How to waterproof charts

Keep your maps and charts dry by treating them like wood

By Liann BobechkoLiann Bobechko


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One of the dangers of life by the lake is the dreaded soggy-paper phenomenon. Rain-spattered nautical charts rip at the folds and copies of licences disintegrate in the tacklebox. Such was the way of the world until a couple of outdoors-savvy cottagers I know shared a secret: Paper is made of wood, and thus can be treated that way. Literally.

I needed to protect a map for a canoe trip, so I dug up a can of Thompson’s Water Seal (although probably any brand of clear waterproofer or wood protector would work) and poured it in a paint roller tray. Wearing gloves and working outside to avoid fumes, I dipped one side of the paper, then the other. I hung the sheet up with clothespins, and added a second coat when the first one dried.

The map was water-resistant and sturdy, with all my pen and marker annotations intact. And unlike lamination, this process doesn’t add much bulk, the paper can still be folded, and notes can be added afterward in pencil or pen. Perfect for protecting plans for outdoor projects, closing-up instructions, and outhouse notices alike.

This article was originally published on March 7, 2008

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Liann Bobechko