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How to Waterproof Outdoor Gear – Make Your Old Gear Weatherproof

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How to waterproof outdoor gear - nikwax

We’ve all had that disheartening moment when we’re traveling or out on the trail or setting up camp for the night and the dark clouds roll in. It’s not a great feeling. Especially if you know your gear it’s repelling the rain and wind like it used to. Or when you throw on your jacket just to find out after five minutes of a light drizzle that you might as well be wearing a mesh blanket. Because the truth is, no matter how waterproof your jacket or rain cover or tent fly was when you bought it, the more you use it, the more worn that protective coating is going to be. But don’t toss your gear just because it’s not wicking as it should. Re-waterproof that bad boy! Here’s how to waterproof outdoor gear so you can save your dollars and keep otherwise perfectly acceptable gear out of landfills.

Waterproof Outdoor Gear: Tents

Your tent is the last thing you want to start leaking in the middle of the night in a deluge. That’s why you should take extra care to ensure that waterproof coating stays intact. Start by keeping it clean. Fun fact: you can absolutely wash your tent. In the washer! Just don’t use detergent. Pick up a product like Nikwax Tech Wash and use it instead of regular detergent. Then, every 5-6 washes (or after the first wash if your tent is far from new), use Nikwax Tent & Gear SolarProof to re-waterproof your tent. Tada! No more drips on your face in the middle of the night!

waterproof gear wash-in nikwax

Waterproof Jackets

There are two types of jackets you may own: softshell and hardshell. Start with washing with Tech Wash, which may be enough to revitalize the water repellency of your gear. If not, time to treat it! If you have a hardshell jacket without a liner inside, use something like TX.Direct Wash-In. It’ll coat the whole jacket, re-waterproofing it from the outside in and the inside out. It even comes in a duo pack with Tech Wash. If your jacket can’t be washed, you can use a spray-on product like TX.Direct Spray-On instead.

If you have a soft-shell jacket, same-same, start with Tech Wash. Then opt for a product like wash-in Softshell Proof if your jacket doesn’t have a moisture-wicking liner. If your jacket does have a liner and/or can’t be washed (or you don’t want to bother), use a spray-on like TX.Direct Softshell Proof. Yup, the same duo pack is available for softshell items.

nikwax tech wash waterproof

Waterproof Sleeping Bags

We know you wouldn’t buy a down sleeping bag since the down industry is so rife with animal cruelty and is intrinsically tied to the meat industry (find more info about it here), but in case you have an old one left-over from your pre-vegan days, it’s important to know that crap needs to be washed. But not with detergent because it will dry out the down and make it lose its insulating properties. Instead, wash with Down Wash Direct to revitalize the loft of your down bag. Do the same with down jackets.


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If you have a sleeping bag with synthetic insulation (good for you not contributing to the ugly down industry), you’re in luck! Wash it just like you would any other gear: with Tech Wash. Typically, sleeping bags aren’t meant to be waterproof, but they do often claim to wick moisture, and you don’t want to compromise that with regular detergent. And because sleeping bags are big and heavy when wet, consider a larger washer or dryer, like the kind you would find at a laundromat.

nikwax hiking boot waterproof

Waterproof Hiking Shoes and Boots

Hiking shoes and boots are the items that probably need the most attention since they’re seeing the most abuse. Fortunately, cleaning is easy. Start by picking off excess mud and muck, then dampen shoes and apply Nikwax Footwear Cleaning Gel and scrub gently until your shoes are clean. Rinse them off, then, while they’re still damp, coat with Fabric and Leather Proof to revitalize the waterproofing of your footwear. Let ’em dry and you’re don. Get the duo pack here.

The Bottom Line

It’s rarely necessary to throw out your old gear just because it seems to have lost some of its water repellency (though we wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to donate your old down and upgrade to cruelty-free synthetic insulated items). Usually, all that’s required is to re-waterproof your outdoor gear with a good cleaning and a formula you can wash-in or spray-on to make old items wick water like new again. So reinvigorate your gear closet and don’t be afraid of a little weather the next time you hit the trail. (And if you are in need of new gear, check out our gear reviews and recommendations here.) Wander on!

*This may seem like a Nikwax sponsored post, but it’s not. It’s simply the biggest and best (and probably oldest) in the businessthe brand and it’s the brand we use when we need to waterproof our gear, which is why we recommend them. This post does contain affiliate links, however, so that we can all keep our gear dry, too, if you decide to use these links to make a purchase.