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Sno-Seal: Waterproofing New Hiking Boots

I was on vacation last week and one of my many projects was to break in a new pair of Asolo TPS 520 hiking boots. My old Asolos finally died and I wanted to get the new ones ready for my next section hike on the Long Trail, over Mt. Mansfield, the highest peak in Vermont. I don’t want any blister issues on that hike, so I logged about 100 miles on day hikes in the Shawangunks in order to get the new boots well broken in.

This evening I cleaned the new boots up and applied a heavy coat of Sno-Seal beeswax waterproofing to them. I’ve been using Sno-Seal for over 30 years, ever since my father bought me my first pair of leather Raichle boots in Switzerland when I was 16 years old. I’ve used it on a wide range of leather shoes since them, from cross country skiing boots to hiking boots and wing tips.

Sno-Seal is different than most other waterproofing treatments because it dries on the outside of your boot rather than soaking into the boot leather itself. This helps protect the leather and won’t add additional weight to the boot itself since it doesn’t soak the leather and impair it’s breathability. If you’ve ever hiked in wet boots, you know what I mean: they feel like cinder blocks.

Whenever I apply Sno-seal to boots, I pay special attention to the seams on the back of the boot and where the leather is bound to the sole on the sides and front. I add an additional bead of beeswax in these spots (show below) which is drawn into the seam when the beeswax dries. This is facilitated by heating the boots with a hairdryer or resting them in the sun on a windowsill.


Sno-Seal is safe to use on Gore-tex-lined boots and has less impact on boot breathability than waterproofing preparations that soak into the leather itself. Regardless, Gore-tex breaks down eventually and you want to make sure that the most critical seams are sealed and waterproofed from the get go at those locations where water is the most likely to leak in.

Sno-Seal is available under $10. A can this size (note the can has changed) will last for years.

Disclosure: The author owns this product and purchased it using their own funds.

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  1. I have used sno-seal for 40 years including Mt Logan. I would use no other. No matter what the boot manufacture says about being already waterproof. Put silicon fluid on your stitching(2 good coats) and several coats of Sno seal before you wear them. You will only replace your boot when the heel and soles are worn. Great Mountaineering! Vikingwoman

  2. You are incorrect. The Snoseal website instructions indicates to warm the leather, then apply Snoseal until the leather will not absorb anymore and remove excess. The Snoseal should soak into the warm leather. I warm mine with a hair dryer, and have done it that way for over 30 years. I bet you would really like the way it protects if you applied it properly.

  3. Hey Hootyhoo: YOU are incorrect! I have been applying Sno-Seal on my boots the exact same way as the author for the last 30 years too and Never had a leak. So you had better explain to my boots how poorly the product was applied because I don't think that they know the difference. :) Besides, I have tested both ways and it does not make a hootyhoo of a difference which is applied first (Heat or product)as long as the leather is heated to around 120 degrees.


    You seem to passionately argue meaningless semantics. Are you French-Canadian, Eh?

    • The author’s explanation is like snoseal is like the coating of a dipped cone at Dairy Queen. It’s not, it enters the leather post heat. Chicken or the egg….heat leather first or snoseal first?? Doesn’t really matter as long as heat is part of the equation.

  4. Just finished applying SnoSeal to my 10 yr Asolo 520 boots w/ Goretex (good for one season season, if you are lucky; torsion forces in the boots tear the membrane); The boots are awesome, though. Stick enough Snoseal on the leather, and you can walk your terrior through many Syracuse winters.

  5. Also just finished sno-sealing my 18 yr old Sorel boots. No need to heat anything; just rub a bit and the friction heats the leather enough to absorb the wax. Remember shoe shoe shining?

  6. The manufacturers recommend heating to 120F/50C (which seems pretty hot to me!) http://www.atsko.com/articles/footware/sno-seal-instructions.html

  7. Can I apply this on my Eddie Bauer guide gloves?

  8. One caution is that glued boots cannot be resoled if a beeswax product like SnoSeal is used because the glue will not adhere to the leather.

  9. Perhaps this will shed a little light on the reason for pre-heating before application.

    From Atsko Inc. @ http://www.atsko.com/articles/footwearcare/article-snosealinstructions

    “Preheating leather to 110F to 125F causes Sno-Seal to melt instantly when it touches the surface of the leather so that it can easily penetrate. There is a subtle, but very important, difference between putting Sno-Seal on leather and then heating it, vs. putting it on leather that is already warm. Solvents evaporate toward a source of heat. So if Sno-Seal is applied and then heated, most of the solvent evaporates toward the hair dryer leaving the wax on top of the leather. On preheated boots, the solvent evaporates into the warm leather drawing the wax in with it.”

  10. The solvent evaporates into the path of least resistance. The least resistant path isn’t the leather, it’s the air. Dosen’t make any difference as long as the snoseal is heated. The amount that evaporates into the air post hair dryer really isn’t that significant. The can’ll still last you for years.

  11. Don’t mean to beat a dead horse or anything, BUT the process of heating the leather boots (before or after) when applying the Sno Seal has absolutely NOTHING to do with the process of EVAPORATION. Evaporation is the process of a substance in a liquid state changing to a gaseous state due to an increase in temperature and/or pressure. The Sno Seal you are referring to is ABSORPTION which is the process or action by which one thing absorbs or is absorbed by another. Either way you slice it, this stuff really works well.

  12. New link for the official instructions: http://www.atsko.com/sno-seal-application-tips-and-instructions/

    Check them out. They make it clear, “Solvents evaporate toward a source of heat”, so a preheated boot draws more protective material deeper into the leather. Obviously though, the stuff does it’s magic however you apply it, so there’s no wrong way, perhaps just a best way.

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