Give me your best waterproofing treatments
September 22, 2017 5:03 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way to add some water resistance to outdoor clothing? Is there anything out there that's better than good old Kiwi Camp Dry?

At the moment I'm looking to waterproof (well, add water resistance to) a down jacket, so I'm not really interested in wash-in products although if you've found one of those that really works I'd be interested to hear about it for later reference. (I've tried NikWax Tech Wash by the way, and found it pretty worthless.) What I'm looking for is some kind of topical treatment that works better than Kiwi Camp Dry (a silicone-based spray) for making fabrics waterproof-ish while still retaining good breatheability. I'm not expecting total waterproofness, just something a little more robust than what I've encountered so far.

The specific reason I'm asking is that I've been given a rather nice, brand-new down jacket (one of these babies, if you're interested) which is too large for normal wear but which would be dandy for winter hikes where I would like to use it as an overcoat on top of several other layers. However, since I'm wearing it on the outside of everything (although I have a further raincoat/windbreak layer that I can throw on top of that if I really need to) I'd like it to have enough water resistance to shrug off snow without getting waterlogged. It does have water-resistant down, but if possible I'd like to prevent water from getting into it in the first place since water makes things heavy and I've found in the past that water-resistant down or no, once a down product gets wet it's just not nearly as warm as when it's dry.

As I've alluded already, the best thing I've found so far for applications like this is Kiwi Camp Dry, which helps a little but not a lot. I still use it on stuff because it's not very expensive and it's better than nothing, but I'd be willing to pay more for something that works better. I know there are PTFE-based waterproofers out there, but I've never tried them. Have you? Have you tried something else that works? Is there some kind of DIY trick that I should know about? Is this a pointless quest because there's nothing out there that's going to be worth using? All advice is very much appreciated.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The to Grab Bag (4 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Call Mountain Hardwear and see what they suggest.

I wouldn't put anything on my down jacket/sleeping bag for fear that it would reduce the down's loft.
posted by gregr at 7:32 PM on September 22, 2017

That's a nice looking jacket! I'm a big fan of Mountain Hardwear, and own quite a few of their garments. I'm a keen outdoorsperson, a fellow New Englander, a former outdoor store salesperson, and a one-time W.L. Gore employee (technically, associate). Here's what I think:

1. NikWax Tech Wash is a soap, not a waterproofer. If that is indeed the product you used, that would explain why it didn't do what you describe. Their Down Proof product would be the one you want. I have used their products with consistently good results, although I haven't used Down Proof. I would not use Kiwi Camp Dry; the only other product I would consider would be ReviveX, which is another highly-regarded product.

2. I would not advise using any down garment as an overcoat as you describe; no matter what you do to the down via a wash-in treatment, or to the polyester shell to improve water repellency will provide sufficient water resistance. If this were a similar garment using synthetic insulation, you might be able to chance it, but not with down. Down is lighter, more compressible, and more durable than the synthetics, but wet down clumps together and loses all insulating power, is thus worse than nothing, and takes forever to dry out.

3. Staying warm in cold weather is about maintaining a warm, dry pocket of air between you and the outside. Long underwear, fleece jackets, and down garments all do a similar job of holding a layer of warm air against your skin; having a down jacket on the outside of anything other than one or two thin layers (long underwear and a thin fleece, for instance) is redundant, because if the layers under it are doing their job, there should not be very much warmth getting beyond them. I would recommend wearing this kind of down jacket just outside your base layer, and with a waterproof/breathable shell on the outside. The down does the job of keeping warm air close to you, and the shell keeps that air dry and prevents the wind from penetrating and chilling that warm air.

Good luck!
posted by EKStickland at 8:26 PM on September 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Sorry, meant NikWax TX Direct, which is their waterproofer. Bit of a brain fart there.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 1:35 AM on September 23, 2017

I think anything you might put on it would potentially damage the down and make it less effective. I would also not wear a rain shell over it as it might compress the down, unless you have a very large shell. Wear fleece and polypro under a shell.

Other than in the most extreme conditions, down is generally too warm to hike in and the nylon isn't strong enough to resist all the tree branches you'll be getting smacked with when you're snowshoeing over deep snow. One fall in a spruce trap will shred it. A down jacket is nice to have while winter camping and chances are if it's cold enough to use it the snow will be dry enough to not get beyond the nylon and reduce the loft of the down. It's also good to have in your pack in case you have an extended stop, like dealing with an injury. If you have one of those crappy wettish and not-too-cold New England winter days you'll probably want to keep the down jacket in your pack and stick to the fleece and Gore-tex.

I realize this doesn't answer your question I apologize if I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. I'd not do anything with it and just keep it in a stuff sack for when conditions are right for it.
posted by bondcliff at 2:17 PM on September 23, 2017

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