How to

20 April 2016

A Starter’s Guide to Waterproofing Your Gear

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If you’re out on anything longer than a day trip and there’s any chance of wet weather, you’ll need to be prepared. You might think you can handle it, or that it’s not an issue, but water can cause all kinds of complications that can completely ruin any outdoor activity if you’re not appropriately prepared.

This can mean buying the absolute perfect gear for the job, or taking what you already have and doing it manually, so to speak. In either case, you need to know exactly how to approach it, and that’s what this guide is here to help with.


The easiest way to make sure you’re properly equipped is to buy gear that’s hydrophobic. Most outdoor gear will specify whether it is or isn’t, but if you’re unsure, just ask someone in the shop or do a specific search. There’s a wide range of jackets, waterproof trousers, rucksacks and the like which are made of hydrophobic material. It’s important because such materials actually deflect water rather than just putting an extra layer between you and it.

If you’ve already got gear, and you want to see how waterproof it is, you need to actually test it. This is literally a case of dripping water against the various fabrics and seeing how they behave. Oftentimes fabrics which claim to be waterproof simply aren’t. If the water collects on the surface, you’re all good, if it seeps through, you can’t use it. If the water collects in droplets, congratulations, it’s hydrophobic , you have nothing to worry about. If it spreads around, you might want to give it extra treatment to strengthen it, so it will dry out faster.

Home Waterproofing

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The easiest way to waterproof materials at home is to use waterproofing spray, but the higher end, more reliable iterations of these products can be a bit pricey, especially given that you can make your own supply. All you need to do with is a bottle of mineral spirits and a tube of clear silicone caulk. In a container, mix about 750ml of mineral spirits with a small amount of sealant in a container. Put the lid on the container, and shake it up until the two are completely blended. That done, you can just coat whatever item you’re proofing with the gloop and leave it for 24 hours to set.

That approach will keep most things waterproof for short-term periods, but you’ll probably want to test and reapply between trips. The better way to do this is to use it on sheets of tarpaulin, cut to wrap around all your carrying gear, acting as a cheap alternative to a watertight rucksack/tent bag. Remember waterproof is not the same as watertight. If you’re going to spend money on anything, make sure it’s the footwear; if water gets into your boots, you won’t have any fun.

Application in Practise

Of course, none of this is any good until you actually use it. It’s always best to avoid outdoor activity in heavy rain, but if you can’t avoid it, try and judge what you need against the severity of the possible weather, not the actual forecast. If you’re in the peaks, for example, a freak rainstorm could develop at a moment’s notice, or if you’re on the coastline you could be hit by a squall.

If you’re tenting, consider reinforcing it against wind, of putting up a weather sheet over the top, just to be on the safe side. Most importantly, regardless of how waterproof your gear might be, take the time to dry things out. If it’s still wet outside, hang up the bigger things on inside of your tent, and put the small things in your sleeping bag with you, your body heat will dry them out (but ring them out first or you’ll end up sleeping in a puddle). This also works with boots, if they’re wet inside, lay them out near where you sleep and the heat will transfer overnight. Never pack wet clothes in next to dry materials, bring plenty of bags to pack them away in. 

Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop.