Sno-Seal: Waterproofing New Hiking Boots

I’ve been using Sno-Seal for over 40 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 then, from cross-country skiing boots to hiking boots and wingtips.

One thing you have to understand about Sno-seal is that it waterproofs leather boots with beeswax. However, if your boots have Gore-tex liners (or some other waterproof /breathable membrane), the beeswax will seal the exterior leather and stop it from being breathable. Water vapor can still escape through the top of the boot, but not through the leather itself. Make sure you understand this before you apply it to waterproof/breathable footwear since it’s impossible to remove.

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 (shown 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.

 

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.

Editor's note: If you’re thinking about buying gear that we’ve reviewed or recommend on SectionHiker, you can help support us in the process. Just click on any of the seller links above, and if you make a purchase, we may (but not always) receive a small percentage of the transaction. The cost of the product is the same to you but this helps us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides. Thanks and we appreciate your support!

13 comments

  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.

    PS

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

  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. Heating IS an essential part of the application process. Friction is not good enough. I use a home-built food dehydrator, basically a wooden box with nichrome heating coils in a frame on the bottom. I think of it more as a low heat oven. Crank it up to 50 degrees C, put your boots in overnight. Slather on the sno-seal and ‘bake’ for another evening. I have a pair of oldskool Vasque hiking boots made from a single piece of leather that my mom bought me in 1980 before a summer camp… still going after all these years.

    Anyway, food dehydrator (low heat oven) is just one more method. :-) Happy hiking!

  7. I followed the directions and heated my boots in the oven on LOW for like 20 minutes, took them out, then applied Sno Seal, then put them back in the oven for 20 more minutes, then repeated the process one more time. This was 2 years ago I did this and STILL I can work out in the rain all day and go home with pretty much dry socks still after all day in the rain. I remember before I used this stuff, my boots would get soaked, and I couldn’t wear them again for like 3 days while they dried out, which also makes the leather dry and stiff and causes cracks in the leather getting them soaked and drying them out again and again. PS….when you use the oven in your kitchen for this, the whole house smells like lighter fluid for a little while, it’s a little alarming as I thought I might cause a flash fire in the house….I’m going to do said boots again with Sno Seal, but am going to buy a hair dryer or a cheap heat gun to do it with.

  8. Any recommendations for reinforcing the water resistance of heavily-used Goretex-lined fabric-and-leather boots? I use Sno Seal for all-leather mountain boots and have been using Nik Wax for fabric and mixed fabric-and-leather, but it is hard for me to tell how much it helps. Wet Spring is coming. Thanks.

  9. not too hot, Goretex is said to brake down with high heat, particularly at yee ole campfire. and uhh, everybody breeethe… ;)

  10. It gets in there a little at the edges. Dave Page, the best known hiking boot cobbler in the Seattle area was unable to successfully replace the toe cap on my boot because of the snow seal. Apparently they can’t get the leather entirely clean before they put glue on it for the resole, repair, etc. He told me not to use Sno Seal.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *