Friday, January 9, 2015

How to waterproof your day hiking boots

Waterproofing a used hiking boot can increase its longevity.
Photo courtesy of  Owens/Photoree.
Hikers rarely need to waterproof newly purchased boots. Most boots have a durable water repellent (DWR) applied at the factory. Still, there are exceptions, and sometimes you need to waterproof a pair of boots you’ve owned for a while. Over time, dirt, sunlight and abrasion will wear the DWR off a boot.

If water is soaking through your boots to your socks, this may indicate a hole, but more than likely it needs waterproofing. You can keep your boots from reaching that sorry state by watching to see what raindrops or puddle splashes do when hitting your boot uppers. If the water no longer beeds and rolls off, you need to waterproof your boots.

Waterproofing your boot involves five simple steps.

Purchase a waterproofing spray
Often sold as a “frabric and leather proof,” several brands exist. Be aware that a few are made for the specific type of leather that makes up your boot, such as full-grain leather, nubuck or synthetic leather. Go with one that is water-based; other formulas tend to destroy materials in modern boots. Most proofing products have a shelf life of about four years from the time they are purchased.

Clean your boots thoroughly
Waterproofing won’t be effective when sprayed over dust or grit rather than directly onto the upper. Use a toothbrush or a vegetable brush to remove sand, gunk and other particles.

Dampen the boots
The moisture will help pull the waterproofing into the leather. This is best done not by wiping the boots with a wet cloth but by wrapping them in wet towels in which they sit for an hour or so. Wet towels work well because leather needs a long time to absorb moisture. Be advised that not all waterproofing sprays advise this; you’ll want to check the instructions on the specific proofing you purchase.

Apply waterproofing
Follow the instructions on the proofing you purchased. Sometimes you may need to apply a second waterproofing treatment, but only do so if the proofing spray instructions require it.

Dry the boot
Let the boot air dry at room temperature. Don’t set the boot near a fireplace, radiator, heater or in the sunlight to speed dry it.

Learn about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.