Is Budget Waterproofing Feasible?
Testing all the bags for our stormproof backpack buyer’s guide got us thinking: Is it feasible and possible to make a weather-resistant knapsack on the cheap? After all, not everyone has a hundred bucks lying around to spend on a brand-new dry bag. But a bottle of waterproofing wax runs for only $10.
To craft our own DIY stormproof backpack, we looked for a backpack that wasn’t just affordable but also common (to approximate what one might find in an average household). Anyone who’s ever attended high school in the past 50 years has owned or seen a JANSPORT bag, so we selected the Trans by JANSPORT SUPERMAX. It features a 15-inch padded laptop sleeve, four zippered compartments, and a lifetime guarantee. Price tag? Anywhere between $25 to $35 online.
Next came selecting the waterproof coating. There are all sorts or protectants available today, from silicone aerosols to durable water repellents (DWR) made of fluoropolymers. We chose a $9 bottle of Nikwax Tent & Gear SolarProof. Aside from being a water-based formula that’s non-aerosol, non-flammable, and non-hazardous, it provides both H2O repellency and shielding against UV damage.
Following the directions, we sprayed an even coat of Nikwax on the SUPERMAX, waited two minutes, and wiped excess liquid with a damp cloth. We let the pack dry overnight. The next day we performed our in-house rain simulation: stuffed it full of newsprint paper, closed all the zippers, and put it under a running showerhead for 10 minutes.
Then we wiped off the droplets on the pack’s exterior.
So how did our DIY stormproof pack do? Like a drunk celebrity at a police checkpoint, it failed miserably. While the Nikwax did indeed help water bead up and stay on the surface of the polyester fabric, the coating couldn’t stop H2O from flowing through the seams or zippers, where our newsprint paper was most mush-like.
The lesson? You can paint a dinghy to look like a submarine, but that won’t stop it from taking on water when you hit rough seas. If you’re looking for a truly weatherproof pack for your next bug-out bag, make sure it was manufactured with weather-resistant properties in the first place, because a waterproof coating can only do so much.