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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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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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Beat the heat

trailrunningsun

Summer: the one season that has the power to make us suffer and enjoy it at the same time. It’s during these dog days that we have hours and hours of sunlight that lure us outside. The same sun bears down in relentless heat, which can zap the enthusiasm of even the most die-hard athlete.

And for us recreational athletes? Well, we get hot, too! It’s (kind of) tempting to hole up inside, but we don’t really want to. There’s vitamin D to absorb, after all! Blue sky! Sun! Here at Nikwax USA’s Seattle headquarters, those are in limited supply. We want to beat the heat, not escape it.

So, even if it’s hot enough to almost fry an egg on the sidewalk, we’ll take fresh air and scenery every time.

(A side note: always be on the lookout for symptoms of heat exhaustion, which can include:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Weakness
  • Cold, pale, and clammy skin
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting

If you experience any of these symptoms, move to somewhere cooler, sip water, and stop rigorous activity.

Now—when it’s just hot, and not heat-exhaustion hot—here’s how we suggest you  beat the heat and  keep your cool.

  • Do acclimate. Don’t go out for a two hour hike in the heat of the day if you haven’t been consistently working out in the warmer temps. Build your way up time wise, so your body doesn’t go into shock when blasted with that blazing sun.
  • Do take advantage of the extra daylight. The cooler evening and morning temperatures are so much easier on the constitution than, say, high noon.
  • Do wear the right clothing. Clothes that wick and are light in color are the best choices for the summer swelter. Don’t forget that a hat/visor can also do wonders to keep you cool. Make sure you keep those wicking and cooling properties at there max by properly washing and maintaining your workout wear with products like Nikwax BaseWash.
  • Do hydrate properly. Avoid that last beer before bed and caffeine in the morning before that singletrack ride or five-mile run. Keeping on top of your hydration all day long (before, during and post workout) will help keep your body temperature regulated. Not a huge fan of H2O? Try adding some Nuun hydration tablets, or toss a slice of lemon into your water bottle.
  • Do choose your path wisely. Is there shade, access to a water fountain, a sprinkler or two that goes off during your route? Ask yourself what are the cooling benefits you will have access to based on the direction you go and maximize those advantages.
  • Do partner up. Nothing helps more than having a buddy to keep that motivation up, to keep accountability and to keep safe.
  • Do know when enough is enough. If you begin to feel any of the symptoms of heat exhaustion/stroke from dizziness to cramping, stop activity.
  • Do take care of yourself once back indoors. Continue to hydrate by jazzing up water with a slice of lemon, enjoying a coconut water or some green tea with honey, eating water-based fruits and veggies like watermelon, pineapple and cucumber and taking a cold shower.


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Tips for keeping kids’ uniforms clean

little-league

Your kid may be good at science, but that doesn’t mean you want to participate in a microbiology experiment in your home this summer. Yep, we’re talking about uniforms—the baseball/soccer/swim/lacrosse/all-around active gear that gets hammered on a regular basis.

If you’re a parent, you know how quickly kids sports gear grimes up. And it’s not just dirt we’re talking about. There are bacteria, mold and fungus that can sprout in less-than-hygienic conditions.

To make sure your kid stands out for their performance on the court or field and not because they smell up the locker room, here are some tips.

1. Air-dry all equipment when wet before throwing it back in a bag or storing it. Drying it outside is OK as long as you avoid prolonged exposure to direct sunlight.

2. Wipe down equipment that has direct contact with skin after use. Avoid using odor sprays and products full of chemicals that can break down the plastic and other materials today’s gear is made of. Simply spray hydrogen peroxide on each piece and wipe down with water.

3. Don’t let stinky stained clothes pile up until Mt. St. Odor takes over the laundry room. Create a weekly cleaning routine, teaching your older children where to put their sports apparel post use.

4. That red sticky Popsicle may have been the perfect treat post game but the red stains won’t be a treat to get out when the wrapper and stick go through the wash. Be sure to check the pockets before throwing any uniforms in the wash.

5. Two words: Base Wash. Use Nikwax’s Base Wash each time you wash any uniform made from synthetic material. While you are at it, turn the uniform inside out before throwing it into the wash too.

7. You may think you are saving time throwing in that sportswear with other wash, but for better results, wash it all separately from other clothes. Better yet, throw in a cycle of  BaseFresh to eliminate odors, maintain wicking properties at their maximum, and prolong the uniform’s longevity.

How you take care of and store your equipment is just as important for making it last. While we all would love the crew from HGTV to come over and build us the perfect mudroom/garage, simple to find products from bins and hooks to racks and organizers will also do the trick. Before storing those bats, gloves, sticks etc., follow these tips.

1. Make sure equipment is completely dry before storing.

2. Keep equipment from being exposed to damp environments, excessive heat and excessive cold temperatures.

3. Use Nikwax Leather Cleaner to remove mud from baseball gloves and other leather equipment. To condition the leather, use Nikwax Conditioner for Leather.

4. Shoes stink? That’s a silly question. Of course they do. Use Nikwax Footwear Cleaning Gel to get those cleats ready for the next game.


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Down Revival: How To Teach Old Feathers New Tricks

850-Fill-Power-Goose-Down

Purchasing down gear is rite of passage for us outdoor types. Remember the joy of stuffing your first down sleeping bag into its impossibly small stuff sack after years of struggling with a monster synthetic bag? Or the first time you donned the down coat that you saved for years to be able to purchase?

You should. Buying down represents achieving the “next stage” of outdoorsiness. Anyone who spends time sleeping, skiing, hiking, or otherwise adventuring outside understands that a down coat (or bag, or booties, or gloves, or, yes, even hats) can mean the difference between basic survival and enjoyment. Down offers an unbeatable warmth to weight ratio. It’s perhaps the best insulator out there. Did we mention it’s cozy?

It also required care and attention to extend its lifespan.

or_trance_sweater_300Here’s the good news: Down care is easy, affordable and guarantees a long lifespan for your gear.

What’s the best way to take care of your down gear?

Wash: Gear performs better when closest to its original, pristine state. Case in point: the birdbath. Birds know that their down will best protect them when it is clean. Down, specifically, requires a gentle, detergent-free cleaner. We recommend our very own, Nikwax Down Wash, which is specially formulated to launder down feathers without weighing down the loft (also see Down Proof, below).

Rinse: So long as there isn’t a center-mount agitator, a special washing machine isn’t required for down gear. If the washer is large enough to handle the load, it’s good to go. Regardless if you’re hand washing or using a machine, the hard and fast rule is rinse, rinse, then rinse again. Ensure the effluent water runs clear.

Dry: Relax to the rhythmic sound of a tennis ball tumbling through the dry cycle. The down will be clumpy from its time in the washer, and drying it completely is critical. Tossing a clean tennis ball in the dryer provides a gentle “smack” to break up the clumps. Fair warning: this is not a short process and you will likely have moments of clumpy terror when you check on the progress. Keep resetting the timer until your beloveds are lump-free and fully dry.

Results: When you pull your newly revived jacket out of the dryer, not only will it be gleaming with cleanliness, it will also be puffier then when you began the day. By gently cleansing the delicate feathers, Nikwax Down Wash revives loft and reinvigorates the down’s ability to trap air once again. Voilà!

Store: Hang it all out there. Just say no to storing down gear in tight stuff sacks. Over time, perpetually “squished” down feathers will become more resistant to re-lofting to their original air-trapping excellence. Store down apparel and sleeping bags hanging freely with plenty of space or hanging in large, breathable bags.

Additional resources:

  • Cleaning instructions from http://www.shop-denali.com/down_care.aspx.
  • Always read and follow the label instructions for temperature and other considerations.
  • Down is only effective when dry. Periodically apply Nikwax Down Proof, which both revives the outer fabric’s DWR, AND adds water repellency to the down itself, without adversely affecting the insulating properties.


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You probably don’t need those new boots! How to care for your shoes to make them last.

Footwear, as we all know, takes a lot of abuse. Even so, it has always broken my heart a little to see even my most worn-out (yet beloved) shoes relegated to the trash bin. But, what else can you do? They’re toast, right? Wrong.

A boot or shoe is made up (very roughly speaking) of three basic parts: the sole, the upper and the liner. All of these parts can become broken down or worn out without proper care. WITH proper care, however, your footwear can last you a LOT longer, leaving some extra cash in your pocket and a little less stuff in your local landfill. For extremely detailed direction on caring for your boots, check out this article by our friends at REI, Caring for Hiking Boots: Expert Advice.

A good place to start is by finding a good repair person in your town. Dave Page, Seattle-area Cobbler Extrordinaire, agrees, “resole your shoes. Those things are expensive!” As the authorized repair agent for REI, Vibram, Vasque, Asolo, Montrail, One Sport, Merrell, Raichle, Scarpa, Garmont, Salomon, La Sportiva, Technica, Lowa, Zamberlan, Kayland, EMS and Chaco, the man has resuscitated more pairs of shoes and boots than most of us have ever seen.

Awaiting new life at the hands of Dave Page!

At a cost far below what you would pay to replace your footwear, you can have them repaired and resoled, keeping them out of the landfill and preserving that broken-in comfort you worked so hard for. “Replacing climbing shoes every time the sole wears out makes no sense to me. It’s wasteful and you’re always breaking in a new pair!” says La Sportiva (and Nikwax) rep Ed Sampson.

Ed Sampson teaching retail employees about La Sportiva climbing shoes and mountineering boots – and how to care for them

What’s that you say? You say your boots are still practically new? Well, friend, then you’re in luck! Keeping your boots and shoes clean and waterproof prevents grit from getting into the fabric and leather and breaking them down from the inside. Use Nikwax Footwear Cleaning Gel to remove dirt and grime after use, then follow-up with the Nikwax waterproofer that’s appropriate for your specific type of footwear to maintain the durable water-repellent finish.

Green for Clean!

Purple for Proof!

Waterproofing for fabric and leather combination footwear

Help your footwear work better and last longer. Hike and climb happy and Stay Dry! 🙂

Dave Page is a Seattle-area cobbler who specializes in repairing and resoling hiking and mountaineering boots, climbing shoes and Birkenstocks. If you have a pair of boots or shoes in need of help, contact Dave via his website.

Ed Sampson is a long-time climber and mountaineer who’s built a storied career in the outdoor industry. He is currently part of the Tenaya Group, which represents La Sportiva, Nikwax and Bluewater Ropes in the American Southwest.

Kelsey is the Technical Field Service Rep for Nikwax North America. She travels the country preaching the gospel of gear care as the Nikwax Nerd. Prior to working for Nikwax, Kelsey spent 7 years working in outdoor industry and footwear retail. She welcomes your gear care questions at kelsey.hulse@nikwax.com. Follow her on Twitter @nikwaxnerd.


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Get DOWN with yo’ bad self! (Or how to clean your down jacket).

As I was looking through online reviews of Nikwax products, one review really caught my eye. It simply stated, “Don’t ever wash down. The benefit is never worth the cost.” Now, I couldn’t disagree more, but it got me thinking about how nerve-wracking cleaning expensive outdoor gear can be. I thought to myself, “Self, how can we make this process easier on our friends out there?”

So, here is the first in an ongoing series of Gear Care posts, where I’ll put my own beloved gear on the line to provide detailed instructions and photographic evidence of the results of good gear care. So here we go, read on to learn how to clean and care for your down jacket.

I’d like you to meet my Moonstone puffy down jacket. This jacket is SO AWESOME that once, while I was standing at a bus stop, an otherwise sane looking man stopped his car in traffic to talk to me about it.

100% nylon shell, 100% polyester lining, 100% goose down insulation

The Situation: I’ve owned this down jacket for about 5 years and since I got it secondhand, it’s likely older than that. To my knowledge, with the exception of getting caught in a surprise rain shower (I know, this is Seattle, is it EVER really a surprise?), I don’t think this down jacket had ever been cleaned. Evidence below.

Gross streaky stain

The above picture is a bit hard to see, but I’m hoping that you can tell that something had been poured down the left shoulder/sleeve. I can’t tell you WHAT this is – given my lifestyle it is most likely beer or coffee, but it’s impossible to know for sure. Many down enthusiasts may be tearing up at this point. “It is LOST,” they lament. “Retire this one to the great gear garage in the sky!” these folks might exclaim. Not so, I say!

The Washing: My beloved down jacket was tossed in our office washing machine (a front loader) accompanied by 50mL (just shy of 2 oz or 1 cap-full) of Nikwax Down Wash. I then ran a regular/normal cycle.For a front-loading HE machine - 50mL/ a scant 2oz/1 cap full

The Proofing: Then, because I think the idea of water-resistant down is the neatest thing since sliced bread, I followed up with 150mL (5 oz or 3 cap fulls) of Nikwax Down Proof. This went right into the washing machine detergent dispenser while my coat was still sitting inside – all wet. I ran a second regular/normal cycle.

150mL/5 oz/3 cap fulls

The Drying: Now, because all Nikwax products are water-based they do not require heat to cure or activate them. However, your down gear loves your dryer like a backcountry junkie loves fresh untracked  pow – it’s meant to be. Drying down takes a long time, so be patient. I always put my down in for one more drying cycle after I think it’s dry, just to be sure (damp down = clumping issues and mildew down the road).

This jacket spent about 3 hours in the dryer on medium heat.

IF your gear is particularly old or gnarly OR it has been cleaned improperly in the past, toss a couple of CLEAN tennis balls in the dryer to help re-separate and re-loft the feathers ( I didn’t on this one).

The Result: The stain (whatever it was) is gone. And, though I took no scientific measurements, it seems like the jacket is puffier than it was before! Check it out for yourself.

Left arm post cleaning… no more grossness!

Check out that beading action!

Still fluffy!

The Moral of the Story: If you don’t clean your down gear (properly) you are not getting the maximum performance. The stuff we excrete (sweat, body oil), the stuff we get into (mud, dirt, dust, pond scum, beer or coffee) and the stuff we put on (hairspray, perfume, body lotion, cologne) will all inhibit the performance of our technical gear. SO WASH IT!! 🙂

Stay Dry (and warm)!

We welcome your gear care questions! Follow us or chat us up on Twitter @professornikwax