Waterproofing motorcycle gear for cheap
I’m absolutely killing my list this week, though it is still impossibly long given that I roll out of Houston in ten days! One of the big items on the list is to waterproof my motorcycle gear–for cheap. Some of the gear was waterproof to begin with but has lost this important feature through the years due to age, damage, or wildlife. Other gear was never waterproof to begin with, and so this week I set out to tackle these issues with a few cheap products and resourceful tricks.
I’ve meant to repair the hole a squirrel made in my soft Wolfman tank pannier for ages. That stupid rodent chewed through the bottom of the bag while Herm and I threw dog kibbles to its friends. The friends were getting free lunch while this silly animal ate plastic and made my previously waterproof bag anything but.
The repair turns out to be cheap and easy. My patch of choice is a piece cut from a cheap, vinyl-backed, heavy-duty canvas bag by Cumberland Concepts. And for glue, I’m using Sil-Net silicone seam sealer because it remains pliable after drying.
I cut a patch larger than the hole, cover everything in Sil-Net, and let it dry. An hour or so later, a second coat of silicone smooths the edges and further secures the patch. Cheap and easy.
Making waterproof what should be but isn’t
I’m also making huge improvements to Touratech’s Zega pannier liners. These vinyl-backed canvas bags are splash resistant from the factory, but their unprotected seams and zippers do nothing to keep out water. Any owner of Touratech’s Zega panniers will attest to their leakiness over time. And when water pools in the bottom of a leaky pannier, having a leaky pannier liner is double trouble.
For years, I’ve relied on bags inside bags inside bags to keep my electronics and tools safe. One cheap fix is to line the pannier liners with heavy-duty trash compactor bags. Plastic trash compactor bags are the perfect size and cost a few dollars at the supermarket. Go for the bonus with scented bags and your panniers smell fresh! A less-cheap fix is to additionally put all your important gear inside waterproof roll-top bags like the cheap-o Outdoor Product branded ones or the expensive Sea-to-Summit bags.
I would have bought these awesome waterproof pannier liners from Touratech had they existed in 2010. They roll up like my Wolfman tank panniers and vent, too! Nothing I can do to the three leaky liners I own now could offer the same kind of waterproofness as these new liners do. While I am tired of using bags inside bags inside bags, I’m not ready to spend the $240 to upgrade to the new liners.
It’s time to make the liners I have what they should have been in the first place. Spotting the vulnerabilities is easy. For starters, the sewn seams are not welded or sealed. Secondly, the zippers run all the way to the bottom of the liner. Both allow water to soak right through. These issues also incredibly easy to resolve.
My cheap solution is to patch the holes and cover the seams and bottom half of the zippers with Sil-Net silicone seam sealer. I won’t be able to run the zippers all the way to the bottom, but I never did this anyway. The zippers should have stopped half way down, and the plastic support in the bottom of the liner should have been made into a tub of sorts.
For a few bucks and a couple hours of my time, these liners now stay dry on the inside when submerged in up to three inches of water. Cheap and easy.
Making waterproof what used to be and now isn’t
Firstly, let me stress that I have yet to fully test the product I mention below. Unlike the Sil-Net seam sealer, I’m new to Atsko’s Silicone Water-Guard. Until I run the gear through a rainstorm, dirty it in the desert, wash it, and run it through another rainstorm, I will not be completely satisfied with judging its overall performance. The initial results from a casual water test look incredibly promising. I’ll report on durability and long-term water repellency in a few months when I hit Central America during the rainy season.
Motorcycle riding jackets and pants are typically not waterproof themselves. Manufacturers like BMW, Olympia, Rev-It and others use removable inside liners to achieve water resistance. They may coat the outer materials in a waterproofing agent like I’m about to describe, but zippers, seams, and vents will still leak profusely in heavy rain. Also, the inside liners turn jackets and pants into a sauna if you happen to wear them before it actually rains enough to need them.
Motorcycle boots and gloves on the other hand might or might not be waterproof to begin with, but they will absolutely be less waterproof after years of use regardless of how waterproof they were initially.
Adding to or renewing waterproofness for jackets, pants, gloves, and boots with Atsko’s Silicone Water-Guard is straightforward. I clean the gear with a textile-friendly detergent like Penguin Sport Wash (also by Atsko) and let it dry completely. Then I spray the gear with the Water-Guard until it looks thoroughly covered and soaked through.
Atsko does nothing to offer a coverage guide for their product. I’m going into the project blind and buying several cans at a time. After running to and from the store for more, I can report this coverage out of six cans:
- 41-liter, 38-liter, and 35-liter textile pannier liners: 1-1/2 cans
- Size small, textile, adventure-style motorcycle jacket: 1-1/4 cans
- Size small, textile and leather, adventure-style motorcycle pant: 1-1/4 cans
- Extra large, textile, touring-style tank bag with map case: 1/2 can
- 28-liter textile backpack: 1/2 can
- Size extra-large, leather, gauntlet-style motorcycle gloves: 1/4 can
- Size 11, leather, mid-top hiking boots: 1/4 can
- Size small, canvas hat; other small miscellaneous items: 1/4 can
Out of six cans and three trips to the store, I have about a 1/4 can remaining. I let the gear dry outside overnight and into the next day. This stuff stinks of petroleum distillates for a good two days after spraying. Do your brain a favor and apply the product in a well-ventilated area. And let it dry there, too.
And here are my results with a casual splash of water on the jacket:
Atsko recommends their product for suede, leather, cotton, canvas, nylon, and other synthetic products. Reviews on Amazon speak highly of its use for tents, backpacks, duffel bags, motorcycle covers, sailboat awnings, patio chairs, and more!
Sil-Net also has a variety of uses. I’ve repaired everything from small holes in a tent to leaky shoes with Sil-Net. It also works for glue in the fingers of gloves when the liners pull out!
You can get these products for cheap at Walmart, or you can help me out by buying them at Amazon through these links. I appreciate the support, and using these links is like putting gas in my tank!
- Gear Aid SilNet Silicone Seam Sealer
- Outdoor Products 3-Pack Ultimate Dry Sack (cheap)
- Sea to Summit eVAC Dry Sack (expensive)
- Cumberland Concepts canvas zipper bags
- Atsko Silicone Water-Guard
- Penguin Sport Wash by Atsko