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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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10 Ski Tours That Will Blow Your Mind in the Best Way Possible

Hauteroute

Sure, we know there are probably more than ten, but we believe that you won’t be disappointed with this list of ski tours. We’ve compiled the tours (in no particular order) from our own wish lists, though we’re highlighting the areas with at least minimal infrastructure to support your trip. Ten ski expeditions to not see any evidence of humanity? That’s a noble, but entirely different list.

1. Japan: Hakkoda-san Range.

Why: Massive snowfall. If you haven’t caught the Japan skiing bug yet, what are you waiting for? The moisture-filled air from the South Pacific collides with Siberian cold fronts and results in over 550-inches of snow per year. Near the better-known Niseko resort area, Hakkoda-san is range comprised of eight mountains. There is a single gondola and guides are available, or you can slap on your skins and head out on your own. Cost of après-tour beer (in USD): $5.24

2. France/Switzerland:The Haute Route.

Why: It’s a classic for good reason. Bonus: wine and cheese. We could be contrarian and leave the Haute Route off the list, but that only serves to omit one of the most storied and gorgeous tours on the planet. Routes vary from primarily skiing to full-on winter mountaineering with mandatory roped climbs. So don’t mistake the popularity of this 6-8 day tour for ease or accessibility. Cost of après-tour beer (in USD): $6-7

3. Norway: Sognefjord Region.

Why: Because you’d live here if you could. The skiing history of Norway makes it a must for any skier anyway. For touring, the city of Sogndal is the epicenter of day-tripping at its finest. The town sits directly on the water of the fjord, yet you can still ski out your front door. A relatively stable snowpack and some of the highest peaks in Norway are right behind you. Enjoy. Cost of après-tour beer (in USD): $10.10

4. Romania: Bucegi Mountains.

Why: Options, options, options. Bonus: who doesn’t want to ski in Transylvania? In the Southern Carpathian mountains, butting against Transylvania, lies the Bucegi Range. From a touring perspective, it’s an all-you-can-eat buffet. Once you reach the high plateau, you have a 360-degree choice of open mellow sweepers to steep adrenaline lines down. Cost of après-tour beer (in USD): $1.45

5. Chile: Volcano Touring the Andean Lake District of Southern Chile.

Why: Boatloads of snow on a “normal” year. Exquisite views. You know that feeling when you look into the distance and know that you need to ski a certain line or aspect? Now imagine if each of those lines was off the side of a free-standing, perfect triangle of a volcano pushing into sky. Scattered refugios and ample hostels make this an affordable region for travel, too. Best time of the year is typical mid-September to mid-October. Cost of après-tour beer (in USD): $2.22

6. New Zealand: Tour the “Other” Alps.

Why: Everyone familiar with the area insists the Southern Alps are one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world. Traverse the heart of Middle Earth in a four-day trip across glaciers, mellow pistes and endless views. The New Zealand hut system is extensive, easy-to-use and highly affordable. So if planning isn’t your forte, this is a worthwhile spur-of-the-moment style tour. Cost of après-tour beer (in USD): $3.71

7. United States: Colorado’s 10th Mountain Division Hut System.

Why: Steeped in history and with varying degrees of luxury, this system of 34 huts links 350-miles of backcountry terrain. Between Colorado snowpack being predictably unpredictable and the popularity of the huts, most people book a single hut for a few nights as opposed to touring from place to place. Either way, you’re promised a high likelihood of Colorado’s finest attributes: solitude, blue skies and deep snow. Cost of après-tour beer (in USD): $3.75

8. Canada: Helicopter-to-hut outside of Golden, British Columbia.

Why: A 15-minute helicopter ride delivers you deep in the mountains. From there on out, it’s all legs and lungs. Several outfits have similar operations, so choose your poison (aka terrain). Most of these set-ups require that you travel with a guide. We’ve had our eyes on Mistaya Lodge, after several friends have reported thigh deep conditions and a candy store level of terrain choices. Bonus: this is a perfect choice for groups of varying skill levels. Cost of après-tour beer (in USD): $4.43

9. Greenland: 16-hour ski days in Uummannaq.

Why: Skiing from peak to ocean over 500-km north of the Arctic Circle. March and April are the best months for skiing, and the daylight hours in April grow longer by over four minutes every 24-hour period. We’re also willing to bet you could go for months without crossing another ski track. If you can’t make it all the way to Uummannaq, the terrain outside of the capital, Nuuk, is packed with open fields and short, fun chutes with relatively stable snowpack. Cost of après-tour beer (in USD): $10.94

10. Antarctica: Anywhere.

Why: Did you not see March of the Penguins?  With some 20,000 tourists visiting annually, Antarctica is hardly “the last frontier.” But there is still something so untamed, so dramatic and so darn cold about the notion of it. As far as we can tell, it’s near impossible to organize this trip without hiring some kind of permitted outfitter. Two words: worth it. Cost of après-tour beer (in USD): Considering you just paid five figures to get there, you better hope the beer is included with the boat.


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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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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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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.