at least a couple of years. 

Waterproof spray combined with Seam Sealant.

A waterproof spray will work wonders for the backpack material combined with a quality seam sealant.

Atsko Silicone Water-Guard is what I recommend because you can use it for all kinds of materials without damaging them. If you have a designer backpack, then use this product in a discreet area first to test it. This product can also be applied to leather backpacks.

Don’t stress if a white residue remains after application – you can easily remove that with a dry cloth. 

As a seam sealant, GEAR AID Seam Grip W.P. Waterproof Sealant is the way to go because it has two brushes for applying the product.

One is a fine tip brush, and this is the one you will use on your backpack.

Good luck with finding this product though, as it seems they are always running out of it.

I won’t explain how to apply the spray or the seam sealant, as you can watch these two videos:

A waterproof spray is a great item to have in your home because you can waterproof other items like clothes or boots.

Choosing this option will increase the water resistance level but will not make your backpack genuinely waterproof – the zippers will be the Achilles heel.

A waterproof spray will also work wonders for old tents.

Hint: If your backpack is water-resistant and comes with only a zipper or two, then in an emergency, you can use waterproof tape to cover the zippers and you’re good to go. This method works well if your pack will only be exposed to the rain a couple of times a year.

Backpack liner

This isn’t going to protect your backpack from water, but it will protect your belongings.

If your backpack has a single main compartment, then a backpack liner is ideal. On the other hand, if your backpack has multiple compartments, then a backpack liner is not the smartest choice, as you would need one for every compartment.

This is an excellent way to protect an essential item like a laptop, though.

If you only have a small item to protect and don’t care whether your backpack gets wet or not, then you should buy a small liner for it.

Dry Bag

If you don’t want to try the above options, a dry bag will be the cheapest way to protect your items from the rain. I should mention that a dry bag will never be able to fully replace a backpack, it’s just a more casual approach.

One advantage of a dry bag is that it can be stored inside a backpack like a backpack liner.

How do homeless people waterproof their backpacks?

They don’t bother with waterproofing.

They take the most important items and put them in a plastic bag, then place the plastic bag inside the backpack; an easy and very effective method for protecting essential items like laptops or papers.


What is the best material for a waterproof backpack?

Dyneema fiber is an ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene.

The way this fiber is manufactured creates a barrier against water. Therefore, this fabric doesn’t need a water-repellent coating.

Backpacks made with Dyneema fabric are expensive since this is a relatively new material. However, the price will probably drop over time.

How do I clean a waterproof or water-resistant backpack?

I would advise against it.

Waterproof or water-resistant backpacks should not be cleaned. Extra dirt can be removed with a wet cloth.

You can gently brush the outside of the backpack using only clean water.

What if my backpack is filthy?

First, read the manufacturer’s info about cleaning.

Follow the specific guidelines for your backpack.

From the manufacturer’s booklet, find out what type of water-repellent coating your backpack has, if any.

When a coating has been applied to the backpack, remember that regular washing will remove the coating.

You should remove all items and open every compartment and pocket.

The easiest and safest way is to clean your backpack in the bathtub using mild soap and lukewarm water.

Use only a tiny amount of mild soap and submerge it if you want to clean it better.

After that, thoroughly rinse with clean, cool water.

Leave it in a cool place to dry away from sunlight or heat sources.

Don’t force the drying process.

  External heat from any source might damage the waterproof coating and material. 

You should avoid washing your waterproof bag, though.

If you regularly wash it, you will need to reapply a waterproof spray and seam sealant to keep your bag waterproof.

Whatever you do, don’t use solvent-based cleaning solutions, as this will damage the backpack beyond repair.

Are backpacks made from polyester waterproof?

Polyester is not a waterproof material.

It doesn’t matter if it is 600D or 300D polyester or recycled polyester, the end result is the same.

Polyester as a fabric offers some water-resistant capabilities, though.

Backpack manufacturers increase the polyester’s ability to repel water by applying a coating.

How can I waterproof a backpack cover?

If water seeps through your backpack cover, then applying a waterproof spray will fix this problem.

Keep in mind that a waterproof cover and a waterproof spray are in the same price range.

You shouldn’t buy a spray only to waterproof your backpack cover when you can buy a waterproof backpack cover at the same price or less.


As you can see, TNF doesn’t manufacture a waterproof backpack, and I struggle to understand why.

People are looking to buy this kind of backpack, but TNF currently doesn’t want to provide one.

We will see if, in the future, TNF will start manufacturing this kind of product.

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Sorin Susanu
Sorin, the primary writer for this site, launched it in 2019 as a hobby and a means to refine his English. With a passion for travel ignited by a trip to Italy at age twelve, Sorin has been exploring the world and sharing his adventures ever since.