The Outdoor Products Amphibian Weather Defense backpack is a 20L waterproof pack that earned the #1 spot in a recent Backpacker Magazine rating of waterproof packs. I am in the process of introducing my children to canoeing, and given their penchant for inviting water into the craft, I was intrigued by the opportunity to review a waterproof pack.
In design, the Amphibian is about as simple as it comes: a single, waterproof main compartment seals with a roll-down top. Two water-resistant side pockets with hooded, water-resistant zippers hold small, more or less flat items. A third mesh pocket between these other two features the same zipper treatment but is obviously intended for visibility of items that do not need water protection.
A padded back and straps, two gear loops, and a shock cord retention strap round out the modest features of the pack. The pack does not hold much—a few snacks, a rain jacket, and my padded camera bag mostly filled the interior—but I used the Amphibian as a small day back with the bonus of being waterproof. The pack is certainly comfortable enough to hold the loads for which it is designed, and it is easy to use—just roll down the top and snap the quick-release buckles into the adjustable straps to secure the waterproof compartment.
I tested the Amphibian over a period of weeks, carrying it on a rainy canoe trip with my boys, as a daypack on rainy local excursions, and as a daypack in mixed weather in the Pisgah National Forest. Despite being literally thrown into a lake, left out overnight in the rain, and being subjected to much rain in between, the main compartment of the Amphibian remained waterproof.
Putting the Pack to the Test
For the lake trip, I packed a cotton handkerchief in one of the exterior water resistant pockets and a cotton t-shirt in the TPU-coated main compartment (my logic being that each piece of cloth would readily show water in the event of a pack leak). The weather on our trip cooperated by turning periodically rainy, a plus since I was testing the pack’s waterproofness.
After a half-hour of paddling (during which time my third-grader repeatedly dumped water over his head, flooding the floor of the canoe), I picked up the Amphibian and threw it into the lake (note the roll-down top, visible in the image below, which is the key to the bag’s waterproofing).
While my boys and I snacked, the Amphibian bobbed in the lake. When I retrieved the pack after about ten minutes, the handkerchief in the water-resistant exterior pocket was soaked. Clearly, these two water-resistant pockets with their hooded zippers are intended to shield their contents from vertical rain, not open water submersion. But when I unrolled and opened the top to the main compartment, I found the contents completely dry. The TPU coating and the roll-top design provide good waterproofing for the Amphibian.
Needless to say, being launched into the lake and left for a spell was among the greatest tests for the pack, but I also left it outside as severe thunderstorms dumped more than an inch of rain on the ground. Outside it remained, too, through the subsequent, rainy night. Morning revealed a dry interior again.
Safe and Bone Dry
I carried my camera gear in the Amphibian for my trek up John Rock in Pisgah National Forest. After lunch on the top of the rock and a splendid view of neighboring Looking Glass Rock, the leaden clouds that had loomed above threatening rain all day opened up, and the Amphibian was once again put to the test. By this point in my testing, though, I was feeling quite confident, and sure enough, when I subsequently opened the pack in dry surroundings, the Amphibian had kept my camera gear safe and sound: the main compartment was bone dry.
How has the pack held up? Basically well: there is one spot on the exterior where the material that holds the mesh pocket to the pack is peeling. This may prove to be a trend that continues, but—given that it is in the seam that secures the mesh pocket to the pack—it will in no way compromise the waterproofing of the pack’s main compartment. It may, over time, compromise the security of the exterior mesh pocket, but beyond this, the pack has shown little sign of use or abuse. If this proves to be an early indication of an issue with durability (and not an isolated problem), I will post a follow-up note to this review.
If you are searching for a small, waterproof pack to protect essentials from rain or water, the Amphibian is a reasonable value (at about $55 online) that gets the job done. Just be cognizant of the limitations of the exterior water-resistant pockets. It’s not a bad little pack, and I have enjoyed using it and fielding questions about it from hordes of students with whom I attended a mountain camp during my testing. I’ll certainly reach for it on my next canoe trip with my boys.
Contributor Bio | Robin French
Robin is a teacher living in High Point, NC. A love of nature is the common thread of his experiences: if he has free time, he is in nature, alone or with friends and family. He enjoys DIY/MYOG projects and fiddling with his gear. He writes about his experiences and projects on his blog and YouTube channel and shares his reviews as a member of the volunteer Review Corps at Trailspace.com. He has followed Brian’s Backpacking Blog for quite some time, and we are thrilled to have him onboard as a regular contributor.