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The Nikwax Spring Break Checklist

2palmsIt’s that time of year again: spring break! After drifting drearily through the murky winter months, it’s finally time to get out and go somewhere exciting. You know you want spring adventure, but where to go? Head to the mountains for some spring snow? Catch surf and sun in some tropical country? Wherever it is that you decide to go, we’ve got your gear covered. Here’s our handy checklist to help you prep for your trip:

 Mountain adventures:

  • Re-waterproof your ski skins. You won’t know your skins need this until they fail. Hit ‘em up proactively.
  • Substitute your big, insulated ski jacket with a shell and a light insulated layer for layering versatility. Wash both in Tech Wash to get ahead of the game.
  •  Consider wool for your base layers in the volatile spring weather. Wool is an effective thermo-regulator, keeping you cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cold. Plus, since warmer springtime temps mean more sweat, wool is naturally anti-bacterial and won’t stink as much as synthetics. Bonus: Nikwax has a special Wool Wash that will preserve all of these awesome qualities.

 Tropical adventures:

  • Pack enough sunscreen to cover every inch of your lilywhite body. While you’re at it, find your sunglasses and a sun hat. Your eyes and head need as much protection from the sun as the rest of your body.
  •  Go get yourself an ENO Hammock. These super packable little hammocks hang very nicely between two palm trees.
  • Bring a tube of Nikwax BaseWash Travel Gel. It’s packaged to be TSA compliant, and it will come in handy to keep swimsuits, swim trunks, and your other travel clothes from smelling sour. Bonus: no washing machine needed! With the travel gel, you can do your wash in the sink.

General camping and biking adventures:

  • Set up your tent BEFORE you go. Did you lose some stakes? Snap a tent pole? Pack the rainfly when it was wet? Figure it out before you’re racing against nighttime and an incoming storm. While you have that tent up, consider spraying it with Tent & Gear SolarProof. We know you aren’t praying for rain on your vacay, but it never hurts to be prepared for it.
  • Air out your sleeping bags. Though it’s recommended that you store down bags by hanging them up in the open air, who has that kind of space? Pull them out and shake lightly to loft the down. If needed, wash them with Down Wash and Down Proof. The combo will add loft and water repellency, and leave your bag smelling sweet after a winter of exile.
  • If cycling is on the agenda, it’s time for a tune-up. If you rely on professionals for regular maintenance, hit them up before the spring break rush.
  •  They call it “mud season” for a reason. Even if you’ll be exploring a relatively dry area, the shaded areas will likely still have some snow or mud. Waterproof your shoes and boots now, so spring break happy hour can legitimately live up to its name.

Like the wise Helen Keller once quoted, “Life is either a great adventure or nothing.” Now get out there and have some fun, you crazy kids!

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Nikwax Guide to Winter Glamping

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If snow caves have no place in your lexicon of outdoor adventure, you’re in the right place. Don’t get us wrong. Many of us here at Nikwax are avid winter campers. But there are just as many for whom “no camping after Labor Day” is as hard and fast a rule as the “no whites after Labor Day” dictum was for our grandmothers.

Alas, missing out on the night sky for four months out of the year is unacceptable. The derisive chuckles aimed at “glampers” in the heat of summer turn to piqued interest as the winter solstice wanes. Perhaps those pleasure pusses are onto something? Luxuries like heat, feather beds and fully functioning wood stoves seem far less superfluous when the Arctic jet stream bulldozes its way into your weather pattern.

Winter camping? Not so much. Winter glamping? You bet! In the spirit of appreciating the great outdoors from a heated and well-apportioned indoors, here are a few ideas for winter vacation spots that will have you reveling in the beauty of nature without fear of frostbite or freeze-dried beef stroganoff.

Whitepod, in the Swiss Alps. If an opening image of a dome-shaped tent high above the clouds in a snow-covered Alpine valley doesn’t sell this place for you, try the first three tabs of the website: Sleeping, Eating and Having Fun. If you’re up for making a few turns, this luxury eco-resort is smack in the middle of the Alps.

Heli-assisted ski touring. The beauty of a helicopter assist is that your trips begins deeper in the wilderness. Even though you’ll be powering your own adventure from there on out, you can relax in the promise of never crossing another person’s track. Lodges range from rustic to 5-star, but either way you’re living in wintertime wilderness luxury.

10th Mountain Division Huts. Colorado’s 10th Mountain Huts range from rustic to very nice. Since you pack in your own food, libations and sleeping bags, the “glamorous” aspect comes from the romance of your very own cabin in the woods for a night or two.

Bon voyage!


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Nikwax Guide to Giving Gifts that Keep on Giving

Christmaspresents

In terms of gift-giving, what is important this holiday season is giving your beloved family something they’ll love and that will last. The best gifts have a personal, perhaps even hidden, meaning that take the art of giving to inspired levels. And we’ve got a few thoughtful gift ideas that will leave those on your list feeling merry and bright! 

For: Your mom who is always cold

Gift: Merino wool sweater

Stocking stuffer accompaniment for longevity: Nikwax Wool Wash

Brownie Points: 10 of 10

Wool hasn’t experienced this level of popularity since the Shackleton era. It’s not the cycles of fashion. It’s because wool is nature’s star performer and top of the line Merino wool apparel companies are sticklers for quality. The soft hand, the sleek silhouette and the incomparable warmth will earn you an extra slice of pie, if not a larger slice of the inheritance.

For: Your dad who complains about the thermostat being too high

Gift: A lightweight, stretch fleece

Stocking stuffer accompaniment for longevity: Nikwax Polar Proof

Brownie Points: 8 of 10 from Dad and 10 of 10 from Mom

Let’s face it. As a gross generalization, dads don’t get overly excited about clothes. Just explain that this comfy piece of Americana will go directly from his morning jog, to watching football on the couch, to working on his pet project in the backyard. One-stop dressing=brilliant! Bonus: Mom’s Merino wool get-up is bound to be warmer than Dad’s lightweight fleece, thereby solving the age-old argument of where to keep the indoor temperature. You’ve saved Christmas and a marriage. Well done, you!

For: Your recent college graduate sister who is moving to a resort town for “just one year” while she finds herself

Gift: A down puffy jacket

Stocking stuffer accompaniment: Nikwax Down Wash and Down Proof

Brownie Points: 10 of 10… eventually

She doesn’t know this yet, but no one escapes the siren song of a resort town in “just one year.” She also doesn’t realize that her rent and heating bills will be exorbitant, even after splitting them evenly among her five roommates. Nor has it settled in that her down jacket will be her go-to layer every day this winter. It may take her some time to accept these realities, but she’ll thank you eventually.

For: The annoying uncle who snorts with laughter over the humiliating stories of you as an awkward pre-teen

Gift: Nikwax Rug Proof

Stocking stuffer accompaniment: Nothing! He’s lucky you kept him on your list in the first place.

Brownie Points: Depends how earnestly you can deliver the present

You’ll say it’s for protecting the horse blankets at the thoroughbred stables he bought for your bratty, spoiled cousin. But we all know it’s for that rat-tastic toupee he sports with no sense of irony or dignity.

Editor’s Note: Nikwax neither recommends nor condones use of Rug Proof as a toupee cleaner. 


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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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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


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End of Season Care for Winter Gear

snowboarder-cartoon-thoughtThe days are getting longer and the powder days are soon going to fade into memories. As winter winds down, we here at Nikwax urge you to take advantage of the remaining snowy days. Make turns while you can! Skip work for a snowy backcountry adventure!

And then, when you’re ready to call it quits, be kind to your cold weather gear.

In other words, before stashing it away, give it a good cleaning so it will be fresh and ready to wear when the snow starts to fly next season.

How should you prep your winter gear for storage?

That depends on the gear. Read on for gear-specific tips:

Down jacket

Love your puffy?

Clean it with our Down Wash in front-loading washing machine. Make sure to follow the care label on your jacket!

To dry, toss your jacket in the dryer at low heat with two clean tennis balls (or “sock balls”) to help “refluff” your coat. Keep in mind that your jacket may take 2-3 hours to dry.

If desired, follow up with Down Proof wash-in waterproofing.

Shell pants and jacket

Got Gore-Tex? Your ski jacket and pants have likely seen some good action this winter, so before stashing them away, give them a cleaning in your washer with Tech Wash.

If the care label allows, dry in a regular dryer at a low temp, or hang out to air dry.

Softshell

Spring skiing and snowy adventures are often softshell weather, so take care of those pieces with our Softshell DuoPack, which contains Tech Wash to clean, followed by Softshell Proof to waterproof.

Close to the skin

Last but not least, don’t neglect those next-to-skin base layers and techy ski socks! Run them through a cycle with our BaseFresh then fold ‘em up, store ‘em in the drawer and bid them adieu until next winter.


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Shoveling 101: Looking Good, Feeling Better

Layering is key to stay dry doing winter chores. Photo courtesy http://www.flickr.com/photos/annaustin/

Layering is key to stay dry doing winter chores. Photo courtesy http://www.flickr.com/photos/annaustin/

It’s almost President’s Day Weekend, which means families around the country are gearing up to take the Christmas tree down. Or is that just us?

Forget skiing and ice climbing, mundane outdoor tasks take up far more checks on our honey-do list than all of the rad adventures we wish could be top priority. When you add up all the hours in a winter, shoveling the drive, throwing a Frisbee for the dog and walking to the bus take up a lot more space in our pie chart of activities than all the “cool” things we define ourselves by.NW_PieChart

Here at Nikwax, we’re proud that our products are as relevant for chores around the house as they are on multi-day expeditions. We think “how to layer for cleaning the gutters” is just as compelling as “how to layer for your 8th ascent of the Eiger.”

At the core, they offer the same challenges:

  • Manage moisture from the weather and from your own sweat,
  • Maintain a comfortable body temperature based on exertion and layering options, and
  • Choose your outerwear wisely for the best experience.

So move over Conrad Anker. Step aside Gretchen Bleiler and Chris Davenport. We’re impressed; you know we are. But today we salute the heroes of the cul-de-sac: the every day men and women who gauge the difficulty of their ascent by how deeply buried the ladder is in the garage.

How to Dress for Shoveling: Looking Good, Feeling Better

1.    Never underestimate the power of moisture-wicking base layer.

Keep performance and lose the stench with: Nikwax BaseFresh or Wool Wash

2. If you listen to Willie Nelson, watch old Westerns or have ever been on a sports team, you know that certain relationships trump all others. A man and his horse; a cowboy and his sidekick; your feet and your boots. Shoveling is hard work, so it’s not too likely that your tootsies will be cold. Wet, however, is a different story. Nobody likes prune toes.

Keep your feet dry with our range of Footwear Products

3. That fancy new cold weather shell does work for shoveling! It may lack the panache of say…a Glad bag…but it will let the sweat out and keep the snow from getting in. Here’s the not-so-secret tip that has been at the center of a long-held misunderstanding for technical outerwear: WASH IT. Yep, the biggest performance hindrance to breathability in outerwear is the build-up of oils, dirt and grime on the fabric. The key is to wash with a gentle formula designed for technical gear. While it’s a good idea to re-waterproof as needed, washing is the first critical step.

Mangy to marvelous with: Tech Wash

4. Stay hydrated. Every high level performer cares for their body’s internal wellness.Our good friends at Nuun make that task fun. We love doctoring up a boring glass of water with their electrolyte replenishers. And following that, we’re always game for the hydration duo power pack: Coffee (morning) and beer (afternoon).

Enjoy that beer with the knowledge that you’ve just burned 408 calories (assuming you weigh 150-lbs and kept at it for an hour), and you were home in time to tuck your kids into bed.

Here’s to you!

Love,

Nikwax