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The sale of camping equipment and outdoor gear has been steadily rising in the United States for years now. Manufacturers are consistently working to bring outdoor enthusiasts a wide variety of products designed to enhance our camping, hiking, mountain biking, and other outdoor experiences.
Whether this means an expertly designed backpack that can hold all of your necessities without weighing you down; hiking boots to keep your feet warm, dry, and protected; or a sleek and sophisticated tent that turns camping into glamping, the outdoor gear market is massive.
Within this huge outdoor clothing and gear market, virtually all of the products need to be waterproofed to maximize their utility. In many cases, waterproofing is part of the initial gear design, but this is not true every time. And even products designed to be waterproof may lose their water-repellant properties after some normal amount of wear and tear.
If you want to know the best way to waterproof your own outdoor gear and clothing, we have gathered all the information you need as well as the top 12 waterproofing sprays on the market.
Our Top 12 Waterproofing Sprays for Your Outdoor Gear
Now that you are armed with helpful tips about using waterproofing sprays on outdoor clothing and gear, our next offering is a list of our top picks for you to consider as you prepare for your next big adventure—rain or shine–in the great outdoors.
While 303 Fabric Guard may be the secret weapon of interior designers hired to furnish an upscale porch on a beachside estate, it is also a secret weapon of campers and hikers who know its usefulness works on their gear as well.
There is even a handy “travel size” two-ounce bottle you could take with you on an outdoor excursion to increase water repellency while on the go. 303 Fabric Guard boasts that it is the only product recommended by and for the popular outdoor fabric line Sunbrella, who has long led the charge in creating fabrics that stand up to the elements.
303 Fabric Guard protects everything from canvas to leather and will work well to increase the repellency of many of your outdoor gear items.
Another great option from Nikwax that is also biodegradable and water-based is the Nikwax TX.Direct Spray. This spray can be used to restore the water repellency of all outerwear from ski jackets to sleeping bags, without concern that the spray will contain harmful chemicals or be harsh on the environment.
Nikwax is also proud to be the first outdoor company to offer a completely PFC-free range of products, and customers rave about their experience with this spray. There is also no added scent from a Nikwax product, and users can expect to cover their outdoor items with several applications.
Also made in the USA, Bickmore Gard-More Water & Stain Repellant is another great and affordable choice that works on leather, suede, fabric, felt, nubuck, and more.
Bickmore spray provides a breathable layer of protection without altering the material’s color, guarding against both water and stains. Bickmore also makes an 8-ounce pump spray bottle as an eco-friendly alternative for those who do not wish to use aerosol sprays.
Crep bills itself as the “ultimate” rain and stain resistance barrier, and for good reason: it is hard to beat this product and its ability to repel liquid and prevent stains.
When used to protect shoes, the manufacturer recommends that you reapply every two weeks. This may be excessive for outdoor gear that is not worn as frequently, and you could easily apply it a few times a year. Crep Protect Universal Protector is proudly made in the USA and is a favorite waterproofing spray among consumers.
A “water shield” is an accurate name for a product that works overtime to protect all your outdoor clothing and gear. Scotchgard is one of the most trusted names in the waterproofing industry for a reason, and this odorless and quick-drying spray is the “go-to” pick for many outdoor enthusiasts.
One can of Scotchgard Heavy Duty Water Shield Protector will provide the consumer with up to 60 feet of water resistance on lighter fabrics or up to 20 feet on heavier fabrics; this makes it an ideal choice for campers and hikers with a variety of outdoor items that require protection from the elements.
Backpacks, tents, clothing, and more can all be sprayed with Scotchgard Heavy Duty Water Shield Protector without any concern that they will lose their breathability. This is a waterproofing spray that delivers consistent results and earns glowing reviews.
This silicone-based water repellant spray allows the fabric to maintain its breathability while also providing long-lasting protection from the elements. Kiwi Camp Dry Heavy Duty Water Repellant works on everything from shoes to tents and hammocks, and it is an affordable choice that earns positive reviews from many users.
Several coats may be needed with this spray, but once the spray dries, there is no residue left behind, and it can be used on natural and synthetic materials. And best of all, Kiwi leaves behind no odor, either. For a tough water barrier on your outdoor clothing and gear for under ten bucks, you simply cannot beat Kiwi Camp Dry Heavy Duty Water Repellant.
This affordable, silicone-based spray was created specifically with outdoor gear in mind. It repels water, dirt, and oil, and Sof Sole Heavy Duty Silicone Waterproofer is a popular choice for hiking or work boots put to the test daily as far as the elements are concerned.
One note of caution regarding the use of Sof Sole Heavy-Duty Silicone Waterproofer is that it is not intended for use on breathable fibers like Gore-Tex. Be sure to review all of the manufacturer recommendations with your outdoor gear or clothing before applying this or any other waterproofing spray.
With a non-toxic and fully water-based solution, Nikwax Nubuck and Suede Proof is safe to use on your synthetic or leather foot ware for added protection from the elements. It comes in either a sponge-on or a spray-on application, with the sponge application preferred by eco-conscious consumers.
In addition to waterproofing sprays, Nikwax offers products that remove odor as well (which can be helpful for hikers and campers who put a lot of mile in their shoes, with the “scents” left behind to prove it!).
Granger’s Performance Repel Waterproof Spray adds no scent to your outdoor items, which is especially important for hunters. It is also fluorocarbon-free and friendly to the environment.
This long-lasting waterproofing spray works on everything from Gore-Tex fabrics to down outerwear, and the manufacturer stands behind their product with a full money-back guarantee.
We also love that Granger’s offers its outstanding waterproofing spray in a pump bottle versus an aerosol can, making it another favorite among those with a desire to use products that minimize environmental harm.
10. Apple Brand Garde Rain & Stain Water Repellent
No, it’s not THAT Apple: this spray will not magically turn your outdoor gear into streaming electronic devices. But it WILL protect and extend the life of items intended to keep your streaming devices dry as you go on outdoor adventures!
This rain and stain repellant is commonly used on high-end handbags and dress shoes, but it can also be applied effectively to camping backpacks and hiking boots. As an added bonus, Apple Brand Garde Rain & Stain Water Repellant is made in the USA by a manufacturer who stands behind its products.
Another outstanding product from this industry leader is Scotchgard’s Suede and Nubuck Protector. Consumers have relied on this spray to protect footwear, coats, gloves, and hats from the elements and the unfortunate salt stains that can come with heavy perspiration.
For best results, this waterproofing spray should be applied every six months, and users can count on it to dry odorless after a simple one-step application. This spray should be used only on suede and nubuck (and not on any smooth-finished leathers).
ForceField Protector Waterproof Spray not only helps your gear repel water, but it also boasts built-in UV protection, which will help prevent fading on your outdoor clothing and gear. ForceField dries quickly, and one application can last for up to a year, making it one of our favorite waterproofing sprays in terms of overall value for the money spent.
The hydrophobic formula used to create ForceField means that water will simply bead off your shoes (or hats, backpacks, etc.). This high-quality waterproofing spray is a great choice for outdoor enthusiasts to protect their camping and hiking gear.
How Does Waterproofing Spray Technology Work?
Outdoor activities demand materials that can stand up to the elements. In many cases, outdoor gear is made of materials that are themselves waterproof or water-resistant, without needing an additional spray.
We should point out here that these descriptors may sound alike but describe different things:
Water-resistant means an item has some sort of protective barrier that will help it withstand water to an extent. You might think of a moderately priced sports watch here—one that can withstand some water from hand washing or exposure to rain during a run (but not able to withstand swimming).
Water repellant typically represents a step up from water-resistant; this term is given when equipment or gear can actually repel water droplets.
Waterproof is the “gold standard” (though it is a debated standard) for products or gear that are impervious to water.
The bottom line is that any items carried along on a camping excursion, a mountain biking trip, or a long day of hiking should ideally resist or repel water and, at best, be completely impervious to it. Nothing can ruin an exciting outdoor adventure quicker than standing on soggy feet, shivering while soaked to the bone, and discovering the extra clothes in your “dry bag” are now anything but dry.
Waterproofing spray works like a protective layer of armor on your outdoor gear and clothing, but think of it as a “light” armor that will not weigh you down in your travels. When you spray it on, the waterproofing chemical compounds essentially seal the pores on the material. That seal prevents moisture from coming through and ensures you stay dry.
Why Do You Need Waterproof Spray?
Waterproofing your outdoor gear is not just about keeping you dry (though that is important): it is about protecting your investments and extending the life of the products you have purchased.
And in some cases, a waterproofing spray can turn an item from “indoor” to “outdoor” gear. For those interested in recycling, reducing waste, and curbing excess spending, a simple bottle of waterproof spray may be all you need to create a “hiking wardrobe” out of your own closet or turn an old school backpack into a waterproof camping bag.
Waterproof spray is an inexpensive but invaluable tool to have on hand for many of the items you already own; it can not only increase water repellency but also help you protect your items from stains (which is especially helpful for kids or anyone who is generally clumsy). It can also protect against salt stains for those who battle excess perspiration.
Anyone who has ever woken up in a rainstorm in a tent that was not properly waterproofed would certainly advocate for the use of waterproofing sprays. It is a mistake most people will not make twice.
What Fabrics and Materials Can Be Waterproofed?
This is the part of the article where we insert our “fine print,” but in regular type size: check all manufacturer recommendations before applying a waterproofing or water repellant spray. We know you may be overly excited to have that waterproofing spray bottle in hand, and you are tempted to line up all your gear in your driveway and start spraying, but we remind you to proceed with some degree of caution.
The waterproofing sprays included here (and others) vary in their chemical makeup and content, which means they cannot all be used across the board on the same materials. For example, a water-based spray will differ from a silicone-based product.
Check the labels on your outdoor clothing and gear carefully. If you purchased items second-hand and labels are missing, try looking up manufacturer recommendations online, or you could even ask others on camping and hiking message boards about their experiences with waterproof sprays on specific products.
The last thing you want is to discolor or damage your item, and you can always start out by testing a very small area or patch before you spray over the entire surface.
The bottom line is that almost every fabric or material CAN be waterproofed, but you need to ensure you are using the right product for that specific material.
Safety Tips and Ingredients in Waterproofing Sprays
When applying waterproofing sprays to your outdoor equipment and gear, you should always ensure you are taking the appropriate steps to apply them safely.
Be sure you are in a well-ventilated environment
Wear goggles and/or a face covering if needed to protect your eyes and mouth
Be mindful to remove any flammable materials in the area
Many manufacturers are working to produce waterproof sprays free of substances that harm our environment, and green-conscious buyers can make informed decisions before purchasing a product.
That said, there will always be some type of chemicals involved in waterproofing sprays, which is why you need to ensure you are applying the sprays safely and also allowing them to dry fully, especially on gear that will come in contact with sensitive skin.
How Often Should You Apply Waterproofing Spray?
When you first apply waterproofing spray to your item, you may need to use several coats (with ample drying time in between). After that, maintenance coats could be needed anywhere from every few weeks to once or twice a year.
The number of times you will need to use a waterproof spray on your item will depend on these factors:
The materials and fabrics involved
How often the item is used (and especially how often in wet conditions)
The type of waterproofing spray you are using
You should always consult the manufacturer’s recommendations on both the item you are waterproofing and the particular spray product you are using.
Outdoors, I’m in my element, especially in the water. I know the importance of being geared up for anything. I do the deep digital dive, researching gear, boats and knowhow and love keeping my readership at the helm of their passions.