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Giving thanks to our gear

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We are gathered here today to give thanks to our gear, which cares for us through sleet and snow.

To you, dear mountaineering pants, thank you for no longer being woolen knickers. Sure, those trousers of yore had a certain panache, but why so stingy in the calf protection department? Calves need protection, too.

To you, sweet, sweet polypro:  We’ve had some touch-and-go moments with stink, but those are so far overshadowed by how you tenderly keep me dry even when I’m soaking you to the core. Pay no mind to the shade thrown at you by my old cotton T-shirts. They’ll learn to forgive… in time.

To you, my fat, semi-rockered skis, god bless. I used to fake my joy of skiing powder. I couldn’t get the balance right; I sat back; my thighs burned; my toes turned black. Then you entered my life in one, portly, waterski-like wave. You’ve taught me how to love again, fatties. You are my new truth.

To you, my itsy-bitsy bundle of feathered joy: my utmost gratitude. Dearest down vest, thank you. I used to run through down vests like a one legged man in an alligator swamp: fast and not looking back. Then I discovered I could wash down, and it was like the sun rose for the first time ever. Thank you for always bouncing back to your lofty and fluff-filled self.

To you, my new soft-as-a-baby’s butt Merino wool base layer: a hearty huzzah! I slighted your kind for years. Memories of scratchy, hot, heavy sweaters fueled my crusade against your goodness. Boy what a difference a century makes! You’re warm. You’re cool. You’re warm when I’m wet. I’m so happy you’ve got my back.

And last, but not least, to you: my beloved partners in crime, leather boots: my sincerest thanks. You’ve not changed much over the years, because you haven’t needed to. You were my first significant outdoor purchase. I knew that we could have a long, happy life together once you gave in a little, and I vowed to take good care of you. Season after season, year after year, together we’ve traveled untold miles of trails, mountains and deserts. Thank you for never changing. You’re living proof that the best gear can last a lifetime, with a little care and a lot of love.

Thank you for the adventures!  —Brook Sutton

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How to add warmth to your Halloween costume

Unless you live in Southern California or Miami, chances are you are freezing your buns off every year on Halloween. And every year you think to yourself, “Man, I need to come up with a way to add warmth to my costume. Why am I wearing this sexy French maid outfit anyway? Are French maids notoriously sexy?”

At Nikwax, we are in the business of keeping people warm, dry and comfortable during cold, snow, or rain; so it comes as no surprise that we have a ton of ideas to keep you warm on Halloween. Whether you are dressing up as the sexy French maid, Mrs. Doubtfire, or Dr. Frank-n-Furter, the following tips and ideas will keep you warm when the Fireball shots run out.

  • Tights are your best friend. Most women are up-to-speed on this one, so we’re talking to you, Mr. Cross Dressing dude. Nylons (aka stockings or pantyhose) and tights are not the same thing. Tights or leggings will keep you warmer than a pair of nylons. Money-saving tip for the outdoorsy types: Instead of buying fashion leggings that you’ll never wear again, opt for a pair of performance tights or long underwear in Merino wool. The wool will complement your Halloween finery and be ready for a detoxifying cold weather run on Nov. 1.
  • Wigs are surprisingly effective hats. That’s about it. Sport a wig to complete your costume and you won’t need a hat. It’s “method” costuming at its finest.
  • Thrift store finds are not one-trick, costume ponies. Take it from Seattle’s own, mega-rap star, Macklemore – fur will be your best friend, whether you’re drapin’ a leopard mink or rockin’ a wolf on your noggin.  When you hit up your local secondhand or vintage store, or even your grandparent’s closet ask yourself three questions:
    • Will this pull my costume look together?
    • Will it prevent frostbite?
    • Does it have the cool, sassy, “je ne sais quoi” style that I can wear with panache when I’m not dressed in costume?

If the answer to all three is yes, cop that coat, flannel onesy, velour jumpsuit or leather jack and wash and treat it immediately! Thrift stores are full of looks from eras when people weren’t afraid of a little color or a little pattern. As long as it’s machine washable, Nikwax has you covered on the cleaning side. Some of our favorite—not to mention most admired—down vests came directly from the unwanted bin at our local thrift store. After a wash and a waterproof, they stole the Halloween show and have provided years of distinguished style and warmth.

Yet another stay-warm idea would be to pick a costume that is actually warm. In the words of the late Jermaine Stewart, we don’t have to take our clothes off to have a good time, oh no. So here are some not so scantily clad, creative, fun, and WARM costume ideas that you can rock this Halloween.

 Difficulty Level: Easy

Thing 1 and Thing 2: Get yourself a couple red troll wigs and some blue fleece tops and bottoms. For a little extra protection, waterproof that fleece with Polar Proof. Not only will it help you stay waterproof and warm in the rain and snow, it will also help protect your costume from the beer-spilling drunk idiots out there.

Breaking Bad: The Hazmat suit version, not the shirt tucked into the underpants – we are talking about staying warm people!

Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox: Flannel and Fleece Galore!

Inspector Gadget: A Trench Coat and Fedora – 2 things every adult should already own.

Shaun White: Red-headed curly wig, and your ski or snowboard gear. Add an obscene amount of fake medals and you are good to go.Shaun white

Difficulty Level: Medium

Ron Swanson and/or Ron Burgundy: What they have in common is incredible quotes, fantastic hair, and wicked awesome mustaches.

Gandalf: A long gray robe, beard, hair, and sweet wizard hat will surely keep you cozy and safe. Besides, who doesn’t want to yell out, “You shall not pass!”

Gumby & Pokey: This takes a bit of work, but the results are fantastic.

Teen Wolf: You will be covered in fur. Enough said.Teen Wolf

 Group Costume Ideas:

Ghostbusters: The difficulty level on this one is of medium intensity but it would be totally rewarding.

The Royal Tenenbaums: This one is easy because the likelihood that you have all the costume items in your closet is very high. Really. Everyone owns a tracksuit, a polo shirt, and some kind of suit. Everyone.

Team Zissou: Another from the Wes Anderson film collection. Baby blue shirt and pants and a red knit hat, how easy is that?

The Golden Girls: Grandma’s are always dressing in layers and wearing a gray grannie wig will keep you super warm.

DJ Lance Rock and the creatures from Yo Gabba! Gabba!: This one will take some work, a crazy amount of fleece, some imagination, and mad sewing skills or just set you back about $100 buying the costume. But just think how awesome your group would look especially if you treated all the outfits with Polar Proof. You would all be mystical, magical, waterproof creatures.

Have fun, be safe, and to all the parents out there, remember: always negotiate for your kids’ good candy earlier, rather than later.

Words to live by, from your friends at Nikwax.


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Preparing for a Successful Hunting Season – It’s more than a list

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Photo courtesy of Adam Foss

Preparation. It’s one of the best parts about planning a trip. You make a list, you add to it, subtract from it, and then you refine it and then refine it again. You lay out all of your gear before you, ponder over it, and think to yourself, “am I forgetting anything? I better not be forgetting anything. If I forget something, I could be stranded and then I would have to forage for food. Maybe I should bring that book I just got about foods of the forest. Oh god, what if I eat the wrong wild potato seeds and die like Chris McCandless. I better look at the list again.”

What we are saying is: Preparation is important. It is paramount for hunters and it’s much more than a list. That brings us to Adam Foss, The Fossman. He’s part of the Nikwax Faction and we thought we would catch up with him to see how he prepares for his hunts. He’s a good source, as he’s been hunting most of his life and he’s a professional hunting athlete, sponsored by some big guns (pun totally intended) like Sitka Gear, Leica Hunting, Mystery Ranch, Hilleberg the Tent Maker, and Schnee’s Boots. In 2012, at the age of 24, he became the youngest person to take all four species of sheep with a bow.

Talking with Adam, you can tell he LOVES hunting. He hunts more days than some folks ski, logging anywhere from 80-100 days a season. He’s currently planning for a 14 day sheep hunt in Alaska. When we asked him what he does to get prepared, he said it depends on what kind of trip he is going on. His preparation depends on whether he is going for a weekend elk hunting trip or a 14 day sheep hunting trip; the difference is between a 20 pound pack and a 70 pound pack and exactly what goes in those packs to keep him safe, dry, and warm.

The physical demands of hunting are much more intense than most people think. Granted, while he and his pals are in the upper echelon of hard-core hunting athletes, it’s still a very physical activity for all levels of hunters. Adam is a lifelong outdoor enthusiast and tends to stay in shape in the off-season by trail running, and does a lot of hiking in the mountains scouting new country. He said when hunting season starts, he pretty much checks out of the gym because each hunting trip gets him in better shape for the next. Hunters can cover up to 20 miles in one day, bushwhacking their way up a face of a mountain in some pretty harsh conditions. They do what they have to do and go where they have to go to achieve their goal. That also means eating plenty of calories, staying hydrated, and having really good equipment that is lightweight, breathable, and durable and all of that has to fit in a pack.

Adam Yukon 3

Photo courtesy of Adam Foss

So, how does one achieve that? Let’s break it down.

Adam says efficient meal planning and hydration is key. He likes Mountain House meal pouches. They supply plenty of his daily calorie requirements without being too heavy in his pack. For more energy he eats Cliff Shot Blocks and Honey Stinger Chews and he eats a lot of them, often. He also drops Nuun tablets in his water. The electrolytes help keep him hydrated when his body is working over time.

Adam believes that layering is everything and hunting is no different than mountaineering or skiing in this regard. He prefers Sitka Gear’s merino baselayers when he is on a long trip. He says merino helps regulate your body temperature really well and he can wear it for 10 days straight and be fine. With synthetics, the smell really starts to build up after a couple of days and that doesn’t bode well for longer trips. He’ll wear synthetic base layers for short, weekend trips, but for the 10-14 day trips he’s really doing his hunting partners a favor by wearing merino. He uses Nikwax Wool Wash to properly clean and care for his merino baselayers, socks, underwear, and hat and glove liners before going out for his long hunts.

Adam Yukon 9

Photo courtesy of Adam Foss

With bow hunting you are generally out in the wildness for a long period of time, and having 10 days of good weather is lucky. Adam says that sometimes you have to spend 1-3 days playing cards and staring at the walls of your tent to shelter yourself from a storm. He also doesn’t feel that he needs to shave off a couple of extra pounds on his back to sacrifice being warm, dry, and comfortable in the middle of nowhere. He likes to carry a down sleeping bag and cleans it with Nikwax Down Wash before he heads out for a couple of weeks. Nikwax Down Wash revitalizes loft and insulation without damaging the structure of the down. It also maintains breathability and the original water repellency.

As a professional hunting athlete, Adam is lucky to get new gear at the start of every season. But during the season, he is pummeling that gear. It gets campfire smoke, sweat, and blood from dressing animals on it. When he gets back, he washes his jackets and packs in Tech Wash because it effectively removes the tough bloodstains and smoke, making his gear look and perform like new again. He also religiously applies Waterproofing Wax for Leather to all of his Schnee’s leather boots throughout the season.

Photo courtesy of Adam Foss

Photo courtesy of Adam Foss

Hunting as a sport is experiencing a renaissance of sorts. Adam says hunting has come a long way from the idea of rednecks in their 4-wheelers or trucks. The new hunter has gotten younger and more conscious of where their food comes from. They feel good knowing that they harvested an animal themselves. Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg has taken up the sport and Eva Longoria boasts the fact that she can skin anything from a rabbit to deer!

With that in mind, we asked Adam what kind of advice that he has for new hunters or folks that are thinking about getting into hunting. He said that the big thing is not to be intimidated.  Anyone can get a copy of the hunting regulations for their state. Take hunter’s ed courses, do your research, use apps and info that is available on the web, get onto hunting forums, and take the time to find the right products, and most of all go far and deep and have fun.

While Adam is a lucky duck and gets new products at the start of every hunting season, we have advice to help out those less fortunate hunters that have to wear the same products for a few seasons.

If the DWR on your outer layers are in need of a bit of extra TLC, even after a cleaning with Tech Wash, wash it in TX.Direct. It will add water repellency to the shell and maintain breathability so that you continue to stay warm and dry from the inside out.

Now not everyone is a merino guy like Adam, so to keep your synthetics from stinking try BaseWash. It does the same job as Wool Wash; safely cleaning the high performing technical fabric, as well as enhancing and revitalizing its wicking abilities.

If your tent has taken a beating each hunting season and isn’t performing as well as it once was, try Tent & Gear Solarproof. It not only adds water repellency to the tent, it protects it against UV degradation. For that matter, use it on your hunting pack for the same reason.

Now that we have you all educated – get out there!


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Gear Rehab Can Help Flooded Colorado Residents

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We knew we were in trouble on Sept. 12, when the rain, which had been falling without break for four days, came down even harder. From my second-story home office, I could hear the nearby creek thunder like a herd of galloping clysdales. The street outside our house morphed into a river with water reaching above the wheels of parked cars. Twitter was going mad with the hashtag #boulderflood, texts were coming in from friends whose apartments and houses flooded, and I, a Colorado native more acclimated to hot and dry weather than monsoon torrents, realized I was in the midst of something far beyond my control.

And then our house flooded, too.

It wasn’t that bad, relatively speaking. I live in southwest Boulder in a split-level ranch, and the flood forced us to rip out drenched carpet from our basement. Our couch got wet. Totally manageable.

Surrounding me, though, was devastation. Houses torn from their foundations by waves of muddy water. People buried under the rubble of their homes or swept from their cars by quick-moving waters.

The death toll from the notorious 100-year-flood that slammed Colorado’s Front Range is holding at six, so far. Thousands of people required helicopter evacuations and may not be allowed to return to their homes in the foothills for weeks because the roads going there are trashed and impassable. The mayhem in and around Boulder promises to linger. The city’s bike paths—which, thankfully, also served as flood mitigation—are closed for safety, and the streets are littered with dried mud and rocks. Important bridges are snapped in two.

The bright side, of course, is the community effort rallying behind those hit the worst. Neighbors are taking in neighbors. People are donating clothing, labor, office space, money, and more to help those in need. We are all digging deep to find reserves of patience, perseverance, and humor.

But sometimes, even funny things don’t seem funny in the aftermath of a flood. I’m thinking specifically about my friend, Kate’s, Gore-Tex jacket, which she has had since 1998, and which has been with her to Canada, Thailand, France, California, Colorado, Wyoming, and countless other destinations. This jacket lived in the basement of her Boulder home and was submerged when her basement flooded.

It really might have been the “straw that broke the camel’s back.” That jacket, already well loved, got it bad. Now it stinks, has an odd texture, and is the last thing you’d want to wear, even in a rainstorm.

But back to that community effort for a moment. Not only are locals helping out. Nationally, people have been offering assistance to those affected by the flood.

One such offer comes from the folks at Nikwax and their “Gear Rehab” program. Granted, this offer was established before the floods. But now there are probably thousands of jackets and gloves and ski pants just like Kate’s. Nikwax wants to make sure my friends and I know we can send in “flooded” gear to Nikwax U.S. headquarters, and they’ll rehab it and send it back to you for free. Check out the details here.

I’ll be the first to say that a stanky jacket is the least of most flood victims’ worries.  But restore that jacket, and there’s one less expense flooded residents have to worry about. That’s really cool. Thanks, Nikwax. Now…about my couch…  —Rachel Walker


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Back to School Lessons in Responsible Thriftiness

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Every good parent knows that raising respectable, upstanding children requires love, integrity and the periodic dose of deceit. Marketing, peer comparisons and shiny, new things influence kids, just as they do adults. This is extraordinarily evident during this period that retailers like to call Back to School.

To hear J.C. Penny tell it, everyone needs a new everything before that first recess bell rings in the classroom.

We at Nikwax welcome all kids – young and old – to be part of the environmental and social solution by investing in the longevity of our purchases. We are proud to be 100% fluorochemical free, thereby providing safe alternatives for your in-home cleaning and waterproofing. With so many formulas to choose from in the Nikwax line-up, your biggest challenge to keeping your kids’ outdoor gear in good shape will be how fast those little people tend to grow. Buy less, experience more.

And in case you need a little help imparting that lesson, read on:

Exhibit A: What once was old is new again.

Aliases: Hand-me-downs, older sister/brother’s stuff, re-runs, saving money

Teachable moment: Look! You finally get to own the rain jacket you always used to “borrow” from your older sister. It’s all yours and she’ll have to ask you if she can borrow it now.

What kids hear: Take your sister’s gnarly old slicker. You’ll never have anything nice.

Positive spin: Restore the piece with some Nikwax gear rehab (we suggest Tech Wash and waterproofing), and then customize it somehow. Sew a sweet patch on it. Write the new owner’s name in permanent marker on the inside. If all else fails, pull a “Portlandia” and put a bird on it.

Lesson learned: Dignity is not found in amassing “stuff,” it’s found in honoring everyone and everything around you. Reusing and repurposing should be the norm, not the exception.

Exhibit B: Yes, dear, of course your beloved [insert item here] is still good.

Teachable moment: If you want [item] to last, you need to care for it. Just like you need to feed Mrs. Goldfish so she stays alive, it’s important to take care of your things if you want them to continue to work.

What kids hear: If something isn’t working mom or dad will fix it.

Positive spin: If you want a puppy, you’re going to have to show me that you can take care of the things you already have. Specifically, please show me that you know how to use the washing machine and how to read your clothing tags.

Lesson learned: It’s easier, less expensive and far less wasteful to care for something well, than to replace it with something new.


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The Fine Art of Tailgating

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The ball crosses into the End Zone. High fives and cheers surround you. Someone picks you up and raises you over the crowd. A cooler full of Gatorade pours down over your head.

Wait a minute.

That’s not Gatorade. You didn’t score the winning touchdown. You’re in the parking lot listening to the big game on the radio with the rest of your fellow coeds who would rather save money for tuition, books or a ski pass.

And don’t fool yourself; that was a can of PBR your buddy shook over your head. Just because you’re not throwing down for tickets at the fifty-yard line, doesn’t mean you’re not going to tailgate with the best of ‘em.

This. Is. College.

Tailgating is an art, albeit an interpretative one. There are a few non-negotiables: a cooler, a barbeque within a three-car range, some body paint, beer (or sodas, naturally, for the parents who are reading) and a die-hard attitude. Tailgaters don’t give up if sun beats down. Tailgaters don’t run for cover when the skies open up. You are a tenacious breed; you are a fan.

For ice, go cubes only, no blocks. The barbeque? Charcoal hibachi all the way. Body paint is up to you, but please remember photos on the Internet are forever.

Where does Nikwax come into the ritual?

Nikwax gives you the confidence of knowing that you’ll be dry and comfortable regardless of what the skies serve up. Whether you show up to campus with the swankiest waterproof/breathable jacket, or you pack your trusty fleece pullover that’s been with you since your Sweet 16. We’ve got you covered.

Since you’re in the mode, here’s a pop quiz:

1. What Nikwax product should you use to waterproof your outerwear?

a)    TX.Direct, for waterproof/breathable fabrics and synthetics

b)    Down Proof, for down jackets and vests

c)    Softshell Proof, for… use your applied logic

d)    Cotton Proof, to add oomph to a fabric not known for it’s water-beading ability

e)    Polar Proof, for fleece

f)      All of the above

2. Is applying Nikwax as easy as running a cycle in the dorm washing machine?

a)    Yes.

b)    No

Answers:

1.    F

2.    A

Let’s hope that’s not a duplicate to your first semester grades.

You are now tested, proven and ready, uber fan! Waterproofing for game day may mean protecting your outerwear for more than inclement weather. We’re just sayin’.

So save money, be confident and suit up. There’s a game going on and a bratwurst with your name on it. Get out there and have fun. Your team needs you to be worry-free, come rain, snow or carbonated adult beverage.


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True confessions: we’ve neglected our gear, too

Just like "Old Yellow," this faithful jacket was abused and forgotten—for a while. Fortunately, we salvaged it before it crawled into the dumpster.

Just like “Old Yellow,” this faithful jacket was abused and forgotten—for a while. Fortunately, we salvaged it before it crawled into the dumpster.

The smell was ungodly. Every time I cracked open my dry bag, the stench brought tears of disgust and pain to my eyes. At first, the smell just made me feel a little dirty – nothing over the top.

It wasn’t until Day 13 of a 16-day mid-August Grand Canyon river trip that I realized the bag had taken on a life of its own. This odor was different. It wasn’t just unpleasant; it was downright rancid. While I recognized something was amiss, I ignored the warning signs. But on that fateful day, the sky opened up and the first rain shower we’d had since the put-in sent us scattering to grab rain gear.

I excavated my cherished lemon yellow raincoat from the offending bag.

Some background: I had coveted this coat since childhood. It was a classic happy yellow, just what the Morton salt girl would wear if she were a Gore-Tex junkie. This coat was my partner. One time, its near-neon yellow visibility saved a group of 30 tourists from careening off a cliff on fog-encased glacier in Switzerland. True story. It held up on a backpacking trip to hell and back. It was neither flattering, nor stylish, but I loved this raincoat with all my heart.

As the rain pummeled us, I slipped it on without a care, though I couldn’t help gagging on the smell.

“Dummy,” I thought to myself. “You put a damp coat into a compressed dry bag for 13 days in 100-degree heat. It’s molded and ruined!” It was moldy, alright, but this mold had nothing to do with being put away wet.

This mold was the result of absolute neglect: a slice of cheese and a dry bag warming to incomprehensible heat in the hot Arizona sun.

You see, the night before the put-in on a raft trip is always hectic event, especially in the rain. You’ve been planning the trip for ages and you’re jockeying to rig boats. When I picked up the cheese slice that someone dropped, I threw it in my pocket… until I could make my way to the garbage cans. At least that was the plan.

I’ve not researched the full catalog of fibers cheese mold can adhere to and successfully colonize, but I can now say with confidence that waterproof/durable, lemon yellow raincoat fiber is one. In the petri dish of a rubber dry bag, heated to a consistency far above average body temperature for a fortnight, that mold will not only survive, it will flourish.

Too mortified to tell anyone that I’d been conducting inadvertent chemical experiments the entirety of our trip, I stealthily pushed my raincoat into a plastic trash bag and rode out the remaining three days of the trip with a lingering odor that people noticed but were too kind to mention.

Back at home, there were only two options for Old Yellow: the trashcan or the washing machine. First, I turned the jet hose on it. The stink was stronger than my will.

As a last ditch effort, I threw it the washing machine and poured in some Tech Wash, as that was my habit. Had I stopped to think about it, I would have poured in the most toxic stink-fighter I could find. Instead, I berated myself for “wasting” the Tech Wash.

One wash with Tech Wash gave me hope. We weren’t in the clear, but you had to bury your nose in the jacket in order to smell the cheesy aftereffects. The second wash brought the world back into equilibrium: zero stink and no evidence of mold. The third wash was really just a hopeful attempt to erase the mold hangover in my mind.

Six years later and I’m proud the say my yellow raincoat is still with me and performing like a champion. I may have put her through the ringer, but sweet redemption is ours from the Great Grand Canyon Cheese Episode. —Brook Sutton