What Are the Most Effective Waterproofing Methods for Outdoor Gear?

Waterproofing your outdoor gear is not just a practical approach but a necessity for braving the elements. Whether you're an avid camper, hiker, or just someone who enjoys outdoor activities, waterproofing your gear is essential to keep you dry and comfortable. It's not just about staying dry though, it's also about maintaining the durability and longevity of your outdoor clothing and equipment. So, what are the most effective waterproofing methods for your outdoor gear? Let's delve into it.

Understanding Waterproof Fabrics

Before we dive into the methods, it's essential to understand the basics. Waterproof fabrics are designed to repel water, preventing it from soaking into the clothing. They can be made from various materials including synthetic and natural fabrics, all of which have undergone a process to become resistant to water.

These fabrics will typically feature a waterproof membrane. This is a thin layer that's integrated into the fabric's structure or applied to its surface, effectively blocking water from penetrating through. But it's not just about keeping water out – it's equally vital that these membranes allow moisture to escape from the inside. This characteristic is often described as breathability, which is crucial for comfort when wearing waterproof garments.

While most outdoor gear is designed to withstand the elements, routine use and exposure to harsh conditions can diminish its waterproof capabilities over time. Therefore, upkeep and regular maintenance is necessary to maintain their peak performance.

Wax Coating

One of the oldest and most effective methods of waterproofing is using a wax coating. This method has been used for centuries and continues to be a popular choice. It works by applying a layer of wax to the fabric which then sinks into the fibers when heated. Once cooled, the wax will harden, creating a waterproof barrier.

While it's not necessarily the best method for all types of gear, wax coating is particularly effective on heavy-duty outdoor clothing, such as jackets and trousers, or gear made from cotton or canvas. However, bear in mind that it can alter the garment's texture, making it stiffer and heavier.

Durable Water Repellent Spray

If you're looking for an easy and quick way to waterproof your outdoor gear, a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) spray could be the answer. DWR sprays work by creating a water-repellent coating on the surface of your gear, causing water to bead up and roll off the fabric instead of soaking in.

DWR sprays are ideal for revitalizing the waterproof capabilities of your gear after it has been washed, or when the original DWR finish has worn off. It's especially effective on clothing, tents, and other gear with a pre-existing waterproof membrane, as it helps maintain the effectiveness of that layer.

Membrane Laminates

Another effective waterproofing method involves the use of membrane laminates or waterproof breathable laminates. These are thin, breathable membranes that are bonded to the fabric to create a waterproof barrier.

There are several types of these laminates available, some of the most known are Gore-Tex, eVent and HyVent. These membranes are highly effective at repelling water, while allowing moisture vapor to escape from the inside out, resulting in dry, comfortable clothing, even during heavy physical activity.

Liquid Waterproofing

Finally, for items like boots and other leather goods, liquid waterproofing products can be a game-changer. These solutions penetrate the material, offering deep waterproofing and protection against the elements.

Liquid waterproofing is usually applied by brushing or spraying the product onto the gear and allowing it to dry. Remember, it's important to clean your gear thoroughly before applying any waterproofing product. This will ensure that the product adheres properly to the material and doesn't trap any dirt or grime.

In conclusion, each waterproofing method has its benefits and is suitable for different types of gear. Choosing the right method depends on the type and fabric of your outdoor gear, the degree of waterproofing required, and your personal preference. Regular maintenance and care of your gear will not just keep you dry but also extend the life of your equipment, ensuring many successful outdoor adventures.

Waterproof Fabric Care and Maintenance

Caring for your outdoor gear and maintaining its water resistance is as important as its initial waterproofing. Over time, exposure to harsh weather conditions and regular usage can reduce the water resistance of your waterproof clothing. Therefore, a routine cleaning and reproofing process is necessary to retain the water repellent properties and extend the life of your gear.

Clothes, tents, and other outdoor gear can be cleaned in a washing machine using a technical wash or pure soap, both of which are specifically designed to clean waterproof fabrics without damaging their water-resistant properties. Avoid using regular detergents or fabric softeners as these can leave residues on the fabric, compromising its waterproofing capability.

After washing, it's recommended to reapply a waterproofing treatment, such as a DWR coating or waterproof breathable membrane according to the manufacturer's instructions. Ensure you check your gear for any damage or wear and tear before reproofing, as any flaws should be repaired to achieve the best waterproofing results.

Remember that different materials may require different treatments. For example, Gore-Tex or eVent fabrics may have specific care instructions, while the best waterproofing method for leather goods would involve using a liquid waterproofing product.

Always check and follow the manufacturer's care instructions for your specific gear to ensure its longevity and maintain its water resistance.

Choosing the Right Waterproofing Method

With various waterproofing methods available, choosing the right one can be a bit challenging. The best waterproofing technique depends on the type of fabric your gear is made of and the level of water resistance you require.

Wax coating is ideal for heavy-duty gear made of cotton or canvas, offering an effective waterproof barrier. However, this method can make the fabric heavier and stiffer.

DWR sprays are a quick and easy method, perfect for maintaining the water repellent properties of gear with pre-existing waterproof membranes. These sprays are especially useful after washing your gear or when the original DWR finish has worn off.

Membrane laminates like Gore-Tex, eVent, and HyVent offer a high level of water resistance while ensuring breathability, keeping you dry and comfortable even during intense physical activity.

For leather goods like boots, liquid waterproofing products provide deep waterproofing and protection against hydrostatic pressure, the power that pushes water through the fabric.

Remember, always clean your gear thoroughly before applying any waterproofing treatment to ensure the best adhesion and avoid trapping any dirt or grime.


Waterproofing is a crucial aspect of maintaining outdoor gear. It keeps you dry, ensures comfort, and enhances the durability of your gear. Understanding different waterproofing methods, from wax coating to DWR sprays, membrane laminates, and liquid waterproofing, can help you choose the right technique for your specific gear. Regular cleaning and reproofing are also essential for maintaining the water resistance of your gear over time. Remember, the choice of waterproofing method depends on your gear type, the fabric, the required degree of water resistance, and your personal preference. With proper care and maintenance, your outdoor gear will continue to serve you well in your adventures, come rain, snow, or shine.