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The Perfect Base Camp

5ws-of-tentsite-selection

Think you’ve found the perfect base camp? Remember your five W’s.

Finding and setting up the perfect camp is central to any adventure.

We’ve collected the “dos and don’ts” for three of our favorite camping experiences.

The Developed Campground

Sometimes you need a quick fix of nature and a campfire. What’s easier than rolling up in your car to live out of the back for a night or two? For a finding-your-sanity adventure or to introduce camping to a new love or young kids, a developed campground is a great place to start.

Do: Find the quietest space. This will likely require multiple laps around the campground to identify – much to the chagrin and ridicule of your new love and/or children. They’ll thank you in the morning.

Don’t: Park next to the bathroom. Enough said.

Do: Go traditional. Bring your own firewood. Pack s’mores, a dutch oven, board games and any other luxuries you wouldn’t carry for more of a wilderness-style trip. Live it up.

Don’t: Forgo a tent. You may be tempted to crash in the car, but don’t cave in. There’s just something about a tent that pulls the full experience together.

The Wilderness/Backcountry Campsite

By definition, you’re backpacking in and nature provides the amenities.

Do: Orient your site toward the morning sunrise. Regardless of how excited you are to wake up and take in the spectacular views, it’s much easier to get out of your bag when the morning sun hits you with its warmth.

Don’t: Camp too near the trail. Few things are more disconcerting than the sounds of other people when your goal is to surround yourself with wilderness.

Do: Bring a pen and paper. No, you don’t need to journal your deep thoughts – unless you’re so moved. It seems like every trip generates a new idea of what to pack next time. Jot those brainstorms down!

Don’t: Rely on the weather report. Even if NOAA calls for balmy days and crystal clear nights, never be tempted to forgo your rain jacket and a few insulating layers. At least in the mountains, the only thing reliable about the weather is that it will change. And, oh yeah, make sure your gear is prepped and proofed before you hit the trail.

The High Alpine Basecamp

Of course you’re always careful to respect your safety and the health of the environment, but high altitude camping takes it to a new level (pun intended). The fragility of both your basic needs and the high alpine ecosystems are paramount.

Do: Bring down camp booties and extra batteries. Booties are lightweight, low volume, saviors of toes and keepers of happiness. Altitude is torture on batteries, so be sure to keep some extras on-hand (and warm) for headlamps and cameras.

Don’t: Underestimate the wind. Select a tent that can handle high, sustained gusts and some snow load.

Do: Bring lightweight entertainment, like cards, dice and a good sense of humor. Most likely you’re making a summit attempt and Mother Nature may or may not accommodate your desire. Be prepared for downtime.

Don’t: Confuse arrogance with confidence. Camping at high altitude is a learned skill. Teamwork is crucial and preparation is a requisite. Watching the sun rise and set over the curve of the earth is something that few on the planet will ever experience – enjoy.

Regardless of how you prefer your adventure, be prepared and leave only footprints.


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Avalanche Awareness: Not just for skiers

Avalanche awareness is critical in any winter snowsports endeavor.

Avalanche awareness is critical in any winter snowsports endeavor.

It’s winter, and for most of us that means spending much of our free time on the snow—on skis, snowshoes, snowboards, sleds, or any other contraption with a sliding surface. We’re a cold-climate tribe, like-minded folks who understand the reward of bundling up and pushing our bodies through the elements.

As we go, many of us venture into the unknown, to the next summit, the next ridge over. And as we do, we may cross from a relatively safe zone into a more dangerous one where risks are greater. Perhaps the most threatening of all is an avalanche.

Tragically, avalanches kill people each winter. Some of the victims are well-known industry experts. Others are less known. They’re out with their friends and succumb to changing conditions, unpredictable circumstances.

Here at Nikwax hearts go out to anyone affected by avalanches in the backcountry. Experience tells us that it isn’t just the extreme skiers who are affected. It’s the cross-country enthusiast. The snowshoeing bird watcher. The snowmobiler.

In the hopes of spreading the word about avalanche safety, we here at Nikwax offer the following tips to our intrepid customers and friends. Please, stay safe in the backcountry.

  • Educate yourself: Avalanches can occur with as little as a few inches of snow. The contributing factors in an avalanche include slope angle, snow conditions, and the type of snow crystals closest to the ground. Snow scientists spend a lifetime studying these phenomenons. You don’t need a Ph.D., but check out the American Institute for Avalanche Safety to learn how to recognize and avoid scenarios that are primed for an avalanche.
  • Take a course: The American Avalanche Institute has been teaching professionals and recreationists how to stay safe in the backcountry since 1973. Check the website for a course near you.
  • Gear up: Avalanche beacons, snow shovels, and probes are de rigeur in the backcountry. However, they’re only as good as the person using them. Buy a beacon—an electronic tracker that emits signals and also tracks them to find bodies buried in an avalanche. Then practice using it.
  • Choose your route wisely: We’re not saying to avoid avalanche terrain. Some of the best backcountry huts, ski slopes, and basic trails traverse avalanche paths. What’s important is to know the risks of your route and do your best to mitigate them using the skills you picked up in your avalanche course.
  • Choose your partners wisely: Make sure you trust the folks you recreate with to make educated decisions.

If this seems extreme, consider this: if you’re in the backcountry anywhere near a slope with an angle, you could be at risk of an avalanche. We don’t want to scare you. We don’t want you to stay home. But we do want you to be safe.

Getting out in the winter is one of life’s most joyful activities. Coming home in one piece is even better.


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The Sustainability of Ski Resorts

Pure backcountry skiers need only look at their gear’s supply chain and their own tracks in the snow to see the environmental footprint of their fun. For those of us who enjoy the occasional chairlift ride and hot soup mid-mountain, the sustainability of skiing infrastructure becomes more complex.

Ski Area Management 101

Snowflake 1

Credit: Brenda Starr~’s Photostream (http://www.flickr.com/photos/brenda-starr/)

Most ski areas in the United States operate at least partially on land leased from the Federal government. Base areas will often be on privately owned land, thereby granting slightly more leniency with the management of that infrastructure. It’s fair to say that most Federal oversight focuses on safety and ski area interactions with Federal laws, such as the Endangered Species Act.

The bottom line, environmentally speaking, is that ski areas are pretty much just like any other corporation: they establish their own environmental ethics.

National Sustainable Slopes Initiative

Stepping in to facilitate an in-progress, industry-driven movement, the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) – a trade association for ski area operators – collaborated on a “Sustainable Slopes Environmental Charter” in 2000. Along with its solution-oriented principles, the charter doesn’t dance around the fact that “…ski areas have some unavoidable impacts.

Updated in 2005, the charter outlines broad philosophies and values. It defines industry-held principles to be used as guidelines for: ski area operations, planning, design, construction, water usage and quality, summertime activities, energy usage and conservation, waste management, fish and wildlife management, forest and wetlands management, air and visual qualities, related transportation, and education and outreach.

The charter even touches on climate change. In 2003, the NSAA partnered with the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) for a “Keep Winter Cool” program. (Ed. Note: The program no longer exists in its original form.) The NSAA doesn’t mince words.

“Through this policy, we aim to raise awareness of the potential impacts of climate change on our weather-dependent business and the winter recreation experience; reduce our own greenhouse gas emissions; and encourage others to take action as well.”

It goes on to say that not only should ski areas operators voluntarily reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but they should also advocate for national reductions through legislative and regulatory means.

Ask Your Home Area

A list of “endorsing resorts” is on the last page of the online Charter. But to find out what is truly happening on the ground, as opposed to general principles, check out the website for your home area.

Take Aspen Skiing Company, for example. The tony resort may make the news for Charlie Sheen outbursts and other celebrity sightings, but of real interest is its longstanding environmental commitment. The organization has had a vice president of sustainability, Auden Schendler, for over 13 years.

Among the myriad awards and the simple steps like recycling efforts and retrofitting lighting systems, Aspen Skiing Company dives in head first on big projects, too. In 2012, the company earned its sixth Golden Eagle Award for ‘Overall Environmental Excellence.’

The award was earned in large part from a creative collaboration with unlikely suspects: coal and energy utilities. The three entities invested $5.5 million on a methane (a greenhouse gas) capture system at a nearby coal mine. The methane project eliminates the equivalent of three times the carbon pollution the ski resort would otherwise create each year in energy use. Additionally, the project generates carbon negative electricity equal to the amount of energy used by Aspen Skiing Company annually. This is expected to hold true for at least 15 more years. (This paragraph paraphrased from www.aspensnowmass.com/environment. Click through for more comprehensive info.)

What is your local ski area doing to mitigate its environmental impacts? Check into it, and do what you can to help.

Nikwax applauds all efforts – small and large. Sometimes the least recognized achievements have the greatest impact.


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Save the Planet, Save Money, Go Skiing

Credit: Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra

Caption: Supporting some thrift stores, like the http://www.disabledsportseasternsierra.org, helps others less fortunate to get out on the slopes, too.

Ski season is heating up across the country, but the freedom of sliding with gravity comes at a high cost. Most expenses are fixed and non-negotiable – lift tickets, rental gear, après cocktails. With so much money flying, don’t be tempted to scrimp on your apparel. Set yourself up for more fun with quality gear that keeps you warm and safe from the elements.

Consider hitting up consignment and thrift stores for your ski and snowboard apparel. With whatever clothing you choose, Nikwax has your back in the performance department.

If the fiscal savings doesn’t sway you, remember that you’ll also be helping to save the planet by reducing and reusing the unloved ski wear out there. Buy less, invest in longevity, and get out there to have some fun without blowing your budget. It’s a win-win-win.

Best Finds at Used Clothing Stores

 – Ski Pants – 

Go figure, but nearly every thrift store in a cold climate will have a solid selection of ski pants – often in really good condition. Look for fabrics without sun fading or large tears. Small rips in non-critical places are typically easy to mend and won’t greatly impact your comfort.

When you bring your “new-to-you” outerwear home, run them through a Nikwax Tech Wash cycle to remove oil, dirt and grime that impedes performance. Leave them in the washing machine for a second cycle of the Nikwax TX.Direct to revive the waterproofing to its original state.

– Outer Layers and Parkas 

Just as with ski pants, avoid sun-faded or ripped jackets. Ensure the main zipper and pocket zippers are all in working order. If you’re not a whiz tailor/seamstress, avoid bad zippers. They are expensive to fix.

Look for consistent fill in insulated jackets and good seaming in shells. Seek out brand names that you associate with quality. Nikwax is effective at reviving a piece back to its original performance level (or darn near), but the quality of the original fabric dictates what that will be.

– Stylish, Hipster Sweaters –

Style is big part of skiing and snowboarding culture, and individuality is rewarded in these expressive sports. Thrift stores are phenomenal places to find vintage styles, warm wool sweaters and even ironic finds that will bring a laugh to your buddies and be a killer insulating layer for you. If a cleaning is in order, try Wool Wash for a gentle cleanse before you hit the slopes.

Thrift Store Deals to Avoid

– Socks –

Don’t buy used. Invest in a new, good quality, ski/snowboard sock, which will run you about $20 per pair (plus or minus). Pack some Basewash Travel Gel to rinse the socks each night and you only need one pair for a multi-day trip. It’s easy, less costly and less stinky than the alternative.

– Long Underwear/Base Layers –

It’s not so much the intimate nature of long underwear that pushes it toward the “buy new” column. Rather, it’s that people tend to keep their long underwear until it’s good and worn out. They don’t need to be fancy, but buy them new.  And when your sweat-soaking layers get a stench, use our new BaseFresh to resore a fresh and clean smell.

Hints for Shopping at Thrift and Consignment Stores

Hint #1: Consignment stores will typically be more discerning than thrift stores with the age and quality of garments they accept.

Hint #2: Bring a spray bottle of water with you. Ask permission from the store clerk to give a light spray on the jacket. The water droplets don’t need to bead perfectly (that’s what Nikwax is for!), but the quality of beading (versus instant absorption) will give you an idea to the current state of the performance of the garment.

Hint #3: If you’re willing to roll the dice with availability, thrift and consignment stores in resort communities will have the best selection. In upscale resorts, like Aspen, Colorado, you can find top quality brand names at fractions of the cost of buying new. Even better, you can often find these garments with little to no wear.

Happy sliding!

Love,
Nikwax


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Nikwax Supports Recent Greenpeace Report to Ban Harsh Chemicals

A recent study by Greenpeace reports on levels of perfluorinated compounds (also known as PFCs) used in the production of outdoor apparel. PFCs are bio-persistent chemicals that are linked to a range of human health problems (see selected bibliography for studies). Many companies use PFCs to add water repellent finishes to apparel and gear.

Nikwax has been arguing against the use of fluorocarbon chemicals (PFCs) in aftercare products for over ten years. We have highlighted their environmentally persistent nature, and the studies linking them to reduced fertility, damaged immune systems in children and other negative health impacts.

In the industry, a so called “C8” chemistry to define PFCs is considered harmful. More commonly, we hear that a “C6” version is safer. At Nikwax, we have not seen any convincing evidence to support this. And, in line with the recommendations of the Greenpeace report, we will continue to exclude ALL (including C6) PFCs from our products.

We would like to reassure our customers, dealers and industry partners that NONE of the products in the Nikwax aftercare range contain PFCs of any kind. Most PFCs used in the industry until now have been based on so called “C8” chemistry. It is now common to hear the argument that shorter PFCs, such as the “C6” versions are safe. At Nikwax we have not seen any convincing evidence of this, and in line with the recommendations of the Greenpeace report, we will continue to exclude C6 PFCs from our products.

Many look to “eco labels” to determine the chemical safety of products. Greenpeace warns us of the dangers in assuming an “eco label” automatically means PFC-free. Most of the common standards do not currently prohibit the use of PFCs.

Part of the Greenpeace report calls on the Outdoor Industry to find immediate alternatives to PFCs. The good news is that alternatives exist because PFCs are not necessary to achieve high standards of effective waterproofing. All Nikwax waterproofing products are a safer alternative.

Please view our environmental page for detailed information. Feel free to write us with any questions or concerns.


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Through Rain and Sleet and Dark of Night: Five Steps to Keeping Your Kids Dry and Happy on Halloween

For those of us who didn’t grow up on Maui, we’re sadly familiar with the weather crushing our Halloween dreams. Nothing ruins the perfect pink princess dress quicker than a down parka. Don’t even get us started on the wrecked silhouette of a superhero unitard when the rain starts falling. Superheroes don’t wear raincoats!

Alas, mere mortals do need protection from the elements. With Nikwax, parents the world over can protect children from crushed Halloween dreams.

Step One: Check the weather

— With Frankenstorm on the East Coast and snow piling up in Sierras, Halloween 2012 is tipping toward the extreme end of the weather spectrum. If your region’s forecast is aiming blissfully to the high end of the thermometer, follow steps two to five as a contingency plan. If you’re with the rest of us, consider these steps hard and fast rules.

Step Two: Assess the weatherproofing of your child’s chosen costume

— If s/he is going as…say…the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, you’re golden. Toss the costume in the wash with some Down Proof and the kid is good to go. Virtually ignore steps three and four.

— If s/he is has selected a costume less conducive to gale force winds, precipitation – and Ghostbusting proton packs, for that matter – continue on to step three.

Step Three: Run a dress rehearsal

— Determine if waterproof and insulating layers can fit beneath the costume or must be worn as outerwear.

— For cold weather gear that fits below the costume, take a moment to revel in your awesome parenting and the fact that you’ve avoided a probable sugar-induced meltdown initiated by an argument over a costume. Then, move to step four for waterproofing.

— If the battle to wear warm clothes with the costume turns more frightening than a zombie apocalypse, move to step four anyway. As the parent-of-the-year that you surely are, you’ll just need to carry a big bag full of warm, waterproofed clothes for when your trick-or-treater gets chilly in between houses.

Step Four: Prep the gear

— If you’re like us, chances are you’ve been out savoring the last vestiges of summer rather than prepping for inclement weather. Halloween is the ideal time to bust out all your cold weather gear and give it a refresh for winter.

— Waterproof/breathable fabrics are most effective when they are clean. Nikwax Tech Wash is a gentle, high performance cleaner that is specially formulated for these technical materials. In the world’s easiest two-step process, toss the garment(s) in the wash using Tech Wash in place of detergent. After a full cycle, leave your gear in the washing machine and run a second cycle with Nikwax TX.Direct® Wash-In. TX.Direct revives the durable water repellency of outerwear.

— Bonus: If your mini-goblin has designed a cardboard or paper-based costume, TX.Direct does double duty in providing water-repellency to paper. Brush on the TX.Direct and allow it to dry completely, or save time for this particular application with TX.Direct Spray-On.

— Eco-Bonus: Halloween is full of sugar, preservatives, late nights and other scares over which you have little control. With Nikwax, you can prevent your child from being exposed to at least one nasty scare: PFCs. PFCs are dangerous chemicals that are often found in waterproofing compounds (not to mention some non-stick cookware). Nikwax has long been a vocal opponent of PFC usage in waterproofing and our products are 100-percent PFC-free. (For a real scare of the non-Halloween variety, check out this video of how PFCs affect children.)

Step Five: Enjoy the evening!

— You’ve accomplished your mission and your lovable little ghoul (or cowboy or alien) will be dry and comfortable in the foulest of weather. Nothing says, “I love you” like encouraging their creativity in costuming. And don’t be shy to remind them that nothing says, “I love you, too” like a small share of the candy.

Happy Halloween!

Love,

Nikwax


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Will This Be a Year of Deep, Light and Cold? Ski Area Opening Dates Around the Country

Aspen Highlands, courtesy Megan Harvey

Move over Colorado and Vermont. The mighty Midwest won the crown for having the first ski area to open for the 2012-13 winter season. Wild Mountain, in Taylor Falls, Minnesota, opened on Sunday, October 7th – a mere two weeks after fun-seekers were splashing down the Wild Mountain summer water slides. Not to be outdone in the “early season enthusiasm” department, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area in central Colorado fired up a chairlift on October 17th, with one-percent of the mountain open.

It’s the time of year when late season bike rides give way to dreams of knee-deep powder turns – when our hopes of waking up to the sparkling blanket of new snow are as strong as a 12-year old’s excitement at the announcement of “Snow day, no school.”

Nikwax North American headquarters are in Seattle, also known as ground zero for the Pacific Northwest’s epic winter conditions from last season. Across the rest of North America, though, the 2011-12 winter was bleak.

As we roll into crisper nights and cooler days, we’re sending out good vibes for cold, deep snow to all the mountains across North America. With that in mind, we’ve collected a list of ski area resources and opening dates, by region. Pull your gear out of storage and give a hit of TX.Direct® to your ski wear so you’re ready to catch that first chair.

Happy hint: Early season skiing and riding can bring wet, sloppy weather. If your hands are cold, misery will follow. Take that discomfort and multiply it five-fold if your kids’ hands get cold. Help gloves perform to their peak by waterproofing with Nikwax. For leather mitts, nothing is more effective than Nikwax Waterproofing Wax for Leather™. Use Nikwax Glove Proof for fabric or fabric/leather combo gloves. Happy hands = happy day.

Awesome ski and snowboard related resources:

On The SnowSki Net, and First Tracks Online

Pacific Northwest

Collected Pacific Northwest resort info, courtesy of Pacific Northwest Ski Areas Association

Plus a few of our favorites: Mount Baker, Washington (sometime in November); Crystal Mountain, Washington (TBD dependent on conditions); Mt. Bachelor, Oregon (slated for Nov. 21)

The West Coast and British Columbia

Full list of opening days at all Lake Tahoe, California, resorts – courtesy of SnowPals.org; Whistler, BC (November 22); Bear Mountain, Southern California (TBD, dependent on conditions)

Utah and Intermountain West

Collected Utah resort info, courtesy of www.skiutah.com; Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Wyoming (November 24)

Colorado and the Southwest

Collected Colorado resort info, courtesy of www.coloradoski.com; Collected New Mexico resort info, courtesy of www.skinewmexico.com

Midwest

Collected resort info, courtesy of the Midwest Ski Area Association

Southeast

Collected resort info, courtesy of www.skisoutheast.com

New England

Collected resort info, courtesy of www.newenglandskiresorts.com

Here’s to a cold, snow-filled winter, with Nikwax helping you to stay warm and dry!

Your friends at Nikwax