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The Best and Cheapest Way to Waterproof Boots

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March 26, 2014
The Best and Cheapest Way to Waterproof Boots - 10

A worn and leaky pair of boots once cost me a chance at a mature bull elk. I was hunting deep in the remote wilderness of Utah's High Uinta mountains. It was cold – so cold that my nalgene water bottle froze solid through at night, even when tucked next to me inside my tent.

As I crossed a snow-covered marsh, my boots broke through the frozen crust several times. I hadn't counted on warmth from the underground water softening the ice. By the time I made it to the meadow I was looking for, my feet were wet inside my wool socks, and I knew I was in trouble. No matter how I tried to keep them warm, my feet grew colder – until eventually I had to leave my post or suffer serious frostbite. When I later returned in dry boots, there were seven sets of fresh elk tracks crossing the meadow, one of them a mature bull. Had my feet been dry and warm I likely would have made meat that day.

Most good boots are waterproof, with Gore-Tex or similar lining. It's great, and for the whitetail hunter who walks a couple hundred yards to his stand the waterproof membrane lining will last for many seasons. But the western hunter who hikes many miles a day on foot will eventually break down Gore-Tex and similar products. The battering and constant flexing caused by hunting in steep, rocky terrain will stress the membrane and will  compromise it's ability to stop water from entering. My boots typically begin to leak after 40 to 50 miles of rough mountain hunting. Another common mistake that hunters make is warming their feet by the campfire. Heat melts Gore-Tex and will render your boots leaky immediately.

Since that cold day high in the Uinta's I've learned that with a good pair of all-leather hunting boots my feet can always be dry. Here's how: At the local hardware store pick up a standard wax toilet ring. Approximate cost: $3. I've tried mink oil, lexol, neatsfoot oil, and many other boot sealant products, including the spray-on variety, and none work as well.

To apply, simply wipe the boots clean and set them and the wax in a warm place, near a heating vent, in the sunshine, or near a woodburning stove. Don't get them hot, just nice and warm to the touch. Then, using your fingers or a small cloth, rub the wax into the leather. If you don't want to waterproof your fingers, wear gloves. Avoid getting wax on the plastic/rubber parts of the boot. When the boots are nicely coated with wax, set them back in the warm spot for an hour or more – once again don't allow them to get hot. Then using a soft cloth, buff the excess wax away.

When you are done your boots will appear much younger, the leather will be more supple, and will be more waterproof than a duck. The effect will last for weeks of hard use, and when the boots start to look scuffed and thirsty just repeat the process. I use the wax on my hunting boots, work boots, and even my cowboy boots.

Comments (10)

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from Michael S Forti wrote 15 weeks 1 day ago

Beeswax and Vaseline in an Altoids tin. Heat until it melts together. I use about 2pts beeswax to 1pt Vaseline. You can adjust the amount of Vaseline you add until it fits how firm a paste you want.

I smear it on in a heavy coat and then use a heat gun on it. As you run the heat gun over it, it will immediately and fully soak into the leather, which means that you're not just working with a "top-coat" that will rub off, but well saturated leather that stays waterproof for a long time.

I usually hit the seams twice to ensure that they are saturated and well protected.

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from JHP wrote 15 weeks 5 days ago

The beeswax toilet ring works good, the only thing I do different is warm the boots before applying the wax. Setting in the sun is usually enough to allow the wax to penetrate the pores of the leather.
If you need to soften the leather first work in some neatsfoot oil. I just use the beeswax to keep the full support of the leather, especially around the ankle area.

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from peteyraymond wrote 15 weeks 6 days ago

There's probably more than one substance, whether it's Snow Seal or a wax toilet ring, that will waterproof leather. But it's the SEAMS that let in the most water. You must make sure that you've waterproofed the seams to be sure that the boots are properly waterproofed. And one of the biggest seams is where the boot leather attaches to the sole/heel. Aram says "Avoid getting wax on the plastic/rubber parts of the boot." If you avoid putting the waterproofing material where the leather attaches to the rubber/plastic sole, I can guaran-damn-tee you that your boots are going to leak.

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from huntfishtrap wrote 16 weeks 7 hours ago

I agree with LGIW, Sno-Seal works great. Your method might work as good, but I don't see how it can work better.

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from LGIW wrote 16 weeks 11 hours ago

BTW, I had a similar elk hunt in the high Uintas about 9 years ago that resulted in wet feet sloshing through 12" of snow all day. When i was at my furthest point away from camp, ans in a pretty heavy snowfall with wet feet, I gathered some tinder, and pulled some fire paste ans a lighter out of my pack, got a nice fire going, dried out my socks and warmed my hands and feet for about 30 minutes and then resumed hunting. Fire paste made that possible.

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from LGIW wrote 16 weeks 23 hours ago

It cant be any better than Snow Seal. Snow Seal has been hard to come by in recent years. It can still be found on Amazon. I just bought a quart can that should last me the rest of my hunting days.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Rudi Prohaska wrote 16 weeks 1 day ago

And you can use it to lube your cast bullets!

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from Western23 wrote 16 weeks 1 day ago

I've been looking for this tip for many years. Aram is right when he says all the other methods don't last but a few days at best. I've been saving a pair of Justin ropers for the rainy season, holding off buying $100+ waterproof boots, for a long, long time to show my qh's. I hate wet cold feet for any season or reason. I am glad I waited and I am sure this will pay off big time. Thanks, Arma.

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from asrenstrom wrote 16 weeks 1 day ago

What other materials besides leather is this safe to use on?

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from hornd wrote 16 weeks 2 days ago

Make my own with Raw Linseed Oil, Orange Oil, and Melted Beeswax. Use it on leather and waxed cotton (ie Filson). Put it on with a paintbrush when liquid and set it with a heat gun (hot blow dryer). Works great and is cheap also. Only dislike is it has a smell that fades with time. Make it in a double broiler setup.

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from hornd wrote 16 weeks 2 days ago

Make my own with Raw Linseed Oil, Orange Oil, and Melted Beeswax. Use it on leather and waxed cotton (ie Filson). Put it on with a paintbrush when liquid and set it with a heat gun (hot blow dryer). Works great and is cheap also. Only dislike is it has a smell that fades with time. Make it in a double broiler setup.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from LGIW wrote 16 weeks 23 hours ago

It cant be any better than Snow Seal. Snow Seal has been hard to come by in recent years. It can still be found on Amazon. I just bought a quart can that should last me the rest of my hunting days.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from peteyraymond wrote 15 weeks 6 days ago

There's probably more than one substance, whether it's Snow Seal or a wax toilet ring, that will waterproof leather. But it's the SEAMS that let in the most water. You must make sure that you've waterproofed the seams to be sure that the boots are properly waterproofed. And one of the biggest seams is where the boot leather attaches to the sole/heel. Aram says "Avoid getting wax on the plastic/rubber parts of the boot." If you avoid putting the waterproofing material where the leather attaches to the rubber/plastic sole, I can guaran-damn-tee you that your boots are going to leak.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from asrenstrom wrote 16 weeks 1 day ago

What other materials besides leather is this safe to use on?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Western23 wrote 16 weeks 1 day ago

I've been looking for this tip for many years. Aram is right when he says all the other methods don't last but a few days at best. I've been saving a pair of Justin ropers for the rainy season, holding off buying $100+ waterproof boots, for a long, long time to show my qh's. I hate wet cold feet for any season or reason. I am glad I waited and I am sure this will pay off big time. Thanks, Arma.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Rudi Prohaska wrote 16 weeks 1 day ago

And you can use it to lube your cast bullets!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from LGIW wrote 16 weeks 11 hours ago

BTW, I had a similar elk hunt in the high Uintas about 9 years ago that resulted in wet feet sloshing through 12" of snow all day. When i was at my furthest point away from camp, ans in a pretty heavy snowfall with wet feet, I gathered some tinder, and pulled some fire paste ans a lighter out of my pack, got a nice fire going, dried out my socks and warmed my hands and feet for about 30 minutes and then resumed hunting. Fire paste made that possible.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntfishtrap wrote 16 weeks 7 hours ago

I agree with LGIW, Sno-Seal works great. Your method might work as good, but I don't see how it can work better.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from JHP wrote 15 weeks 5 days ago

The beeswax toilet ring works good, the only thing I do different is warm the boots before applying the wax. Setting in the sun is usually enough to allow the wax to penetrate the pores of the leather.
If you need to soften the leather first work in some neatsfoot oil. I just use the beeswax to keep the full support of the leather, especially around the ankle area.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Michael S Forti wrote 15 weeks 1 day ago

Beeswax and Vaseline in an Altoids tin. Heat until it melts together. I use about 2pts beeswax to 1pt Vaseline. You can adjust the amount of Vaseline you add until it fits how firm a paste you want.

I smear it on in a heavy coat and then use a heat gun on it. As you run the heat gun over it, it will immediately and fully soak into the leather, which means that you're not just working with a "top-coat" that will rub off, but well saturated leather that stays waterproof for a long time.

I usually hit the seams twice to ensure that they are saturated and well protected.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment (200 characters or less)