Urethane to waterproof map...

Has anyone heard of/had experience with waterproofing paper maps with urethane so they can be more easily be used/transported when kayak camping? Any other techniques for dealing with this issue when your navigational maps aren’t waterproofed?


Used to use
a paint on sealer that worked pretty darn well. You can get this at any map / chart store. Running charts through a laminating machine really protects them. I had all my Charlottes charts done and it worked out well. Carrying charts on a multi week trip can be tough. I used a tube that rode between my legs in the cockpit.

I have not tried it,
but I heard Thompson’s Water Seal works good. I think this is something that could be found in any hardware store.

I’ve used spray-on watersealer (Thompson’s, Scotch-Guard, Cami) with great success. Heavily spray both sides and let it dry on a clothelines or coat hanger (about 5 minutes). Rolls and folds easily plus you can use a regular pencil or ballpoint pen to make notations.

Stay safe on the water

I’ve used Thonpsons. It doesnotmake the mapwaterproof, just resistant. A complete dunking can still cause the paper to breakdown.

I had the same experience with spray on plastic coating, varnish, laquer or any of that stuff. Makes it resistant, notwaterproof.

I haven’t tried Map Proof. It may work better.

I think the best way is lamination, but that costs $$$.

Thompsons is waterproof
I took the time to thoroughly saturate my maps for the boundary waters. The were rained on, dunked, and fell in the bilge. They survived with all my markings on them and are still sitting on my shelf for reminicing 4 years later.

Agree that if you only spray a quick coating that they won’t hold up as well. You need to saturate the paper from both sides, and I put a second coat on to be sure.


my mileage was different.
I saturate my maps with Thompsons. Brushing liberal coats on BOTH sides. Then hang them to dry. You can’t get more Thompsons on them unless they are dunked.

On a trip down the Missinaibi I flipped. That night while drying them out I noticed the paper was starting get soft.

Maybe a difference in the delivery
I used the aerosol and you used the brush on. Maybe it penetrated differently. Also, the formulation may be different if for example yours was say for concrete and mine was for wood.

Anyway easy to test. Just try it out and if it fails use a map bag.


I prefer to laminate
What has worked best for me (river tripping) is to run copies off the maps of my route on 8 X 11’s, and then laminating them. Each page is numbered and all basic notes are written with a sharpie. The master maps are sealed up in a dry bag and my notes are transferred to them each night. The laminated maps are kept in a clear map holder and clipped to my pack in front of me while I paddle. Seems to work ok and is very inexpensive. I have a couple sets that I borrowed out and have survived two Canadian river trips in pretty good shape.

print on waterproof paper
I have had success with coastal touring by printing my own maps using “adventure paper” sold under a national geographic brand. It prints with regular color printer ink and maintains waterproof/ink fastness. I usually keep them in a ziplock bag but they have been subject unprotected to rain, spray and dunking in fresh and salt water. Some mild fading of ink but “takes a licking and keeps on ticking”. Using TOPO software I can customize my maps to the area/view I want, put on waypoints and routings, etc.

Verde River
I took a group to the Verde River Race and to ensure that no one got lost I bought a USGS map of the river, cut it to size, marked Lat/Lon, scale of miles, notes on local features etc. Then I took it to the local photocopy store (Kinkos, Alphagraphics, etc) and told them to make me a half-dozen color copies, laminate them and punch a lanyard hole.

I also explained exactly what they were for so they could make suggestions, ensure that the laminating was waterproof, that the lanyard hole wouoldn’t allow water to seep in or tear out etc.

For about $2 each, I had maps for the group and I marked the various put-ins, take outs etc so if we got separated, we’d have the same places to find.

I do the same when we lake paddle, only I use cheaper maps and waterproofing being a double zi-lock bag with tape and the put-ins & assembly points carefully marked.

Of course, this works only if you first teach the group basic map-reading.

But I find that if it is important, let the professionals laminate it.