Any hunter, hiker, or other outdoors person knows that your boots, shoes, and even your tent need to be waterproof. When it comes to footwear, even if they are waterproofed at first, the waterproofing wears off long before the boot leather is worn out. The answer is to use a waterproofing spray.
We took a look at the market for good waterproofing sprays, wanting to find an option that had stood the test of time, worked on a variety of fabrics, and was relatively easy to apply (although sometimes the extra effort and time is worth it). Here are the top candidates we found on the market this year.
3 Best Waterproofing Sprays
Nikwax TX Direct Spray
The best waterproof spray for hiking boots will keep the water from being soaked up by the fabric of the boot while it allows the fabric to retain its breathability. When you work hard or play hard, your feet are likely to sweat. That sweat has to evaporate off of your skin or you will be miserable. If you simply lock-in the moisture and heat into your footwear, you really aren’t doing yourself any favors because your feet will sweat and get wet anyway. Your boots have to breathe so the sweat can evaporate, and Nikwax creates a waterproof coating that stops the water from penetrating without stopping the fabric from breathing.
This Nikwax product is a simple spray on product that you allow to air dry. Many waterproofing sprays require the fabric to be tumble dried once the waterproofing agent has been administered. This is impractical when you are waterproofing boots and some older fabrics could be damaged by the heat from a dryer.
This is a non-hazardous product that is environmentally friendly. It is water-based and in a non-aerosol package. The Nikwax is also non-flammable, does not contain any volatile organic compounds, and is 100% fluorocarbon free.
The spray goes on and dries quickly. You simply spray it on the fabric in an even coating. After waiting 2 minutes, you can wipe away any excess product that was not absorbed into the fabric. Wait a few more minutes and check again to make sure there is no excess product. After you will want to allow the fabric to dry completely before putting it on. It is the fastest-drying spray on the list, which for some people can be a big advantage.
KIWI Camp Dry Water Repellent
The KIWI Camp Dry Water Repellent is an excellent waterproofing substance for nylon, canvas, and performance fabrics like Gore-Tex, fleece, and more. It’s absolutely perfect for tents.
This product dries on your fabric without leaving a lingering odor so it is good for hunting attire and for people who might have a sensitivity to chemical odors. By the time it dries-in, we didn’t notice any odor or residue on our boots.
The Camp Dry is reliable, and many of the outdoors enthusiasts who we know use it consider it to be a core part of their gear closet. It restores the waterproof abilities of many fabrics that we rely on for our outdoor apparel. It also helps the clothing repel dirt and grime so it keeps the fabrics looking their best for a longer period of time. It does not have a tendency to stain the fabric or cause the fabric to become darker after it is applied.
Like the Nikwax, it provides good breathability so you are not locking-in sweat and moisture.
Make sure the item you are about to waterproof is clean and dry. Spray the Camp Dry evenly on the item and then allow it to air dry for one hour. Repeat the application process so that you get the maximum coverage.
This is probably the product we would recommend using on tents, too, because it seems to be sensitive and scent-free on so many different types of fabrics. If you need to give your tent’s rain fly a boost, this would be our go-to.
Grangers Performance Repel Waterproofing Spray
Grangers Performance Repel Waterproof Spray is a great waterproofing agent for all athletic and performance clothing. It is especially effective on Gore Tex when you need to give it a waterproofing boost. It can be used to help waterproof and windproof garments, tents, sleeping bags, and other outdoor equipment — it’s not just for boots.
This product does not leave a lingering odor so it is also ideal for hunters and sporting enthusiasts. It will also not cause your garment to change colors or become brighter in appearance. A safe water-based product, it has no harmful ingredients that can affect the environment, is non-flammable, and has no fluorocarbons or VOC’s.
Application is a little different on this one. You actually want to apply it to damp clothing or fabric (normally, you need clothing to be dry). Then you let it dry and can actually heat it while drying, if the garment allows. Nothing crazy, but a dryer on low heat would bake-in the spray.
Waterproof Spray FAQs
Are these water-proofers safe on leather?
These waterproofing products are safe to use on leather items. They are normally applied to clothing that are a combination of leather and fabric, because leather is more effectively waterproofed by applying waxes and creams. In fact, we like to use them on our favorite waterproof hiking boots which are made almost entirely of high-end leather. If you have a specialized leather or suede garment or shoe, you may want to test a bit before you go all-in. But if the primary purpose is to waterproof something, go for it!
Can I use the spray to waterproof a tent?
Generally, yes. You may want to use the suggested Kiwi spray, because it tends to dry with no scent or odor and we have found it works particularly well on tents. Just be sure to following the instructions on the can. The two parts of a tent that really need to be waterproofed are usually the floor and the rain fly. It it also not a bad idea to reapply every year or so. A wet tent is no fun!
How many uses can you get out of a can?
It depends on the product. The products come in different size cans so each product will coat a different amount of fabric. The number of applications will also be affected by how thickly you spray the product onto the fabric and the type of fabric that the product is sprayed on. Some fabrics need a small amount of spray to restore their waterproof abilities while other fabrics will soak up larger amounts of product before they reach maximum waterproofing abilities.
How long should the waterproofing last?
We recommend re-applying at least once a year. If the footwear or clothing that you apply the waterproofing product to is in good condition then you should be able to waterproof the item once a season. For items that are highly-seasonal, like ski gear that you use in winter or hunting boots that are only used in fall, it is best to do a new application a few days or weeks before the season, rather than at the end of the prior season.
If your clothing or boots are worn all year round, then you will want to reapply the products at least once every three to four months. If you wear the garments often and expose them to larger amounts of water, then you may want to reapply the waterproofing product every few weeks. It all depends on how often you wear the garment and how often the garment is exposed to water for long periods of time.
How long do I need to allow for it to dry?
The drying time is dependent on the product, the air temperature and humidity levels in your area, and how thickly you apply the product. The majority of these products will be dry to the touch in just a few short minutes to an hour. Once the item is dry to the touch you should still allow it to sit undisturbed for a period of 6 to 12 hours so the waterproofing agent can cure completely before it is exposed to water.
If you live in a very humid climate then it will take longer for the product to dry on your items. It will also take a lot longer for the product to dry if the air temperature is less than 500 F.
You can place a fan where it will blow on the footwear and that can reduce the amount of time it takes for the shoes or boots to dry. Do not put the shoes or boots in front of an electric heater, a fireplace, or try using a hair dryer to force hot air on them to make them dry faster.
You can also ball up newspaper and place it inside of the footwear to help stop any moisture from wicking to the interior of the shoes while the product is going through the drying process.
Do I have to apply multiple coats?
No, but it is not a bad idea. Some of the waterproofing products do recommend that you apply more than one coating in order to achieve the maximum affect. These products are designed to be applied in thin coats and allowed to dry for a period of time before another coating is applied. You can skip applying more than one coating, but to make sure that you create a waterproof seal it is best to follow the manufacturer instructions and apply as many coats as they recommend.
You cannot achieve the same waterproofing results by applying a thicker coat of product. By applying a thin layer and then adding another thin layer you are building a barrier that last longer.
Do these sprays work on ski clothing?
Yes, ski clothing is one of the main users of waterproofing spray in our opinion. Nothing is worse than a ski jacket or ski pants that loses their waterproof capabilities. All it takes is a somewhat warm winter day and you will get wet. Treating the clothing with a waterproofing spray will extend its life. If the clothing requires frequent repeat treatments, you may want to consider getting a new garment.
Any other application tips for waterproofing?
Apply it on a sunny summer day, if you can. What we like to do is haul out all of our gear that might need waterproofing or a touch-up, lay it on a driveway or sidewalk, and go crazy on everything. If it is a nice sunny day with a temp of about 65 degrees F or higher, you will most definitely be able to have a very quick dry cycle and reapply as many times as you need over the course of several hours. Be sure to put whatever you sprayed in the direct sun, rotate once, and then reapply. Using this method, we can apply 3-4 applications over the course of a day.
The only other tip is to make sure whatever you are spraying is very clean. Cleaning only takes a couple minutes, and will make a big difference in the end result. If you are spraying a dirty boot, for example, the waterproofer will bind to the dirt instead of the boot. The result will be a waterproof film that peels off the next time that dirt rubs off of the boot.