These days it seems like staying dry in the outdoors is the province of a wealthy elite – you’d best be ready to fork up hundreds of dollars for the newest waterproof fabrics to stand a chance at having a good time.  In reality, that’s a load of nonsense and nobody knows how to produce economical gear quite like Outdoor Products.  With this in mind, we’ve been drenching their Amphibian Weather Defense pack throughout the soggy Washington spring.

Outdoor Products 20L Amphibian Defender Pack Features:

  •  Welded seams
  •  Watertight, roll top seal
  •  Reflective accents
  •  Articulated padded shoulder straps with sternum handle
  •  Top carry handle
  •  Front mesh pocket
  •  Two side pockets
  •  Trekking pole holder
  •  Made from 420 Denier fabric with TPU coating
  •  Voted #1 waterproofing pack by Backpacker Magazine
  • MSRP: $59.99

Built to keep light loads bone dry

Outdoor Products is definitely a highly visible brand – their gear is all over the place due to its highly accessible price range.  Our most recent test of their gear was the Gamma 8.0, a high economical backpack which featured very robust fabric but struggled to support heavy loads.  Today’s test pack, the Amphibian Weather Defense, stays true to their mission of producing reasonably durable gear at very affordable prices.  You can buy this gear and expect it to last you a season or two, but it’s definitely not built to take years of heavy use.

That said, a dry bag is a very handy thing to have if you find yourself in Washington in the Spring.  I ended up using the Amphibian for quite a number of activities since I couldn’t quite find its niche.  It’s basically a large 20L pack with a rolltop closure; the outside has main pocket with mesh that drains to the outside as well as two small zippered side pockets.  Kudos to OP: all of the zippers are made with strong, chunky waterproof zippers.  On the downside, the two zippered side pockets are too small for anything like my iPhone 5 to fit; gel packets or perhaps some granola bars are about all that will fit.

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The back panel of the pack is very straightforward – two modest vertical foam strips offer a tiny bit of support and comfort and there’s virtually no ventilation between the two channels.  The main strap design is equally utilitarian: the shoulder straps are stuffed with low-quality foam which, when loaded with weight, compress down into your shoulder where they neither support nor add comfort to carrying the pack.  For this reason alone, I recommend the Amphibian be used for either very short trips or, even better, for carrying light loads on longer days.  We’re talking in the 10-15 pound range for a full day of carrying the Amphibian with reasonable comfort as the hip strap does nothing more than secure the load to your waist.

Rounding off the pack, OP included stowage for two trekking poles which is always a handy touch on a pack.  There’s also a big reflective accent for an added bit of safety if you happen to be bike commuting on a rainy day.  The pack’s real strength lies in its bombproof 420D TPU-coated nylon body.  This stuff is awesome.  It’s virtually impervious to any sort of rain or precipitation and mine even went for a swim in the Spokane River without letting anything leak in.  More kudos to OP for minimizing the number of seams with a simple design and then carefully taping the seams.

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After quite a bit of searching, I found the perfect use for the Amphibian.  I’m guiding with Peak 7 Adventures this summer and the pack accompanied me onto the whitewater near Spokane and Wenatchee.  The pack is perfect to if you’re on and off of the water throughout the day as it keeps gear bone dry in the boat, but then offers an easy way to carry it on shore.  It’s definitely a touch handier than conventional dry bags in this regard.

The Good

  • Great fabric – 420D TPU nylon is bombproof
  • Sealed zippers throughout is nice to see at this price point
  • Trekking pole interface is a thoughtful touch
  • Price – you really can’t beat it

The Bad

  • Cheap harness design limits functional carrying capacity
  • Sealed side pockets are too small for most electronics
  • Shoulder strap foam is particularly bad – it offers hardly any support

The Bottom Line

With the Amphibian Weather Defense, it’s a pretty simple line: if you need an affordable dry bag that offers excellent waterproofing coupled with the portability of a backpack, you can’t go wrong with the Amphibian’s price.  Don’t expect it to hold up for years of abuse and don’t expect to lug around very much weight.  However, you can expect your gear to stay dry and safe and your wallet will be happy with it too.

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About Author

Kevin Glover is an outdoorsman living, climbing and biking in Spokane, WA. Originally from the Nevada high desert, he moved to the PNW for its mild winters and allergen-free summers. He has guided throughout the Cascades and Enchantments for Peak 7 Adventures.

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