I live out of backpacks and packs. Whether I am traveling, fishing, hiking, going to meetings, or running errands in town, I almost always have a backpack with me. Rarely does a backpack check all boxes for me, and frankly I was so pleased with Patagonia backpacks from about a decade ago, that I skipped all the newer models maybe say five years ago because they simply weren’t as good in my opinion. Enter the new Patagonia Guidewater Backpack 29L. I’ll break down all the key points below, but to give a preview now: there is no finer all-purpose backpack in my book.
The Patagonia Guidewater Backpack 29L is a moderately-sized waterproof backpack that is impressively durable and has more features than normal for a Patagonia pack. Over the last few weeks, I’ve taken this pack almost everywhere I’ve gone. From photographing bison at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming to fishing the Shields River in Montana, this backpack has served numerous needs. I’ve trekked it across rivers, secured gear in it in snowy conditions, and more. Here’s what stands out:
As we’ve pointed out in other waterproof backpack reviews, a pack is only waterproof if it doesn’t fail. And we’ve had them fail! When Patagonia says the Guidewater Backpack is is waterproof, they aren’t messing around. I don’t have fabric expertise, but the material that makes up the body of this backpack seems thicker than what’s on other packs, including packs from Patagonia. Additionally, they state this is a “fully waterproof submersible IPX-7 rated bag for keeping contents safe even in full immersion.” That’s huge. No matter what, it’s always best to put a dry paper towel inside something described as waterproof and submerge it to be safe before adding valuables, but what Patagonia is claiming here is that contents would remain fully dry, even if this pack made it completely underwater. The fully-sealed YKK zippers play a critical role in this.
The former line of waterproof bags from Patagonia just didn’t work for me. If I had a water bottle, camera, or laptop inside, one of those heavier items seemed to restructure the bag. The weight of my laptop would pull the structure of the bag down. Something like a camera would displace the weight of the pack which seemed to pull towards that heavier item. At best, this was annoying. With this new line, what seems to be a more solid structure and maybe even thicker material keeps everything where it should be. Additionally, straps make zipping and unzipping the heavy duty zipper easier than it often can be with waterproof packs.
Patagonia takes a minimalist approach to much of their gear, and that’s something I tend to prefer. With this backpack, they keep things simple but add some nice features. The Guidewater Backpack features straps throughout that are great for attaching items you choose. There is also a rod tube strap for hikes into the backcountry. Inside there is a removable internal pocket. This is a nice addition because it allows organization of items such as keys, a phone, floatant, et cetera, and this pocket can be attached to the outside of the pack as well. There is also a sleeve of sorts for net storage. And finally, and this is a big one, the straps and back panel and shoulder straps do not absorb water. Ever take a trip and need to fly home with wet straps and a wet back panel on your backpack? Brilliant that Patagonia made improvements there.
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