7 Best Waterproofing Sprays for Hiking Gear and Clothes - Greenbelly Meals

7 Best Waterproofing Sprays for Hiking Gear and Clothes


Published: April 27th, 2021

best waterproofing sprays

Waterproofing sprays are a cost-effective way to add protection and extend the functionality of your gear.

Getting caught in a rainstorm comes with the territory when exploring the backcountry. Making sure you and your gear are prepared to handle moisture is an essential part of life on the trail. Even the most engineered piece of gear won’t stay waterproof forever. 

In this guide, we’ll go over what waterproofing sprays are, how and when to effectively apply them, the pros and cons of using them, and share our top picks.

Models Volume  Price
Kiwi Camp Dry Heavy Duty 10.5 fl oz $11
Nikwax: TX.Direct 10 fl oz $15
Grangers: Performance Repel, Wash & Repel Down 2-in-1 10 fl oz $16
Scotchgard Heavy Duty Water Shield 10.5 fl oz $13
Gear Aid: Revivex Instant Water Repellent 10.5 fl oz $18
Sof Sole Silicone Waterproofer Spray 12 fl oz $12
Atsko Silicone Water Guard 10.5 fl oz $12

Considerations


With so many waterproofing options out there, how do you choose the best waterproofing spray for your needs? Here are the main specs to look out for and how to make sense of them. 


Gear vs. Clothing: Most waterproofing sprays are made of a synthetic chemical compound. When this is applied to a material, it creates a protective shield against moisture.

  • For gear: A hard, non-porous barrier to keep moisture out is best for non-wearable gear like tents, tarps, and packs. For wearable gear, staying dry on the trail is as much about letting sweat escape as it is about keeping the rain out.

  • For clothing: The best waterproofing sprays for garments don’t create a complete seal, instead, they remain semi-porous which allows the material to be breathable so moisture doesn’t become trapped inside. Anyone who’s used a cheap set of rain gear (eg. garbage bag poncho) can tell you the importance of breathability.


Aerosol vs Spray Bottles: Aerosol sprays are easy to apply and can penetrate the fabric better. The downside is they aren’t very environmentally friendly and you can end up using more spray than intended. Manual spray bottles give you better control over how much spray you’re using. On the downside, it can be harder to apply an even coat.


Silicone vs Non-Silicone-Based Sprays: Silicone sprays are durable and very effective. However, they are not recommended for some proprietary fabrics because they can clog pores. They also can cause discoloration, it’s best to spot check these before applying to the entire fabric. Non-silicone sprays often contain hydros or fluorocarbons. These may be better for advanced fabric technology but they can come with more environmental downsides.


Size: 
Waterproof spray bottles can range in size. The most common size is around 10.5oz, which can cover approx 500 sq ft, enough for multiple garments or a larger item like a tent. 


Alternatives to Waterproofing Sprays: 
Along with waterproofing sprays, there are other alternatives to restore your gear’s waterproofing ability.

  • Wash-In: A “wash-in” waterproofing treatment is just what it sounds like, it’s applied by adding it to a wash cycle vs spraying. Clean and rinse your item first, as you would with a spray, and then add the wash-in and start a new cycle. Easy to use. However, it also is applied to the inside of the material which may reduce the ability of the garment to wick moisture away from your body and decrease breathability.

  • Wax: Most people know about waxing shoes to waterproof but wax products can also be applied to fabrics like canvas, denim, and even cotton. This centuries old technique is a great non-toxic solution but can be labor intensive and is often not compatible with technical fabrics.

waterproofing spray applied on tent


How to Use


Applying a new coat of DWR finish is a straightforward process. It’s also highly rewarding: regular re-coating will keep your gear performing at its peak.

how to use waterproofing sprays

Step by step:

  1. Inspect. Are there stains to remove? Other fixes you want to do before applying the DWR spray (small holes or tears)? Are pockets empty?

  2. Wash. Get the dust, dirt, and grime off it before applying the spray. This is the most important step as the DWR spray needs a clean surface to affix to. Wash by hand or use a washing machine. Check the manufacturer's recommendations for how to properly wash and what detergents to use.

  3. Rinse. Make sure all the detergent is removed by rinsing thoroughly with just water. Again, this can be done by hand or on the rinse cycle of your washing machine.

  4. Spray. From a distance of approx six inches, apply the waterproofing spray to the outside of the damp piece of gear. Try to spray as evenly as possible over the entire piece. Wait a few minutes. If there is excess spray, wipe away with a clean piece of cloth.

  5. Dry. You can either air dry or tumble dry. Follow the instructions on the label if putting in a dryer. Not all gear is meant for the dryer. It’s always best to air dry if you’re unsure of the care instructions.

  6. Wait. We know you want to get out there and test out the new DWR coating! But it’s best to check the instructions on the waterproofing spray for how long to wait until it’s fully cured. Some can take as long as 48 hours.


How often?

Waterproofing sprays won’t last forever so it’s wise to get into a habit of applying the sprays on a regular basis. Reproofing with a spray once a year is a good rule of thumb, but if you notice moisture getting in or the DWR coating not working as it should, more frequent applications might be needed.

It’s also good to get into the routine of washing your gear. Why?

The pores of the specialized membrane found in waterproof gear can get clogged by sweat, oils, dirt, and smoke. When this happens it compromises the effectiveness of the DWR material, reducing breathability. If these pores are clogged, waterproofing spray won’t be as effective, so keep it clean!

There is no need, however, to re-apply your waterproofing spray after every wash, only when you notice the DWR not working as it is supposed to.

Some of our top picks combine a cleaner with a water repellent treatment for the ultimate gear refresher.


Extra coats?

Sometimes it may be worth applying an additional coat. If the waterproofing is badly damaged, either from abrasion or a long time between treatments, it may take a couple of coats to restore it back to like new. If applying multiple coats wait three to four hours between each coat.


Heat activation?

Some reproofers require heat activation, typically for higher end apparel items and sprays. Grangers recommend you apply heat by putting the item in a tumble dryer. If the spray doesn’t specifically recommend heat, then it isn’t needed.

Remember that the care instructions on the gear itself always supersede the instructions on the spray (or this guide!).

how to use waterproofing spray


Best Waterproofing Sprays


For untextured materials, fabrics like nylon, leather, and canvas, a basic waterproofing spray will work fine. If you’re working with fabric using more advanced DWR technologies (like GORE-TEX or other proprietary technologies), read the waterproofing spray label thoroughly to make sure it’s compatible and won’t damage your gear.


Kiwi Camp Dry Heavy Duty

kiwi camp dry

Best on: All outdoor gear

Weight: 10.5 fl oz

Price: $11

This silicone-based spray is a great all-rounder. It can be used on most gear you take outside including clothes, tents, shoes, backpacks. However, it takes some patience: it needs 24 to 48 hours drying time before use and if applying multiple coats you’ll need to wait three to four hours between each coat. The standard 10.5oz bottle can cover 540 square feet. Using the mist applicator makes applying this a breeze. When wet it does have a bit of an odor.

Available at Amazon


Nikwax: TX.Direct Tent & Gear SolarProof, Nubuck & Suede, Fabric & Leather

nikwax waterproofing

Best on: All outdoor gear

Weight: 10 fl oz

Price: $15

Born as a home concoction in a Scottish teapot, Nikwax is now a favorite of outdoor experts, with a waterproofing product for just about any item, from tents to down bags to leather shoes. Nikiwax TX. Direct comes as an easy-to-use spray or wash that keeps out moisture while maintaining breathability. It may not be as durable as other products, but the easy application and environmentally friendly formulas make Nikwax a top choice.

Available at Amazon


Grangers: Performance Repel, Wash & Repel Down 2-in-1

grangers performance waterproofing spray

Best on: Apparel, sleeping bags, high end specialized gear

Weight: 10 fl oz

Price: $16

Grangers Wash & Repel Down 2-in-1 revives your down sleeping bags and jackets, whether down or synthetic, by adding loft, breathability, and water repellency. This squeeze bottle is also a great choice for the environmentally-minded. It's fluorocarbon-free and Bluesign approved as a sustainable textile. Safe for high-end gear like GORE-TEX and comes with a money back guarantee. The bottles are smaller so it may take a few to do the job.

Available at Amazon


Scotchgard Heavy Duty Water Shield

Scotchguard waterproofing spray

Best on: All outdoor gear

Weight: 10.5 fl oz

Price: $13

Scotchguard’s heavy duty water shield can be used on nylon, polyester, canvas and even leather meaning you can protect tents, backpacks, and shoes. A single application of the easy-to-use and inexpensive spray gets the job done, although the ingredients fall short on the environmental front.

Available at Amazon


Gear Aid: Revivex Instant Water Repellent

Gear Aid waterproofing spray

Best on: GORE-TEX and other specialized fabrics

Weight: 10.5 fl oz

Price: $18

Revivex Instant Water Repellent gets glowing reviews from users wanting to restore high end fabrics like GORE-TEX, eVent, and more. It doesn’t compromise breathability. The formula is free of harmful fluorocarbons and comes in a pump spray bottle for even more environmental friendliness.

Available at Amazon


Sof Sole Silicone Waterproofer Spray

Sof Sole waterproofing spray

Best on: Tents, packs and other non-specialized fabrics

Weight: 12 fl oz

Price: $12

Sofe Sole Silicone Waterproofer Spray is a silicone-based waterproof spray featuring 12% silicone content and ensures long-lasting waterproofing. It’s not recommended on gear like GORE-TEX or athletic shoes as it can cause discoloration and diminished performance.

Available at Amazon


Atsko Silicone Water Guard

Atsko waterproofing spray

Best on: All outdoor gear

Weight: 10.5 fl oz

Price: $12

Atsko Silicone Water Guard is a good budget silicone spray that works on all outdoor gear. It dries clear and is odorless. Large size means it can cover more than other sprays. Like other silicone sprays, it can cause slight discoloration if applied too heavily. Aerosol makes this less desirable environmentally speaking.

Available at Amazon


Why Re-Waterproof My Gear?


Some materials, like nylon, can repel water for a limited time. Higher end fabrics made of Dyneema do an even better job.

For apparel, fabric technologies create a barrier between multiple layers of fabric to repel water. They often employ a DWR (Durable Water Repellency) coating applied to the outside of the fabric causing water to bead up and roll off clothing, tents, tarps, and shoes.

Many of these materials tend to lose their effectiveness over time. Oil, dirt, and rubbing can wear away the DWR. That’s where waterproofing sprays can come in. They can be an inexpensive way to get extra life out of older gear instead of needing to buy new.

Here are the main waterproofing technologies on the market today:

  1. GORE-TEX - The tried and true 2, 2.5, and 3 layer waterproof technology. Known for its balance of breathability and waterproofing. Moves moisture out of the apparel by means of diffusion. Example: Rab Kangri GTX

  2. H2NO - Patagonia’s proprietary waterproof and breathable fabric available in 2, 2.5, and 3 layer constructions. This fabric is gas permeable and built to deliver when conditions are at their worst. Example: Patagonia Torrentshell

  3. Hydronaute - Mont’s 3 layer membrane fabric. Mont’s claim to fame is its resistance to abrasion and ability to hold up to tough wear and tear. Example: Mont Austral

  4. Shield+ - Pertex’s 2.5 layer fabric is known for its high performance and lightweight breathability. Example: Outdoor Research Helium II

  5. eVENT - A 3 layer membrane treated with an oil and water-repelling chemical. More breathable than GORE-TEX but requires more regular cleaning to maintain functionality. Example: KUHL Skuhl

  6. DryVent - Found in The North Face products. It is treated with a DWR and designed to keep products fully waterproof, windproof, and breathable. Available in a 2, 2.5, and 3 layer construction. Example: The North Face TriClimate

  7. Nano Pro - Developed by Marmot and found in the PreCip line. Uses a special DWR coating consisting mostly of polyurethane. A distinguishing feature with PreCip is the ability to be easily compressed into a small package. Example: Marmot PreCip

  8. Futurelight - Released in 2019 by The North Face, it features an ultra-thin nanomembrane making it very competitive in terms of weight and breathability. Example: The North Face Dryzzle

how does waterproofing spray work


FAQ


Does waterproofing spray expire?

Waterproofing spray can expire. Depending on the materials the expiration dates will vary. If a spray is used after the expiration date it may decrease effectiveness or worse yet damage your gear. If there isn’t an expiry date it will probably last for some time. If unsure, best to buy a new spray than risk replacing a high end piece of gear.


Is waterproofing spray safe/toxic?

After the spray has been allowed to dry it is safe and non-toxic. When it is wet it can be harmful if breathed in. Applied in a well ventilated area away from heat sources, some sprays can be flammable.


How to remove waterproofing spray?

If something’s gone wrong waterproofing spray can be removed, but it’s not always an easy process. The first step is to try to wash it with warm water and detergent. If that doesn’t work you can try again but this time add ¾ cup baking soda.


Some phoots in this post were taken by Jonathan Davis (@meowhikes)



joshua johnson writer photo

By Justin Sprecher (aka "Semisweet"): Semisweet is a Wisconsin-based thru-hiker, adventurer and digital storyteller. You can find him exploring the upper midwest on foot, in a canoe and on a bike.
About Greenbelly: After thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Chris Cage created Greenbelly to provide fast, filling and balanced meals to backpackers. Chris also wrote How to Hike the Appalachian Trail.

Affiliate disclosure: We aim to provide honest information to our readers. We do not do sponsored or paid posts. In exchange for referring sales, we may receive a small commission through affiliate links. This post may contain affiliate links. This comes at no extra cost to you.



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