To Proof or not to Proof?

A guide to proofing your outdoor gear 

With a bewildering array of proofing products, for every conceivable type of gear, we are going to try to help you understand the benefits of reproofing the different types of outdoor gear you own.

Reproofing Clothing

Waterproof Clothing – Waterproofs come with a DWR (durable water repellent) treatment, this is what makes water ‘bead’ on the outside of your waterproof clothing. Over time the DWR treatment wears off and this is what is replaced when you reproof. A DWR treatment prevents the outside of your garment becoming saturated; resulting in it staying light and keeping you warm. More significantly though saturation greatly reduces breathability and therefore increases internal condensation to such an extent that people often think their jacket is leaking. Regular cleaning and re-proofing of your breathable waterproof clothing is essential to ensure that you maintain the benefits of your garments.

Water Repellent/Windproof Clothing – To maximise breathability many running and cycling jackets are designed to be only water repellent. No other type of clothing is so dependent on reproofing to actually keep the rain out; regular re-proofing is a must.

Insulating clothing – Although fleeces and down jackets are not designed to be exposed to water, moisture from perspiration, melted snow or a sudden shower can all cause your insulation to get wet. Damp insulation can’t trap as much air which significantly reduces its insulating properties. Reproofing helps to prevent this loss of insulation.

Reproofing Walking Footwear

Full Leather Boots – The benefits of reproofing leather footwear cannot be understated. When you reproof leather boots you not only restore the water repellency but also condition the leather. Without regular proofing leather dries, stiffens and will finally crack. This not only greatly shortens the life of your footwear but makes them less comfortable. Reproofing also helps maintain breathability and, for boots without a GORE-TEX style liner, provides critical waterproofing.

Mixed Fabric Footwear – Many incorrectly assume that such boots, which relay on Gore-Tex liners or similar for their waterproofing, don’t need to be reproofed. Not only does saturation of the material lead to reduced breathability, but most boots of this type have natural suede parts that must be proofed to prevent stiffening and cracking. Once cracked, dirt and grit can get in which will damage the waterproof liner.


Reproofing Equipment

Modern Synthetic Tents – Although the vast majority of tents rely on internal PU coatings for their waterproofing there are still benefits to reproofing. Again fabric saturation, which re-proofing prevents, helps stop the build up of condensation inside the tent. The real benefit however is UV protection. Leading tent re-proofing products provide UV protection which can double the lifespan of the material.

Natural Fibre Tents – Cotton, cotton canvas and poly cotton tents differ from synthetics as they are not, scientifically speaking, fully waterproof. In dry conditions there are thousands of tiny holes in the material. When it rains the cotton swells sealing the holes making the material effectively waterproof. The DWR (durable water repellent) treatment in the material is a vital component in this process and should be refreshed every few seasons depending on use.

Rucksacks – As a rule rucksacks are not designed to be fully waterproof. Reproofing will help reduce water absorption and aid drying, but a rain cover is still the best way to keep your pack dry. Reproofing your rucksack’s rain cover is well worth doing as the lightweight fabric would also benefit from the UV protection most gear proofers provide.