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Reviews > Do It Yourself > Nikwax Waterproofing Wax > Nikwax Waterproofing Wax > Test Report by Richard Lyon

NIKWAX WATERPROOFING WAX FOR LEATHER
Test Series by Richard Lyon

Initial Report June 26, 2010
Long Term Report November 7, 2010


PERSONAL DETAILS and BACKPACKING BACKGROUND

Male, 64 years old
Height: 6' 4" (1.93 m)
Weight: 205 lb (91 kg)
Email address: montana DOT angler AT gmail DOT com
Home: Dallas, Texas USA

I've been backpacking for 45 years and regularly in the Rockies since 1986.  I do at least one weeklong trip every summer, and often take three-day trips.  I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 10000 ft (1500 - 3000 m).  I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp.  Recently I've been actively reducing my pack weight, though I still usually include my favorite camp conveniences and always sleep in a floored tent.  I do volunteer trail maintenance every summer, and for this work must wear leather boots.

INITIAL REPORT - June 26, 2010

THE PRODUCT

Two tubes of NikwaxThe name says it best: this is a cream intended to waterproof any smooth leather.  Its maker Nikwax offers offers many quality products for cleaning or waterproofing all kinds of outdoor gear and clothing.  The Wax comes in a plastic tube with a cap that screws off for manual application.  With light pressure on the sides of the cap I can pop off the cap's frame, revealing a self-contained sponge for application of the Wax.

Manufacturer: Nikwax Ltd., www.nikwax.com
Listed contents: Two sizes, 3.4 and 2 fl oz (101 and 59 ml) Nikwax supplied one of each size for this test.
Measured weight, including tube: 4.25 oz (120 g); 3.0 oz (85 g)
Measured size: 6.0 in (15 cm), 5.25 in (13.3 cm) long; both have a cap 1.1 in (28 mm) in diameter.
MSRP: Not available

No contents are listed on the tube or Nikwax’s website, though it is promoted as “VOC (volatile organic compound) free.”

Nikwax’s website says that the Wax may be applied with the sponge included with the product, with a soft cloth, or the old-fashioned way, by hand.  Directions are simple to follow: apply to clean leather, wipe away any excess, and then buff.  These directions are however not so simple to find.  The tubes I received had stick-on strips on the back, with basic information in English and French.  To get at the directions I had to pull off this sticker.  On further inspection, in the lower left corner of the tube,  in type so small that I needed  a magnifying glass to read it,  reads "Pull for  instructions" and its French equivalent.

TRYING IT OUT

Open at the topThe Wax is a viscous yellow substance that is creamy, and not oily to the touch.  I used a cotton rag to apply a small amount to the heel of a full-grain leather hiking boot, to see if the Wax would darken the leather (as its maker says it might) and how quickly the Wax would be absorbed.  I repeated this procedure on the heel of a light grey-colored Nubuck hiking boot from another manufacturer.  After figuring out (with help from Nikwax's marketing representative) I applied some of the  Wax to the corner of a small leather pack that I have using the sponge.  Either method is easy to use.

On a nubuck bootThe true leather boot is dark to begin with, and I observed no change in color. On the Nubuck boot, though, the leather did darken the leather immediately, as can be seen in the photo at right.  Nikwax does note on its website that the “Wax will convert nubuck to a smooth waxy finish.”  The Wax was quickly absorbed into the leather on both boots.  

THE GOOD

Packaging.  Unlike my regular leather waterproofing treatment, which comes in a glass jar, the smaller tube of the Wax is small enough and safe enough to stow in my pack.  Nikwax claims that the Wax works equally well when applied to wet or dry leather, and taking some with me when rain is in the forecast or mud is expected on the trail (a very frequent thing on my service trips) will be appreciated.  

Simplicity.  Squeeze, rub in, and buff.  Couldn’t be much easier.

THE NOT-SO-GOOD

The puzzle path to the directions is inadequate information in my opinion.  Then again, maybe the product is so simple none are needed.  In the same vein, accessing the sponge is something I doubt I'd have figured out without help from Nikwax's marketing rep.

LONG TERM REPORT – November 7, 2010

THE GUINEA PIGS

I applied the Wax to three pairs of over-the-ankle leather boots that I own: two are cordovan-colored full-grain leather boots, and the third a lighter colored nubuck.  I’ve also used the Wax on a pair of heavy street shoes and the leather portion of a small leather “Sprint Pack” that I use occasionally for in-bounds skiing.   The nubuck boots were coated twice (once at home and once in the field), everything else once.  

FIELD CONDITIONS

In early July I led my first service trip of 2010, a seven-day trip to the Salmon Forks campsite along the South Fork of the Flathead River, in the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana.  From trailhead to camp were 21 miles (34 km) of rutted, muddy, puddled, and very chewed-up (at least eight stock parties passed us on the hike) stock trail, as it had rained for several days before we started as well as on our first day of hiking.  Although the weather cleared after the first day, we traversed several boggy trails on daily hikes to our work sites along the Southside and Mud Lake (well named!) Trails.  Hiking temperatures varied from 65-80 F (18-26 C), with actual precipitation only on the first day.  I wore the nubuck boots on this trip.

I wore full-grain leather boots on my second service trip, on the Continental Divide Trail near Shoshone Lake in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming in mid-August. We met with a bit of rain a couple of mornings, but otherwise the weather on this trip was great, though slightly warmer than I wished given our hard work fixing up the trail.  Highs reached into the upper 80s F (30 C +).  A bit of work involved muddy trails, but I had little sustained exposure to mud or water on this trip.

Strictly for testing purposes I wore the other full-grain leather boots on morning and evening dog walks around home whenever it rained, which wasn’t very often in North Texas this summer and fall.  Perhaps half a dozen days and ten walks all-told.  Another staged test involved walking across the small creek in my back yard in these same boots, with water about one inch (25 mm) below the cuff of the boots.

OBSERVATIONS

Ease of use.  Treating leather with the Wax still couldn’t be easier – apply, wipe away the excess, and buff.  After figuring out how to get at it, I used the built-in sponge for all applications, and used a clean cotton rag to wipe away excess and to buff.  After taking contents below about half full it took some finger pressure to squeeze more out through the sponge, but I managed.  One appealing aspect of the Wax is its plastic tube, which is small enough to take in my pack and sufficiently durable to keep me from worrying about a puncture.  I made use of this on the South Fork trip, re-applying the Wax to my boots after the second day.  That field dosage allowed me to verify Nikwax's claim that the Wax may be applied to wet leather. 

Capacity.  Eight size 12 boots almost exhausted the contents of the smaller tube furnished by Nikwax.  The Wax absorbs quickly, particularly on the full-grain leather, leaving very little to wipe away.  The full-grain leather boots were not particularly thirsty to begin with; I regularly apply waterproofing to them.  I therefore believe that the Wax is naturally efficient.

Waterproofing Ability.  Now for the really good news – this stuff works, and works very well.  My feet did not get wet on the South Fork hike, nor did they after wading through the creek.  All the boots on which I used the Wax are advertised as waterproof, but the nubuck boots were not this impermeable before I applied the Wax.  A round of applause, please.

Boots after two Nikwax applicationsSide Effects.  As Nikwax warned, the Wax did darken the nubuck boots somewhat.  They are not unsightly, however, just a slightly darker grey, with some of the nap gone.  This is shown in the photo at right; these are the same boots shown in the third photo in my Initial Report.  That's a small price to pay for ensured dry feet in my opinion.  I can’t discern any difference on the dark leather of the other boots or the day pack.  The day pack’s leather does feel a bit more supple after application of the Wax.

What I Like

It does what it’s supposed to do – waterproof leather.

The tube.  The smaller one is just the right size for easy packing.

What I Don’t

Same as in my Initial Report – directions that are difficult to find.

*****

My Test Report ends here, with thanks to Nikwax and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this worthy new product.   



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Read more gear reviews by Richard Lyon

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