Tested: 10 essential travel items that are better when waterproof

Posted by Melanie van Zyl on 2 December 2015

There’s no such thing as bad weather if you have the right kit. We sent our gear editor to the carwash to test 10 mandatory travel items that are more practical when waterproof.



Test Conditions

We put the following waterproof gear under fire at the Autowash in Johannesburg on a dry highveld day. Everything was set up, zipped up and fastened according to the instructions and the high-pressure hoses then aimed squarely at our gear editor. All products did exactly as they should and kept our traveler and her gadgets dry. This is what she thought.


Waterproof Rating

Fabric waterproofing on tents and outdoor apparel is measured as a water column or waterhead rating. This is a standard test measurement of how much hydrostatic pressure a waterproof coating can take before it leaks. Think of it like this: a piece of fabric is attached to the bottom of a vertical pipe. A 1000mm water column rating indicates the pipe can be filled to a height of 1000mm before any water seeps through. The higher the number, the more waterproof the fabric. Wind-driven, moderately heavy rain has a pressure of about 2000mm.


IP Rating

Waterproof products featuring any electronic component (or that act to protect something electrical) have an ingress protection (IP) rating to indicate water- as well as dust-resistance. A good IP rating is indicated by an ‘X’ or ‘6’ meaning it’s fit for use in dusty conditions and a second numeric rating from 4 to 8. The higher the numbers, the better the protection: IPX4 for splash-proof, IPX7 for immersible and IPX8 for submersible. These ratings are an international laboratory-tested standard.


1. Sea to Summit Outhouse Toilet Roll Holder

R249, drifters.co.za

Sea to Summit Outhouse

Waterproof rating: Fully waterproof and seam sealed, but no standardised rating.


Best specs

With an internal toilet roll holder and roll-down closing mechanism, the Outhouse can be hung from a tree or taken into the camp shower. It’s brightly coloured to indicate ‘occupied’.



If there’s one thing you’ve got to keep dry, it’s the TP. Let’s be honest, there’s not much you can do with paper mache and this bright orange bag also works well as a ‘do not disturb’ beacon when you’re behind a bush. In the test, the bag unclipped and unrolled without wetting the loo paper at all.


2. First Ascent Flash Flood Pants

R849, firstascent.co.za

First Ascent Flash Flood Pants

Waterproof rating: 5000mm


Best specs

These pants are lightweight, packable and easy to wear over trousers or tights. There are boot zippers – to fit over boots – and a comfortable drawstring waist.



Not exactly stylish, but comfortable, lightweight and effective. If there’s a chance it’s going to rain on your hike, these are the pants you want in your pack. Water rolls smoothly off them like droplets falling off a cold can of beer.


3. K-Way Fernando Men’s Shell Jacket

R1399, capeunionmart.co.za

K-Way Fernando Men's Shell Jacket

Waterproof rating: 10000mm


Best specs

It’s waterproof, windproof, vapour permeable and has a wind-stop baffle system. This comfortable jacket features YKK zippers, a drawstring waist and hood, and adjustable hem cuffs.



Travel tech never looked this good. Completely waterproof and warm, this comfortable jacket from K-Way’s new range is a win. It’s adjustable in all the right places (such as at the wrists and around the face) so no water seeped in during the test, and the inner fleece was bone dry when I wiped off and unzipped the jacket. It’s only available in a men’s cut, but the K-Way Women’s Misty Rain Jacket is a close equivalent for R799.

Tip: Keep a raincoat in the tent, even if it isn’t raining when you go to bed. You never know what the morning will hold.


4. First Ascent Snowdog Tent

R5999, firstascent.co.za

First Ascent Snowdog tent

Waterproof rating: 5000mm


Best specs

The two-door Snowdog is designed for hostile conditions: extreme wind, snow and rain. It’s spacious enough for two people plus gear and features reflective guy ropes and a sturdy cross-pole construction.



It’s pricey, but this is a waterproof tent all right. Sitting inside it hearing the deluge outside, I felt safe and dry without any worry. Most tents feature a 2000mm or 3000mm waterhead rating, but at double this number, the roomy Snowdog will suffice for any adventure.

Tip: Make sure there’s a lip on your tent door. It mustn’t open directly to the ground or water will seep in. Also, put a groundsheet under the tent, but don’t let it stick out as water will run off, drop onto the sheet and pool under your tent.


5. Clear Dome Umbrella

R45.50, theumbrellaman.co.za

Clear Dome Rain Umbrella

Waterproof rating: 100% waterproof, but no standardised rating.


Best specs

Its long-sheltered spread is made from PVC material and has a comfortable white hook handle and steel shaft.



This straight umbrella folds down to a slim package that can live in the boot, under the car seat or in a large hard-case luggage bag. The length and shape of the umbrella is great as it shelters incredibly well, nearly right over the shoulders and I could look the high pressure hose in the eye without fear.


6. Thule Chasm Duffel Bag

From R1899, thule.com

Getaway Magazine - Thule Chasm Duffel Bag

Waterproof rating: TPE laminate (waterproof tarpaulin fabric), but no standardised rating.


Best specs

Made with durable, waterproof plastic-like tarpaulin fabric, it has removable backpack straps and internal mesh pockets, and a 25-year warranty.



I love this bag. It’s a great size, it’s heavy duty and converts into a comfy backpack. After a shake, the water slid off and the zip didn’t permit a single drop through. I also took it to Botswana and it held up against the fine Makgadikgadi pan sand.

Also tested: The Sea To Summit Ultrasil Dry Day Pack (R589). At just 90g it’s an impressive waterproof pack with seam-sealed construction that folds down to a cylinder just bigger than a pack of Cal-C-Vita. A towel, packed inside during testing, remained dry as a bone.


7. Tracks4Africa Paper Maps

R199, tracks4africa.co.za

Tracks4Africa Paper Maps

Waterproof rating: Water resistant, but no standardised rating.


Best specs

Made with high quality PolyArt paper, it’s tear and water resistant. The map is big with a large scale for impressive detail and routes are marked with distance and time.



This is the most comprehensive map you can own with detailed information on nature reserves and offroad routes, plus it’s waterproof. It dried quickly after the drops were wiped off and the paper didn’t crinkle. It’s great for outdoor adventure use. We also featured their new maps of South Africa (including Lesotho and Swaziland in our December Gift Guide.


8. Sea to Summit TPU Guide Waterproof Case for Smartphones

From R375, duesouth.co.za

Sea to Summit TPU Guide Waterproof Case for Smartphones

Waterproof rating: IPX8


Best specs

The universal case is touchscreen compatible and audible through the plastic. There’s a large rear window to take photographs and the high-frequency welding means tough, waterproof seams.



I had my doubts, but after calling mom from the car wash, I’m sold. You can swipe, take pictures and make crisp, audible calls as though there wasn’t a cover on. I’d like my smartphone to live in one permanently.


9. Petzl E+ Lite Headlamp

R370, campandclimb.co.za

Petzl E+ Lite Headlamp

Waterproof rating: IP67


Best specs

With a 70-hour battery life, 29-metre light beam and five light modes, the compact Petzl has a 10-year guarantee.



It shone throughout the test and the water didn’t obscure the light at all. It’s not the most comfortable headlamp (the elastic strap is quite thin), but this emergency headlamp will come in handy when a storm breaks. Keep it permanently stashed in your backpack or cubbyhole.


10. Pelican 1500 Case

R3100, dionwired.co.za

Pelican 1500 Case

Waterproof rating: IP67


Best specs

It’s watertight, crushproof, dust proof, lightweight (3.2 kg) and has an Ultra-High Impact copolymer exterior. With stainless steel reinforced padlock protectors and the ability to float in salt water, it has a lifetime guarantee.



After water pummelled the case, droplets ran off like nothing happened. Check it in at airports without fear. Tech gear will be forever grateful for this hardcore home.


11. Crocs Rainloe Boots

R999, crocssa.co.za

Crocs Rainloe Boots

Waterproof rating: Splashproof, but no standardised rating.


Best specs

Made with soft, flexible waterproof material and warm fabric lining, the boots are lightweight and comfortable. They’re odour-resistant and anti-microbial, and straps make them easy to pull up. Available in black, brown or red.



Yes they’re Crocs, but they are wonderful. Incredibly soft, warm and comfortable, they’re made for jumping in puddles stylishly. No water seeped in, but I made sure my waterproof trousers covered the leg of the boots. I’d happily wear them on the streets of London. They are also easy to pack and compress into a slim package.



This article first appeared in the August 2015 issue of Getaway magazine.

Get this issue →

All prices were correct at time of publication, but are subject to change at each supplier’s discretion.


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