Advice: Caring for Your Kit

This page is a guide on how to look after your kit. If, like me, you have redonkulously expensive taste in kit and will bravely dish out £150 on any ‘gucci’ piece of gear then you will want to look after and maintain it in order to get your money’s worth.

*Disclaimer 1: The methods or products I suggest are purely based on my experience through doing, or learning from my customers/colleagues/friends that have done it wrong.*
*Disclaimer 2: When machine washing any piece of gear with a specialist product please clean out the detergent tray and run a rinse cycle with a towel just to flush out any excess detergent residue. This way the products will treat your gear exactly how they’re meant to.*

Waterproofs:
Your first line of defence against the epic fury of mother nature. Any WP jacket or trousers worth more than 80 quid will require a level of care over its lifetime. The majority of items are pre-treated with a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coating and this, along with the fabric, is what causes the water to ‘bead’ and run off the garment. Over time this beading will soon be replaced by ‘wetting out’, this is where water doesn’t bead but seeps into the face fabric causing the dark, wet patches.
To care for your WPs you will need to wash them in a ‘pure soap’ such as Nikwax Tech Wash. Do not use any form of detergent wash on your WPs, detergents work by drawing water into and through clothing in order to wash them, this is very bad for a WP! Once washed, leave to drip dry, or tumble dry on a low heat if the care label allows.
If, after washing, wetting out still happens then you’ll want to re-proof the jacket using something like Nikwax TX Direct. Once washed, drip dry. A general rule is that for every 3 washes, do a re-proof.

Boots:
Your boots keep your feet in good working order. If your boot fails you then, ultimately, you fail.
Boot care is simple, but very often overlooked. If you don’t look after them then they will crack and/or fall apart. After a good muddy romp then be sure to take out the laces and scrub them in lukewarm water to get all the debris and muck off.
Once dried then it’s best to apply either a wax or cream for leather boots. If a wax then it’s best to rub in with fingers as the warmth speeds up the process of the oils seeping into the leather. Once applied then either give a quick buff to work it in or leave until they’re needed again. Should you go for an extended period in between using your boots then it is worth applying a good coating of wax/cream before storing the boots as this gives plenty of nourishment and hydration to the materials and keeps them from drying out, degrading or rotting whilst out of action.
A well kept pair of boots will give you many years of faithful and comfortable service regardless of what torture you may put them through.

If a synthetic boot with a waterproof membrane then after they’ve been washed leave to dry and they’ll be good to go again. There are gel products such as Nikwax footwear cleaning gel that help keep everything in good shape.

Rope:
REI has a great page on rope advice. In my experience it is best not to bung a rope in the washing machine as it can twist the sheath from the core and leave you with a knotted, lumpy mess

Sleeping Bags:
The easiest way to care for your sleeping bag is to use a sleeping bag liner inside it. This way you only have to chuck the liner in the wash instead of the whole bag.
For a synthetic fill bag then it is easy to put in the washing machine and put on a cool synthetic wash using Tech Wash or similar.
If it’s a Down filled bag however life gets a lot harder as once down feathers get wet, they lose their loft abilities (ability to capture air within them) and are difficult to dry them out properly. Down bags can last for atleast a decade if looked after properly, but washing them is a bugger. It is best to find a specialised Down Washing company.
Storage of your sleeping bag is equally important for keeping it warm and effective. Instead of having it tightly packed away in its stuff sack, it is best to have it in a storage sack of some sort, or even hung up in a wardrobe without compressing it at all. Most higher priced bags will have one with it, but something like a large pillowcase with work equally well. The reason for this is that when a sleeping bag is compressed for a long period, the loft qualities of the fill begin to degrade and you begin losing out on that all important warmth.

Tents:
Your primary shelter, look after these things and they will serve you for years to come. There are countless shapes, sizes, material types, pole materials, and uses.
I won’t cover the fabric army 9×9 style tents as nobody is stupid enough to go hiking with one of those bad boys strapped to your back.
UV is a particular killer of tents, leave it exposed to the sun for too long and the materials will start to degrade and their waterproofing and strength will be compromised, as with any pitching site be sure that its sheltered from the elements as well as offering some shade. Tent materials can be washed according to care labels, Nikwax Tent and Gear Solarproof should be used in the same fashion as TX Direct (see Waterproofs) it keeps tents and gear well maintained for the environments that we will exposed gear to. For standard washing then Tech Wash is perfect.
If you have forked out for a fairly basic tent that uses fibreglass poles then take care with them as they are by no means as strong, lightweight or durable as the anodised alu poles that are commonplace with many higher-end tents. Should they snap they can be replaced but not repaired. A temporary fix can be fashioned using the repair kit usually provided but will not provide a long term solution. Fibreglass pole replacements are becoming harder to find and so in the long run it is better to for out a little extra for a better quality tent.
A key maintenance tip for any and all tents is DO NOT STORE IT WET. A wet tent stored will just rot and become a useless waste of money. Once you have finished your trip, stand up the tent in your bedroom/living room/wherever and leave it over night to dry out, then pack it away when dry.

Feel free to contribute methods and tips that you have found particularly useful throughout your adventures. Everyone has a little gem for dealing with their beloved equipment!

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