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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 18 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 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 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 pinholes. 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.

View at Hyperlite

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 it 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 the rain. The price is not bad and it’s a good adjunct if you have a compatible sleeping pad.

View at REI

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. 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.

View at Gossamer Gear

4. Nylofume Pack Liner Bags (51.9L)


Weighing just 0.91 oz each, Nylofume Pack Liner Bags 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. However, 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.

View at Garage Grown

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. 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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  1. I use my Schnozzel Pumpbag to inflate my Big Agnes Q-core SLX sleeping pad. Works great! Is there an emerging standard for sleeping pad (and inflatable pillow) fill valves?

  2. I also use the Exped schnozzle for thermarest pads. Requires about 3 mins to slightly widen the valve intake on the schnozzle with a file. If you are careful you can partially inflate your pad inside the bag for a seat. It also makes for a good food hanging bag if you didn’t bring anything else

  3. Thanks.
    by the way, Kirkland brand compactor bags are $18 for 70 bags. Cheap enough to share with friends!

  4. Just out of a matter of interest…. which packs have you switched to? Only asking as I’m eyeing up a Gossamer Gear backpack which is probably how I ended up here, Googling Gossamer Gear pack liners.

    • At the moment I’m using the Seek Outside Flight One on most of my day hikes and trips. I use generally alternate between a couple of packs, including the HMG 2400 SW and the GG Crown2 38. The Flight is nice for longer backpacking trips because it holds a lot and can carry extra weight with ease. It’s also more ventilated, so cooler in a terribly humid summer.

  5. what would be wrong with using heavy duty contractor bags. i recently purchased them for other purpose.

  6. Thanks for the good article. There is one point I did not find in the article why outer pack covers may still be needed. If your backpack is not made of special water proof material (eg X-Pac), letting your pack get soaked will mean that the water that is absorbed will weigh down the pack considerably and if it’s made of a a heavy nylon/polyester Cordura it will also take time to dry out. Covering the pack with a light Nylon cover will help prevent that and also be quicker to dry out.

  7. Interesting article. I’ve been using the Osprey drysacks which seem to work well. Out of interest (and apologies if this is a silly question), are pack liners meant to be used alongside the smaller drysacks or as an alternative? Presumably depends how wet it’s likely to be.

  8. You’re right about the godawful crinkly noise the Nylofume bags make. I was initially a fan but I couldn’t get over the racket my liner bag made when I packed up early in the morning. I now use plain old trash compactor bags. Unscented of course.

  9. I use the EXPED 80 liter ultra light turquoise liner
    It is so large, I do not have to fight fitting gear in to the little crevasses as the liner is so volumus
    Color is great for finding stuff
    A second and very helpful use is for a rain proof pack cover at night when I am biving or in a smaller vestibule

  10. I am curious what you use for packrafting. So far, I have packrafted in dry hot climate and just used 5-35 liter dry bags for various items. For that I have loved the Sea to Summit Lightweight dry sacks. I have tried a Big Water dry bag as a liner (heavy) and all the seams busted really fast and leaked. I repaired it several times with no luck. I am preparing for a col and rainy climate packrafting trip, but I will still be backpacking/packrafting within the same trip, and I wonder what you recommend for a pack liner that will be waterproof in the event of a flip.

  11. I absolutely confused compactor with contractor bags on year one. Great write up!

  12. Gossamer Gear Clear Pack Liners is $5 and $50+ to ship to Calgary Alberta. That’s right almost $60 for this $5 bag.

    Nylofume Pack Liner Bags is $3.50 plus $15 to ship to Calgary Alberta.

  13. I just got a 45 L Exped Shnozzel pumpsack and it works fine on my old classic valve Thermarest Neoair Xlite without any alteration. Seems very thin though, did you find it reasonably durable?

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