The reality is, even the most expensive of jackets need regular maintenance to keep them in top shape.Re-waterproofing your gear regularly keeps it working at it’s optimum.
Most people have experienced their jacket ‘wetting-out’ at some stage – that point where the jacket doesn’t seem to shed water anymore and starts soaking it in.
This is caused by a combination of things – the DWR wearing out (what this article is about), Dirt, Insect Repellant, Blood (for the hunters) and many other things. This tends to make the jacket feel clammy and wet.
The outer layer wets out, stopping the jacket from breathing like it should. Your perspiration can’t escape, gets trapped, and makes you feel like you are getting soaked. You are. In your own sweat.
This is a good sign that it’s time to do some maintenance to the DWR finish on your jacket.
This ties in with maintaining core temperature while out in the bush, hot or cold, but ensuring you jacket remains ‘dry’ and clean, breathing like designed.
Durable Water Repellent
To prevent wet-out, technical jackets get treated with and ultra-thin covering called DWR. This is a polymer that gets applied to the outside layer of fabric. This lowers the surface tension of the outer, causing water to bead up and roll off instead of soak in.
When you get a new jacket, this DWR coating is in new condition. After using it for a little while, especially when worn under a pack or something that will be rubbing against the jacket, this layer wears off. The speed of which depends on many factors – amount of use being one of the biggest.Re-waterproofing your gear restores this layer.
Wear points – like the shoulders, across the chest and waist where the pack straps join, and the back are the top spots for wear. This is where the fabric is rubbing on fabric, and soon removes the thin DWR coating the manufacturer applied.
Cleaning the Jacket
The first step in getting the jacket back to new is cleaning it – a buildup of dirt, sweat and other materials are likely reducing the breathability of the jacket.
Don’t just dump it in the washer with the rest of your clothes.
Most washing detergents are going to leave a film on the jacket – this can attract water and cause the jacket to wet out. Most manufacturers are going to have their own suggestion on the product to use. I have used NikWax’s Tech Wash – I purchased it a while ago on a recommendation from the guys at Living Simply, and have used it on many items over the years.
Using it is simple – make sure the washing machine doesn’t have any major residue left in it from the last wash, put in your jacket(s), and wash. Follow the instructions.
Once you have washed the jacket, you may find all it needs is a spin in the dryer. While most people are nervous at the idea of putting their technical jackets in the dryer, it actually re-actives the DWR layer, and you might find that it’s all you need to get the jackets back to ‘new’.
In my case though, I wanted to get a step further, so I decided to reapply a DWR coating.
Spray or wash through?
There are two types of DWR treatment available on the market, spray on, which gets applied through a pump style bottle, or wash through, that, you guessed it, gets put into the washing machine with the garment.
I only had a spray on treatment the weekend I decided to retreat the jacket – so used that, however, as you will notice in the video, there are still a couple of spots that could do with another spray – no major. Next time though, I would be interested in using the wash through, then spraying onto of the high wear areas (pack straps) to get the best of both worlds.
How did it go?
Very well. Though my Hunters Element XTR was still fairly waterproof, it was starting to soak in a bit – especially in the forearms and across the chest where the pack straps were constantly rubbing on it. After having a long talk with Robert from Hunters Element about their Hydrafuse Packstealth Fabric, I decided to retreat it.
As you will see in the video, initially, through a lot of water was running off it, some was hanging around and eventually wetting out. I think it’s very important to note that the way and amount of water I was putting onto it, is somewhat beyond rain. I would say closer to standing under a garden tap or waterfall. Which is not something we normally do with a jacket. Yes, it wets out, but so would any jacket – my Ridgeline Monsoon would be sodden (it also needs retreating, badly).
Anyhow, washed it, sprayed it, a lot more beading. I need to spray a little more onto the chest area – right where the chest strap normally sits – this is a high wear area – so it makes sense that the DWR is a little worn there.
All in all, very happy. Still keen to get a wash through, and put the jacket through that – I think the combination of the wash through and spray on would be ideal.
So, in summary – it’s easy to renew your DWR on your jackets. Worth doing, and realistically, required maintenance on even the fanciest of technical outdoor garments.Re-waterproofing your gear should be part of your regular equipment maintenance.