The outdoor gear space is awash with gear made from waterproof and water-resistant materials. However, despite how seemingly commonplace waterproof outerwear, hiking boots, and camping tents are, they’re still not going to remain waterproof forever. It’s an unavoidable inevitability that most water-resistant fabrics and textiles will eventually lose their moisture-repelling properties.
Thankfully, reduced water-resistance is something that can be dealt with fairly easily — so long as you know what to look for. In this case, we’re referring to the use of waterproof sprays. Simple and cost-effective, these chemical compounds can help imbue just about any piece of gear with added moisture protection. And we’ve rounded up 12 of the best for all of your favorite jackets, shoes, furniture, and more in the following guide.
How Waterproofing Sprays Work
A Quick Primer
Waterproofing is an interesting process when it comes to outdoor gear, as there are a lot of different ways it can be done. For starters, there are some materials that are naturally water-resistant or waterproof. For instance, tightly-woven nylon is capable of staving off raindrops for a time without any added waterproof technologies. Similarly, other high-end technical fabrics are sometimes even more resistant to moisture, like polyurethane and Dyneema.
Of course, some brands choose to imbue their gear with even more durable waterproofing technologies. Sometimes, this is accomplished by adding a membrane between the inner and outer layers of fabrics. One of the most popular waterproof membranes that’s famous for its excellence at repelling water is GORE-TEX. This technology can be added to a wide array of existing fabrics and gear types during their production to keep water out almost completely, often for as long as someone owns a piece of outdoor gear. However, even when it comes to GORE-TEX, the waterproofing will wear off over time. For some folks, this occurrence means it’s time to get some new gear. But those who are a bit more in the know and/or spartan with their spending money know you can actually re-apply waterproofing via an aftermarket treatment — like waterproofing sprays.
Think of waterproofing sprays like the icing on a cake or an outer layer of varnish on a piece of furniture. Usually, they’re comprised of a chemical compound (often made from a water-repellent material like silicone) that, when sprayed onto a material, acts like a protective layer — sealing the pores that would normally be large enough to let moisture through. Really good waterproofing sprays, however, don’t seal a fabric or material entirely — allowing the fabrics to remain light, breathable, and comfortable to the wearer. Unfortunately, even the most effective and comprehensive waterproofing sprays don’t last forever, requiring a renewed application as often as once a year (depending on how often you use your waterproofed gear). Still, applying a waterproof spray to your gear on an as-needed basis can be a lot more cost-effective than buying new gear entirely.
Cloth, Technical Fabric, & Leather
For most untextured materials — basic textiles like canvas, technical fabrics like nylon, and even leather — a basic waterproofing spray is all you need to keep your gear dry in any weather. It is worthwhile to be a bit cautious, however, in the case of materials imbued with GORE-TEX or similar technologies, as the sprays can negatively impact these technologies. So long as you’re reading the labels before taking action, you should be just fine.
Kiwi Camp Dry Heavy Duty Water Repellant
Boasting a unique formula that works as perfectly on leather boots as it does on camping tents, this silicone spray is a simple and quick way to apply a water-repellent layer to any of your outdoor gear. Whether you use it on patio furniture or your favorite raincoat, it will keep your gear from getting bogged down by moisture. Best of all, it’s odorless — so you don’t have to worry about a weird chemical smell after application.
Granger’s Performance Repel Waterproof Spray
Opting for a more environmentally-friendly squeeze-bottle sprayer, this water-based fluorocarbon waterproof spray is VOC-free and bluesign-approved — in case conservation is important to you (and it should be). Of course, it’s also incredibly effective, offering top-tier waterproofing on materials like nylon, fleece, GORE-TEX materials, and so much more. It’s also scentless, making it perfect for hunting gear.
Sof Sole Heavy Duty Silicone Waterproofer
Another silicone-based waterproof spray, this one is formulated to adhere to the fabrics typically found in outdoor apparel, hiking boots, hunting gear, camping tents, and more. The 12% silicone content ensures long-lasting waterproofing, but the manufacturer recommends not using it on things like GORE-TEX or athletic shoes, as it may discolor them or diminish their performance materials.
Scotchgard Heavy Duty Water Shield Protector
Probably the only household name in waterproof sprays, Scotchguard has been a staple of weather-resistance for decades. And they’re still one of the top names — which is clear in the effectiveness of their Heavy Duty Water Shield Protector spray. With a quick-drying, odorless formula, this is a quick and easy way to make just about any cloth, technical fabric, or even leather more waterproof than it ever was on its own.
ForceField Protector Waterproof Spray
While ForceField’s Protector waterproof spray is the perfect solution for weatherproofing your favorite sneakers, the formula also has some added bonuses that make it even more desirable. For instance, it has built-in UV protection, meaning it can prevent your favorite high-tops from fading in the sun. It’s also ready to go only 23 minutes after the first application and lasts for up to an entire year. And it manages all of that while still keeping your sneakers breathable and comfortable in any weather conditions.
Nikwax TX.Direct Spray-On Waterproofing
Nikwax might just be the best brand in the realm of aftermarket waterproofing. After all, experts from every corner of the gear space turn to them for their superb offerings. One such offering is their TX.Direct Spray-On Waterproofing you see before you. Extremely water-resistant yet breathable, this formula is ideal for anything from sleeping bags to snowboarding jackets and everything in-between. As an added bonus, it’s also biodegradable — meaning it’s a lot more environmentally-friendly than the alternatives on the market.
303 Fabric Guard
Though their advertising might have you believe otherwise, 303 Fabric Guard works on a lot more than just bourgeois patio furniture. In fact, with a simple single application, it will protect everything from canvas, to leather, to ballistic nylon, and everything in between. Whether you need to re-waterproof a rain jacket or you want to make your favorite running shoes more rain-friendly, this easy spray will do the trick.
Apple Brand Garde Rain & Stain Water Repellent
Made in the USA and formulated specifically to keep from discoloring the fabrics and materials on which you spray it, this aerosol waterproofing spray is a comprehensive rain and stain guard unlike any other. It also dries without a sticky residue and remains dry to the touch. If you want to spruce up your dress shoes with a bit of weather-resistance, turn to this spray first.
Suede, Nubuck, Etc.
More Delicate Materials
Whereas normal, untextured fabrics do well with basic waterproofing sprays, there are some materials that could be potentially ruined by them. Namely, this applies to delicate fabrics, textiles, and natural materials like suede, nubuck, and even microfiber. Luckily, some waterproofing brands have developed special sprays specifically formulated to keep these materials protected without ruining the way they look or feel.
Nikwax Nubuck & Suede Proof Waterproofing
Another offering from one of the most trusted names in aftermarket waterproofing, this Nikwax is completely biodegradable and free of chemical additives that might cause harm to the natural world. Yet it still imbues your more-delicate textured fabrics with excellent water-repellent properties. If you’re against using a spray on one (aerosol propellant isn’t exactly environmentally-conscious), they also offer a sponge-on version for a lower price.
Bickmore Gard-More Water & Stain Repellent
Thanks to a simple push-button spray applicator, this waterproofing spray does away with harmful aerosols in favor of a format that more closely aligns with its biodegradable makeup. Of course, it still creates an impressive waterproof layer on any fabric upon which you spray it — be that regular leather or more-delicate suede and nubuck. Quick, efficient, effective, and made in the USA — you can’t go wrong here.
Scotchguard Suede & Nubuck Protector
It should come as no surprise that Scotchguard, one of the most recognizable names in waterproofing sprays, offers up one that is specially formulated to work with suede and nubuck materials without negatively impacting their appearance or texture. And while it’s excellent for repelling water, it also doubles as a salt protector — keeping your gear free of salt stains associated with sweat.
Crep Protect Universal Protector
One of the best waterproof sprays for more-delicate textured materials, the USA-made Crep Protect Universal Protector is ideal for everything from standard leather to suede, nubuck, and more. All it takes is a single pass to imbue all of your fabrics with water-repellant and dirt- and dust-resistant properties. We don’t love that it only comes in an aerosol can, but the level of protection it offers is hard to beat.
Primer: How To Re-Waterproof A Jacket
While a spray is one way to up the weather-resistance of your gear, it’s not the only thing you need to know about waterproofing. Find out everything else on our guide covering how to re-waterproof a jacket.