The 12 Best Waterproofing Sprays of 2022, Tested and Reviewed

We tested waterproofing sprays and liked Granger's Repel Performance Plus most

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Best Waterproofing Sprays
Lisa Slade / TripSavvy.

It’s tempting to look outside, see it raining, and then choose an indoor activity instead of something that involves traipsing around in a downpour. But in the words of the wise Dolly Parton, “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” And canceling activities because of a little water falling from the sky seems silly—not to mention impractical—if you live in a damp climate, like me. 

But to spend significant amounts of time outdoors in a deluge, you’re going to be much happier if you have the right gear—gear that’s waterproof and breathable. At the most extreme end of the spectrum, if you’re in the backcountry, how dry your jacket, tent, and shoes stay can mean the difference between a successful trip and a dangerous situation. Even if you’re just running errands on a rainy day, you still want to be dry and comfortable, and for your leather and suede items like purses, shoes, and jackets to have a long life. 

We spent hours and days researching and testing waterproofing sprays. Here are the best waterproofing sprays of 2022.

Best Overall: Granger's Performance Repel Plus

Granger's Performance Repel Plus

Amazon

What We Like
  • Odorless

  • Eco-friendly option

  • Sprayer makes full, even coverage easy

What We Don't Like
  • Nothing yet

The perfect waterproofing product makes your gear feel like new—waterproof and breathable again, with no negative changes to the material. That’s exactly what Grangers Performance Repel Plus, a non-aerosol spray from the British brand, did for an older pair of rain pants that were wetting out. In fact, the waterproofing on these pants was better after applying this spray than it was before. 

The sprayer works well so application is easy. After washing the pants, I sprayed them while they were still wet, blotted off areas where the excess product had pooled with a damp towel, then threw them in my machine dryer on low, though you can also let your items air-dry if needed. When I tried the pants again, water beaded off them instead of soaking through in the spots where it was previously wetting out, and the breathability was again excellent.

I especially liked that this spray had no smell I could detect, and it came at an affordable cost—it really had no flaws I detected during testing. When you run out, you can buy an eco-friendly refill pouch of Performance Repel Plus for your sprayer instead of an entirely new bottle. Grangers also sells a wash-in version of this spray if you prefer that waterproofing method.

Grangers Performance Repel Plus Waterproofing Spray
Lisa Slade / TripSavvy.

Runner Up, Best Overall: Star Brite Waterproofing Spray

Star Brite Waterproofing Spray

Amazon

What We Like
  • Easy to get waterproofing right out of the packaging

  • Also has UV and stain protection

  • Odorless

What We Don't Like
  • Still looking

Star Brite’s Waterproofing Spray is a solid all-around option for a diverse range of outdoor gear. It has waterproofing, UV, and stain protection that we particularly liked on tents. We found it to be particularly odorless and it didn’t change the feel or look of the material, as the brand suggests.

I particularly like that this spray is good on materials of boats and boat covers as well as outdoor gear materials like nylon, canvas, and polyester. The waterproofing spray comes in 22 ounces, 64 ounces, and 128 ounces. We also loved how easy it was to use the spray out of the package. You just rotate the cap of the lid to open, pump a few times, and you’re on your waterproofing way.

Star Brite Waterproofing Spray
Nathan Allen / TripSavvy.

Best Budget: Kiwi Camp Dry Heavy Duty Water Repellent

Kiwi Camp Dry Heavy Duty Water Repellent

Amazon

What We Like
  • Effective sprayer

  • Adds long-lasting waterproofing

  • A little product goes a long way

What We Don't Like
  • Chemical smell that lingers after drying

  • Extra care must be taken not to inhale product

  • One of the less environmentally friendly options

Kiwi Camp Dry is a silicone-based aerosol, which means you apply it to dry items, and it’s recommended for use on a wide range of leather and fabric products, including outdoor gear, boots, tents, backpacks, tarps, and boat covers. 

Even with its lower price, this is one of the most effective waterproofing sprays we tested, and no amount of water applied to the boots I used for testing was enough to penetrate its shield, yet the boots felt as breathable as before. It didn’t take much product for a thorough double coating—recommended about four hours apart—making this an even more cost-effective product. 

This is an aerosol product, and you must take extra care not to breathe in the vapors when spraying (the bottle even recommends you don’t allow children or pets near the spray or wet items), and there is a strong chemical smell. I did my testing in our well-ventilated breezeway, and I still had to step away for a few minutes after spraying the boots each time. The smell did linger longer than on some of the other products—even after the recommended 24 to 48 hours of drying time—but it eventually faded with time and wear. Especially if you are applying to a tent, for example, you’ll want to allow some time for the item to air out before use. 

The company does also note the spray can darken some lighter-colored gear, so spot-testing is recommended. It can also reduce the flame-retardant properties of some fabrics.

Kiwi Camp Dry Waterproofing Spray
Lisa Slade / TripSavvy.

Best for Jackets: Nikwax TX. Direct Spray-On Waterproofing

Nikwax TX. Direct Spray-On Waterproofing

Moosejaw

What We Like
  • Good sprayer makes even application easy

  • No chemical smell

  • More eco-friendly than aerosol options

What We Don't Like
  • Nothing yet

The Nikwax TX.Direct Spray-On, a non-aerosol product, was designed to help your waterproof and breathable outdoor wet-weather gear, including Gore-Tex items, return to a water-resistant state. That’s certainly what it did for my favorite rain shell, which prior to testing was wetting out—absorbing water in patches, on the sleeves especially, and becoming heavy and clammy—on rainy hikes. 

After washing your gear, take the item—while it’s still wet—and spray it all over with TX.Direct. (TX.Direct is also available as a wash-in product.) As I applied it to my jacket, I could easily see the areas that hadn’t received any product yet and the areas that had gotten too much (to the point where excess was running off), and I worked to even those out, applying extra spray where needed and wiping the areas that had too much with a damp towel. Nikwax then recommends either putting your item into the dryer on low or allowing it to completely air-dry before putting it to the wet test. I went with the air-dry method and left the item for about 24 hours, at which point it was completely dry and with no visible changes to the material. 

The final results were impressive: Even a complete soaking had no impact on the material; it was ready to defend itself against all levels of wetting, and the breathability felt as good as new when hiking afterward.

Nikwax TX.Direct Waterproofing Spray
Lisa Slade / TripSavvy.

Best for Suede: Scotchgard Suede & Nubuck Protector

Scotchgard Suede & Nubuck Protector

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Highly protective against water and other elements

  • Only mild changes to suede color and texture

  • Strong chemical spray at first (we didn't like), but faded shortly after application (we did like)

What We Don't Like
  • Strong chemical smell when applying

  • Sprayer makes it challenging to get even coat

If you own expensive suede shoes, purses, or clothing, you’re accustomed to keeping a close eye on the weather—any hint of a sprinkle in the forecast, and those items stay safely tucked away at home since even a little water can damage the material beyond repair. But that’s a shame; you should be able to rock suede year-round.

Enter: Scotchgard’s Suede & Nubuck Protector. When starting my testing I had some anxiety—the sprayer on the bottle makes it difficult to achieve a consistent coating, and until the material dries, the color of the item is vastly altered. But I trusted the product’s instructions—applying two coats as evenly as I could within about five hours of each other—and was rewarded with the finished product; shoes that were almost exactly the color they were before the treatment. The suede material even feels the same, only now applying even a copious amount of water creates no damage—water beads up and rolls right off. I was impressed; I didn’t know suede could be that weatherproof. And though the chemical spray smell was strong during the application, it faded after drying.

Though the Scotchgard Suede & Nubuck Protector doesn’t create a waterproof finish such that I would take my fancy flats swimming. But the coating is proving more than enough to weather some sprinkles and puddles.

Scotchgard Suede & Nubuck Protector
Lisa Slade / TripSavvy.

Best for Leather: Chamberlain’s Leather Milk Water Protectant No. 3

Chamberlain’s Leather Milk Water Protectant No. 3

Amazon

What We Like
  • Improves the condition of leather

  • Pleasant smell

  • Easy application

What We Don't Like
  • Needs to be reapplied after a few uses

Did you know that leather shouldn’t be totally waterproof? According to the experts at Chamberlain’s, “To fully waterproof leather would hurt it. Leather naturally absorbs and releases moisture in the air through a breathing process, which helps it replenish and remove oils it no longer needs. If leather were unable to breathe, it would either rot in the presence of oils and moisture or dry out for lack of them.”

But no one likes soaked shoes, purses, or any other type of leather goods, and too much water can eventually damage these items, causing that dreaded drying out or molding. Chamberlain’s Leather Milk Water Protectant No. 3 bills itself as both a protectant—creating a water-resistant layer that stops the material from absorbing liquid—and a conditioner.

Before you use Water Protectant No. 3, you must first clean the leather; any particles of dust or dirt on the leather’s surface will be sealed in once the protectant is applied. (Because it can darken lighter-colored leather, spot-testing is recommended, and Protectant No. 3 is not recommended for suede or nubuck products.)

The first thing I noted while applying the product to a pair of leather boots, which is easy with the included cotton terry applicator pad, is how soft and shiny it makes the leather. And there’s no chemical smell; this is a product that can be applied inside since there are no fumes to worry about, and it doesn’t require spraying. After allowing the leather to dry, I buffed off any extra protectant left on the surface and then let it sit overnight. 

I found that water rolled right off my treated boots and purse when testing—but do note your item won’t be fully waterproof, as nature intended—and another application is necessary after several uses.

Chamberlain's Leather Milk Formula No. 3
Lisa Slade / TripSavvy.

Best Eco-Friendly: Nikwax Tent & Gear Solarproof

Nikwax Tent & Gear Solarproof

REI

What We Like
  • Does double-duty in terms of protection, against both water and sun

  • Can extend the life of gear even more than waterproofing alone

  • Effective water repellency

  • Isn’t flammable

What We Don't Like
  • Sprayer doesn’t cover large area, which makes it slow to apply on large items (like tents)

No one likes waking up to a puddle inside a tent. Though a brand-new rainfly is likely to block moisture beautifully, like any DWR-coated gear, it’s going to need a re-up of its waterproofing capabilities eventually. But because Nikwax Tent & Gear Solarproof is intended for two purposes—to re-waterproof, and to provide ultraviolet ray blocker protection since exposure to UV light damages DWR coating in addition to weakening the fabric—this is one waterproofing product you can use on both new and older gear. It also can be applied to dry or wet gear.

Since the piece of gear I tested—a tent rainfly—wasn’t new, first I had to clean it before treating it with Nikwax. Then I sprayed the Nikwax all over the rainfly (taking care to avoid any straps), a time-consuming task as the sprayer doesn’t cover a large area. The bottle says you can apply to a tent or rainfly while erected, but in my experience, the product ran down the sides when spraying; I had better luck spreading the rainfly flat on the ground for application. After that thorough spraying, I checked for dry spots or areas where there was too much liquid, wiping those off with a damp cloth. 

I left the rainfly to dry for about 48 hours before testing it, and, voila, the treated item was vastly improved in terms of how well the water beaded off it. I’ll add this product to my toolkit and make sure to apply at least once a season—ideally in the early spring before the first camping trips of the year—to help preserve some of my most expensive items.

Nikwax Tent & Gear Solarproof waterproofing spray
Lisa Slade / TripSavvy.

Best for Boots: Kiwi Boot Waterproofer

Kiwi Boot Waterproofer

Amazon

What We Like
  • Worked well across many different hiking boots

  • Easy to apply and use right out of the package

What We Don't Like
  • Some Amazon commenters mentioned the spray causing discoloration, but we haven’t experienced that so far

We put a few waterproofing sprays on many different types of boots, particularly hiking boots, and were most impressed with the results of the Kiwi Boot Waterproofer. It was easy to use right out of the package and seemed to hold up on boots much better than other sprays we tested on the same boots. 

There was a bit of hesitancy going into this test because of a few Amazon commenters that complained about the spray discoloring their shoes. We didn’t have those results even though we were generous in our spraying of the bested boots. 

The spray comes in 10.5-ounce cans.

Kiwi Boot Protector waterproofing spray
Nathan Allen / TripSavvy.

Best for Shoes: Bickmore Gard-More Water and Stain Repellent

Bickmore Gard-More Water and Stain Repellent

Bickmore

What We Like
  • Worked well across a variety of typical shoe materials

  • Seemed super waterproof compared to others tested

What We Don't Like
  • Still looking for something

Bickmore's Gard-More Water and Stain Repellent could’ve been our pick for best for boots or best for shoes. We ended up putting it in the best for shoe categories because of its ability to protect and test well across leather, suede, and other typical shoe materials. But like the Kiwi Boot Waterproofer, the Bickmore Gard-More spray also performed very well in holding out water on any form of footwear in which it was applied.

We also like that it is stain repellent and seems to do well with not reducing the breathability of the material. It also didn’t seem to change the color or feel of the materials we sprayed it on. Like our other top picks, it was easy to apply right out of the packaging.

Brickmore Gard-More Water & Stain Repellent
Nathan Allen / TripSavvy.

Best for Tents: Sof Sole Silicone Waterproofer

Sof Sole Silicone Waterproofer

Sof Sole

What We Like
  • Great quality waterproofing on tents

  • Easy to use and apply right out of the package

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn’t pair with higher-end technical fabric like Gore-Tex

For an extra layer of waterproofing on a tent, we like the Silicone Waterproofer from Sof Sole. It was easy to use right out of the packaging and held up very well on multiple tents and with lots of water sprayed onto those tents. Not just made for tents, the Sof Sole Silicone Waterproofer can be applied to and used across multiple materials—we just preferred it on tents compared to the other pieces of gear we applied waterproofing spray to.

One issue? The brand openly says not to use it on products with more technical fabrics like Gore-Tex because it can decrease the breathability of the fabric or create discoloration. We didn’t have issues with either, but we also weren’t brave enough to apply it onto our Gore-Tex gear.

Sof Sole Heavy-Duty Silicone Waterproofer
Nathan Allen / TripSavvy.

Best Wax: Fjallraven Greenland Wax

Fjallraven Greenland Wax

Amazon

What We Like
  • Odorless product

  • Can be done indoors

  • Eco-friendly option

  • Cost-effective item

What We Don't Like
  • Complicated application process

  • Can be difficult to apply evenly

  • Needs access to heat source

Waxing is an old-school method of waterproofing, and I was surprised and pleased by how well it worked in my test. The Fjallraven Greenland Wax is made from beeswax and paraffin, and it’s recommended specifically for the brand’s G-1000 fabric, found on its backpacks and some pants and jackets, which is naturally wind-resistant but not water-resistant without the aid of the wax. But you’re not just limited to Fjallraven products; you can also use it on other canvas items.

Applying the wax for the first time was a nerve-wracking process. I took the bar and firmly wiped it across my pants, watching as it deposited thick white streaks across the surface. Once you have it as even as possible—not an easy task but a fun one, akin to an adult coloring book—you apply heat from either an iron or a hairdryer. The company notes you can also use a campfire for your heat source, meaning this is a bar you can throw in your pack. As the heat hits the wax, the wax melts, and there are no more white streaks—all I was left with was a pair of pants much more resistant to moisture than before. 

Since you’re applying to cloth items, you shouldn’t expect a completely waterproof item. Though the product doesn’t last as long as some others, it was still very effective in my test, causing water to bead up and stream away until it wears off. Once it does, you can simply reapply the wax.

fjallraven Greenland Wax
Lisa Slade / TripSavvy.

Best for Down: Grangers Wash + Repel Clothing 2-in-1

Grangers Wash + Repel Clothing 2-in-1

Amazon

What We Like
  • Simple press

  • Effective at both cleaning and waterproofing

What We Don't Like
  • Nothing

Down isn’t an effective insulator when it’s wet, so keeping these items dry is crucial to their functioning. But when you’re waterproofing a down sleeping bag, blanket, or jacket, you’re not only focusing on the outer shell of the item; the product you choose should also apply some extra water-resistance to the feathers inside, which is why wash-ins are popular for these items. 

Granger’s Wash + Repel Down is easy to use: You just add the liquid to your washing machine’s soap slot using the bottle’s cap as a measuring device. This product has the added benefit of both washing and waterproofing at once; it’s a one-step process that only requires running the washing machine once. After washing, you machine-dry the item on low heat, and Grangers recommends using dryer balls to help fluff the down inside. 

I tried the wash on a down blanket, which prior to testing was allowing water to slip through the outer shell immediately, leading to a few damp, chilly nights while camping, and I found the water resistance of that outer layer much improved after its wash and dry cycle. The blanket was nice and fluffy after testing, and there was no change to the color or texture of the exterior. It’s still not a fully waterproof item—it wasn’t designed to be—and I’ll do my best not to intentionally soak it, but now I’m less worried about it accidentally getting a little wet.

Grangers Wash + Repel Down 2 In 1
Lisa Slade / TripSavvy.

Final Verdict

The best waterproofing spray we tested was the Grangers Performance Repel Plus (view at Amazon)—a very effective product for a range of outdoor clothing and gear, including technical and Gore-Tex items, and it made my gear even slightly better than when it was new. It’s also one of the eco-friendlier options, and we especially liked that it was odorless. It barely edged out the Nikwax TX.Direct (view at Amazon), also an excellent product, for the overall award. 

In some ways comparing waterproofing products is like comparing apples to oranges: They’re made for a wide range of different products. The product you choose is likely going to depend on what you’re waterproofing, and all the options above are excellent ones.

Other Waterproofing Sprays Tested

 303 Fabric Guard for Outdoor Fabrics

This was honestly one of the best-performing sprays we used. But it was also the most expensive. And didn’t perform that much better than others to justify adding it to our list above. Still, if you’re looking to get a little spendy, or want something specific for outdoor furniture, we highly recommend the 303 Fabric Guard for Outdoor Fabrics.

Crep Protect Spray-U

The Crep Protect Spray-U literally has thousands of reviews on Amazon and most are very good. It wasn’t that this spray didn’t perform well, it just didn’t really perform as well as the others we named best for boots and best for shoes. This product, in particular, is designed for boots and shoes.

Nikwax Nubuck & Suede Proof

This product’s sprayer made it very difficult to apply evenly to the surface of my nubuck boots, and after drying the boots were no more water-resistant than they’d been before starting; the first drops of water that hit them soaking into the outer material immediately. 

Scotchgard Outdoor Watershield

I tested this spray on a backpack that’d lost all water repellency, and the backpack was essentially the same before and after the spray was applied. I gave it one more chance after that, but on the pair of boots I tested it with, it performed marginally better but not well enough to warrant inclusion. 

Gear Aid Revivex Durable Water Repellent

Perhaps we had too high of hopes for this one. It was one of few we tested that claims to be made specifically for outdoor gear and technical fabrics like Gore-Tex. But from the moment I opened the packaging, it was general frustration. First I couldn’t get it to actually spray. Then I accidentally broke the spray cap with very little pressure, so it was almost impossible to apply. And the waterproofing didn’t really seem to work well—especially when compared to others.

Atsko Silicone Water-Guard

There really wasn’t anything we disliked about this spray. There just also wasn’t anything that really drew us to it. It was easy to use and it sprayed and applied fine. But the waterproofing just seemed average. But it is one of the least expensive options and has good reviews on Amazon. So, to each their own. 

Otter Wax Heavy Duty Fabric Wax

Like the Atsko above, it wasn’t necessarily that we disliked this wax, it was just that we liked the one from Fjallraven a bit better. This wax definitely left some discoloration on the materials we applied it on at first but then it went away after being sprayed down by water a few times. But on a down jacket, it created a sticky surface on the material that is tough to get off.

Rust-Oleum Shield H2O Outdoor Fabric Spray

This product did a good job of taking an old backpack that never was fully waterproof and making it mostly waterproof. That’s something. It just wasn’t enough for us to put it into any of our superlative categories. Still, a strong and good product.

Waterproofing sprays tested by TripSavvy.
Nathan Allen / TripSavvy.

Product Selection

We spent hours researching the most-reviewed waterproofing sprays on Amazon, REI, and other e-commerce sites. We also tapped into our own experience using various waterproofing sprays. Many of these sprays have been around for a long time and have been thoroughly used already by TripSavvy writers and editors and others.

Once we had an idea of products we'd like to test based on our own knowledge and favorable online reviews, we made sure we'd test multiple products designed to waterproof different types of clothing and gear. For example, we wanted to be able to test products designed for tents and other rain gear but also high-end leather and suede products.

Lastly, we considered cost and environmental issues like aerosol and PFCs. We wanted to make sure we tested and considered sprays in a range of costs and include sprays that are easy on the planet and people using the product.

How We Tested

Waterproofing sprays were tested in Oregon and California and on a wide variety of products and gear items. We meticulously followed the application directions of each spray. When it was raining, products were tested in the rain. When it wasn't raining, we got creative, mainly using backyard garden hoses to simulate rain by spraying down products. Testing took place during February and March.

What To Look for in Waterproofing Sprays

 Sprays Versus Alternatives

Whether you decide to use a waterproofing spray, wash-in, or wax comes down to the product you’re waterproofing and personal preference. 

Sprays give you the most control over the finished product since you’re applying the product yourself, and you can ensure it goes where you need it. Some gear you must spray, because the item in question, such as a tent or a pair of hiking boots, can’t go in the washing machine. 

If your jacket has a wicking liner or some other multilayer types of liners noted by manufacturers, you don’t want to use a wash-in product since it’ll coat the liner in addition to the exterior, and the liner won’t work as effectively. 

Waxes and wash-ins can be applied indoors—a benefit if it’s raining or snowing, or if you don’t have an outdoor workspace where you can apply the products. Wash-ins are easy; they only require using your washing machine, and some can even be done by handwashing. Wash-ins are especially popular for down items since the waterproofing product is also meant for the feathers inside the item in addition to the outer layer. 

A wax will require application by hand then heating (by iron, hairdryer, or campfire) the product to seal it. Waxes are generally only used on canvas, denim, and some cotton materials, so they’re not helpful for most technical gear. 

Silicone vs. Non-Silicone 

We'll spare you an in-depth look at how waterproofing products work. (It might take you back to high school chemistry with terms like “surface tension” and "molecular weight.” But it’s still possible to get a general understanding of silicone versus non-silicone waterproofing.

For water-based products like those made by Nikwax, water is carrying waterproofing elastomers. 

“They actually kind of adhere to the individual fibers, like an old-fashioned telephone cord—they wrap around the fibers,” says Heidi Allen, the vice president of marketing at Nikwax. “They have a little stretchiness to them."

For silicone-based products, the spray acts like a protective layer on top of the fibers, though they still allow for some breathability back out. Before you choose a spray for technical gear, you’ll want to carefully read the manufacturer’s instructions for waterproofing that item; some recommend against certain types of products. 

Environmental Concerns

Some sprays contain perfluorochemicals (PFCs), a group of synthetic chemicals the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns remain in the environment—and in the human body—for years, so you’ll want to be especially careful using any of those, especially around pets and children. (Or just avoid them in general.) And aerosol sprayers, though they work well for consumers, also have a negative environmental impact. If you’re seeking to avoid those issues, choose a non-aerosol spray that doesn’t contain PFCs.

Gear Versus Clothing

If you’re waterproofing a backpack, you don’t have to worry about the breathability of that finished product, whereas the breathability of a jacket or pair of boots can greatly impact your day in the outdoors, so you’ll want to make sure you look for a waterproofing product that creates a porous seal; most labels indicate if the product is meant for waterproof/breathable technical items or not.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • How do I know when I need to waterproof my gear?

    Many people buy waterproof or water-resistant gear and assume it’ll be that way forever, but the reality is that DWR (durable water-repellent) coatings wear down over time, and they start doing what industry experts call “wetting out”—when the surface of the item starts absorbing water rather than repelling it. (The surfaces will get splotchy when wet instead of beading raindrops.) Even Gore-Tex products will eventually wet out; though they’re not as likely to let water in as other fabrics when that process occurs. They do, however, become heavier when wet and less breathable since the moisture from the inside can no longer escape. 

    When wetting out happens, you can either purchase new gear (expensive), or you can apply a waterproofing spray, wash-in, or wax. 

    While people are sometimes intimidated by the products, assuming they can potentially ruin a much-loved item or that the process of application is more complicated than it is, Heidi Allen, vice president of marketing at Nikwax, is working to spread the gossip of re-waterproofing. 

    “I wish everyone in the world knew you could do it, and you should do it, to help extend the life of your outdoor gear—your rain jackets and ski jackets, your high-tech stuff, even your leather boots, your Blundstones,” Allen says. “We always like to say the greenest gear is the gear you already have. By extending the life of all your outdoor gear, it will keep it out of the landfill.”  

    Allen notes you can even waterproof items you might not imagine. Nikwax and other manufacturers sell waterproofing products for cotton, fleece, and softshells, and you can use them on everything from your jeans to your Patagonia Synchilla Snap-T. 

    “It’s not going to turn your fleece into a rain jacket, but it will make it not absorb water,” Allen points out. “It won’t get heavy, which is great for traveling. If you waterproof all your stuff, it’ll dry faster if you do get caught in a downpour; it’ll dry in your hotel overnight. Again, it won’t turn cotton into a rain jacket, but it will help keep the water off for a while and prevent it from absorbing.”

  • What’s the best way to apply a waterproofing spray?

    Each waterproofing product is a little different—some are applied to wet products and some to dry, for example, and they each require a slightly different optimal spraying distance from the item—so it’s important to read the bottle instructions before you begin. In most instances, you’ll need a well-ventilated outdoor workspace for application, and you should cover that workspace with something like a tarp to keep the product excess contained.

    Many items require at least 24 to 48 hours of time to dry before you can use them again, so planning ahead before a big trip is crucial. 

    If you’re concerned about changes to an item’s color or texture, spot-testing on a small area is always a good idea. 

    Before you waterproof an item, any item, an important note is this: Make sure it’s clean first. Dirt and oils leave residue on the surface of your gear, even if you can’t always see it. And use a detergent that won’t leave a residue since that can impede the waterproofing product from working. Most brands sell their own washes in addition to the sprays.

    “A great analogy we like to use is you wouldn’t wax a dirty car so you wouldn’t waterproof a dirty item,” Allen explains. “While the waterproofing is the cool part of it all because you can see the beading, people forget that cleaning is the first, most important step in the waterproofing process.” 

    And in some instances, you might find washing is all that’s necessary. Putting your waterproof clothing in the dryer can also help reactivate the DWR coating. 

    “A lot of people spend money on outerwear, and then they’re afraid if they wash it too much it’ll damage it,” says Steve Nagode, an innovation engineer, and former REI test engineer. “That’s a really common concern. But the key is keeping it clean because dirt and smoke and particles break down DWR. If you stand in front of a campfire, all of a sudden your jacket might not work.”

  • How often should I reapply a waterproofing product to my clothes or gear?

    The answer to this question varies greatly depending on how often you use your items—if your raincoat only gets thrown on to walk the dog once a week, you’re going to have to do it less often than someone spending weeks thru-hiking in the spring—but a good rule of thumb is at least once a season. Then you’re going to want to reapply a waterproofing product (after washing, of course) any time you notice an item “wetting out” again. 

    “DWR is the best,” Nagode says. “Once that wears out, and washing and drying don’t bring it back, then you need [a waterproofing product]. The older a jacket is, the more maintenance it’s going to require.” 

    Your items’ DWR coating won’t always break down evenly across an item; for instance, a raincoat is more likely to wet out in areas where it has contact with oils from your skin or other pieces of gear, such as where your backpack straps rub it.

  • Are there items that cannot handle waterproofing or don’t need it?

    Most new waterproof items, while they still have their factory DWR intact, don’t need an aftermarket product since their original coating is highly effective. There are a few exceptions, such as using a dual-purpose tent spray, like Nikwax Tent & Gear Solarproof, that’ll protect against solar damage.  

    “The other thing would be items that aren’t waterproof and breathable, like a rubber rain jacket or bibs, like commercial fishermen wear, or like neoprene, rubber rain boots—you don’t need to use it on those types of things,” Allen says. 

Waterproofing sprays tested by TripSavvy
Nathan Allen / TripSavvy.

Why Trust TripSavvy

Author Lisa Slade is a runner, hiker, cyclist, Nordic skier, and backpacker based in notoriously rainy Portland, Oregon. She spends most of her afternoons and weekends exploring often-muddy trails all over the Pacific Northwest, with the help of plenty of waterproof and water-resistant gear. 

Nathan Allen, TripSavvy's Outdoor Gear editor also helped with testing. Allen has spent decades using and testing outdoor gear. While he's always appreciated highly-waterproof gear, he became particularly smitten with it after a self-supported bikepacking trip from Vancouver, British Columbia to his home in Berkeley, California when it rained on him all but two days. Those two days were glorious.

All items were tested before waterproofing products were applied and then again afterward to assess their effectiveness, with copious notes taken on all aspects of the products.

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