this thing's incredible

Not a Drop of Water (in London, Northern Nigeria, and Tropical Indonesia) Has Breached This Backpack

My indestructible backpack in Delhi. Photo: Krithika Varagur

I’m a connoisseur of wet places, having spent the last few years in tropical Indonesia and then England. I’ve had to learn the difference between water-resistant and 100 percent waterproof. The Patagonia Stormfront is the latter. Yes, £250 is a lot for a backpack. But after losing sheaves of notebook pages to damp, mildly water-damaging a passport, mortally endangering my laptop, and ruining perfectly good snacks, I had to take drastic measures. I found it, of course, by searching “backpack 100% waterproof ” online, and it was a rare enough request that even the all-weather arsenal of the Patagonia catalog sold only one thing that fit the bill.

I’ve taken it on small fishing boats in the Spice Islands, on Bosnian hiking trails when every afternoon brought a loud thunderstorm, and on my cycle commute every single day in London. Not a drop of water has breached it. I’ve come to love its utilitarian shape, its simplicity (it’s basically just a big reinforced sack), and its gorpcore credentials.

Since the bag sits low on the hips and has no fussy loops, it doesn’t engage in outfit interference, like making a dress bunch up (though it has chest straps, I wear them open). Due to the streamlined design, it looks weirdly good in polite society; once, at a weekday art opening in Whitechapel, the artist himself did a double take and said, “Whoa, where’d you get that?”

At first, I thought the Stormfront would be an occasional travel bag because it looks undeniably like “gear.” But it quickly made itself indispensable. Once you’ve carried a completely waterproof bag, anything else makes you feel naked and exposed. The indignity of speculating over the precipitation forecast! With a Stormfront, you don’t have to. I should note that I personally dislike roll-top backpacks for their size and the perceived inconvenience of opening them frequently, which ruled out the few other waterproof backpacks on the market. But if you don’t mind, Sealline makes some great ones, and I can vouch for their Urban daypack, which I’ve borrowed in a pinch. Still, the Stormfront is just so high performance and low maintenance. After a couple of weeks reporting in northern Nigeria, everything I owned was covered in a fine layer of Sahel dust, but all it took to restore my backpack was a wet wipe. And I can fit a small grocery haul in there too.

Some other Strategist-recommended wet-weather gear

Author Stacey Halls hikes from Hebden Bridge to Hardcastle Crags in these blisterproof, waterproof Merrells.

Contributor Tabatha Leggett moved to Helsinki two years ago – and noticed that everyone was wearing the same pair of wellies by Nokian. She writes: “They’re made with natural, soft, bendable rubber, which means that walking in them for half an hour doesn’t make your feet ache. They have a reflective band, so cars can see you, and their soles are slip resistant. They’re sturdy and protective without feeling clompy, and they’re roomy enough that you can wear an extra pair of thick socks underneath them, which means there’s no need to size up.” [Editor’s note: Amazon carries a selection of Hais in small sizes – up to a UK 3.]

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Not a Drop of Water Has Breached This Patagonia Backpack