The nights are drawing in, temperatures are slowly dropping and the wood pile needs sorting. Whoop whoop winters on its way! This also signals the best time to get out the winter gear, check it over, and get set for cold windy days in the hills.
There’s a mass of products on the market these days that look after your gear, Nikwax and Grangers to name a couple. Even manufacturers like Scarpa have their own proofing products. The specific product ranges are extensive but with a few key items and a bit of care, you can keep your gear going much longer; keeping you warm, dry and comfortable. I tend to keep tech wash, wash in proofer, and a leather/fabric proofing direct spray in the cupboard all year round – but using them at the key times will do you favours. Cleaning and reproofing at the end of a season sets you up for the following year, but with that said, getting your gear out a few weeks before the start of a season will allow you to make sure you dont need to replace anything but if you do – gives you time to sort it.
Hard shells and waterproofs are first layer of protection from the elements and these items need the most upkeep. Whether Gore-tex, eVENT or brand specific weather proof systems, the way to maintain is generally the same. Although they’re generally more useful autumn/winter gear its good to keep up the maintenance throughout the year. The DWR (Durable Water Repellent) surface treatment on any garment can get contaminated with dirt and sweat, get worn off the shoulders and back whilst wearing a backpack, and start wetting out rather than beading the water when first bought.
Firstly the garment needs to be thoroughly cleaned. Before using any kind of tech wash its good to clear out the gunk and residue left behind in the washer soap drawer, these generic soaps can damage or contaminate the fabrics. Do the zips up, loosen the cuffs and any elastics roughly add a cap of tech wash per garment and wash at around 30 degrees. The garment should then if possible be put into the tumble dryer. The heat of the dryer helps to re-invigorate the performance of the DWR treatment. You could, if need be use a hairdryer around high wear areas to accomplish this if you didn’t have a dryer.
You can then check the garment by sticking it under the shower. If the water beads off nicely you’re set, if not you’ll need to reproof. There’s two choices here but I tend to go belt and braces, and do both. Using a wash in proofer the garment goes back into the washing machine and then the dryer. I then use a hand spray re-proofer. Hang the garment up and spray liberally around high wear areas, shoulders, hood back of the neck on a jacket to make sure but wipe off the excess with a cloth. Your usage will dictate how often you have to do this, but when most decent hard shells are in the + £180 price range its worth keeping up with it.
Boots and footwear follow a similar pattern. We all know that we should clean mud and dirt off after a day in the hills but how many of us do? The dirt clogs the pores of the leather, mud can trap in moisture and despite having Gore-tex layers, if the outer is shot your boots can be ruined. If you frequent the Peak District often, you might know how carnivorous Kinder bog peat can be!
Again most brands do a cleaning gel for footwear. There are specifics for different fabrics or types of leather so always good to look around. Once the laces have been removed and boots have been cleaned with Nikwax gel or similar, they can be re-proofed. This is quite critical as our boots take a real pounding. Pay attention to seams and joints especially around the front and sides and don’t forget the tongue! I always try and go over a couple of times around the toe rand seam.
Clothes and footwear aren’t the only things that need our attention, I tend to use spray on proofing on my packs to add a little extra protection. We also should clean and proof our tents. These being the ultimate weather protection should be looked after with great care as well. MSR do a great two part clean and restore system that works brilliantly (again many others out there). Set your tent or just the flysheet, and use the cleaner. Having the tent set up allows you to pay attention to seams and joints as they’re exposed and under stress as they would be in the wilds. Use the re-proofer again paying attention to seams and exposed edges. You can find seam sealant if there are real issues.
With the simple steps you should be able to spend this upcoming winter being dry and cosy out in the hills, watching water beautifully bead and fall away form your clothes or shelter. It is always important to note, and follow the manufacturers instructions with any cleaner or proofer.
Check out the video below for a look at how to properly care for your boots;
You can check out the review for the boots featured in the video here: Grisport Crusader Review
Another product worth noting is the Boot Banana’s available here: www.bootbananas.com/