Are Kankens Waterproof?

Kanken backpacks are not waterproof but they are water-resistant.

This means they are able to withstand the wet and dirt but they should not be submerged in water.

Unfortunately, this also means Kankens are no match for heavy rain or storms and in this weather, you will find your bag and its contents will get wet.

However, light showers or humid environments should not be a problem.

If you live in an area that experiences a lot of rain, consider getting a rain cover with your Kanken or choose a fully waterproof bag instead.

Vinylon F: Sturdy & Lightweight  

Kankens are made from a synthetic fabric called Vinylon F. This is a lightweight, hard-wearing material made in Japan.

The material is fairly stiff and durable making Kankens a backpack that will stand the test of time.

Vinylon F is made from weaved synthetic fibres but it behaves like natural fibre in that it swells as it becomes wet.

This means the gaps between the woven fibres weave tighter and close if they become damp making the bag more resistant to water penetration.

The material does not require a special coating for this to happen and Kankens will always have this feature as it is a natural response of the Vinylon F fabric.


If your Kanken does get wet, it will dry quickly.

It is recommended you clean the bag with a soft brush and lukewarm water when needed.

You should not put a Kanken backpack in the washing machine as this will damage it.

After spot cleaning or a rainy adventure, simply open the wet bag up and leave it to air dry before using it again.

How to Waterproof Kankens

If you need your Kanken backpack to be waterproof there are a couple of things you could do.

First of all, you can simply place plastic or waterproof bags within the compartments to ensure your stuff does not get wet.

There are also waterproof rain covers available for heavy downpours.

These covers are lightweight and compact so are easy to carry with you in case of wet weather. 

There is debate as to whether waxing or applying a waterproof coating to a Kanken is damaging to the material.

This is not recommended by the manufacturers but may be worthwhile if you are struggling with rainy weather and a backpack that is not waterproof.

For more details read our article on how to waterproof a backpack.

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