Looking for tips to protect your suitcase in wet weather? You’re certainly in the right place! This detailed guide features every trick in the book to help keep your luggage dry even if you’re surprised by a thunderstorm!
Weatherproof luggage, dry sacks, luggage covers, and waterproofing zippers are just some of the tricks covered in this detailed guide. Read on to see exactly what you need to do to protect your suitcase (and its contents) in wet weather!
If you’re going to be traveling in wet weather, the best thing you can do is pack in a hardshell suitcase. Softshells are never entirely waterproof and they will leak water if they’re exposed to heavy rain for a while. Water-repellant fabrics do their job up to a certain point. They can only repel so much water until the protection gives out and the fabric starts absorbing water. Plus, water can seep in through the zipper teeth. Going with a hardshell bag is half the job done!
It’s worth noting that it is possible to get an entirely waterproof suitcase. If you’re still in the market for good luggage, be sure to check out a few options that are either fully zipperless or feature waterproof zippers. But, keep in mind that these are usually quite heavy and they’re not meant for the average traveler.
True weatherproof luggage is generally designed for people who are transporting extremely valuable items. If that’s not you, it will be much easier to just do everything in your power to make your existing suitcase waterproof.
Backpacks as carry-ons have become increasingly popular over the past few years. They’re a good alternative if you prefer to keep the items in your carry-on organized, plus they’re lighter than most suitcases whilst offering the exact same capacity.
Also, it’s easier to travel with a backpack since both of your hands remain free. A lot of great brands have embraced the concept of a carry-on travel backpack, so you can find one that is absolutely perfect for you. Look for features like TSA-friendly laptop compartments, organizer panels, and external compression straps.
The average carry-on suitcase has a capacity of between 35 and 40 liters. Guess what – the average carry-on backpack has that exact same capacity, but it’s lighter, smaller, and often cheaper. Plus you get the advantage of multiple pockets and compartments for easy organization.
But, why a backpack? Because you can buy a rain cover for it. Bags from brands like Osprey will even come with a free rain cover and there’s a lot of third-party options you can buy for a bag you already have. Rain covers are even more reliable than luggage covers because they don’t have cutouts for the handles.
Luggage covers are great for protecting suitcases. They significantly reduce the number of scuffs and scratches on the suitcase shell, and they can even protect the luggage from rain if they’re made from the right material. I’m not talking about the cute and colorful luggage covers here – those are great at protecting the bag from scratches, but they will do very little to keep the clothes in your luggage dry.
Look for a waterproof luggage cover – these are usually made from PVC, and they have a cut-out at the top for the handle and Velcro at the bottom. They aren’t the most attractive luggage accessories but they are functional enough that the looks don’t matter. But, keep in mind that this isn’t a perfect solution. Water could still seep in through the cracks, and if the shell and zipper are not at all waterproof, you could still be in trouble.
Luggage covers are available in a variety of different sizes, so it should be easy to find one that fits your suitcase well.
A waterproof spray is a decent option if you must travel with a softshell suitcase. Just buy any waterproof spray for fabric and apply it to the exterior of your luggage. It’s essential that you let the suitcase dry before you start packing so that the spray can set. This is particularly helpful if you have leather luggage since water can cause damage to natural leather.
However, these are rarely 100% effective. They can’t actually make the luggage fully waterproof, but they can make it water repellent. Water will slide off your softshell suitcase for the most part, but heavy rain could still leak inside.
You can reapply the spray a few times, but that won’t do much in terms of increasing the water repellency of the luggage. Also, even if you apply the spray 15 times, water can still seep in through the cracks in the zipper. So, if you want to go with the spray method, you’ll also need to take precautions to ensure that the zipper is waterproof as well.
If you make the zippers of your suitcase waterproof, you will have nothing to worry about in wet weather. But how can you make a simple zipper waterproof?
The easiest thing to do is apply a wax coating to the zipper. Silicone wax and beeswax are both cheap options that can seal the zipper and make it repel water. Just take a small piece of wax and rub it on the outside of the zipper. Make sure you don’t skip over any zipper teeth – the wax needs to get inside the cracks between the teeth because that’s the part most susceptible to leaking.
When you’re done rubbing the zipper, run the puller up and down a few times. This helps ensure that the wax is distributed evenly all over the zipper, instead of just sitting on the outside.
You can also replace the zipper of your luggage with a waterproof zipper, but I wouldn’t recommend this unless you know what you’re doing. It’s not that hard to do this but you need to have some sewing experience, otherwise, you’ll just ruin your suitcase. If you’re not confident with a needle and thread in your hand, just take your bag to a professional.
YKK zippers are the best, so I suggest you pick up a waterproof variant of those for your luggage. They are a little pricey for zippers, but the quality is there.
Say the worst happens – the water leaks into your suitcase and drenches the interior. If you used waterproof packing cubes or even plain ziplock bags, this won’t matter at all because all the things inside will stay dry.
At the very least, do this with the electronics. Most laptop and tablet sleeves are not waterproof and putting them in a ziplock bag will go a long way towards ensuring you don’t have to replace a laptop because of water damage.
Remember that not all packing cubes are waterproof, so try to find some that are. There are lots of great compression packing cubes out there that are made from waterproof materials, and they’re great for protecting the contents of your suitcase from water. But they rarely have waterproof zippers, so this still isn’t a perfect solution.
Honestly, a ziplock bag is your best bet. It will make packing (and unpacking) tedious, but if you’re intent on guaranteeing that the stuff inside the bags stays dry, this is the best solution. Putting your clothes in waterproof plastic bags will also protect your things from other accidents like shampoo explosions.
If you need a quick solution, you can just line the interior of the suitcase with plastic bags. This will help if some water gets inside, but it’s not that effective in a downpour that drenches your suitcase entirely. But it takes just a couple of minutes to line your suitcase with plastic bags, and you can use stuff you already have around the house – grab two garbage bags and you’re good to go.
It won’t do much to protect your suitcase, but it will protect your valuables from water damage. Carry a dry sack when you travel and if you get worried about water damage, just put your electronics and passport in the sack. You can also dry sacks instead of ziplock bags and compression packing cubes, but this makes it harder to really utilize the entire capacity of your suitcase.
Dry sacks are very affordable, and you have hundreds of different options out there. You can get a good dry sack for as little as $10 and they’re easy to carry. Also, dry sacks are available in a wide variety of sizes, starting with 5 liters all the way up to 40 and 50 liters – that’s the capacity of an average carry-on suitcase. If you just want to protect your valuables, a 5 or 10-liter sack will do the trick.
It never hurts to really think about how you are packing your luggage. If you don’t plan to put your clothes in plastic bags or dry sacks first, at least consider how you’re organizing the items in your suitcase.
Electronics and everything else that mustn’t get wet should be placed right in the middle of the luggage. That way, even if water gets inside the suitcase, the other clothes should absorb it before it gets to the valuables. This also helps with shock-absorption and it’s an excellent trick if you’re brave enough to pack your laptop in a checked bag.
Use t-shirts, towels, and other items with high absorbency to line the zipper on the inside. It’s not an ideal solution, but it could stop the water from reaching all the other clothes in your luggage.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.