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Boardcave’s Buying Guide to Surf Backpacks

What is a surf backpack?

The simplest definition and most obvious one is that it's a backpack designed to meet a surfers' unique needs. While almost any backpack offers the same basic functionality, surf backpacks come with unique features that help them stand out from your everyday bag.

How does a surf backpack differ from an everyday backpack?

Differences may appear subtle, but surf backpacks occupy a unique niche among bags upon closer inspection. There are no tell-tale signs or specifically designed features that make surf backpacks different from their counterparts. Instead, it is the combination of features that defines what a surf backpack is.

Surf backpacks come with specific pockets for storing surf-related items such as towels, wax combs, and waxes. These also come with separate compartments for keeping dry and wet items. This feature helps you protect valuable electronic equipment such as cameras or smartphones from accidentally getting wet.

When to use a surf backpack?

Whether surfing is something you do for a living or something you are passionate about, having the right equipment is necessary. It shows commitment and dedication to your sport. But if you're still having second thoughts on buying a surf backpack and staying with your current bag, below are some excellent reasons why you should make the switch.

#1 You’re into a serious day of surfing and bringing your full complement of surfing gear

Rather than bringing multiple bags to carry all your different stuff, having a dedicated surf backpack can help you stay organized while having the convenience of using a single bag.

#2 When you need something to keep your surf equipment organized

A surfing backpack ensures that all your belongings are securely stored when you hit the waves. It keeps everything organized and gives you a convenient location for storing your surfing gear.

#3 Makes traveling with your surfing equipment easier

Surf backpacks are designed with surfers in mind. These highly specialized bags come with various pockets and compartments for almost everything...even a surfboard in some cases, like the SurfPack 60L Surfboard Carry Backpack. While any backpack can be used to carry your surfing equipment, surf backpacks have a single mission to make moving surfing equipment as easy as possible.

#4 When you want something durable

One of the things that make surf backpacks standout from their contemporary counterparts is that these are extremely durable. These are capable of handling wet, heavy gear, and almost everything you need for surfing. It offers protection for your belongings preventing any damage.

Things to Consider when Buying a Surf Backpack

Selecting the best surf backpack starts by checking for specific features that make them a good buy. You can begin your search by first checking what you can afford and what you need from the bag. Below some of the things you should consider when buying a surf backpack:


Decisions based on price can be tricky. All being equal: build quality, the number of pockets, storage size, for example, then the price is your ultimate deciding factor. Realistically, decisions based on price are limited by the buyer’s budget.

After determining your budget, the next step is to compare similarly priced backpacks in terms of features and construction. You can then make the decision on which backpack to buy based on your budget and your needs.

Backpack Straps

Surfing backpacks are almost similar in capacity or how much they can store. These may offer the same volume of carrying capacity but differ on how much they can safely handle. When it comes to carrying strength, check the shoulder straps for quality and build. Remember that these are your backpack's attachment points and should be comfortable and sturdy enough when carrying heavy loads. Molded straps that conform with your shoulder shapes are ideal. Check if these straps also come with vents which prevents heat buildup and makes it easier for the straps to dry after being soaked in the rain.


Getting the biggest surf backpack can be the simplest answer, but how much backpack do you really need? A bigger backpack may seem a better decision since it does offer you the option of carrying small to big loads. A properly fitting backpack means a perfectly balanced bag. This is why a smaller capacity backpack for smaller loads is ideal when compared to a large capacity bag.

This should not be confused with a backpack’s weight carrying capability. Bigger volumes do not translate to better weight support.

Surf Backpack Zippers

Often overlooked, you should also check backpack zippers. Saltwater is notorious for causing metal damage and corrodes metal five times faster than freshwater. Saltwater and metal zippers do not mix. We’ve seen it all before, rusted zippers ruining an otherwise perfect backpack. Water-resistant or stainless-steel zippers may help ease the problem. You can also gently oil the zippers with WD40 now and then to keep them in perfect condition.

Construction Materials

Surfing is an outdoor sport and requires sturdy, robust construction materials for its equipment. These must withstand a great deal of abuse from the elements and all the surfing equipment, both wet and dry. The best surf backpacks are made from polyester and nylon blends which are exceptionally durable and have water-resistant properties.

Water Resistance

Surfing being a watersport, surf backpacks must at least have some water protection or at least be able to store both wet and dry equipment separately. Wet surf backpacks come with waterproof compartments, which are ideal for storing wetsuits. On the other hand, a dry surf backpack is designed to keep the contents dry and prevent water from coming in. Wet/dry surf backpacks offer the best of both worlds. It keeps water from coming in and comes with pockets/compartments to separate wet and dry items.


Bigger capacity does not mean usability. The number, interior, and exterior pockets of a surf backpack are significant factors in its utility. Does it have enough compartments to separate all the different equipment you use? Another thing to consider is how the different compartments are laid out, carrying capacity, and storing items. For example, the location of your water bottle holder should be located on an outside pocket for easier access.

Eight Highly Recommended Surf Backpacks

After getting a basic idea on what you should look for in a good surf backpack it’s now time to check some of the best available in the market today. It all boils down to what you need and what each has to offer.

Dakine Cyclone II Dry Pack (36L) Backpack

The Dakine Cyclone II 36L Dry Pack is undoubtedly one of the most durable and all-around performers on the market today. It's a little expensive, but the build quality that went into making it makes it every cent worth it. With its cavernous space (36 liters), you'll be able to bring almost everything you need for your next surfing expedition.

It can also work as a flotation device. The Cyclone II offers various pockets that can be used to hold water bottles and pockets for storing electronic gadgets safely.

Dakine Cyclone Roll Top (32L) Backpack

It might share the same name as the Cyclone II, but the Cyclone Roll top is quite different. It is made from the same material (Cordura 305 denier), which makes it equally durable. Its roll-top pocket makes for an easy entry and exit point. One significant difference is that the Cyclone Roll Top does not come with the same number of pockets or compartments as seen in the Cyclone II Dry Pack. A central selling point is that it is much cheaper compared to its counterpart.

SurfPack 60L Surfboard Carrying Backpack

As the name suggests, the SurfPack 60L Surfboard Carrying Backpack is a backpack that can also carry 2 surfboards! This ultimate surf backpack has it all, including wetsuit straps to hang your bulky wetsuit off the back, mesh pockets on each side for water bottles, a large mesh pocket on the back to keep your wet gear isolated, while allowing it to dry, removable hip belt with pockets and multiple stash pockets.

At 60L, there is plenty of space for you to carry around your surf gear. The YKK AquaGuard zippers are water resistant and external material is strong D.W.R. Polyester 1000D.

O’Neill Psycho Surfing Backpack

The O'Neill Psycho surfing backpack is made of high-grade polyester and has an easy-access roll-top shape. This makes it perfect for storing wetsuits after a surf and also offers plenty of storage pockets for dry items. The O'Neill Psycho offers all-around versatility, security, and convenience. It is designed for urban surfers and all their gadgets. It comes with a 15" laptop sleeve and passport panel.

DryTide 50L

The DryTide 50L waterproof backpack is the perfect companion for travelers who require a more robust solution for their storage needs, with a storage capacity of 50 liters which is enough for your everyday surfing needs and then some. Its waterproof properties make it perfect for any weather condition, and you could also deflate it for easy storage.

Aside from having a whopping 50 liters of storage capacity, the backpack comes with a good number of pockets designed to hold anything from notebooks to water bottles. It also comes with attachments for holding tall objects at the side.

RVCA Astrodeck Surf Backpack

The RVCA Astrodeck Surf Backpack is a feature-filled backpack for securing and storing your clothes and surfing accessories. It comes with a wide outer packet for storing your wetsuit, designed to keep it away from all other items in the bag. Its internal compartment includes a padded 15" laptop sleeve and additional organizers. The backpack comes with a water-resistant dry bag for extra storage of wet items. Small pockets are also available for keeping small items such as eyeglasses, wallets, smartphones, and the like.

The North Face Borealis Backpack

The Borealis Backpack is one of The North Face's best-selling backpacks. This backpack comes with many pockets for storing almost anything from laptops, wax, wetsuits, and more. The Borealis backpack is extremely lightweight, making it ideal for carrying loads for extended periods. It is incredibly versatile and can be used on trails, weekend hikes, and surfing. This rugged backpack is made of rugged 210D Cordura nylon ripstop, 420D nylon, 600D polyester print, and 1680d ballistic nylon.

FCS Mission Surfing Backpack

The FCS Mission surf pack is built especially for surfing. It comes with a "wet zone" complete with drainage holes. It also has specialized compartments or pockets for separating dry and wet items. Its waterproof cover gives you extra protection and keeps your gear dry during wet and rainy days.

The Verdict – Why Buy a Surf Backpack

You wouldn’t like to look like a school kid heading out to the beach with an ordinary backpack. Surf backpacks shout cool, and I've come prepared to hit those waves. But more than looking good, surf backpacks are like special tools designed to carry your essential surfing equipment. Simple fact, your normal gear would not be able to store a wetsuit or keep your wet and dry belongings organized. Whether you're a professional surfer or a weekend surfer, shedding a few more dollars to get a surf backpack would be one of the best investments you can make.

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