Living in the Pacific Northwest, high performance rain gear is a must for me. A dry season in this region is almost never guaranteed, and being adequately equipped with boots, pants and jackets is the only way to enjoy the outdoors during the cold and rainy months.
You might think that once you buy some rain gear, it'll repel rain forever. But after many months and even more wash cycles, nearly anything could benefit from some refreshed rainproofing.
For those planning on taking part in cold weather hikes and camping, as well as skiing and snowboarding later in the year, you’re probably thinking about investing in new gear right now. But if your garments are still intact, then you can consider extending their shelf life with Nikwax’s waterproofing products, which I apply to my rain gear every fall.
Restoring Your Finish
Nearly all waterproof gear, whether they’re pants or jackets, are treated with a durable water repellent finish (DWR), a chemical coating to prevent water droplets from absorbing into the fabric. When the DWR breaks down in a process known as “wet out,” this allows the garment to cling to your body, which in turn causes you to feel damp and chill. But at a garment’s peak performance, water droplets bead up and effortlessly roll off with a gentle shake, which helps you stay warm and dry.
The DWR finish naturally wears out and breaks down over time for a variety of reasons, which include exposure to and buildup of dirt, oils, and grease from sunscreen and bug spray. How quickly the DWR breaks down also depends on your frequency of use. Naturally, if you use your jacket for intense outdoor activity a few times a week, the DWR won’t last as long as a jacket that you only use a handful of times a month.
How To Reapply
For newer garments, simply washing them with the Tech Wash, formulated specifically for breathable waterproof materials, can restore some of their DWR. But for well worn pieces, I wash them first with Tech Wash, following the care labels on my garments, then apply the TX.Direct Spray-On. For more technical apparel, Nikwax also offers a few options to renew the water repellency of Gore-Tex and waterproof rain jackets with different formulas for softshell and hardshell material.
Reuse, Don't Replace
To apply the spray-on water repellent treatment, I lay my damp garment on a flat surface, and spray from six feet away. I leave it to set for two minutes, then wipe off the excess formula with a damp cloth. After a few hours of air drying, most items repel water as well as they did they day I bought them.
While there's always a tempatation to buy new rain and snow gear every year, Nikwaxing your old clothes is a far more affordable, not to mention environmentally conscious option.