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Getting new life out of your rain gear

A rain jacket is a must-have in the Rockies (or anywhere, really) and a good one is often a reasonably substantial purchase - so who doesn’t want to get a little more life out of their tried and true rain gear? Often, when people think that the waterproof/breathable membrane (like Gore Tex) in their rain gear is ‘worn out’, it actually isn’t. It may just be in need of a quick clean and refresh to get back to it’s former glory.

Rain gear must be washed regularly to retain breathability – not only does dirt attract moisture, wetting out the fabric of your rain layer, but skin oils will fill the pores on waterproof membranes which reduces breathability. Both of these things will increase condensation beneath the garment (or inside your boot), which can feel damp, and potentially feel like your waterproofing is failing.

Additionally, all waterproof/breathable gear is treated with what the industry refers to as a DWR, or, a ‘Durable Water Repellency’. This is a treatment to the outer layer of your rain gear that promotes water beading and running off the fabric, massively reducing water absorption. A worn DWR means that water no longer beads off of your jacket, and instead is absorbed into the outer layer of the fabric. This reduces the breathability as the outer fabric soaks out (also adding substantial weight to your item) – since nothing can breathe through a layer of water. Most fabrics will lose more than 70% of their breathability when wetted out.

The DWR generally gets worn mostly through garment use – particularly near pockets, zips, backpack straps, and other high wear areas. Footwear in particular are subject to high levels of abrasion.

It is important to note that whilst washing your rain layer regularly is prudent, most conventional washing detergents will strip DWR over just a few washes. To have the DWR coating last significantly longer, the recommendation is (instead of a generic washing detergent) to use a product specifically designed for use with waterproof membranes such as Nikwax TechWash – although there are several other brands available.

If your garment is still beading water well (so your DWR is still good), follow this with a dryer cycle on low (if the garment’s label allows) to redistribute a coating that may have just become worn in those high use areas, or air dry.

If your DWR has begun to wear, but otherwise your garment is in good condition, the DWR can usually be re-instated by spray on or wash in (separately from your Tech Wash) product like Nikwax TX Direct followed again by a dryer cycle on low (again, if the garment’s label allows). Either way, this is very easy to do.

Very old or highly worn garments will still benefit from treatment, but nothing will resurrect truly damaged or worn out fabrics. Hopefully they’ve had a good, long service life to earn that distinction.

Of course, if you’re unsure of the best treatment for your waterproof/breathable garment just bring it in – we’ll be more than happy to assess it and offer advice on refreshing its breathability.