Waterproof Map Treatment

Does anyone have any tips on water resistant coatings for paper maps? I have seen the commercially available liquids to use to make the maps more durable, and was wondering if there are any less expensive home recipes for coating maps for paddling, hiking, etc to make them more durable. I use a map case, but would like to make the maps themselves a bit more water resistent. I don’t want to laminate them because of the bulk and weight. Any suggestions?

works acceptably. THe spray formulation has worked for me in the past, but it does not instill complete waterPROOFNESS. More like good waterREPELLEDNESS.


Nikwax Map Proof…

I have never tried this product, I’ve always used Thompson’s. However, I’ve used almost all of Nikwax’s other products and have been very pleased with their performance.


I traded charts with a guy in the Everglades a few years ago and he clamed to have used polyurethane. The charts were waterproof, although a bit stiff. Still manageable tho.

School Craft…
Check around to see what local companies provide support to Teachers…

Where I live the local company is School Craft, and they will laminate anything up to 48" wide for 1 dollar a foot…(Weight of the laminating plastic can be varied…I have them put a .5 mil laminate on maps all the time, and throw in things like id cards, photos, you name it at the edges to maximize the return on the process…

You may also find this service at a local company that provides reproduction services for blueprints…there is also a local company here that will laminate or, if you prefer, color copy the map onto waterproof paper…(Bit more expensive than I need tho).

It is expensive but possible to laminate maps also. Just an alternative.

I would fold my maps so they’d fit in a large baggie. Nothing will make them more durable. If you have the money Nationaly Geographic digital maps are a good investment. Letter size maps work great for me. I just print up as much as I need and storage them in a large baggie.

it never ends
"Nothing will make them more durable"???

Take your baggied map and my laminated chart and put them on a rough water paddlers deck for a hundred hours and see which is more useable. Laminating is also much more legible.

Gonna disagree Jim!
I still have a set of boundary maps I printed in 2001 that were waterproofed with Thompsons Waterseal spray. Still WATERPROOF and foldable. The key was I sprayed each one twice on each with a little time in between for penetration. If I remember 1 can did 5 or 6 11X17 maps and a birdhouse for less than 10 bucks.


Map Treatment
I worked for an oil company in a previous life and they always, always rolled the maps and charts. They also used tubes for storage. Folded maps have a shorter life due to general ware and tearing at the folds. They still had and used maps from the 50s.

This lends the map to laminating. You can roll them and up them in a tube. A bit of an expense I agree but if you buy good maps, why not treat them with care?

If you buy cheap maps don’t worry about them and visit the Shell station then they ware out.

My Maps
I print my own maps. As a trail maintenance contractor I needed more detail and referred to them more than paddlers do. When I surveyed for the Forest Service we used maps copied onto letter size paper. Those big USGS maps are unnecessary these days. Quite frankly you’re far better off buying a good mapping GPS. Trying to use a topo map and compass, from the deck of a kayak, isn’t all that accurate a way to navigate.

That’s an attractive alternative given today’s GPS and mapping technology. While I have many USGS maps (rolled of course) on my book shelf they are small compared to the maps and charts I saw at work.

Folded maps just remind me of the family vacation where you grabbed a map at the gas station and replaced it at the next.

Don’t forget
those extra batteries! I do find a mapping GPS useful while on canoe expeditions and especially like being able to store waypoints prior to setting out. However, I also carry a map with me in case something happens to the GPS (batteries run out, the GPS gets lost, or it just decides to quit). I usually print a set of maps on letter size paper and keep a set in a waterproof map case, but have also folded larger maps into the case as well. There are many times when I prefer having a map to look at instead of trying to decipher something from a tiny GPS map screen. I recommend marking important waypoints on your paper maps ahead of time since a failed GPS could leave you guessing…

the problem with rolling —
can’t disagree that rolling maps keeps them in better shape for longer … BUT, often i need the map on the deck in front of me so i can refer to it as needed. can’t see a rolled up map while paddling.