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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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Top Ten Ways to Enjoy the End of Summer

Endofsummer

Hey! Back to School shopping: we’re talking to you. You represent the end of the dog days more than Labor Day, more than the equinox and even more than the plummeting mercury in our thermometers. We may be excited for the kids to expand their minds and unleash their daily dose of energy. But as adults, we refuse to accept that summer ends when the school bell rings.

There’s plenty of time to maximize this gorgeous time of year. In no particular order:

10. Let your kids plan the Labor Day Weekend festivities. Three days. Ideal temps. Unlimited imagination. Set a few parameters (or not) and let them come up with their dream way to spend three days. We bet they’ll surprise you with outdoor fun. No kids? Easy. Make your own Labor Day plans with the same unlimited imagination and zeal for adventure.

9. Wake up early. Say what? Summer is supposed to be the season of relaxation and sleeping in. But as the daylight hours shorten, waking up early is the only way to maximize the sun’s Vitamin D-giving goodness. Bonus: if you live near the ocean, the waves are probably getting bigger. If you live inland, consider early rising training for dawn patrol skinning sessions and blissful morning skate skis.

8. Barbeque. There is a caveat: you must use charcoal. Propane grills score for efficiency, but nothing smells of summer like charcoal. Bonus points if you take the Hibachi to the beach or local campground.

7. Pull out your favorite sweater. This may be counter-intuitive to the goal of celebrating summer, but hear us out. After months of hot weather and hiding from the heat, how good does a little chill feel? Really good—for few minutes. Pull on your sweater and cozy up in your big bundle of warmth. Consider this tip your Zen practice for living in the present season.

6. Explore your local wilderness. Summer tends to be the season of extravagant, faraway trips. How much do you know about the wilderness within a four-hour drive of your home? Select one cardinal direction for each of the next four weekends, pack your tent and sleeping bags and hit the (local) road.

5. Nest. Every other animal is busy preparing for winter. No, don’t pack on mega-pounds for hibernation, à la black bears. Instead, think of nesting as organization. When your 3-season tent has seen its last workday for the year, air it out, treat it with Tent and Gear Solarproof and pack it away. Pull out your cold weather gear and proof it for the season. Most manufacturers, as well as retailers like REI, have online recommendations for the proper way to pack and store your summer gear for winter.

4. Celebrate the regional season. In the Pacific Northwest and the Southeast, it’s river and creeking season. In the Southwest, the Rockies and the Northeast, it’s mountain biking time. Most of us choose where we live based in large part on weather. Get outside and enjoy whatever weather your hometown is throwing at you.

3. Set a winter goal and build a foundation now. Do you want to run a marathon in January? Classic ski the 54K American Birkebeiner in February? It’ll be a whole lot easier to start your training in gorgeous late summer weather. Maybe you can throw a barbeque (see Tip 8) at a nearby campground (see Tip 6) and inspire a group of friends to do it with you.

2. Garden. Are you lucky enough to have your own plot in the backyard? Celebrate harvest season with seasonal meals and canning parties. No space or no green thumb? Volunteer at the local community garden. It’s an important time to prepare the soil for next year’s planting. It’s not as glamorous as sowing the seeds, but turning soil is great exercise, outside fun and connects you to the community.

1. Spend every available minute outside. Some days, especially with kids back in school and daylight waning, you have neither the time nor the energy for an elaborate outdoor adventure. Instead of feeling guilty, just step outside. Sit on the deck or walk around the block. Heck, grab a cold beer and appreciate this life you’ve built. Raise your glass to your family, your friends and another beautiful summer. Cheers… to the good life!


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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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Winter Layering 101

crosscountry

We’ve said it before: the key to staying comfortable in cold weather is layering. Whether you’re skinning up several thousand feet to a snowy summit, braving slushy roads for a ride, or hitting the Nordic track on skate gear, chances are you’re going to begin your workout colder than you end it.

The body expends a lot of energy during athletic pursuits. That energy floods your body with heat, which makes you sweat and feel, well, warm. (Generally followed by a release of elevating endorphins—one of the reasons we here at Nikwax remain avid athletes, no matter what the weather outside is doing).

Starting cold means you’re unlikely to overheat right out of the gate. Once you get going, being warm is good. Being hot is not. And wet? You most definitely do not want to be wet.

Managing your body’s heat can mean the difference between a good workout and a bad one. Why do you want to manage it? Simple.

  1. Comfort. Who wants to stew in damp clothes? Not us, and not you, either.
  2. A matter of life and death. Sounds extreme? Maybe. But those who don’t wick away sweat risk getting chilled. The chills can lead to frostbite (bad) and even hypothermia (worse).
  3. Performance. Your movements are more precise when you can concentrate. When you body gets cold and soggy, your thoughts focus on your discomfort and take away your prowess.

How, then, do you keep dry and cool—not cold, not too warm—during your workout? Through careful layering and proper care of your different layers.

Start with a technical base layer that wicks sweat away from the body and stays relatively dry to the touch. There’s a multitude to choose from: wool or synthetics. Care for these with our BaseFresh or Wool Wash.

Next, add an insulting layer. Fleece or a wool sweater. Think warm and fuzzy.

Follow with a shell that breathes. And then wash that shell regularly. We know what you’re thinking: really? Yep. If you don’t wash it regularly, your shell can get gunked up with sweat, grime, dirt, and the like. A gunked up shell won’t breathe, and that leads to soggy misery. Take care of it with our Tech Wash.

What else is good in your quiver? Warm gloves and a pair of lighter liner gloves. A hat. A pair of dry socks. A thermos with a warm drink and a full water bottle.

Use this system, and you’ll give yourself the edge you need to get outside and keep your heart rate up all winter long.


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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


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The Gear Closet Archetypes

If you are a lover of the outdoors and the activities associated, it goes without saying that you have an assortment of gear. How people store their gear, however, widely varies. Which type are you?

The Gear Decorator:

Your friends may not understand it, but you believe there’s no better way to store your gear than to artfully arrange it, on your living room wall. “I think the ice axe looks lovely hanging over the television; it really ties the room together.”

The OCD:

You have a place for everything and everything IS in its place. Or else. “Can’t you SEE the outlines for each item I’ve neatly drawn on the wall?”

The Mobile:

“Yeah, I’m just gonna leave it in the car.”

The Old School:

Your gear is all at least 20 years old, but it is meticulously maintained, and loved. You always put it away clean. “You can have my external frame backpack when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.”

The Gear Shed/Garage/House:

You have a dedicated storage facility/fortress for your massive gear collection. “What? You don’t keep all your gear in a climate-controlled, highly secured environment? Me? Oh, I sleep in my car.”

The Chaos:

“Where’s the tent? Where’s the @$&! tent?!?”


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Tent Care

Why should you care for your tent?

UV exposure can, for many tent fabrics, be devastating to their performance. In some cases only two weeks exposure can lead to a reduction in the tear strength of the tent fabric by half.

Weathering, dirt and dust can cause water to be absorbed into the fabric of the tent itself, as the Durable Water Repellency (DWR) become less effective. It is at this point that you will find water leaking through vulnerable areas such as seams.

When water, dirt or dust sits on the tent fabric it reduces its breathability. When breathability is reduced, water vapor inside the tent is no longer able to pass through the fabric, and instead condenses on the inside.

What should you do?

Before your camping trip, set up your tent to check its waterproof condition. This is also the perfect time to give your tent a little extra love by cleaning it with Nikwax Tech Wash. If you notice your tent is no longer repelling water, treat it with Tent & Gear SolarProof. Tent & Gear SolarProof provides superior waterproofing and doubles the useful life of fabrics by protecting against UV damage.

How should you do it?

  • Tents are best cleaned, waterproofed and UV protected when pitched. Never machine wash or tumble dry them!
  • Place the tent in an area that will drain easily and is free of excessive dirt or dust.

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Cleaning

  • Add Nikwax Tech Wash (100ml in 6L of water) to a bucket of water and mix until foamy. Sponge all over the tent.
  • Rinse off thoroughly until the water runs clear.
  • Allow to dry naturally (if not applying waterproof and UV protection). Ensure it is completely dry before packing the tent away.
  • Don’t forget to sweep/ shake out the inside of the tent.

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Waterproofing and UV protection

  • Ensure you have the right volume of product. As a guide, 1L of Tent & Gear SolarProof will protect approximately a large 8 person tent (70 square meters). If using the new Concentrated Tent & Gear SolarProof, dilute as per the instructions.
  • Apply the Tent & Gear SolarProof to a wet, clean tent ensuring that you pay particular attention to any seams.
  • Wipe away any excess with a clean cloth.
  • Allow to dry naturally

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Nikwax Concentrated Tent & Gear Solarproof : Complete protection for your tent at a better value

New Nikwax Concentrated Tent & Gear Solarproof provides high performance UV and waterproof protection to double the life of your tent or gear, at a great low price per square meter.

  • Waterproof performance to the maximum testable standard
  • Long lasting UV protection
  • Easy to apply even to a wet tent
  • Safe WaterBased, non flammable and fluorocarbon free
  • Easy to carry and store concentrated formula

Nikwax tent UV protection