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Comparison of Five Ultralight Backpack Liners

Comparison of five ul backpack liners

Backpackers are split about 50/50 when it comes to using a backpack rain cover or lining the inside of their backpacks with a plastic bag or backpack liner designed for that purpose. When I started backpacking, I used a backpack rain cover but found it awkward so I switched to a backpack liner. Since then I’ve used five different backpack liners (in the past 10 years) and thought it would be useful to compare their strengths and weaknesses. While all of them work, they have some pros and cons that are worth considering if you’re thinking about using one.

But first, consider what attributes are important for waterproof backpack liners:

  • Volume: So you can fit all your stuff inside.
  • Durability: Important if you backpack a lot.
  • Weight: Definitely a factor if you’re counting your ounces.
  • Price: Always a factor.
  • Closure: A roll-top can be important for very wet trips.
  • Ease of Repair: Liners take abuse and it helps if you can repair them easily.
  • Multi-Purpose: Can it serve multiple functions to help reduce your gear weight?
  • Interior Visibility: Does the liner make it easier to find your gear in a backpack?

Let’s apply these criteria to the following backpack liners.

1. Hyperlite Mountain Gear Pack Liner (44L)

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Pack Liner

Hyperlite’s Pack Liner (recently renamed) is a 44L (XL size) roll-top stuff sack made with Dyneema Composite Fabrics. The roll-top portion is sewn, but the rest of the liner is taped. It weighs 2.1 ounces, but the $75 price is very high considering the cost of the other pack liners below. I started using this liner for packrafting trips, but it quickly developed numerous pin holes. While DCF can be repaired with tape, I’d lost faith in the longer-term viability of the liner. It also proved too low volume for my needs and made it harder to find gear in my backpack because it’s darkly colored.

Check out the latest price at:
Hyperlite Mountain Gear | REI

2. Exped Schnozzel Pumpbag (45L)

Exped Schnozzel
The Exped Schnozzel Pumpbag is a 45L pack liner and pump bag that can be used to inflate Exped sleeping pads with flat stemless valves (also compatible with  Sea-to-Summit and REI pads.) It’s a durable silnylon sack with a drybag closure that weighs 2.3 oz. The bright color makes it easy to find gear inside darkly colored backpacks. I’m not sure I’d trust if for a trip where I could experience full immersion (like packrafting), but it’s more than sufficient for keeping gear in your pack dry in rain. The price is not bad ($39) and it’s a good adjunct if you have a compatible sleeping pad. I used it mainly for cold weather camping to inflate sleeping pads, but it wasn’t high volume enough for my needs.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Campsaver

3. Gossamer Gear Clear Pack Liners (48.5L)

Clear WP Liners
Gossamer Gear sells clear plastic pack liners that are surprisingly durable, and I used them for many years, going through a pair of bags per year. Weighing 1.2 oz, they’re lighter weight than trash compactor bags and easy to patch with clear tape if you poke a hole in one. They’re open at the top so you have to fold them over or twist tie them to hold them closed, but they good a good job of keeping your gear dry. Priced at $5/pair, they’re also quite affordable. Clear as they are, they inherit the color of your pack’s interior and have a neutral impact on making your gear easier to locate. I stopped using these pack liners when I stopped sending my retirement savings to Gossamer Gear and started using backpacks from another company, but I think they’re still a good option.

Check out the latest price at:
Gossamer Gear

4. Nylofume Pack Liner Bags (51.9L)

Nylofume-Pack-Liner-65L-ULA-Ohm

Weighing just 0.91 oz each, Nylofume Pack Liner Bags (available from Litesmith) are thin plastic bags that are surprisingly tough. At 51.9L, they have enough volume for most of the packs I use regularly, plus some extra so I can fold over the top to seal out moisture from above. You can patch them easily with packing tape and they’re purportedly odor-proof, which might make them useful for food bag liners. Priced at $2.50 each, they have one fatal flaw in my book. These bags make a crinkly potato chip sound that I find unbearable. But for that, these pack liners would a slam dunk.

Check out the latest price at:
Litesmith

5. Hefty White Trash Compactor Bags (68L)

Hefty Trash

My current pack liner is a Hefty White Trash Compactor Bag. Weighing 2.2 oz, these are thick plastic bags that are thicker than regular trash bags and harder to tear. They’re easy to patch with tape, lightweight, and inexpensive, costing about $1.25 per bag. Durability is excellent and I typically only use one or two per year. While they are high volume, they have multiple uses. For example, I’ve used a trash compactor bag as a makeshift bivy bag more than once to stay warm on a freezing night, which is only possible because they’re large enough to pull over my legs and quilt. Being white, they also make it easier to find gear in a dark backpack. When you buy them it’s important to get “unscented bags” if you’re hiking in bear country and not to confuse “compactor bags” with “contractor bags.”

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Amazon

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9 comments

  1. +1 to compactor bags, esp. ” When you buy them it’s important to get “unscented bags” if you’re hiking in bear country…”

  2. One more to add: XXL Ziplock bags. They hold 20 gallons, are pretty sturdy, fairly clear and have a zip top closure.

  3. I got some Nylobarrier bags several years ago from a company that is now out of business, but they seem to be the same as the Nylofume bags from Litesmith. I love these bags. I am still using the first one and it is still air/water tight. My experience leads me to believe that the odor barrier feature is real and significant. By the end of my first multi-day hike (before getting these), my whole pack (and its contents) smelled noticeably like my food and garbage bag, which was concerning. I then go an assortment of Nylobarrier bags. I use the large as a pack liner (holds my sleeping bag and clothes). The smaller one is the prefect size to use a liner for my Z-Packs Blast Food Bag which holds food and garbage. I now have two odor barriers between my food and my clothes and sleeping bag. Ever since going to this system, I notice no food smells at all when I open my pack, even after several days of summer hiking with odoriferous foods.

  4. Word of caution on the nylofumes. Their bottom seams tend to blow out under compression.

  5. I have a 20 Liter Sea to Summit pump/dry bag for my REI 3 season and All Season insulated air mattresses. At 20 L. it’s too small to be a pack liner and that’s OK B/C, unless canoein, I prefer pack rain covers to pack liners.

    But in 3 season use my 20 L. StS pump bag is a good clothes bag and for winter my big -40 F. down parka goes in it. Both times I just roll the filled bottom up to the dry top to remove most of the air, fold the top down and clip it and I’m OK. The trick is rolling up from the bottom.
    **But having one item perform two duties is the Holy Grail of backpacking gear.

  6. + 1 for compactor bags, unscented. I also use a pack cover. I just hate wet gear other than my tarp

  7. The Exped can inflate Thermarest pads with some light filing of the plug inner. The volume is fine if only packing items that can’t get wet like your sleeping bag and clothes. It also serves to hang excess stuff if you don’t have a vestibule for your tent.

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