Nikwax and the art of jacket maintenance

The first winter rains are starting to fall here in the Cape and mornings are chilly. Out come windproof and waterproof breathable jackets to protect us from these elements. However unless these jackets are relatively new they do not keep the damp out as well as they should. The first sign of trouble is when the outer material wets out as in the image on the left.
Irrespective of whether you have a waterproof breathable jacket (Gore Tex, Conduit or the like) or just a water repellent jacket (CAPESTORM Helium, First Ascent Apple) outer shells are designed to move moisture in the form of vapour out and keep the elements out at the same time. Waterproof Jackets are for when conditions get really wet and/or you are not exerting yourself too hard. The rest are for high exertion activities (like trail running, cycling) when breathability is the main issue.
What is breathability? It is the rate at which a fabric vents MOISTURE from your body. The following would be good examples of high breathability garments: Moisture Management T shirt, Fleece, First Ascent Apple Jacket, CAPESTORM Helium.
Breathability drops the more waterproof your garment is. Waterproof Jackets can never be as breathable as the above (due to an added membrane bonded to the inside of the jacket) but they are 100% waterproof. But that is not what I want to talk about today. If you own a waterproof then read on anyway because the process is very similar for you.
The problem for breathability comes in when the outer fabric “wets out”. This is immediately noticeable when rain droplets no longer look like droplets of oil on a non stick frying pan or blobs of mercury but the fabric itself actually becomes wet. Now you are trying to push your perspiration through a solid sheet of water. Does not work so well!

These WINDPROOF and water repellent jackets will remain windproof unless the fabric is compromised (torn or cut) in some way.

However the WATER REPELLENT part is a result of the DWR (Durable Water Repellent) Treatment. This wears off due to normal use (abrasion, oils and dirt from skin and washing in normal detergent). However all is not lost!

Like sending your car for a service so too your outdoor gear needs the occasional service.

NikWax has a large range of DWR liquids to enable you to get the best performance from your jacket. In fact the range of products is quite overwhelming so I will concentrate on just two. These are Techwash and TX Direct. TX Direct comes in a wash in bottle or a spray on dispenser. I prefer the spray on because I can use it on my Mountain Hardwear Conduit Waterproof Breathable jacket too. (But more on that at some other time.)

The process is easy: First of all you have to “prep” the fabric with Techwash so that it can “hold onto” the DWR. You need to wash any residual oil and dirt from the garment. Once this is completed then you can apply the TX Direct. The nice thing is that you don’t have to wait for the garment to dry before you apply the TX Direct. It is water based so you can apply it wet. Oh and I like the smell of Nikwax products.

So go out and treat your running jackets before the next rainy run. You will be glad you did.

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