It looks like we’re in for a wet summer of La Niña! Emma Woodward decided to make lemonade out of these wet lemons and investigate how she could re-waterproof some old gear.
Recently, I was looking at buying a new raincoat, but because I’m all about sustainability (okay… I just don’t like spending money) I started to wonder if I could re-waterproof my old raincoat instead.
Now, when I say old, I don’t mean that I’ve had it for a few years and the colour is so totally 2018. I mean, this is a hand-me-down raincoat that’s been worn by three generations of my family.
I’m not sure what previous generations put the raincoat through, but I know I put it through a lot. Most recently, I had worn the raincoat through a very stormy spring of working outside.
Read more: 7 Tips For Rainy Day Hiking
When I found a weekend job working at a local horse stud during their busy foaling season, I was pretty excited. The regular staff were like vets, horse trainers, and farmers all rolled into one, but as an extra pair of hands, my job would consist of driving around delivering feed to different paddocks and checking on the foals. Because I wasn’t a pseudo-vet or expert of any kind, ‘checking’ on the foals really just meant stopping in my rounds to play with cute baby horses. I know, it’s a tough gig, but someone had to do it.
After a few months of working at the stables, my poor raincoat was covered in all sorts of crap. Mud, after birth, and, of course, literal crap. Before working at that farm I had no idea how prone newborn foals were to diarrhoea. I did know that foals could do this cute thing with their stubby, fluffy tails, where they spin them like a happy little helicopter. I did not put two and two together before a foal with diarrhoea spun its happy little tail and the shit, quite literally, hit the fan.
So, after finishing my spring job at the stables, I decided that maybe the daily deluge of rain hadn’t been enough to completely clean my raincoat, and it was time for a wash. This was a huge mistake.
It turns out that there are two types of raincoats in this world – the ones that will benefit from regular washing, and the ones that will exact terrible revenge upon you if you do.
I washed my raincoat, let it dry, and set out on a camping trip to Noojee. It was then that I discovered my raincoat fell into the second category and was no longer waterproof. This was truly unfortunate because on that camping trip the only time that it stopped raining was when it snowed. Hence the search for a new raincoat.
While I was looking at different rain jackets, I started thinking about the different materials, and, more specifically, the difference between the older styles, and the new. Most new rain jackets are made from technical fabric that’s treated with a durable water repellent (DWR) finish. Of course, before humans were making clothes out of plastic, we were making them out of natural fibres like cotton, which isn’t very waterproof, unless you add some sort of oil or wax.
It turns out that all those old oilskins (many of them made out of leftover sailcloth because olden day people didn’t like spending their money either) weren’t really coated, but soaked. Wet cotton is horrible because it absorbs and holds onto water, but if you ask it nicely to absorb and hold onto something else first (say, oil or wax) then you have a breathable, waterproof garment.
This is why washing my raincoat had been such a terrible mistake. I’d washed all the protection out of it. Fortunately, it also meant that I had an easy solution.
I started looking for ways to re-waterproof this older style of raincoat, and found Fjällraven’s Greenland Wax. Because Fjällraven’s G-1000 garments are made from a polyester and cotton blend, just like the label said my great-aunt’s raincoat was, I figured that this wax should do the trick. And it did. Here’s the process that I followed.
Gather Your Supplies
You’ll really only need the wax, a source of heat, and the cotton (or cotton blend) garment that you want to waterproof. The instructions from Fjällraven suggested a hairdryer or an iron, but after trying both, I decided that the iron was faster and easier.
If you’re waterproofing something that’s never been waterproofed before — or you have a jacket that’s covered in mud, after birth, or poo — then feel free to give it a wash first, noting that warm water will melt and wash away any previous waterproofing oil or wax.
Step 2 – Apply Heat
Now apply your chosen heat source to the raincoat. Congratulations if you’ve managed to beg, borrow, or steal an iron so that you don’t have to hold your raincoat over a camping stove while trying not to set everything on fire.
If you’ve borrowed someone’s iron, then maybe add a layer of baking paper between the iron and the waxy raincoat to avoid creating a sticky, waterproof iron.
Step 4 – Enjoy Your Victory
To test out my new-old-raincoat, I decided to take a stroll through those epic storms that hit Gippsland recently. You know the ones that caused the most ‘unprecedented’ damage since the last lot of unprecedented storms. And even if the raincoat’s colour is so totally last century, I’m pleased to report that it is waterproof again, and all for under $20!