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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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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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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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A Four-Stage Plan for Preventing Cold Hands

NW_GloveCareHow can we put this delicately? Cold hands suck.

If our subjective analysis isn’t persuasive enough, check out the medical proof. The ulnar and radial arteries deliver warmed blood to the hands. As ambient temperature drops, vessels constrict and blood flow slows overall. With less blood going to the extremities, they get cold. That is uncomfortable.

If you’re a woman or an athlete, there’s a good chance you may already have lower blood pressure than other folks. If that’s the case, your body auto-corrects in cold temps and directs blood flow to the heart and away from your fingers and tootsies. Warm heart, cold hands.

That doesn’t mean you’re doomed to suffer through frigid extremities. With a little groundwork to find the right mitts and some consistent TLC throughout said mitt’s lifetime, you can keep your digits warm. Warm fingers, happy heart.

Stage 1: Preparation. Armed with medical proof and forgoing the option of eating a bacon-only diet to raise your blood pressure, stage one is simple. Buy good gloves. That means you should not skimp. That means plunking down at least a C-note on the right gloves.

This might seem extreme, but good gloves incorporate high-tech materials, innovative water-proofing, and superior insulation. This matters because if there is anything we can say with more certainty than “cold hands suck,” it’s that wet gloves are a direct route to miserably cold hands.

Stage 2: Proof. After plunking down a small fortune on quality gloves, the next logical step is to make your investment last. It’s not just an investment in sweet gear; it’s an investment in comfort, well-being and the ability to stay out longer and play harder.

We recommend adding your own waterproofing regimen at home using the Nikwax Glove Proof or Waterproofing Wax for Leather.

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Black Diamond Kingpin Glove

Stage 3: Play. If this isn’t self-explanatory, please step outside for inspiration.

Stage 4: Prolong. Add years to your mitts (and warmth to your hands) with some easy care tips.

  • After every use, allow them to thoroughly dry in the open air. Don’t overdo the heat (a.k.a. blast them with a hair dryer) if they’re leather.
  • Apply waterproofing as frequently as your climate demands.
  • Before storing for the summer, take a close look. Do you need to clean or condition the leather? While ski gloves rarely need an intense cleaning, some gloves for motorcycles and other activities will highly benefit. Add a deep waterproofing treatment and allow to dry. If possible, store flat without squishing.

Bonus: Daily Tips for Warm Hands

  • When you know you’re looking at a cold day of Arctic proportions, start out with portable hand warmers. The best strategy is to never let yourself get cold in the first place. Warmers keep the edge off.
  • Manage sweat. Nikwax will keep the elements from getting in, but you’re on your own when mitigating sweaty paws. Take gloves off whenever you have a moment to cool and dry hands.


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Avalanche Awareness: Not just for skiers

Avalanche awareness is critical in any winter snowsports endeavor.

Avalanche awareness is critical in any winter snowsports endeavor.

It’s winter, and for most of us that means spending much of our free time on the snow—on skis, snowshoes, snowboards, sleds, or any other contraption with a sliding surface. We’re a cold-climate tribe, like-minded folks who understand the reward of bundling up and pushing our bodies through the elements.

As we go, many of us venture into the unknown, to the next summit, the next ridge over. And as we do, we may cross from a relatively safe zone into a more dangerous one where risks are greater. Perhaps the most threatening of all is an avalanche.

Tragically, avalanches kill people each winter. Some of the victims are well-known industry experts. Others are less known. They’re out with their friends and succumb to changing conditions, unpredictable circumstances.

Here at Nikwax hearts go out to anyone affected by avalanches in the backcountry. Experience tells us that it isn’t just the extreme skiers who are affected. It’s the cross-country enthusiast. The snowshoeing bird watcher. The snowmobiler.

In the hopes of spreading the word about avalanche safety, we here at Nikwax offer the following tips to our intrepid customers and friends. Please, stay safe in the backcountry.

  • Educate yourself: Avalanches can occur with as little as a few inches of snow. The contributing factors in an avalanche include slope angle, snow conditions, and the type of snow crystals closest to the ground. Snow scientists spend a lifetime studying these phenomenons. You don’t need a Ph.D., but check out the American Institute for Avalanche Safety to learn how to recognize and avoid scenarios that are primed for an avalanche.
  • Take a course: The American Avalanche Institute has been teaching professionals and recreationists how to stay safe in the backcountry since 1973. Check the website for a course near you.
  • Gear up: Avalanche beacons, snow shovels, and probes are de rigeur in the backcountry. However, they’re only as good as the person using them. Buy a beacon—an electronic tracker that emits signals and also tracks them to find bodies buried in an avalanche. Then practice using it.
  • Choose your route wisely: We’re not saying to avoid avalanche terrain. Some of the best backcountry huts, ski slopes, and basic trails traverse avalanche paths. What’s important is to know the risks of your route and do your best to mitigate them using the skills you picked up in your avalanche course.
  • Choose your partners wisely: Make sure you trust the folks you recreate with to make educated decisions.

If this seems extreme, consider this: if you’re in the backcountry anywhere near a slope with an angle, you could be at risk of an avalanche. We don’t want to scare you. We don’t want you to stay home. But we do want you to be safe.

Getting out in the winter is one of life’s most joyful activities. Coming home in one piece is even better.


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Waterproof your Cotton Tees

We all know the old saying: “cotton is rotten.” And to a certain degree, it’s true. While it’s a perfectly fine material for a T-shirt or a hoodie, cotton may be the single worst fabric you can wear in any potentially wet outdoor situation.  Any moisture tends to rob even the thickest cotton garment of its warmth, and good luck getting it to dry in anything less than a few hours.

The Denim Diehard. Photo by John Johnston

The Denim Diehard. Photo by John Johnston

Yet, every day on the ski hill you will see folks who, despite all of the arguments to the contrary, brave the elements in all sorts of cotton. There are many reasons, from style to economy to pure toughness, that folks still choose to rock cotton out in the elements. In fact, it’s a good bet that someone you know falls into one of the following categories:

The XXXXXXXL Steezball: This cotton lover is a product of modern trends in freeskiing fashion more than anything else. Taking the baggy, colorful “skittle-thug” look to its logical extreme, these stylish park-rats can be seen hucking cork-9s and backside lipslides off booters, rails, and boxes decked out in neon-colored XXXL hoodies or T-shirts from the big-and-tall section of the thrift store. For a further breakdown of the XXXXXXXL Steezball’s clothing and habits, check out this helpful infographic.

The Denim Diehard: The Denim Diehard believes in tradition. They’ve been rocking jeans and a sweater (or, if they’re a child of the ‘90s, a starter jacket) since they first strapped on skis, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The Spring Skiing Joker. Photo by Frank Kovalchek

The Spring Skiing Joker. Photo by Frank Kovalchek

The Workhorse: Carhartt Jacket. Dickies pants. Work gloves. Safety glasses. If it’s good enough for the construction site, it’s good enough for the ski hill.

The Spring Skiing Joker: This dude is a fair weather cotton type. Come late spring, with the snow melting into a slushy mess and the silliness factor on the hill rising, he’ll don wacky, not nearly waterproof getups. It can be a whole lot of fun, but it’s a dangerous game, seeing as the spring conditions can be as wet as they come.

If this sounds like you or someone you know, Nikwax has a great solution to keep your garment warm and dry, even while being battered by the elements. Nikwax Cotton Proof wash-in waterproofing adds water repellency to all cotton and polycotton garments while maintaining breathability. It’s the perfect solution to keep your style factor high AND dry, even if you’re rocking an XXXL hoodie on a wet, snowy day.