Staying dry: How to waterproof your hiking gear

By Marion Fernandez
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Staying dry: How to waterproof your hiking gear

Marion Fernandez
 
 
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Being outdoors is something that most of us want to do as often as we can. This usually means that we are taken on some outdoor adventures which may put us in uncomfortable positions we would like to avoid repeating. One of the least comfortable and most frustrating surprises is to be hit by a rainstorm during a hiking or camping outing, leaving you soaked, cold, and miserable until you can dry out. But this is something that you can prevent, despite the unpredictability of the weather. With some good planning, you can keep yourself and your gear as dry as possible, keeping your trip on a positive note. Remember as well that the initial waterproofing that comes on some of your gear is not going to last forever and you may need to re-waterproof as time goes on.

Step 1

Hiking in the rain
Hiking in the rain

First, you need to ask yourself whether your gear needs to be waterproofed. If your jacket, tent, or hiking boots are soaking through with rain quickly, it is time to waterproof your kit. Some gear naturally doesn’t come with much, if any waterproofing, so you may need to coat some items before finding yourself soaked. Different materials will waterproof better than others so check out what your gear is supposed to have on it.

Step 2

Then you need to wash the gear that you are intending to waterproof. This will remove any kind of stains, dirt, oil, or other contaminants that will make waterproofing ineffective. Having a clean surface to start with will help it last longer too.

Step 3

Once the gear, whether it is your backpack, tent, boots, or anything really, is clean and dry, you can spray on a durable water repellent (DWR) treatment. There is also a wash-in kind of DWR, but it is not usually recommended because you will coat areas that you may not have wanted to be coated otherwise. It also wouldn’t work on much besides clothing and jackets.

Give your gear ample time to dry out so that you may achieve the best results with your DWR treatment
Give your gear ample time to dry out so that you may achieve the best results with your DWR treatment

Step 4

After you have sufficiently sprayed down your gear with the DWR, you will need to let the gear dry for at least 24 to 48 hours before you venture out to use it. Otherwise, you run the risk of the DWR washing away and rendering the whole task pointless.

Step 5

Sometimes a leaky tent, backpack, or jacket is due to more than just poor waterproofing. If you have had your gear and used it for a long time, the waterproofing will wear off, but the materials will also wear down. Seams will begin to weaken, becoming a source for further damage and wetness. There are some great repair products out there, like the Gear Air Seam Grip, which can seal off where the leaking seam is located.

 

Additional waterproofing might not be enough to keep you dry if the fabric starts to wear out on “old faithful”. Author – Chris McTiernan – CC BY-SA 3.0
Additional waterproofing might not be enough to keep you dry if the fabric starts to wear out on “old faithful”. Author – Chris McTiernan – CC BY-SA 3.0

Step 6

There are times that gear simply cannot be saved. If the waterproofing is worn off and the material itself has begun to bubble or flake, the item is probably beyond repair and will actually need to be replaced. The laminating that is placed on most outdoor gear is not something that can be re-coated. Sometimes it is just time to let it go.

Step 7

You should also know the difference between the terms “waterproof” and “water resistant,” because products are marketed with those terms. Waterproof means that it is really supposed to keep out the rain and leave you dry. Water resistant, on the other hand, means it may temporarily shield you from the wet weather, but it is not going to hold up for long in a heavy downpour before the water begins to seep through. In case you have purchased something that is “water resistant” instead of “waterproof” use a DWR and follow our instructions to keep yourself dry.

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