Clothing (and how to look after it)
An item of outdoor
equipment is normally designed to do
a job and, as with any good tool, the
user should be aware of how to use it
within its limitations and how to look
after it. Incorrectly pitched tents
will fall down; stoves with blocked
jets could flare with disastrous results.
It should be obvious that knowledge
in the use and care of such outdoor
hardware is crucial but how about clothes?
When working in
retail I used to see base garments returned
having stopped wicking. My first question
would be regarding how it was washed.
The normal reply would be that it was
put in with the domestic wash and that
a fabric conditioner had been used.
a wicking garment and prevent it from
performing. Washing again in powder
only would normally restore the fabric's
characteristics and the owner's temper.
Such a wasted journey
to the retailer can be prevented if
the customer understands garment care.
Yet it is s sad fact that outdoor clothing
tends to be neglected. After all, is
it not designed to be abused in inclement
conditions? Unfortunately, this attitude
will not get the most out of an expensive
piece of wardrobe and could drastically
reduce its life in the process.
Nowhere is this
more obvious than with waterproofs.
Most people tend to wear their jackets
for more than just on the hill so it
pays to look after them, not only to
protect an investment, but to look smart
when walking to the office or down the
high street. Breathable fabrics require
extra care to ensure that they perform
to the optimum.
Modern fabrics are
very tolerant, however, this is no excuse
to ignore care and cure. Even a non-breathable
budget waterproof will benefit from
a quick brush and sponge after a walk.
Removing abrasive dirt will improve
the look of the garment and prolong
the life of the outer material which,
in turn, protects the waterproofing.
Further, if the waterproof has been
in contact with brine, a quick swill
in fresh water will remove abrasive
salt crystals and restore the garment's
Once clean, dry
your garment in an airy place AWAY FROM
DIRECT HEAT. I have known people to
dry nylon jackets on storage heaters
only to return to a melted mess. Clean,
dry garments should then be stored free-hanging
in a cool, dry environment to prevent
possible mildew attack.
component items such as poppers. No
matter how good a manufacturer's component
items can fail and it is better to get
them replaced when at home rather than
suffer the consequences of them breaking
in the field. Easy D.I.Y. maintenance
includes zip lubrication (rub zip teeth
with a candle or soft pencil) and replacing
drawcords (attach a safety pin to the
end of the drawcord to give you something
to grip through the cloth and aid threading).
Although certain remedial action can
be taken at home on the whole it is
better to consult the retailer who is
sometimes in the position to offer on-site
repairs, such as popper replacement,
or advise on the proper course of action.
This is especially important in circumstances
where a guarantee could be effected
and the garment has to be returned to
either a manufacturer or specialist
repair company. There are going to be
times when your waterproofs are damaged
in the field. Tears and punctures can
be caused by any number of things from
crampon points to barbed wire. In the
days of neoprene jackets I used to carry
a puncture repair kit and waterproof
tape to cover holes to stop them from
growing and to keep out the rain. Upon
returning home I would then sew on a
doped patch ensuring that the subsequent
stitching was also doped to prevent
water entry through the needle holes.
The advent of "breathable"
fabrics have brought their own problems.
Although you can still repair a tear
in the above manner, top manufacturer
guarantees could be affected. A surer
way of repair is to send the waterproof
back to the manufacturer for a proper
patch with taped stitching. To aid manufacturers
remove "field dressings" W.L.Gore
have developed an emergency patch for
"breathable" fabrics that
can be cleanly removed by the application
of heat. This ensures the best possible
surface on which to carry out a repair.
From the above comments it has probably
been deduced that it is highly inadvisable
to pin things to your jacket and, if
you have to wear badges, then glue them
on; don't sew. Guarantees can be effected
adversely through misuse.
Eventually a jacket
will require washing and may even start
to - or appear to - leak. While technical
fabrics, such as Gore-Tex and TriplePoint,
are easy to clean, washing instructions
found on the garment's sew-in care label
are normally dependent on the other
components - READ THEM! Most clothes
can be machine washed at 40C (cheaper
garments may need hand washing in warm,
soapy water) or dry cleaned but beware
of dry cleaners who attach pins to garments
and remind them that puncturing the
fabric will cause leakage! Dry cleaners
can certainly help remove stubborn stains
that have not been shifted by a pre-wash
or commercial stain remover - if the
treatment is suitable for the garment.
If unsure then contact the retailer
or manufacturer for advise.
soap products are suitable for cleaning
waterproofs, however, strong detergents
and dreaded fabric conditioners will
effect water repellent treatments. Avoid
if possible and, if still unsure, go
to your local outdoor shop and purchase
a specialised cleaning product designed
for waterproofs. Once clean, cheap waterproofs
can be re-proofed using spray-on treatments.
Breathable garments require a bit more
care. While the waterproof properties
of breathable garments come from either
a laminate or coating, they usually
also have a water repellent treatment
to their outer surface which assists
water bead and roll off. Without this
treatment the outer surface would quickly
soak up water (wetting out) which would
not only feel uncomfortable but affect
the breathable properties of the material.
The resulting build up of condensation
and the material wetting out is often
mistaken for the jacket leaking.
and washing will reduce this water repellency
which can temporarily be restored by
running over the garment with a warm
steam iron, or tumble dry at a warm
setting. Again, check the care labels
that the garment can take this treatment.
The manufacturers of Sympatex advise
against tumble drying.
When heat fails
to restore the water repellent it is
time to re-treat the garment. Once the
garment is clean, treat with a commercially
available non-silicone based water repellent
spray. Avoid silicone based repellents
that cause fabrics to attract dirt and
odours. Graingers and Nikwax both have
a range of specialised cleaning and
re-proofing products that are readily
available through outdoor shops.
The ultimate garment
protection is to take out insurance.
Outdoor gear is now at a premium and
subject to theft. Check your policy
for protection against theft, damage
and loss. If possible get new for old