Friday, March 6, 2015

Palette's Product Review: NeverWet

& is used with permission.
This is a companion piece to next week's Gun Blog Variety Cast episode, in which I talk about waterproofing.

By now we've likely all seen the amazing video where a miraculous product called NeverWet can be applied to shirts, shoes, and iPhones to make them all magically impervious to moisture. (If not, the video is embedded below). I was suitably intrigued by this pitch that I bought a box as soon as it came out, and proceeded to test it with an eye towards waterproofing various bits of survival gear, like a get-home bag or my favorite boonie hat.

After over close to a year's experience with it, here are my impressions.

Does It Work?
The simple answer is "Yes, but."
Here is the more complex answer:

A) It's not designed for the surfaces shown in the video.  If you look at the box it comes in and read the instructions, you will see that it is designed for flat outdoor surfaces: specifically "Metal, Concrete and Wood."  Yes, it does say it is "also great" for other materials, but based on my experience that is an admittance that it happens to work on them, not a statement that it's a good choice for them. (Also, note the disclaimer in the Amazon listing"Not intended to be applied to electronic devices or clothing.")

B) The spray discolors fabric. This is a picture of my favorite boonie hat, which has been treated with NeverWet.  In the center you will see an untreated spot (more on that later) and, surrounding it, a milky white haze that bleaches out the color. This is what the finished product looks like, at least on fabric, and it's not very becoming. Go back and watch the video again, and note that both the canvas shoes and t-shirt used in the demonstration are white.

C) The spray dries to a crisp, tacky consistency. It's about as rough as the white side of an emery board, and it feels about as good against your skin. To NeverWet's credit, though,
  1. this tackiness did not seep through the fabric of my hat, so it was comfortable to wear, and 
  2. it maintained enough flexibility that I was able to snap the sides of my hat up against the band and back again, just the way boonies are supposed to work. 
D) The coating comes off. I am not sure if this is because I sprayed it on surfaces that bent, like a hat or a bag, and the flexing caused to coating to flake off, or if they abraded off from use, or if there was an inevitable chemical decomposition.

This is a close-up of my Get-Home Bag. I Sprayed a thick layer on every exterior surface of it (except for the parts that rubbed against me, like the straps and back panel) and it used to have a uniform coating.

This bag has not been out in the rain. It has, however, been used a lot by me (including a drive to Branson, MO and back). It has been put into cars, taken to shooting ranges, and kept in a leaky vehicle trunk. It has been exposed heat and humidity and some degree of sunlight.

You will note that the waterproofing is wearing off. I can attest from sad personal experience that sections of this bag no longer repel water.

On the other hand, my boonie hat is still mostly waterproof and it has seen quite a bit of both sun and rain. However, it's made of a different material than the backpack (ripstop cotton rather than nylon), which might account for the disparity of longevity.
E) Because of the binary nature of the coating, the waterproofing only works one way. This is not a problem if you are spraying it onto something that doesn't have an opposite side to be attacked, like a concrete patio or a wood deck, but if you spray it onto clothing, be aware that any moisture from the other side will result in that moisture soaking into the fabric and then not being able to escape out the other side.

Similarly, I had no success in trying to waterproof both sides of a piece of clothing, as the aerosol moisture of the newly applied bottom layer would interact negatively with the back of the already waterproofed top layer.

This also means you can't wash anything treated with NeverWet, as the moisture and soap is going to attack the bonding layer from behind.

Is It Worth Buying?
Perhaps. It does, indeed, cause treated surfaces to shed moisture like in the video, and that is most impressive. If you buy it for its intended use -- waterproofing large, flat sections of metal, concrete and wood -- you will probably be happy with it.

For preppers looking to waterproof their gear, though, I cannot recommend it. For $17, I got just enough spray to waterproof two hats and a school-size backpack. Considering all of the drawbacks listed above, that volume and price point make it a "do not buy" for me. (117 one-star reviews on Amazon would support my view).

My Rating For Preppers:  C
Find a waterproofing solution that costs less and lasts longer.

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