Surf Backpacks & Wetsuit Bags | 5 Of The Best Surf Bags
Reviews of the best surf backpacks on the market, featuring wet/dry bags that can carry your wet wetsuit and everyday belongings at the same time
In need of a surf backpack to lug your soaking wetsuit around in, or just to carry your laptop and books in, or maybe even both at the same time? So called wet/dry backpacks contain waterproof compartments that enable your damp surfing gear to sit alongside electrical equipment, clothes, and other everyday possessions in the same bag without getting them wet and without leakage. Reviewed below are five of the most versatile, stylish, ergonomically designed surf backpacks around, suitable for surfing trips, feral exploration, and days out at the beach, as well as the simpler demands of modern urban existence.
Surf Backpacks & Wetsuit Bags: Patagonia Jalama 28L
Patagonia, a brand that specialises in hard-wearing outdoor clothing and equipment, makes excellent backpacks—bags that are both highly pleasing as tactile objects and eminently useful as functional pieces of kit. The Jalama, billed as the “ultimate wet/dry backpack", is the specialist surf bag in the Patagonia range.
The beauty of the Jalama is that the wet compartment can take up as much or as little space as the situation requires. The backpack’s made up of three main compartments, each opening from the top, the middle one insulated by a completely waterproof barrier. The less stuff you put in the other two compartments, the more wet equipment you can carry and vice-versa. What’s more, the wet section of the bag can be pulled inside out, so it can easily be cleaned and then used for stuff you’d rather not get damp and salty.
At just 28 litres it’s relatively slender, making it great for ordinary day use, but due to the clever design you can still make room in there for all your winter surfing gear. Even with a 5/4 wetsuit and boots inside, I found (with a little perseverance) space in the adjacent compartments for a laptop, a 500-page book and a few other bits and pieces.
Surf Backpacks & Wetsuit Bags: Channel Islands Essential Surf Pack 45L
Channel Islands’ surfboards enjoy an almost unrivalled reputation for excellence, and their surfing accessories are made with exactly the same attention to detail and eye for design. The Ultimate Surf Pack, one of several backpacks offered by the brand, is sturdy, spacious, and purpose-built to meet practically all of your surfing requirements. Besides the roll-top wetsuit compartment, which is top-loading like the Jalama’s but larger, it also has an accessory section with various internal pockets to help organise fins, wax, sun block, medical supplies, etc., and two water bottle pouches, placed in front to avoid dinging your boards.
Some may find it too bulky for their liking, but it remains stylish in spite of its size, and with 42 litres’ capacity it has ample space for all your gear. For surf trips or adventurous day missions, it’s pretty much perfect.
Surf Backpacks & Wetsuit Bags: FCS Mission 34L
Its front-loading main compartment, with a zip opening up all the way round the outside, means the FCS 34 litre Mission backpack can be packed more like a suitcase. Rather than squeezing your possessions in from the top and then having to root around for them later, you can organise everything in a space efficient manner and then access your things easily, which makes it well suited to travelling. The neatly compartmentalised side pocket system is handy for stationary, passports, gadgets, etc.; there’s a side-entry padded pouch for your laptop along with two fleece-lined pockets for sunglasses and MP3 players; and it even comes with a storable rain cover which doubles up as a change mat and wet bag. The back support is excellent.
Downsides? While it's not exactly ugly, it’s hardly a work of art either, and the wet compartment isn’t particularly spacious—which makes it a good option for use in warmer climes, where you’ll only be needing board shorts. At a push you can fit a summer wetsuit in there, but not much more. If you're after a larger, backpacker-style rucksack geared specifically towards surfers, the FCS Trekker (45L) is a decent alternative.
Surf Backpacks & Wetsuit Bags: Patagonia Storm Front Roll Top Pack 30L
Patagonia’s Storm Front Roll Top Pack, a very simple and durable bag that’s basically just a single large compartment, can be used either to keep dry things dry or to carry your wet stuff without the risk of leakage. The welded construction and 100% waterproof coating mean no water whatsoever’s getting in or out, making it perfect for boat trips and wilderness adventures, as well as non-surfing activities such as fishing, camping or trekking. And with 30 litres of space inside, it can easily accommodate all your wet winter neoprene -- or natural Yulex rubber, as the case may be -- and possibly a mate’s too.
There’s an exterior zip pocket—also watertight—and a small interior pouch, but it’s not the sort of bag in which you can easily compartmentalise your things. Still, many people use it as an ordinary day bag, in which capacity it works just fine.
Surf Backpacks & Wetsuit Bags: Dakine Jetty Wet / Dry Backpack 32L
Dakine’s Jetty Backpack looks great, and earns bonus points for its insulated cooler pocket, which is just big enough to hold four cans of beer. Other brands take note.
The roll top wetsuit compartment is roomy, there's a side-entry laptop pouch and fleece-lined sunglasses pocket, and at 32 litres the Jetty's better suited to ordinary day-to-day use than its Channel Islands equivalent. In fact, for all round versatility, it may just be the perfect size.