Water-resistant bags

Remember when you got those brand new panniers? They shed water like a duck, and maybe even came with raincovers.  After about a year of almost daily use, I’ve noticed my panniers had been taking on water when it rains, not as bad with the rain covers on, but they still eventually get soaked through well before my hour-long commute is over if it rains for the whole trip.

I would never rely on panniers that aren’t marketed as “Waterproof” to keep my stuff 100% dry, so I usually have plastic bags with me if I think it might rain. Still, It’s nice to have the water protection.

Enter: Coleman Pro-Techt water repellent.

I originally picked this up to re-seal my backpacking tent before going on a delightful S24O last weekend. There was plenty of water repellent left over, so I finished off the can by re-sealing my panniers and rain covers this evening. Fabric water repellent can be found at most sporting goods and discount stores near the camping supplies. Depending on the chain, there may be a few different brands available. I’ve had good luck using silicone water repellent sprays like this one, though.

Before I started, I hung my panniers over the back of some patio chairs and stretched the rain covers over a pair of 5-gallon buckets. You have to do this outdoors, as the water repellent creates fumes much like spray paint. These sprays can slightly change the color of fabrics (it darkened my backpacking tent a little) so if this bothers you, test the sealant on the back of the panniers or somewhere else that won’t get on your nerves. When you’re sealing, make sure to adequately cover the entire surface, or you’ll end up with leaks.

After that, you should allow the items to dry in a well-ventilated area. You may also choose to use a seam sealing solution as well. This is a liquid that applies kind of like a watery school glue with a stiff brush to help you push it into the seams. It provides additional waterproofing to the seams of your bags and rain covers. McNett’s Seam Grip is a brand I’ve used in the past for tent seams.

What’s awesome is that these sealants work on many different kinds of fabrics, so you can just as easily make your duffel, backpack, or messenger bag a little more water resistant. You could even try your cycling shoes!

Putting it to the test.  After the repellent spray dried, I misted my bags with water to see how they would react. I’d call it a success!


  1. Tinker

    Kiwi Kamp-Dri (designed for leather) spray is common around here and works well.

  2. Ghost Rider

    I’ve tried both the Pro-Techt and Kiwi Kamp-Dri (and some offbrand I bought at WallyWorld a few years ago)…and they all seem to work pretty well.

    Great tip, Noah!

  3. BlackBear

    I’ve found that you have to read the labels closely and use your judgement. Often the products will describe the type of materials that they were made for, leather, fabric, etc. Not all sealants are equal, but I’ve had really good luck with the silicone stuff.

  4. Miguel Marcos

    Nikwax has a number of products for this purpose, too.

  5. Rantwick

    Good post. Strange that before you posted that I wouldn’t have thought of using that stuff on anything but a tent, but I wouldn’t have. I used to be smart…

  6. Elizabeth

    When my waterproof cycling jacket started getting soaked through, the manufacturer recommended Scotchguard. I haven’t tried it yet… but now I’m really tempted to find out.

  7. Charlie

    To start, understand that there are three kinds of anti-water treatments that you can have on nylon:

    1) Waterproof coating. Pack cloth and old-school raingear is nylon coated with something like polyurethane to make it impermeable to water. It won’t breath at all, but it’s waterproof. Inexpensive.

    2) Gore-tex and similar waterproof/breathable membranes, laminated to nylon cloth. It breaths a little and it’s fully waterproof. Expensive.

    3) Water repellent coatings that make water bead up on the surface. These can be used on uncoated nylon to give it short term water resistance by making the water bead up and run off, but they don’t seal the gaps between threads and don’t prevent water soaking through in a heavy downpour. Inexpensive and fully breathable (more so than Gore-Tex), but not fully waterproof.

    It turns out the water repellent coatings (3) are useful in combination with (1) and (2), because they help keep the fabric itself from getting soaked, and they help keep the water from finding weak spots in the armour of (1) and (2). So it’s a good idea to re-apply (3) to (1) and (2), but you shouldn’t mistake it for something that repairs the actual waterproof barrier.

    The only good product I know of for adding or restoring the barrier itself (1) is McNett “Tent Sure”. Link from my name is the product page at EMS. The page for it has a few reviews.

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