The Waterproof Bible from Bardin & Marsee (NKJV)

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The Waterproof Bible from Bardin & Marsee is available in a variety of translations and styles, all available here. The review copy seen here is the NKJV Waterproof Bible with imitation leather slipcover, available for $64.95. The dimensions are 5 7/8″ x 8 3/4″, and the weight is 2 lb 7 oz., with 8 pt. type. The layout is a reproduction of a Nelson outreach edition.

You open your Bible to the table of contents. At the bottom of the page, you find printed instructions. If your Bible freezes, you must let it thaw before opening. When wet, dry it with a towel and it will be good as new. Outside your window, the ground is blanketed in snow. The windchill is pushing the temperature below zero. The question is, what are you going to do? What are you going to do?

If you’re me, the answer is simple. You’re gonna go outside with a shovel and bury it in the snow.

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I warned Bobby Bardin something like this would happen. Bobby is the founder of Bardin & Marsee, the publisher of the Waterproof Bible. He was in town last autumn, so we got together for coffee to chat about his experiences publishing one of the most unusual editions of Scripture on the market. When I floated the idea of testing the Waterproof Bible in the brutal, unforgiving winter conditions of South Dakota, he just smiled. Bobby is too nice a guy to issue any do-your-worst challenges, but he seemed pretty confident of the outcome. All right, I thought. Game on.

For the Waterproof Bible, Bardin & Marsee licenses Melcher Media’s DuraBook™ format, printing on 100% plastic pages. This gives the book extraordinary resilience against the elements, and imparts an extra benefit: because the pages do not absorb ink, the print is black as onyx and razor sharp. The opacity of the page is impressive, too. If you hate that five o’clock shadow effect many Bibles suffer from as a result of the printing on one side of the page showing through to the other, the Waterproof Bible is impressive.

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After a particularly heavy snowfall, I primed the Waterproof Bible for its trial-by-ice. First, I snapped all the “before” photos. I wanted to give you a reasonable accurate idea of how this book looked before the ordeal. Marching outdoors with a Bible and a snow shovel, a spirit of mischief overtook me. My wife must have sensed it. She followed me outside: “What are you doing? You’re going to ruin that Bible!”

“What, this Bible?” I asked, pretending to stumble. The Waterproof Bible dove edge-first into a snowbank. While Laurie gasped, I shoveled some snow over it. Then I dug it up again, opened the book, and shoveled snow onto the pages.

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The Waterproof Bible uses YUPO synthetic paper, which Bobby estimates at 61-62 gsm, roughly twice the thickness of most of the editions I’ve written about recently, which tend to run in the 30s. In addition to being waterproof, it is smooth, tear-resistant, and tree-free. But how would it perform if you accidentally buried your Bible in a snowdrift and forgot about it? That remained to be seen.

Because of the paper, there are some trade-offs. One of them is minor, the other pretty significant. First, you won’t be able to use fountain pens, rollerballs, pretty much anything that lays down a nice wet line of ink. The paper won’t absorb it. So you’ll have to content yourself with ballpoints, pencils, and dry highlighters, assuming you write in your Bible at all.

The other downside is that the Waterproof Bible is large, thick, and heavy — at least, it feels that way relative to the type size. The type is this edition is approximately 7-8 pt., arranged in a traditional double-column setting. While sharp edges and a dark print impression make the words more readable than they otherwise would be, this is still small … especially given the proportions of the book. Compare the layout of the Cambridge Clarion. The type size is in the same range, but the single column setting and overall design make it more enjoyable and much more compact, even though the Clarion isn’t exactly tiny. Where the Clarion cannot compete, though, is page opacity and sharpness of print. And if you forget your Clarion in the snow, well, all bets are off.

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My original plan was to leave the Waterproof Bible buried until spring, but I’m too impatient for that. After giving it a chance to get nice and frosty, I dug it up none too gently. Thanks to chunks of ice between the pages, I could not close the book, so I struck it against a railing and gave it some hard shakes. That didn’t do the trick, so I brought the Waterproof Bible in the kitchen and put it under the tap. I gave the book a nice long spray, then used a towel to dry it off. Fanning the pages helped me identify the ones still stuck together from the damp. The Waterproof Bible was still a bit damp when I was done, so I left it to air dry.

How much damage did the ordeal inflict? Let’s put it this way. Looking at the Waterproof Bible now, I cannot tell that it’s ever gone outside. Before and after, the Waterproof Bible appears pristine.

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The text setting in this particular book comes from a Nelson NKJV outreach edition, a genre of layout the puts a great emphasis on economy of space. Bobby Bardin explained that using a layout like this helped trim the bulk a bit. A single column text setting with larger type, nice as that might be, would expand the girth considerably. Perhaps a Waterproof single column New Testament might represent a good middle ground? (There are some Waterproof NTs in the line-up, but not paragraphed single columns yet.) We had a nice chat about all the possibilities, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Bardin & Marsee attempts in the future.

One of the things that impressed me talking with Bobby is how open he is to innovation. That shouldn’t be surprising, given the whole waterproof thing, but still. They’ve produced a line of spiral notebooks using the same waterproof paper. And they’ve beat me to the punch on one of the items on my secret checklist should I ever get the opportunity to produce my own edition. The Bible in these photos has a camouflage cover, which is really not my thing — it can survive being lost in the woods, but good look finding it! You would never know it, though, because of the black polyurethane leather-like slipcover. (They also have brown and burgundy covers available.) My Seven Seas journal rides in a skirting leather slipcover that has aged beautifully over the years. Imagine a Bible designed to be compatible with covers like that!

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While the Waterproof Bible might not find its way into the pack of an ultralight hiker, I can imagine a lot of outdoor contexts where a resilient edition like this would be worth the trade-offs. And here’s another setting where it would shine: the crowded coffee shop table of the ministry professional. I see them everywhere these days, and always wonder how many of the e-mails I get asking about how to remove coffee stains from Bible paper originate in these scenarios. The Waterproof Bible doesn’t mind if you spill your mocha on Sunday’s text. It wipes clean and no one’s the wiser.

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19 Comments on “The Waterproof Bible from Bardin & Marsee (NKJV)

  1. I have given a couple of the New Testaments with Psalms and Proverbs to friends who spend a lot of time outdoors. As the review says, the quality is excellent. And the recipients are very happy with them.

    Now that I have been reminded of these and checked the company’s website, I’m going to get one for myself.

  2. What an amazing edition of the Bible! For many I’m sure this fills a real need.

  3. Another great review, Mark. I’ve been meaning to get one of these and your review spurred me to action. I doubt this will replace my Blackface as my daily reader but it’s great to have for those situations where a nice Bible might be damaged.

    One point I read on their website that you (I think?) omitted…. It floats! Amazing.

    • Nice catch KenB. While most of our Waterproof Bibles do float for a period of time, our newest editions, like the NKJV in this review, will permanently float thanks to the YUPO paper we are now using. This cool feature is in addition to them being 25% lighter than their predecessor.

      • Hey Bobby, is the KJV in this newer paper as well? Lighter is good (though if I need my Bible to float, I’m having bigger problems 😉

        Ken

        • KenB – The camouflage KJV in both the full Bible and New Testament, Psalms, Proverbs are now in the lighter weight YUPO paper. The KJV with the lily pad cover is still the heavier paper.

  4. I love these Bibles! Everyone should have one of these Waterproof Bibles. I like them so much I decided to buy one of these for each of my young children and nephews too. Since they are basically all plastic pages they seem indestructible compared to the paper pages in normal Bibles. I find that the boys really like the camo New Testaments and they are a great alternative to Gideon Bibles that they would go through every 6 months because they are so rough on them. After 2-3 years they are all still going strong and have held together. Bottom line is that they live up to the hype! I have both the NKJV and NLT versions and the latter has larger print and is easier to read than the NKJV print is.

    • Interesting, both are listed at 8pt. The NT+Psalms & Proverbs are smaller footprint and listed at 7pt. A NT at 9pt is something I’d be very interested in, but I’ll see how the 8pt reads when it arrives.

  5. I am a pastor in a small town in Outback Australia, and as I am bivocational, I travel quite a bit on this island of ours. I bought one of these a few years ago for hiking, but didn’t realise it was that heavy, so left in on a shelf for a while. Then after a while I realised that it is probably better suited to my ministry than the goatskin Pitt Minion I have been using for preaching, evangelism, funerals and youth groups.

    One Sunday morning service the inevitable happened – the red text in the Pitt Minion shrunk. The white spaces around the red text wasn’t enough, and the letters got too small. As we are about 400km from the closest Bible shop, I grabbed the Waterproof Bible for the next sermon. although the text is small, there are gaps around the words, no red, and the black letters are BLACK. After this one sermon, I never went back to another Bible.

    What are the Cons of the Bible? Weight, and the text can still be a tad small.
    The Pro’s? Quality – I use it in dust, humidity, rain, snow (I do a few weeks a year in the Snowy Mountains in winter). Good for campfire evenings and day hikes with my Youth Group. You can erase your markings – my sermons have a colour coding of verses marked in the Scriptures, and it is great if you can just erase the text and use another colour. With the Cordura cover on it lies flat. I have preached from Genesis and Revelation. I have the burgundy cover for more formal occasions like funerals, and the tan cordura cover for normal church stuff. The Cordura cover is absolutely great for shoving a few Field Notes Expedition memo books, laminated cards with Order of Service and Communion texts, and a pencil and a few dry highlighters in. And lastly, the Bible seems indestructible.

    All in all, I cannot say thank you enough to Bobby for this product, I have used it now for three years, where previously I went though two high quality Bibles per year. And I bought the NT with a Cordura cover as well, which has become my hiking Bible.

    Only recommendation – How about an oiled leather or even a Oilskin cover for the more formal occasion?

    • You are most welcome! I am just a humble servant of God walking the path he has laid out for me to walk in.

  6. And a question – Was the ribbons added on, or is it manufactured with ribbons now?

    • outback jack – We now have 3 ribbon markers glued and sewn into the black and brown slip covers. The burgundy will get the ribbons when we make the next batch.

      As for a more formal leather cover, that is being thought through as we speak.

      • A leather cover will be excellent mate! A leather cover that one can treat to be waterproof, and which will include ribbons, will be ideal. I have been thinking about it for a while, something that will withstand my conditions over here – from -5deg Celsius to up to 48 deg C, that can withstand dust, rain, dust, snow, dust, coffee, and even dust.
        Looking forward to it. I will keep checking the website. Keep up the great work.

        • Don’t forget that many Bible rebinders can make you a custom leather slip cover with a huge assortment of leathers.

  7. Mark, was this review written recently? The only reason I ask is that they have available both a New Testament version and a lighter weight paper than what you mention.

    Thank you for the review. I didn’t even know about these Bibles, but as someone who frequently travels internationally for mission trips, I will be sure to be taking one of these along with me.

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