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care and repair

Care & RepairHow to look after your outdoor kit

“The most sustainable item of clothing is the one you already own”. It’s the phrase we’re told time and time again when it comes to sustainable shopping. Following this rule seems pretty simple - you wear the clothes you already own instead of buying new ones. But wearing our clothes more frequently will inevitably accelerate wear and tear, so it’s important that we prevent this as much as possible to keep our garments in circulation for longer. Combatting wear and tear can be broken down into two parts: care (to prolong ‘wear’ as much as possible) and repair (to correct ‘tear’ when it happens). Check out our top tips below to help you care and repair efficiently and maximise the life of your beloved outdoor garments.

Why do I need to look after my kit?

Environmental impact: Less waste = reduced environmental impact. The longer we can prevent products from going to landfill, therefore reducing waste from our clothing as much as possible, the better we’ll be doing for the planet. Using what we already own will reduce demand and therefore supply of new garments and virgin fabrics, which have a particularly high carbon footprint.

Bank balance: If you care and look after your kit as well as you can, it will last longer. We’re so accustomed to throwing away items of clothing as soon as there’s a slight sign of wear, when really a simple stitch at the hem or zip replacement can give you many more months or even years with your beloved wardrobe staples. You won’t have to replace it as often, and your bank balance will thank you for it.

Skip the hassle: There’s nothing worse than your favourite down jacket or pair of walking boots reaching the point of no return. These pieces are with you through the challenges and the triumphs, they shape to become your own, and it’s hard to find anything that’s quite the same. Save yourself the hassle and take care of your beloved kit so that you can keep hold of it for longer.

Zip Care

How to wash and care for your outdoor kit

The way we look after our pieces once we take them home can have a massive impact on the longevity of a garment. We know that it can get a little confusing since different pieces of outdoor kit require different levels of attention and care, so we’ve compiled a list of the most common outdoor garments/materials below to help you get the most life out of your kit as possible.

Waterproofs

To make your waterproof garments last longer, you need to wash them regularly to help maintain the Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish and breathability. The DWR helps water to bead off the surface and stops oversaturation, preventing condensation on the inside of the garment to keep you dry. Make sure to use waterproof cleaning products instead of standard detergent which can damage the effectiveness of the waterproof membrane. To dry the garment, simply hang it up or pop it in the dryer. Tumble dry the item for a further 20 minutes or iron it (using a towel as a barrier) once dry - this helps reactivate the DWR.

With wear and washing, the DWR coating will start to decrease in effectiveness and you will need to reproof your garment from time to time. A great way to test this is by running a few drops of water over the garment - if the water beads and runs off it means the DWR is working, if it absorbs then it’s time to reproof. There are a variety of reproofers on the market - wash-in proofers allow you to add it to your washing machine drawer for even coverage, whilst spray-on proofers allow you to target areas that will wear more easily.

For a step-by-step on how to wash and reproof your waterproof garments check out our blog, or this handy video from GORE-TEX.



Down

Make sure you hand wash your down jacket with a down-specific detergent like the Grangers Down Wash Kit, as traditional detergents can strip down of its natural oils which affects the loft and performance. If your down is treated with DWR, you may want to give it a further cycle with a down-specific reproofer, like the Nikwax Down Proof. To help restore the loft, dry down items in the dryer where possible rather than line drying. Pop it in alongside 2 clean tennis balls or a large heavy-cotton towel to help break up clumps and evenly distribute the down. Alternatively, if you have an old Rab jacket or sleeping bag that's in need of a wash but want to skip the hassle, you can send it to them for a professional wash and have it returned to you in like-new condition


Merino

Naturally odour-resistant, merino wool can be worn multiple times before you wash it, which is great for multi-day treks and for reducing environmental impact. But when it does start to smell, simply wash it in cool water on a gentle cycle with a mild soap (no fabric softener) and dry it laying flat. To freshen it up in between washes, simply hang your meino garment outside to air.


Wetsuits

Rinse your wetsuit with fresh water after each use and leave it to air dry on a hanger. Do not use chemicals or cleaning products as this can damage the neoprene and wear it out. Make sure that you store your wetsuit hanging up and avoid direct sunlight as this also shortens the life of neoprene.


Footwear

We know what it’s like when you get in from a long day’s hike - all you want to do is kick your boots off and put your feet up. But don’t make the mistake of leaving your boots covered in mud and dirt after your walk - you’ll end up paying for it in the long run. Leaving your boots dirty will reduce the effectiveness of the waterproofing and breathability and shorten their lifespan. Get the mud off by using a brush and rinsing them under the tap, or if you’re out on the road then use a handy portable shower. Use a cleaner like the Nikwax Footwear Cleaner Gel every once in a while to give them a deeper clean - this will also help to restore the DWR in your boots. Reproofing your boots regularly (every few wears) will keep them performing at their best. Use a wax for leather boots, and specialized spray-on proofer for nubuck/suede and fabric footwear. Always leave your boots to dry out naturally, never by the radiator! Check out this video from Salomon for a step-by-step demo:



Tents

The biggest killer of tents is UV light, so to prolong the life of your tent, take the flysheet off when it’s sunny and dry. Make sure that you set your tent up to dry after getting back from a camping trip so that any moisture can air dry and prevent any unpleasant odours. Brush off any debris and spot clean with a damp cloth, and make sure to check for anything that needs repairing to ensure it’s ready for the next adventure. When you’re ready to take it down, break your poles in the middle rather than folding at one end - this is better for the shock cord. Don’t leave it in a compression sack either - store it loosely to let it breathe until you’re ready to pack it up again. When you do pop it back in the bag, make sure to tie up your guy lines to make it easier to get out next time. If you feel your tent needs a deep clean, check out this blog from MSR for a step-by-step guide.


Backpacks

After every adventure, you’ll want to make sure that you empty, spot clean, and air out your pack. Depending on how often you use it, you’ll need to give your pack a proper clean every once in a while. Wash your backpack by hand rather than in the washing machine, using warm water, non-detergent soap, and a brush to remove any stains, paying careful attention to the back, shoulder straps, and hip belt. Hang the pack to dry indoors away from excess heat or direct sunlight. You can also apply a waterproof treatment to revive the DWR if it has one.

Tent Care

How do I repair my kit?

Before you attempt to repair something yourself, check the warranty or manufacturer’s repair policy first - you’ll be surprised at how many brands will replace or repair your gear for free. Patagonia, Berghaus, Rab and more all have excellent policies in place and offer free repair services for faulty gear. Many footwear brands like Scarpa and Meindl also offer boot resoling, but make sure to keep an eye on your soles - it’s both easier and cheaper to replace boot soles before they have worn through the outer sole. However, if you’ve missed the manufacturer’s warranty period, there is a lot that you can do at home to repair your gear yourself.


Repair Essentials

It’s always useful to have some small repair essentials both at home and with you whilst you’re out exploring. Here are some ideas to build your own repair kit:

Tenacious tape: will fix holes or tears in pretty much all of your outdoor gear, including waterproofs, without leaving any residue. It’s super strong and long lasting to help prolong the life of kit that still has a lot of adventures left in it.

Duct tape: this will patch up or hold together anything that is need of a quick fix on the go.

Shoe glue: an adhesive to repair your boots and give them an additional lease of life. It can also be great for repairing waterproof membranes.

GORE-TEX repair kit: this will patch up and repair any small holes that you have in your GORE-TEX waterproof kit.

Seam grip: if the seams on your tent, pack or rainwear are starting to let water in, you can use Seam Grip glue to seal the seams and waterproof them.

Pole splints: always handy to carry with you on wild camping trips, pole repair splints will save the day in the event of a pole break so you're not left stranded.

Multi-tool: you can’t go wrong with a multi-tool when you’re spending time outdoors, for quick fixes like repairing a zipper or cutting some tape.

Sewing kit: it’s always handy to have a needle and thread lying around.




DIY Quick Fix Tips

Repairing a hole or tear in your outerwear

We’d recommend using tenacious tape to patch up any tears or holes in your waterproof, softshell, or insulated jackets. Simply smooth the coat out on a hard surface and pop some sellotape on the reverse side to align the tear first. Measure out the tenacious tape leaving around an inch of excess around the tear, cut it to fit, and place the tape over the rip. You can place the tape over the inside and outside of the garment for extra security (particularly with thin garments like waterproofs), then leave it for 24 hours to let the adhesive set. If you have a GORE-TEX garment, check out the GORE-TEX specific repair kit. Check out this video from Arc’teryx showing you how to properly fix up you garment with Tenacious tape:



Replacing a jacket zip

A lot of people will simply throw away their jacket after the zip has worn out, but the jacket will usually have a lot of life left in it beyond a broken zipper. You can easily replace a zipper slider yourself with a few handy tools. Check out this video from Patagonia to find out what you need and how to replace your zip at home.



Stitching a hole in merino

Cut a piece of thread no longer than 40cm, thread it through a thin needle and tie a knot in the end. Sew the hole closed by stitching 2-3mm above and below the hole until you have closed the hole shut, then tie the thread with a knot so it doesn’t become loose, and cut off any excess thread. If you tear a large hole in your merino garment, you could sew a patch over the hole instead. Check out this video from Kari Traa for a quick demo:

Making the right purchases

Now that you know how to care for and repair your outdoor kit effectively, it’s useful to know what to look out for when it’s time to invest in a new piece of kit. There are a number of materials and technologies that you can look out for when purchasing different outdoor garments that will make the pieces easier to care for and avoid having to repair as frequently. Although such materials can be a bit pricier, they will almost always pay off in terms of cost per wear.

Baselayers - Odour Control Technologies/Merino Wool

Skipping just one out of ten washes leads to a reduction in total toxicity, lower CO2 emissions, and the release of fewer microplastics. Odour control technologies like POLYGIENE and naturally odour-resistant fabrics like merino wool can help to reduce the number of times that we wash a garment by keeping it fresher for longer. And if we’re washing a garment less, it’s also going to last longer. According to POLYGIENE, a garment that lives nine months longer saves 16% CO2, 20% water, and 8% waste in its environmental footprint - which is huge when it comes to a staple piece like a baselayer that you’ll wear time and time again. So make sure to look out for natural materials or odour control technologies when you’re next on the hunt for a baselayer.

Outerwear, Trousers, Packs - Ripstop Fabrics & Strong Nylon

For garments that are going to be rubbing against rock and abrasive surfaces, ripstop fabrics and nylon materials like cordura will be your friend. Although nylon is a synthetic material, a strong nylon fabric will resist sharp scrapes and scratches that inevitably occur when adventuring outdoors, so the garment is likely to last for a long time. Keeping an item and wearing it for as long as possible is arguably the most sustainable purchasing decision you can make, but if you want to make an even more sustainable choice, keep an eye out for recycled nylon instead.

Walking Boots - Leather

When you invest in a new pair of walking boots, you want them to last - and there’s really no contest with leather walking boots when considering durability. Although they take longer to break in and are heavier than synthetic walking boots, leather boots are far more resilient and will mould to your own foot shape. Leather is also naturally water resistant, whereas waterproof membranes used in synthetic footwear will inevitably wear over time. With proper care, a good pair of leather walking boots can last for many years and can also be resoled when they start to wear down.

Boot Care

Source: Mountain Boot Co

Although it takes a little more effort, looking after our kit properly and learning how to repair it when it needs fixing has benefits for both the environment and for our wallets. Ultimately, investing in pieces for durability will ensure that you hold on to them and wear them time and time again, so that every item in your outdoor kit has a story to tell.

Check out our care and repair products to get the most out of your kit

Care & Repair

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