How to look after your your kit

Is it safe to wash my waterproof or down jacket?

Absolutely yes - infact it is essential!

Why does it matter?

If you don't regularly wash your jacket it may wet-out, which is where rain doesn't bead up and roll off, but saturates an area of the outer fabric of the jacket. The jacket is still waterproof but areas that have wetted out can't breathe as well so you can feel sweaty after prolonged use.

The chemical finish that jackets are treated with to keep water beading off a jacket has changed. This is better for the environment but it does mean you will have to wash your garment more often.

The outdoor industry is moving away from PFC based durable water repellents (DWRs), which have shown to be persistent (they stick around in the environment for a long time). As technology moves towards more environmentally friendly materials, some of the dirt and oil repellent ability of waterproof garments will decrease. This makes it more vital than ever to keep your waterproof squeaky clean.

When a waterproof garment absorbs oil and dirt (perspiration, detritus from skin, mud, sun screen and so on), this inhibits the ability of the material to breathe. The fabric is saturated, which prevents perspiration from leaving the material. The result is that the inside of the garment feels wet, even though it is still fully waterproof.

The average person will lose between 1 - 2 litres of water an hour through perspiration during exercise. If your garment isn't breathable, all that water will end up inside your clothing unable to get out, because your garment is still waterproof. Ironic, huh?

If you don't feel up to washing your garment yourself try out our down wash and reproofing service.

How do I tell if my waterproof is in need of a reproofing?

Durable Water Repellent (DWR) is the coating on the garment which allows the water to bead off the outer shell preventing the top layer of the jacket becoming waterlogged and diminishing breathability [see above]. DWR is not the main waterproof competent of the garment which is the membrane making up the mid layer of most jackets.

The easiest way to test your DWR is to pour a cup of water on the garment and watch. If the DWR is working effectively, then the water will bead off. If the DWR has degraded then the water will soak into the top layer of the fabric and wet out making the fabric look darker.

You will not need to reproof your garment with every wash. How regularly you will need to reproof your garment will depend on the quality of the DWR coating and the usage of the garment. For light usage, you should expect to reproof your garment 2 - 3 times per year for optimum repellency. If you use the garment for intense exercise (such as hiking, biking, running, climbing) you should expect to reproof much more frequently.

How do I look after my Merino?

Don't be afraid to wash your merino - cleaning is good for you and good for your garments! Just make sure you follow these guidelines.

  • Check any pockets, do up zips and turn inside out.
  • Machine wash: Use a delicate cycle at 30˚C (maximum). Use a liquid detergent such as Ecover, Delicate, or Nikwax Woolwash.
  • Hand wash: First, check your sink is clean. Soak your merino for 10 – 20 minutes in lukewarm water with a few drops of detergent, gently agitating from time to time, then rinse thoroughly in clean water. Never wring your merino.
  • To dry: Preferably lay your merino out flat. Otherwise hang somewhere airy and out of direct sunlight (over a chair or banister).

More great advice

  • NEVER tumble dry your merino. Ever. (Seriously, we mean it)
  • Never use hot water – this will shrink the fibres and damage them beyond repair
  • Do not use soap powder: soap powder residue clings to the fibres and inhibits their ability to wick
  • Do not use fabric conditioners or softeners: they will interfere with the merino’s natural odour resistant and moisture wicking properties
  • Do not dry on a radiator, in front of a fire or in a tumble dryer
  • If you snag, tear, or get holes in your merino, it can be mended using silk sewing thread.
  • To prevent pilling, we recommend washing your merino before you wear it. If pilling does occur, pop them in the wash with a pair of jeans (make sure all zips are closed on your jeans)
How do I clean a down jacket?

When you clean your down jacket or bag, it does more than just get rid of the pong. Washing away dirt helps to restore warmth and breathability and - whilst you’re at it - you can treat your garment with reproofer to improve performance in damp conditions. Finally, tumble drying your down properly works out those clumps that form naturally when you get caught in the rain.

Washing your down can be intimidating, but it shouldn’t be! In fact, it’s quite easy to wash your down kit.

Machine washing down
  • For jackets, a 7kg household washing machine should be big enough to clean your down jacket. For a sleeping bag you’ll need a 10kg capacity washing machine
  • Only use agitator-free washing machines (such as front loading washing machines)
  • Run an empty was to flush out all the soap residue, clean the detergent dispenser
  • Using the recommended quantity of Down Wash, wash at 30˚C and select the slowest spin cycle possible
  • Rinse the bag thoroughly in clean water until the water runs clear
Handwashing Down
  • Ensure your bath is clean
  • Fill with lukewarm water and add down wash or pure soap flakes
  • Put in your down item and press gently to submerge
  • Soak for around 30 minutes, gently agitate every now and then
  • Drain water, refill the bath with clean lukewarm
  • Gently massage the item in the water to remove all the soap until all the soap water is gone (use a shower head if you have one)
  • Drain the bath, gently press down on the item to get as much water out of the down as possible
  • Rinse thoroughly until the water runs clear

NEVER wring or squeeze the down garment/sleeping bag or hang your down garment or sleeping bag on the line to drip dry, it will end up very clumpy and a bit useless.

Tumble drying (recommended)
  • Tumble drying is the most effective way of drying your down. When reproofing garments, the heat helps to cure the waterproofing to the fabric quicker
  • Set your tumble dryer to the lowest temperature
  • Throw in your item with a couple of clean tennis balls (these will break up the wet clumps of down and restore loftiness)
  • Leave on until the garment is dry and restored to full loftiness
How to your wash your waterproof
  • Brush away any dry mud/sand/cake crumbs
  • Do up zips and velcro, loosen any draw cords
  • Treat any stubborn stains with neat Tech Wash and a damp cloth
  • Place garment (max of 2) in cleansed washing machine
  • Use a tech wash such as Nikwax Tech Wash or Granger's Performance Wash according to instructions - this tends to vary depending on water hardness in your area. (Soap can be used as an alternative, but remember, no detergents!)
  • Run a delicate wash at 30°C
  • Run a gentle rinse cycle to ensure all removal of all cleaning solutions
  • The garment can be hand washed in warm water as an alternative to machine washing
  • Allow your garment to air dry or tumble dry on a low heat
  • You can use an iron over the garment on a very low setting to reactivate the DWR
  • Note: Tumbledrying or ironing your garment will increase the durability of the DWR as the heat assists bonding between the DWR and the garment - even if the product states that airdrying is sufficient
Clean your washing machine

Rule number one: Detergents are a big no-no for reproofing your waterproof! In fact, detergents will attract water to your waterproof, which is the opposite of what we are aiming for. For this reason, we recommend thoroughly cleansing your washing machine with a service wash before cleaning your waterproof. To cleanse your washing machine, clean out the detergent tray, then run your machine on its hottest setting with a towel (or similar) and 500 ml of white vinegar inside.

Reproof with Wash-In reproofer
  • Once your garment is all lovely and clean (doesn't need to be dry), place the garment back in the machine
  • Use a reproofing agent such as Nikwax TX Direct or Granger's Repel according to the directions on bottle
  • Run a gentle cycle at 30°C in your washing machine
  • Dry your garment in a tumble dryer on a low heat. If a tumble dryer is not available, dry in another warm location such as in full sunshine or a warm room. Heat applied to the fabric helps the proofer bond to the material which makes it more effective
Reproof with Spray-On reproofer
  • Protect your chosen work surface and lay your freshly cleaned garment flat whilst it is still wet
  • Spray the proofer (such as Nikwax TX Direct or Granger's Performance Repel) evenly to the outside of the garment from a distance of 15 cm
  • Wait for 2 minutes and remove any excess from the garment with a damp cloth and ensure that no areas have been missed. Repeat after several minutes
  • Repeat procedure on other side
  • Dry your garment in a tumble dryer on a low heat. If a tumble dryer is not available, dry in another warm location such as in full sunshine or a warm room. Heat applied to the fabric helps the proofer bond to the material which makes it more effective
My waterproof doesn’t feel breathable or waterproof

So you bought a waterproof jacket, now here's how to get the most out of it. A layering system only works as well as the poorest layer in the system (the weakest link in the chain, if you like). It doesn't matter if you are wearing the most breathable waterproof in the world, if you are wearing a cotton t-shirt underneath it, you will get cold and damp. Likewise, if you are wearing a non-breathable insulation piece underneath your shell, then that will limit the breathability of your clothing system – not the waterproof shell.
Your baselayer needs to wick moisture away from your skin, and your mid-layers need to provide insulation but allow moisture to pass out easily. Fleece is great at doing this in most environments, and for colder conditions, breathable insulation (like the Katabatic) works really well.

Wear the appropriate amount of clothing for your activity level. Start off cool (especially if you are going to be walking uphill) as you will soon warm up once you start moving. Add layers when you stop, rather than having to stop to take off layers when you are moving. Adding a waterproof layer will make you feel warmer, as it cuts out the effects of the wind. So when you put your shell on, you might want to consider removing a layer underneath to compensate. If you are wearing too much, you will sweat more and that means your clothing system must work harder to get rid of this moisture build up to stop you from feeling damp inside your shell. Insulation layers for static use i.e. down jackets, traditional synthetic insulation, are great if it is extremely cold or you are moving slowly, but often if you layer a waterproof shell over the top you will wind up overheating and accumulating moisture inside your shell. Keep those items for use when you are static, or if it's cold and dry use them as your outer layer instead of your waterproof shell.

A few top tips:

  • You don't have to wear your waterproof if it's not raining (shocker!). Yes it works as a windproof layer, but sometimes this is overkill and you'd be better off and more comfortable not wearing it
  • Keep it clean! Your waterproof will work better if you keep it clean and re-proof it when necessary
  • If you are running in a light weight shell, try to adjust your rucksack so it doesn't bounce around, as this can cause excess abrasion on lightweight fabrics
  • If you carry your ice axe down the back of your rucksack (between the shoulder straps), be careful where the adze sits: most fabrics aren't ice axe proof!
How water resistant are zips?

The zips we use are highly water resistant but they are not waterproof. Pockets internal and external may be susceptible to water ingress or condensation, remember this if you put your expensive gadgets in your pockets without additional protection such as a dry bag.

YKK Aquaguard zips (with a PU coating) are highly water resistant but not *waterproof*. These are used on the Balance, Pulsar and Parallax styles (also found on many high end waterproofs from other brands). The Gravitas uses a special water repellent zip which does not have a PU coating, which makes it lighter and more flexible but less resistant to water - it’s more like a DWR treatment. There is a storm flap behind the zip though, to add another layer of protection.

Repairing a small tear with a heat patch

Do you have a small hole in your down jacket or sleeping bag? Or did you manage to rip/tear it ?

The first thing to do is to clear all of the down out of the way, in a sleeping bag give it a good shake while holding the hole closed, to make the down all go to one end of the baffle, just so it is away from your rip. With a jacket it is a little bit harder, but try to get as much out of the way as possible while still keeping it in the jacket.

To place the patch on top just peel off the back and lay the shiny side down and iron for 30secs or so. However to give it a professional look, you can always patch it on the inside - clear as much down away from the areas as possible, get a zip-tie or end of a spoon in there to push all the down away from the hole;

The next thing to do is to roll up the patch with the shiny side on the inside of the tube. That way you can slot it into the hole and unroll it inside,

Once you have got it in, make sure there isn't any down in between the Jacket and the patch. If there is, once it is ironed on and the glue is set it will show every lump where the down was stuck.

Before ironing the patch on make sure to smooth out the jacket and place it in the best way possible. It is worth spending some time at this point to straighten out the fabric, trim any loose bits and hide as much of the patch as possible.

The last thing to do is get the iron on it!!!

The zip, poppers and zip grips don't like being ironed, so be careful not to melt these. Squash all of the air out of the jacket and turn the iron to it's lowest setting.

All of our down products currently are made from a plastic material, Nylon - this melts!! The glue on the patches melts at 160 C which is lower than the jackets material melting point. You could try testing the iron on a small part of the jacket before heating the patched area, it shouldn't melt.

Hold it on the area the patch covers for a few seconds, this should secure the patch in place, if the iron needs to be warmer, turn it up slowly and do not overheat the fabric.

Repeat this a couple more times not leaving the iron on it for longer than 5 seconds and there you go, good as new -

Disclaimer - There is a chance to melt your jacket if the temperature is too high on your iron. As mentioned before we are more than happy to repair any Alpkit product, normally only costing the postage back to us. If you are unsure give us a call.