With the majority of us stuck at home right now we thought we’d come up with some jobs that you can do to prepare for getting back out and “in the game”!
So how you can effectively look after your waterproof gear without leaving the house? In a recap from one of his articles, Bill shares his tips for getting the most from your technical clothing.
If you’re spending a lot of money on a set of waterproof gear, then you really want to get the best out of it don’t you? Just like changing tyres or the oil in a car your “shell gear” will really, really benefit from some regular “TLC”, a bit of a service if you like. I truly believe that there is a far better understanding of the fabric technology used in our clothing systems than ever before, and it’s a subject that is a bit of a “holy grail” for me. All too often I’m out on the range or at a game with my mates and when we get back in the car their “Gucci” waterproof shell gear just gets dumped unceremoniously in a pile on the floor or in the footwell!
These are usually the self-same people that I will see at a later date bemoaning the fact that their expensive waterproof jacket “isn’t working”, complaining to all and sundry that somehow the technology has failed, and that they are wet and uncomfortable. The most common gripe I hear is that “this funking thing is leaking” when actually it’s still perfectly fine, and the fact is, it just isn’t “breathing” anymore! Like all performance items top-end shell gear needs maintaining regularly to get the best from it. You might only change the tyres on your car infrequently (probably when the MOT or insurance inspection rolls around!), but on a Formula One car they may change the tyres during a single race to get the very best performance.
When you buy a Gore-Tex (or similar) jacket you’re investing in a high-performance item, and as such, it needs treating like one! Over time things like the hydrophobic (water-heating) Durable Water Repellent (DWR, think a microscopic “film”) on the outer face fabric of the garment will begin to wear and crack, and the fabric will start to hold the water that’s now allowed through to it. As new, water droplets will be held on the DWR layer, simply rolling off the fabric before they penetrate. You’ll notice after a while that this “beading” process will start to lessen, and that the water is being absorbed into the fabric itself; this is usually noticeable first in areas like the shoulders where pack straps or a plate carrier rub and abrade the DWR, or on cuff ends where the fabric rubs against itself.
Internally over time, body oils, grease and general dirt will also build up and the net result is that your jacket will stop “breathing” as well as it did when it was new. You won’t really notice this until it becomes obvious, and water vapour that was previously being transferred out of the system stays inside and re-condenses. You’ll feel cold, clammy and uncomfortable, put your hand inside your jacket, feel “water” and of course your quite natural conclusion will be that the jacket is leaking! A re-proofer will restore the waterproof performance of your gear to ensure it continues to keep you dry and protected. To combat the degradation of performance you simply need to give your jacket (or pant) a bit of care and invest in a maintenance product. There are many of them on the market these days, and most can be ordered easily online, so check out brands like Grangers, Nikwax, Storm, Rockin’ Green, and Gear Aid.
These brands create environmentally sustainable treatments used to clean, waterproof and care for fabrics, and the majority can be used in the same wash cycle in your washing machine at home; you’ll also find bespoke products for down, merino, and base layer care products to keep all of your gear tip-top. These products offer high performance cleaning, water proofing and after-care treatments that let you refresh and restore the performance of your gear, ensuring your kit delivers the same protection it did when you bought it.
The first step is obviously to clean your garments, and to do this you need to ensure that first and foremost you follow the manufacturer’s care guidance that’s given on the label you’ll no-doubt find inside the garment. Most garments, including hard shell, can be popped in the washing machine, and by using a dedicated wash product you can make certain that no harm is going to come to your beloved gear so it comes out all sparkly and fresh!
Once your garment has been cleaned, you should clean out your washing machine’s detergent tray. This is a similar step for washing, but you’ll want to clear out any remnants of your washing product. Get yourself some wash-in proofer (unless your garment has a hydrophilic (water-loving) lining which is used sometimes to help transfer internal moisture, in which case use a spray on proofer to the outer face as directed!) then simply follow the instructions for volume and temperature settings before setting the washer. Let the cycle run with the proofer, and once completed, allow the cycle to repeat and remove excess moisture. Re-proofers usually activate with heat so if your garment allows you to tumble dry it the heat will help activate the replenished coating, and then you’re good to go all over again.
All of your clothing system will benefit form a good wash and clean, and again cleaning products like base and mid-layer washes will help your clothing system in its entirety. These wash products are specially formulated to work with both natural and synthetic “thermal layering and next to skin” garments to retain and improve performance, and aid in effective moisture wicking, enhancing the overall effectiveness of your entire clothing system.
So, while you have some “downtime”, why not show your gear a little “TLC” to be fully ready for when we can hit the sites again!