Water resistant leather is leather which has been treated and processed so that it will resist water. It will not repel water, and cannot be considered water proof, but it can withstand wet conditions. This type of leather is used in things like foul weather gear, hiking and camping gear, and so forth. When well cared for, it can be highly durable and long lasting.
Leather is naturally quite absorbent, thanks to the presence of natural pores. As it is processed, much of the organic material is removed, but the absorbency remains, and this trait is actually utilized in leather processing to make sure that chemicals and dyes are fully absorbed. Once the leather has been initially processed, there are a number of finishing options available, including finishes which will help the leather resist or repel water.
When leather is water resistant, it will not be as prone to water absorption, although it can still take up water. It may also be treated to resist mold and mildew so that if it does get wet, it will not create an appealing environment for fungi to grow. When leather gets wet, it also tends to be prone to stiffening and cracking, and being treated for water resistance can help to eliminate these problems.
Water resistant leather is not capable of holding a perfect seal against water. Someone with water resistant boots on who stands in a puddle, for example, will probably end up with wet feet. Waterproofing, however, tends to make leather very stiff, which makes it not optimal for many applications. Making water resistant leather strikes a happy medium, keeping the leather flexible while providing some protection.
Products made from water resistant leather include shoes, boots, gloves, and outerwear, along with collars, saddles, and harnesses. Leather fittings on bags and sacks can also be made with water resistant leather, as can leather products like chairs, sofas, and car seats. Water resistance will keep the product looking good longer, and will help avoid catastrophes when people spill liquids on the leather.
It is possible to treat leather at home to make it water resistant. Some water resistant leather products actually need to be periodically cleaned and treated again to remain in good condition, and leather which has not been treated can be treated with a cream or spray which is rubbed into the leather to make it resist water. This will prolong the life of the leather and keep it supple over time.