Nikwax Boot Wax Head to Head 4/5 (1)

One boot in the stinky stuff and one in the aqueous new stuff and a couple of 100km later how did they compare?

Nikwax have decided that the only real wax they sell is to be discontinued! We’ve never been overly impressed by their aqueous wax. Ideal for the organised walker who loves nothing more than cleaning and proofing their boots after every trip. We found that it starts letting the leather wet halfway into a days’ walking, while not causing wet feet it does add weight to the boot. The old skool wax on the other hand will keep your boots perfectly dry all day. That protection lasts for a good few walks, and reproofing becomes something to be done occasionally, a few times a season. Almost a ritual to be done on those dark winter evenings when you’ve nothing better to do and you can spend a goodly few hours giving your boots a bit of a spruce.

To put this to the test, I proofed my favourite pair of Meindl Burmas with both. The liquid wax I found to be rather messy, and it seemed to take an awful lot of the wax in order to proof one boot (I should have weighed the tube!) It was also difficult to remove all the excess, leaving the boot in a right mess. The old skool wax, even if it stinks, applies with little or no waste. Using your fingers you can get it into all the nooks and crannies, and it just seems to be absorbed by the boot. The result is very similar, as you can see from the images, but with the liquid wax leaving a residue even after a lot of work removing the excess (I couldn’t be bothered removing any more). I also think that I could have applied more of the old skool wax and that I’d been miserly in its application.

The left boot is old skool and the right one in the new liquid wax (which, of course is opposite on the image below if you’re easily confused).

To test them out, a few wet yomps seems an ideal method. Plenty of mud and wet ground to give them a proper going over.

First Walk – Moel Eilio, damp if not wet. I expected both boots to bead exceptionally well from the off, with the issue being durability. This they both did and by the walk’s end they were both wetting out a little, with the old skool appearing to be faring a little better, but looking at the next image you’d be hard pressed to take the call.

Following week we did the Carneddau, and again it seemed that both waxes were very similar and didn’t last half as long as I thought it had in the past. So the head to head had to go longer term. I’m convinced that as it was the first time these boots (after 1200km use!) were waxed with anything but the puny aqueous wax, that it’ll need a few more applications to get to full strength, so two more weekends, two sets of proofing and three damp walks will see if there’s any difference. So far, despite my gut instinct, there appears little between them.

Re-waxing them, we were back on the hill, but this time I’d taken a bit more care applying to both boots. Again, conditions remain exceptionally wet underfoot and both boots were wetting out by the end of the day. However, the image below was taken half way around the walk and the old skool wax was still repelling mud and water when the newer stuff was wetting out. The following day while both boots looked damp, the olds skool wax boots felt dry on the outside compared to the other pair that  were still damp.

The 'old skool' wax on the left is still beading...

Ultimately, the older wax does perform a little better than the newer stuff. This is down to how little waste and mess there was applying the tin. It also did a better job of repelling water, though I’m certain that it wasn’t as effective as it could have been. My previous boots (identical to these!) were proofed with the tin from the off and they’d only need proofing every few weeks, while these boots have only just been waxed properly for the first time and that the protection will improve with each application. I think that the exceptionally wet conditions recently have contributed to this as well.

TL;DR – The old skool tinned wax is certainly the one I’d prefer on my boots as it’s easier to apply and lasts a little bit longer. The new stuff still provides effective waterproofing, but is messy to apply, though may be the greener option of the two (though coming in a plastic tube, this is not clear).

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Dave Roberts

Dave Roberts founded Walk Eryri in 2004, with the aim of providing routes that are off the beaten track. Walk Eryri is now part of Mud and Routes which continues to provide more off beat routes and walks in Snowdonia and beyond. Dave has been exploring the hills of Eryri for over thirty years, and is a qualified Mountain Leader. Dave also established Walk up Snowdon, Walk up Scafell Pike and Walk up Ben Nevis just to mention a few.

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