How To: Waterproof Your Own Topo Maps

There you are – out backpacking, biking or touring in “sub-optimal” (read WET) weather and need to pull out the map for a quick direction check.  If you are using a non-waterproofed map it’s pretty much game over at this point.  Soggy maps and folding do not mix, and before long your trusty lifeline back to civilization is deteriorating before your eyes. As a backpacker, splitboarder, backcountry skier or mountain biker, if you haven’t been there yet, you will.

A ton of maps come in durable, waterproof versions, and National Geographic makes “Adventure Paper” to print your own, but there are still many maps that are not.  Key among these are the standard USGS topographic maps that are key to anyone who ventures off the beaten path.

The solution: DIY waterproofing.  Here’s how to do it:

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MATERIALS NEEDED:

TIME REQUIRED: About 1 hour to apply, 72 hours for full drying

DIFFICULTY: Super Easy

COST: $6-12 depending on size of sealer product purchased (plus an ~$8 map)

PROCEDURE:

The first step is to rig up a hanging apparatus for your map.  Mine consists of two twist ties tied to two paper clamps tied to the chandelier.  Get creative and work with what you’ve got.

Layout your map on a flat surface, gently stir the map seal and quickly brush on a thin coat using the provided applicator (some versions have a foam brush which is much easier to get an even coat). Make sure you cover the map evenly.  It can help to have a light shining at an angle to easier see where you have and have not applied the sealer.

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After applying a coat, hang the map up using the clips and ties or clothes pins for about 5 minutes.  Once tacky, repeat the procedure above on the SAME side making two coats. Again, hang to dry, this time for about 30 minutes.

After the first side is dry, repeat the process with the back side by applying one coat, hanging for 5 minutes and then applying a second coat.  Finally, hang the map making sure it does not contact any other surfaces or fold over on itself (it will stick) for at least 72 hours before using it.

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Once complete, not only will your map be waterproof, but much more durable and foldable.  Now go get out there and use it.

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