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Why You Should Pay Attention to Chemistry on this Earth Day

It's up to all of us to do our part to take care of the earth. Photo: NASA

It’s up to all of us to do our part to take care of the earth. Photo: NASA

Chemistry is hard. That’s why most American students put it off until the end of their K-12 years. That’s why university professors allow cheat sheets. That’s why Nikwax employs a gaggle of white lab-coated PhDs on our research and development team.

Those scientists have dedicated more than 30 years to developing Nikwax formulas that produce effective and non-harmful chemical reactions for waterproofing and cleaning.

By “non-harmful,” we mean intentionally avoiding any chemical content or reaction that may be noxious to humans or the environment.

Nikwax is clear on our stance: we believe fluorocarbons have a deleterious effect on humans and the environment, so we don’t use them in any of our products. We have pages and pages of scientific resources on our website to support our belief.

External studies support our stance. Specifically, a 2012 independent scientific study that was commissioned by Greenpeace found perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), in every piece of name brand rain gear they tested.

The apparel industry uses PFCs for coating and finishing outdoor garments or sporting goods, or for the production of breathable membrane. The report calls these PFCs, which do not occur in nature, “environmentally damaging toxins.” What’s more, the report calls for more stringent regulation of all PFCs.

Conclusions from the 2012 study include the following:

  • There is an urgent need to ban PFCs from outdoor wear production.
  • The outdoor clothing industry must continue to develop safer alternatives [to PFCs] and use them in processing their products.
  • PFCs and other chemicals reach drinking water, food and ultimately human blood and breast milk from such various sources as manufacturing and household wastewater, dust and the disposal of textiles.
  • The outdoor clothing industry can go without using PFC and nevertheless manufacture items that meet most customers’ demands for functionality.

That last one really spoke to us. After all, at Nikwax, we’ve been saying that since our inception. We know it is possible to keep our clients dry and warm without dousing their outerwear with toxic chemicals.

Nikwax is 100% fluorocarbon-free, and we will always oppose the inclusion of fluorocarbons in water repellency formulations.

When it comes to chemistry, it’s okay to be confused by the scientific specifics. We don’t expect everyone to understand the chemical makeup of fluorocarbons and their varied derivatives. You may or may not understand the distinctions between the C8 and the C6 carbon chains.

We get it. But we fervently believe that as a product manufacturer we can’t pass the buck. It’s our responsibility to ask the hard questions and to take a stance when the answers show ever so clearly that we should.

That can be the difference between clean water and polluted water. Or between a sick family and a healthy one.

We leave you, on this celebration of Earth Day, with a quote from a chemistry professor, on the tumblr site Chemagical:

“In the sciences, all of these ideas were developed over decades. If this stuff were common sense, we would have had all of this stuff figured out before the 1800’s. These concepts can be difficult, and it’s a hell of a lot better to ask a question and sort out your (and possibly others’) confusion than to wallow in ignorance.”

Here’s to taking charge of our own health, and taking responsibility for the sustainability of our passions and the well being of the environments we love.

Happy Earth Day!


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Survive the holiday season with your sanity intact

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The true spirit of the holiday season has very little to do with your gourmet capabilities, hands-y TSA agents or social calendars bursting to near implosion. Alas, these are the pressures we willingly and not-so-willingly hoist upon ourselves for a seven week period every year’s end.

Dear readers, please release yourselves from your own expectations. You’re perfect to us just as you are.

In the off chance that’s not enough, we present our solutions to managing common holiday stressors.

Stressful: Travel.

Solution: Download an audio book you’ve been itching to read, and map out a potential mid-way stopping point (hotel, camping, friend’s couch). Let all your people know that you have a Plan B, in case of flight delays, traffic or if you hit a reindeer-drawn sleigh en route. The simple act of having a back-up plan reduces the pressure to “get there.”

Stressful: Overeating.

Solution: It’s not even the tighter waistband that’s worrisome; it’s the lethargy from a cookie-based diet that wears you down. Don’t bother focusing on what not to eat in the midst of the holiday bounty. Instead, continually refresh a huge salad packed with yummy nutrients in the fridge. Pack it for lunch or eat a small filler salad before you go to a party. Enjoy the holiday foods with the comfort that you’ve nourished yourself well.

Stressful: Gift-giving.

Solution: Everyone has a different philosophy and a different budget, but we’re always fans of offering experiences instead of stuff that people will eventually grow out of. Travel? Photography class? Tuesday night standing date to hike your favorite trail together?

Stressful: The party you dread attending, but have run out of excuses not to.

Solution: Read snippets from your favorite authors every day for a week before the party. Work the room with sparkling conversation and ideas that don’t revolve around the weather, work or fruitcake recipes.

We hope our tips will help you stay in the true spirit of the holidays, surrounded by family, joy and the happiness found in giving. We also hope you’re surrounded by warmth – courtesy of Nikwax, good friends and a crackling fire. Above all, if you’re present in the moment, trust what you’re giving is enough.

Happy Holidays!

Love,

Nikwax


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Winter Fun With Kids

Who cares if they'd rather eat snow than slide on it? Just dress 'em warm and send them out.

Who cares if they’d rather eat snow than slide on it? Just dress ’em warm and send them out.

Few things in life are as inspiring as the anticipation of the first snowfall, especially for parents. You know who you are. You’ve watched your child’s eyes light up at the first snow of the season, and shared the same purity of spirit. Hot chocolate steaming in a mug, you gather by the window planning snowmen and skiing and sledding galore.

Then Spongebob comes on and you all return to the couch or to your book or the dishes. Ehh. It’s cold out there.

If your kids are only playing outside in three seasons, they’re missing out on one quarter of life’s fun and a lot of more of nature’s beauty. We’ve gathered a few ideas to keep your kids warm, happy and begging for more outside time this winter.

Create a winter dressing checklist. There’s a lot to remember in winter dressing, especially when you’re anxious to get outside to go sledding. Since one missing mitten can ruin a good time, make a list (with pictures if you’re kid is still learning to read) of head to toe gear for both you and your little one to reference.

Let your child select their own super cool hat. If they hate it, they won’t wear it. If they love it, good luck removing it, which is exactly what you want when it comes to hats and winter.

Splurge on the technical gear to avoid unhappy, cold little ones.

Splurge on the technical gear to avoid unhappy, cold little ones.

Focus on fun, even if the activity is serious or expensive. The fastest way to end your ski or snowboarding vacations is to pressure your kid into loving them. The younger the kid, the more the experience should be purely associated with fun. This may mean that your four year old is more interested in eating the snow than sliding on it. Fine! Eventually, they’ll understand what it’s all about. Until then, give them time to adjust to bulky clothes, heavy boots and a near frictionless gravity. Trust us. They’ll out-ski you before you’re ready.

Don’t skimp on quality gear. Easier said than done when we’re all on a budget, but think of it this way: dress your kid as you dress yourself. You would never go on a ski tour with cotton knit mittens, yet that’s what gets pushed to kids whose hands will inevitably be buried in snow. Eschew cotton under-layers and invest in quick dry, insulating pieces. The good news is that since kids grow fast most thrift stores have a decent selection of children’s technical gear. Also, connect with other outdoor-oriented parents to organize a hand-me-down collective.

Doing laundry may be the secret to warm, outdoor play. Kids’ gear can get an undeserved bad rap for low performance. But the truth is that technical gear needs to be free from dirt and grime to perform at its peak. Since dirt, grime and kids go hand in hand, try to stay on top of cleaning your kids’ winter wear.

Couldn’t be easier, right? OK, we hear all you parents laughing out there. We understand that it can be tough to get the kids outside, but we know from experience that once they’re there, they probably won’t want to come inside. That’s where our final tip comes in: bribe ‘em with hot cocoa. Works every time.


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

AJF_6037

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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Get Ski Fit Without Setting Foot in the Gym

LindseyVonn

We once knew a ski bum, who lived up to the full glory of the term. For over 20 years, he skied every day of the winter, regardless of conditions. His pre-season routine had always been to hang out with friends, drink some beer and start skiing as soon as the snow fell. However, he eventually caved to pressure from his friends and magazine who editors insisted he’d enjoy skiing “that much more” if went into the season fit, and he began to train.

He rode his bike. He lifted weights. He flirted with women in their workout gear, and he ran. He pushed and clawed and ran his way up mountains he loved to ski down. Then it happened. Five miles out on a 10-mile loop, he lost focus and twisted his ankle. No fanfare. No ski patrol. He hobbled back to town in his running shorts and busted body. One demolished ankle and one lost season of skiing.

One year later, he resolved to go back to his beer drinking, no training ways. He’s never missed a day of skiing since.

Most of us aren’t so lucky to get by on beer drinking alone. We reap genuine benefit from a early season conditioning. But we may not love the gym.

So today, we present three out-of-the-box training tips that will help prep your body for ski season. In honor of our good friend, the consummate ski bum, they can all be done with beer in hand (…though we’re not necessarily condoning it).

Common sense warning: Know your own body and your capabilities. We present these ideas as fun ways to build ski specific fitness, not as ironclad directions.

1.  Racing downhill with Lindsey and Aksel Lund Svindal (a.k.a. Living room tucks) for strength and endurance. YouTube old downhill races on your computer or watch early season races, like the Birds of Prey at Beaver Creek on the television. As the downhillers take course, drop into a tuck in your living room (ski boots not required).

  • Keep your feet flat on the ground (emulating skis flat on the snow). With flexed knees and ankles bring your back low and parallel to the floor (a.k.a. the slope). Bring your arms and elbows tight to your body with hands roughly in front of your chin, which should be lowered.
  • Hold the tuck position for the entirety of one downhill run. This should last roughly two minutes, depending on the course.
  • Not enough for you? Take one racer off, then tuck along with the next.

2.  Lateral downhill skips for agility. We first learned of this exercise from SKI magazine over a decade ago and it’s still super fun. Basically, any time you’re walking or running downhill, “skip” from foot to foot while bringing your other foot into a corresponding, “parallel” position.

  • Be highly attentive to your knees. Enough said.
  • Holding your core strong and your upper body stable while aiming down the hill, place your right foot on the ground to the outside right of your core. Keep your foot facing forward (and, again, heed your knees). At the same time, bring your left foot and leg in a parallel, corresponding position – though the left foot should not touch the ground.
  • Now, jump or “skip” to the left foot, hold your core stable in the middle and bring your right foot along. The focus is on lateral stability, feeling the inside length of your “outside” foot and the agility of moving both legs independently, but in concert. Try to keep your head level with each skip.
  • This can also be done on a flat floor. Even better: place two mini trampolines side by side and jump laterally from one to the other while keeping your head level and relatively low.
  • Note: This is a fun agility exercise, it is not a direct replication of proper short-turn technique.

3.  UVs for a strong core. To manage the ever-changing terrain underneath our feet when we ski, a strong core is critical. UVs are just co-opting two exercises from Pilates that not only build balanced strength, they also encourage a good stretch afterward.

  • The “U.” Lie on the floor on your stomach, with arms stretched out in front of you. Lift your upper body from the chest up and lift your legs. Be sure to keep your neck and head in easy alignment, not tilted up – as you’ll be tempted to do. Flutter kick your legs and flutter your arms up and down. Go for about 20-30 seconds. Rest repeat.
  • The “V.” This is the classic Pilates 100. Check out this short video from Gaiam, which details the beginner and advanced approaches to the 100.

These exercises can be added to a full training plan that includes more strengthening, more stretching, plyometrics and lots of agility and quick feet. Happy skiing!


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Seattle Craigslist Missed Connections: M4W at 3-Step Gear Rehab Support Group* for Gear Abusers and Dirt Hounds

gearrehab_support_group2I saw you at a Seattle 3-Step Gear Rehab support group. You were wearing a purple 2-layer jacket, but you called the color eggplant or cabernet or Manchurian sunset or something.

Me: I was wearing a pair of jeans with a short-sleeve plaid button up and flip-flops. I was shy. You were so beautiful. Your strong, calloused hands looked like you may be my manic-pixie-dream-climbing partner.

You: Alone, sitting just outside the circle, because you were ashamed of the dirt and your raincoat’s obvious failure to keep water out. I hope it’s not too presumptuous to say, but I’m proud of you. Admitting the problem is the first step.

Showing up is like step 1.5.

I’m here to tell you: it gets better. My gear is six months clean now. It’s only four months proofed, but hey, you don’t need to proof as often as you clean!

At my first Gear Rehab meeting, I was a skeptic.

I know you can just send your gear to Nikwax and they’ll take care of it through their free internal Gear Rehab program, but I wanted to debunk the juju. Besides, I really wanted to replace all of my gear with newer versions that had brighter colors. But before I binged, I decided to “lift the curtain on Oz.”

“Put your proofing where your mouth is, Nikwax,” I said, because I’m not worried about mixing metaphors.

You know what? They did it. Well, they didn’t actually drink the waterproofing, but that’s not important right now.

You know what’s important? The fact that the 3-Step system works.

It’s easy:

  1. Admit your gear needs help.
  2. Clean it. Keeping gear clean will keep it at peak performance.
  3. Waterproof it. Nikwax formulas are non-toxic and fluorocarbon-free, so they are safe for home use and not harmful to the environment.

These three steps are the reason I didn’t splurge on thousands of dollars of new gear I couldn’t afford. They’re why my gear looks as good as it does. They are solely responsible for my gear’s improved performance. Hell, they’ve helped me break my addiction to consumerism!

Oh boy—I sound like a zealot. I kind of am.

When you figure out how you want to spend the rest of your life (having adventures in gear that works) and the woman you want to spend it with (umm… you), you want the rest of your life to begin right away.

I hope to see you at the next 3-Step Meeting. If you decide to send your cabernet Manchurian raincoat to Nikwax for the Gear Rehab program, please, please, please respond to this missed connection and we can climb into the sunset together.

Signed,

The guy with perfect beads of water rolling off my jacket shoulders

*All gear addicts and Gear Rehab support groups mentioned above are fictional. In the non-fiction realm, Nikwax will clean and proof your gear in-house and for free – all in the name of making you a believer. Not to confused with Beliebers. We have no vested interest in that. Check out all the details here: http://www.nikwaxna.com/gearrehab/


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On Staging a Sandal Intervention

StinkySandal

Hello our dear, sweet Flip Flops,

Thanks for taking the time to read this. We thought we’d start easy—because what we have to say isn’t going to be, well, easy. So first, thank you for just reading this. When you’re done with this letter, please join us in the living room. All of us: Bootsy, Mr. Sneakers, Ms. Dressy Shoes.

So, what’s this about? Well, we love you and if you don’t change, something else will have to change.

We’ve been through a lot together – all of us – so we’re going to speak honestly.

We’ve noticed that you’ve been hanging around the closet more than you used to. It’s not that we don’t love having you around. No one else can tell a good adventure story like you can! Bootsy has done some sweet mountain trips, but he only gets out every so often.

You used to be out EVERY day of the summer. You were the first to get packed for a trip to the beach, the first pulled out for errands around town and the only shoes that ever get to go to a barbeque. Truth be told, we’re all a little jealous of how much action you see. At the same time, we understand. You’re cool, easy-going and comfy. Who wouldn’t want you around?

Here’s comes the hard part, Flips. All of us are beginning to worry that your days are numbered. Just a few weeks ago, you came back to the closet with a dramatic toss. Obviously, we were all concerned that you’d thrown a strap or delaminated or something tragic. No, buddy. You were in one – well, technically – two pieces.

Then it hit us… literally. You smell terrible! You reek! You stink!

It seemed to happen almost overnight. First, you came back from the pool earlier than expected. Word on the street was that you never even made to the water. We’re not accusing you of anything, Flippy, but you know how the other shoes love to talk. Most of us have been around this closet a long time and we’ve seen too many flip flops leave before their time. Don’t have your last adventure be a trip to the dump, Flipper.

Bootsy has lasted as long as he has because every time he gets a little tired, he signals by allowing a little water through his skin. Voila! A little wax-like stuff and one massage later, he’s rejuvenated. Bootsy lives to hike another year!

Here’s what you need to do, otherwise it’s sayonara summer shoes. Beg for Nikwax Sandal Wash. You’ve made the first step to admitting there’s a problem by wafting your odor at completely unexpected times. If you push the stench thing too hard, Sandal Wash can still get you out of trouble, but the head that goes along with your beloved feet may be hesitant to attempt to save you.

It’ll tickle a little, but it’s worth it. First you’ll take a warm shower. Then the hands that go along with your beloved feet will rub some Sandal Wash all over you. It feels like a nice loofah scrub at a Scandinavian spa or something. Another quick rinse and you’ve just guaranteed yourself another summer of fun. Plus, the closet will be a much nicer place without you stinkin’ up the joint.

We love you enough to tell you this, Flips, so we hope you love yourself enough to be part of the solution.

Your friends,

The size 9 gang