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When it comes to embracing the great outdoors, one of the most important items in your closet is waterproof clothing. No matter the outdoor activity, at some point every outdoorsman (and woman) will encounter the not-so-pleasant side of Mother Nature, and the best thing you can do is be prepared with water resistant clothing and gear.  Keep in mind that water resistant equipment and waterproof clothing must be properly maintained for optimal protection. Here are some ways to care for your waterproof items.

Water Resistant vs. Waterproof Clothing – First, let us address the difference between water resistant and waterproof gear. Many may assume that there is no difference between the two – until they experience their first torrential downpour. Here is what you need to know: water resistant is just that; it is resistant to water to an extent, but it is not waterproof. Waterproof clothing means there is an interior waterproof lining that will keep water from seeping completely through to your skin. Water resistant means that the exterior layer of clothing or equipment is specially treated to repel water but not to be completely insulated from seepage.

Waterproof Coats & Clothing – Now let’s discuss how to care for both levels of water protective outdoor clothing.  When it comes to waterproof coats and other waterproof clothing, your first line of defense in caring for your equipment is washing away debris. The elements of the outdoors such as campfires, dirt, and even oils from your skin can compromise both waterproof and water resistant materials. Be sure to wash waterproof coats in cold water and use waterproofing liquid cleaners. This will help to maintain the Durable Water Repellent (DWR) layer. Check the manufacturer’s label on the water resistant or waterproof coat to determine if it can be placed in a dryer. If your waterproof coat can be dried, use a low heat or tumble dry setting. The final step for caring for your water resistant and waterproof coats is to reproof the water repellent layer. Simply choose a Durable Water Repellent protection spray, evenly cover your waterproof clothing with it and hang dry.

Waterproof Boots – There are many different types of materials used in making waterproof boots. No matter the material, it is extremely important to maintain the waterproof or water resistant layer on your footwear. Start by wiping away dirt and other debris. Then use a clean, wet washcloth and a mild cleaner to completely clean your waterproof boots. Since there are so many different water resistant and waterproof materials on the market, it is important to select a water repellent spray that is conducive to the material of your waterproof boots. For example, if your waterproof boots are made of leather, select a waterproof repellent safe for leather. Then liberally apply the repellent to your boots, and allow them to dry.

Enjoying the great outdoors can be a very exhilarating experience, but it is important to make sure you are fully prepared for all the elements that await you. Consider your activity level and climate before deciding between water resistant or waterproof clothing for your next adventure. If you have any questions or concerns about selecting and caring for water resistant or waterproof clothing, consult with an outdoor professional at a trusted sporting goods store.