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Albee Layer Dakine Pack

Albee Layer sports his Cyclone II. Photo: Dakine


The Inertia


One of the worst parts about surfing is dealing with a wet, and often stinky, wetsuit. If you don’t stow it well, a wetsuit can easily stink up your car or other items in your bag, and will soak anything it touches.

While there are different wetsuit storage options out there, surf backpacks are my personal favorite due to their versatility. They do a great job of keeping wetsuit funk out of the car, and for surf breaks with a bit of a trek to the beach, or for the car-less surfer, a surf backpack is essential for keeping your wetsuit from mingling with items you’d rather keep dry on the commute home.

The best surf backpacks can even function as a regular drybag, keeping water out (rather than in) to protect items like electronics or clothes from the elements, whether that’s on a boat or in the rain.

There are lots of different surf backpacks out there, so we took the liberty of testing a number of them. Here are our favorites.

Best 'True' Surf Backpack
Best 'True' Surf Backpack

Dakine thought of everything with the Cyclone II. The bag has plenty of storage for a suit and other surf accessories, and might even have room for an overnight trip. It’s made of durable materials, and has lots of fun features like a board-carry system.
Price: $175
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The Best Surf Backpacks:

Best Dry Backpack: COR Surf Waterproof Dry Backpack ($74-79)
Best “True” Surf Backpack: Dakine Cyclone II ($175)
Best Backpack for Surf Travel: Rip Curl F-Light Surf 40L ($141)
Best Value: Quicksilver Sea Stash Backpack ($55)

What Are the Different Types of Surf Backpacks?

Surf backpacks come in a couple different styles. True surf backpacks have one main job – store a wet wetsuit without leaks. And maybe store some other gear separately from the wetsuit that you’d like to keep dry.

Dry backpacks also make awesome surf backpacks, but they’re a bit more versatile. They tend to have one main waterproof compartment that does a great job of keeping wet gear contained, but their main purpose is to keep dry gear inside the bag safe from downpours, splashes or even full immersion, which can be super useful if you plan on using the bag for more than just wetsuit storage. However, they tend not to have minimal storage, if any, that is separate from the main compartment where you’ll be storing your wetsuit.

Best Dry Backpack
Best Dry Backpack

Cor Surf’s Dry Backpack clocks in at a competitive price-point with solid waterproofing and everything you really need (and nothing you don’t) in a drybag.

Price: $75
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What Makes a Good Surf Backpack?

When I’m in the market for a surf backpack there are a few things that I look for. In my opinion, a good surf backpack is obviously waterproof, is easy to transport, and is durable. Bonus points if it has extra storage space separate from the wet/dry compartment.

Waterproofing
If a surf backpack isn’t waterproof, then it isn’t doing its job. All of the backpacks here feature reliable waterproofing to keep that nasty wetsuit contained, and some of them are also capable of functioning as a drybag, keeping wetness out instead of just in.

Portability
Sometimes I get lucky and score beachfront parking. Other times, it’s a trek to the beach. I want a backpack that is comfortable and easy to transport so I can use it for all kinds of traveling and beach trips. Features that really shine here are chest/hip buckles to help take the strain off of one’s shoulders, comfortable straps, some backpacks even sport a surfboard-carry system!

Durability
In addition to being waterproof, I want my surf backpack to be well made and withstand the test of time. Not only do I want the body of the pack to be durable, but I want the straps, buckles, and zippers to be sturdy as well because there’s nothing worse than a broken buckle requiring you to retire your pack.

Ample Storage
A solid surf backpack has plenty of space to store a wetsuit (or two) and preferably a space to stash some extra items like wax, wallet/phone, and water bottles.

Cor Surf Backpack

Best Dry Backpack: COR Surf Waterproof Dry Backpack ($74-79)

Waterproof: 5/5
Portability: 5/5
Durable: 4/5
Storage: 5/5
Total: 4.75/5

COR Surf’s Waterproof Dry Backpack has a simple design that includes everything you could want in a surf backpack. The 25-liter pack features a roll-top design that ensures its fully waterproof and it even floats should you drop it in water. The padded ergonomic shoulder straps are incredibly comfortable, and the water-resistant external compartment and water bottle holders make it easy to store extra items. Added features include an internal laptop sleeve, a reflective strip for night trips, and a chest buckle for a secure fit. The material is slightly on the thin side, so although it’s fairly durable, I could see it needing to be replaced sooner than some options. Overall, I like that this pack is affordable, comfortable, and includes everything I could want and need in a surf backpack.

It’s also available in a 40L option, for those that want more space in their pack.

Check Price on Amazon
Dakine Cyclone 2

Best “True” Surf Backpack: Dakine Cyclone II ($175)

Waterproof: 5/5
Portability: 5/5
Durable: 4/5
Storage: 5/5
Total: 4.75/5

Designed to be your everyday surf pack and your travel go-to bag, the Dakine Cylone II is the perfect hybrid bag. At 36 L, the pack is small enough to be a day pack but has enough space for overnight adventures. The pack features a roll-top closure and welded design to ensure gear stays dry, welded front stash pockets for essentials, and a mesh side pocket. To ensure the pack is comfortable while on the move, it features breathable ergonomic shoulder straps and back panel, as well as an adjustable sternum strap. Additionally, the pack features an integrated board carry system for up to 15 pounds – Dakine really thought of everything with the Cyclone II.

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Quiksilver Sea Stash

Best Value: Quiksilver Sea Stash Backpack ($55)

Waterproof: 5/5
Portability: 4/5
Durable: 4/5
Storage: 5/5
Total: 4.5/5

The Sea Stash backpack has everything you could want in a surf backpack and then some. At 20L, the backpack has the perfect amount of space for storing a wetsuit with a water-resistant front pocket and side water bottle holders with a D-ring attachment. The backpack features simple, adjustable straps and a roll-top enclosure to ensure water doesn’t seep in or out. The design is simple, without too many add-ons, but the pack is well made and gets the job done and is significantly cheaper than its competitors.

Check Price on Amazon
Rip Curl F-Light Backpack

Best Backpack for Surf Travel: Rip Curl F-Light Surf 40L ($141)

Waterproof: 5/5
Portability: 4/5
Durable: 5/5
Storage: 5/5
Total: 4.75/5

The Rip Curl F-Light series has been around for a while, meaning they’ve had plenty of time to dial in the features on this awesome surf travel backpack. It’s a hefty one – not necessarily the perfect bag for a quick trip to the waves, but for those who need extra storage space or are considering some surf travel where you’ll be packing more than just your suit, this one is a winner. A large roll-top compartment has plenty of room for a wetsuit and other neoprene accessories, and the front of the bag has compartments for a laptop, fins, wax, you name it.

Check Price on Amazon
NRS Bill's Bag

Classic Drybag Functionality: NRS Bill’s Bag Dry Bag 65L ($160)

Waterproof: 5/5
Portability: 5/5
Durable: 5/5
Storage: 4/5
Total: 4.75/5

Designed to be extra durable and ultra-waterproof, Bill’s Bag is one you can count on. Constructed with heavy-duty 21-ounce TobaTex, the bag can expand to provide 3,900 cubic inches of storage capacity but can be cinched down with compression straps if you have less gear. The roll top with a StormStrip closure system ensures a secure seal and the adjustable backpack harness and padded shoulder straps make for comfortable transport. While I wish the pack had an external storage compartment, the backpack harness is removable, which is nice when flying with the bag. You’d be hard pressed to find a better made bag than Bill’s — it’s a pack I know I’ll be able to count on for years to come.

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Best of the Rest

BOTE Highwater Pack

BOTE Highwater Backpack ($250)

Waterproof: 5/5
Portability: 5/5
Durable: 5/5
Storage: 4/5
Total: 4.75/5

Created to withstand all kinds of terrain and weather, BOTE’s Highwater backpack is 100 percent waterproof and submersible. The backpack is made from 100 percent nylon with seam-welded construction, a double-sided TPU coating, as well as a fully waterproof TIZIP zipper to ensure your gear is safe from the elements. At 28L, the pack has plenty of space for a wetsuit and includes pockets for a laptop or tablet, an external zippered pocket, an exterior stretch stash pocket, and lots of exterior cam straps for extra gear. The main downside of the Highwater pack is that it’s a little pricey, but it’s comfortable to carry and ensures your gear stays well protected.

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Patagonia Disperser

Patagonia Disperser Roll-Top Pack ($219)

Waterproof: 5/5
Portability: 5/5
Durable: 5/5
Storage: 4/5
Total: 4.75/5

Like most things at Patagonia, the Disperser Roll-Top pack is made with the environment in mind. It’s constructed from 87 percent recycled materials and is Fair Trade certified sewn. The 40L bag is water tight up to the roll-top enclosure and the hydrophobic back panel and shoulder straps don’t absorb or retain water. The pack features an internal zippered pocket for stashing essentials. Padded, adjustable shoulder straps make the pack comfortable to carry and a chest and waist strap are helpful for heavier loads. The pack includes extra straps that easily allow you to hook on hiking polls or any extra items you may have. This pack seems very well made and if for some reason it were to get damaged, Patagonia’s repair policy is incredible so I know I can rely on it for years of surf adventures.

Check Price on Patagonia
Dakine Mission Surf DLX 40

Dakine Mission Surf Dlx Backpack ($175)

Waterproof: 5/5
Portability: 3/5
Durable: 5/5
Storage: 5/5
Total: 4.5/5
This absolute tank of a backpack can do a lot. Clocking in at 40L, the wet/dry compartment is listed as being able to hold an XXL 5/4/3 hooded wetsuit. That’s a lot of rubber. However, where this bag really shines is the external storage space. The top lid has plenty of room for a wallet, keys, phone, and a whole lot more. A computer sleeve keeps your electronics safe from your soaked wetsuit, there’s a bottom compartment for “dirty” items like shoes (also separated from the wetsuit compartment) and an exterior mesh pocket is great for smaller towels. Water bottle holders are included as a matter of course, as are cinch straps to keep things compact if you don’t need the full 40L of storage. They are also awesome for strapping on extra items, maybe even a surfboard with a strong enough carabiner.

The main downside of the pack was the grippiness of the interior wet/dry sack. I used the bag as a normal backpack on a recent plane trip, and found that if I put dry items inside of the wet/dry compartment, I often ended up pulling the entire bag out when I went in to retrieve them. The wet/dry compartment fully comes out through the top of the bag, which, for drying purposes is great, but for use as a regular backpack can be a bit troublesome.

Check Price on Amazon
Billabong A/Div Backpack

Billabong Surftrek Storm Backpack ($80)

Waterproof: 5/5
Portability: 4/5
Durable: 4/5
Storage: 4/5
Total: 4.25/5

A part of Billabong’s Adventure Division collection, the Surftrek Storm backpack is designed to keep up with all of the adventures life throws your way. The 40L pack has ample storage space for your wetsuit and includes external water bottle holders and a front external bungee, so you can easily attach gear to the outside, a feature I really appreciate. The bag features a roll-top main wet/dry compartment, water resistant zippers and fabrics, dual buckle closure, and a water-resistant front pocket. The padded, adjustable straps make transportation a breeze and the sternum straps provide an extra secure fit. It’s a solid pack available for a solid price.

Check Price on Billabong
RVCA Weld

RVCA Weld 27 L Backpack ($95)

Waterproof: 3/5
Portability: 4/5
Durable: 5/5
Storage: 5/5
Total: 4.25/5

Created with surf and travel in mind, the Weld backpack is designed to be durable and water repellant. The backpack includes plenty of storage options: a large main compartment, side water bottle compartment, front pouch with internal organizer, a fleece lined sunglasses compartment, a fin compartment, an exterior utility compartment, and two exterior zippered outer compartments. For added comfort during transport, the backpack includes padded, adjustable shoulder straps and mesh padded back torso support. The pack is designed to be water repellent not waterproof, so you’ll want to avoid full submersion –but if you’re looking for a pack to organize your gear and store your sandy/wet wetsuit, the Weld backpack does the job nicely. I’m a fan of the industrial style design and all of the extra storage space.

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YETI Panga Backpack

YETI Panga Backpack ($300)

Waterproof: 5/5
Portability: 3/5
Durable: 5/5
Storage: 3/5
Total: 4/5

Built for individuals who live their life on the water, the Panga backpack is a 100 percent waterproof pack that ensures your gear will stay dry regardless of what you throw at it. The Panga features an airtight citadel and at 28L, it has plenty of storage space. Ergonomic shoulder straps are designed for comfort but this isn’t a pack I’d plan on carrying long distances as it’s a little stiff against the back. The Panga includes daisy chains for attaching extra gear like water bottles, which I appreciate. The backpack includes an internal mesh pocket for stashing essentials and an interior sleeve makes it laptop compatible. Although the price is a little steep, the Panga backpack is incredibly well made and is a versatile pack that works well for storing wetsuits, fishing adventures, traveling, paddling, rafting, and any other water activity you might throw its way.

Check Price on YETI
Editor’s Note: For more gear reviews and features on The Inertia, click here.

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