Waterproof Camo Cover for Backpacks

Waterproof cover in
Advantage Max-4 HD camo

     Yeah, I know ... my backpack is already "waterproof", but hear me out. My latest outing to photograph wild horses took me into saltwater marshes with sopping wet, soggy ground of mud and muck, with that marsh methane gas smell. If you've ever been there, you know what I mean. I did not relish the thoughts of my new backpack coming back from such an outing with that muck caked on the outside. Worse yet, laying the pack down on its back (i.e. harness and hip belt) to access gear in such a situation would make a royal mess on the harness, and thus my hands and clothes as soon as I tried to put it back on.

Top- bottom "box"
Left- Hood section
Lower left- attaching main hood
Below- attaching harness hood
     Lucky for me, about the time I received the backpack, I also located a source for 600 denier polyester waterproof material with a waterproof back coating. Essentially it is the same thing most backpacks are made from. Better yet, it was in my favorite camo pattern, Realtree Advantage Max-4 HD, a favorite among wildlife photographers. Right away I set about figuring out a design to protect my backpack, and thus myself and equipment, while providing a camo cover for my "luggage look" backpack.
     The left photo shows what I came up with. I'm not going into a step-by-step tutorial of how to make one, as it frankly wasn't that difficult a project, and a measured pattern for my backpack would likely not fit others. I will however try to generally explain my process so it can be adapted to your needs..
     My first concern was "What if I had to set down my backpack in shallow water (water puddle) or on really damp, soggy ground?" After testing the material to be certain it was actually waterproof (and not just water-resistant) I decided to make the "base" of the cover without any seams or stitching, since I had no waterproofing tape to cover stitches. I achieved this by using a single rectangle of material, folding up the sides and pleating the corners so it essentially made an open top "box". A diagram at right shows how this was accomplished. The only stitching, and therefore needle holes, are at the top edge where I rolled over the edge to make a neat hem and lock in the corner pleat folds. That gave me six inches height with no holes of any kind. This "rectangular bowl" should work well to keep the pack dry even if set in water up to 4 or 5 inches deep.
     Next I fashioned a "hood" with a drawstring. This covers the top and three sides (exactly like a rain jacket hood on your head), leaving the back open for the harness and hip belt. Then this "hood" was sewn to the "box" base as in this diagram.
     At this point I took time to mark and cut out openings for (1) the top and side handles, (2) for accessing the side pockets and (3) for accessing the tripod attachment straps. Such holes tend to defeat the rainproofing concept, so I made flaps from the same material and sewed each of them on along one edge so they could flip up to access the handles, etc., and flop down to cover them.
     The only thing missing now was a way to lay the pack down on its back to access my gear without getting the harness and hip belt muddy. For this I made another "hood" shaped cover for the harness side of the pack. This "harness hood" is very simple - no draw string needed. It's just like the main hood but without a drawstring edge folded over as in this diagram. You can make it out of one single piece of material like the main hood, or by sewing together three side strips and a rectangular back. This is not designed to lay in water puddles since it has stitching. Once this is made, it is simply sewn along one edge to attach it to the "bottom box" of the main cover. When wearing the backpack, it simply rolls up and stuffs inside the bottom of the pack cover out of the way of the harness.

Harness hood opened
(harness and hip belt
stored under cover )
Main hood pulled back with
pack sitting on harness
hood in working position
Rain cover over top
cutout is pulled back to
show carrying handle
Rain flaps over side cutouts
are pulled up to show side
handle & tripod strap access
I used "bow" style cordlocks, but springloaded push button
cordlocks work as well
Harness hood
tucked in for full
weather protection
Harness out but tucked
into bottom "box"
(harness hood folded in)
Pack lying on harness
hood ready to
access gear

     These photos with explanations, along with the provided diagrams above, should make everything clear enough to follow and create your own backpack cover.
     All in all it's a relatively simple bit of cutting and sewing. The cover does not have to fit tightly. It only has to draw up enough with the draw string so it will stay on. Mine is cut full enough that the add-on "utility pocket" featured in this project fits under it easily. The openings I cut out provide access to the carry handles, to insert a tripod and strap it on, and to reach the side pockets easily. Now my gray city slicker, luggage look, regulation airplane carry-on bag is ready for some real work in the boonies. It will blend in with all my other gear, and myself, and be protected from the muck and wet of the great outdoors.