Monday, 22 October 2012

Take Care Of Your Kit....

A fundamental component of all technical outerwear is its Durable Water Repellent (DWR) which serves as your clothing’s barrier against moisture. Gear can lose up to 70% of its breathability when the outer fabric absorbs water, dirt and sweat.  I know in my circle of friends that is just about anything we do for work or play. Therefore, the Durable Water Repellency (DWR) on the outer fabric of your gear must be maintained to ensure effectiveness. This increases the duration of your element’s effectiveness in adverse weather conditions and extended operations.

The nature of our work and play necessitates that we run our technical and tactical gear pretty hard so it gets grimy and sweaty. But, you gotta get your kit clean..right! DWRs will wash out of most technical gear within 20 washes or less. Do not use regular clothing detergents and fabric softeners; they leave a residue within the gear that affects DWR and IRR treatments. Additionally, applying a new Durable Water Repellent (DWR) treatment is most effective when the gear is clean.  For cleaning gear, prior to a DWR treatment, I recommend Nikwax Tech Wash. “It will revitalise existing Durable Water Repellency (DWR) and revive breathability. It is the safe way to thoroughly clean your waterproof clothing and equipment. Application in a washing machine is quick, easy, and ensures that the whole garment is thoroughly cleaned.”[1] I have used it for years on my technical/tactical gear with great success.

Once, you have it clean it is time to apply the DWR treatment. I highly recommend the spray in treatments. They take a little longer to apply but you can be more accurate with its application than a wash in. Wash in treatments will also treat the inside of clothing and have a negative effect on their breathability. I use Nikwax TX.Direct Spray On for all my wet weather clothing such as Gortex hard shells. “It’s highly Durable Water Repellency (DWR) develops on air drying. The need for tumble drying is removed, protecting more vulnerable, older, garments from heat. Nikwax TX.Direct® Spray-On has been specifically designed and optimized for breathable waterproof garments; it leaves a flexible water repellent treatment on individual fibres allowing moisture vapour to pass through, maintaining breathability. The spray-on application allows for direct treatment of areas which require it most (e.g. elbows and seams on jackets) and will not compromise the properties of internal wicking liners.”[2] For soft shells, I use Nikwax Softshell Proof Spray-On. Tactical quality hard shells and soft shells are expensive but well worth the price for their performance. Renewing the DWR using the proper process will renew the fabric and give you long years of service.

You do not always need to re-treat you technical/tactical gear with commercial DWR treatments. After washing with a proper tech wash, put the clothing into the dryer on a warm cycle and iron it on low heat. This will realign the fibres and open the fabric for breathability. If after doing this water does not bead on the outer garment, then run to your local outdoors store or high end tactical gear supplier and get some DWR treatment.

Another thing that I do to all my rigs and packs is apply a UV protection spray. UV will slowly degrade stitching, webbing and colour, thus ruining the effectiveness of your fighting gear or packs. High quality equipment is expensive and to ignore the effects of UV is ‘pound foolish and penny wise’. After every deployment or extensive training cycle, I wash my gear with Nikwax Tech Wash and re-treat it with Nikwax Tent & Gear Solarproof.  This product “maintains the water repellency tents and outdoor gear, protects tents and gear against UV degradation, one application can double the effective life of gear and  gear dries quickly for packing away” [3] This re-vitalizes the gear and as an added bonus it increases water resistance to the kit too. When working in wet environments, my gear will not absorb as much water; reducing my weight load. Why carry rain water that has soaked into your gear? Ammo, medical gear, comms systems, illumination systems and the batteries that power them are heavy enough. If it is particularly long deployment, I will treat the gear prior as well.

‘Take care of your kit so it can take care of you’ is an old infantry axiom. It has never been truer with integration of technical gear into the tactical world. Spend the extra time and pennies. Get a full life cycle out of your issue or self-procured gear. This is the minutia that separates the operators from the ordinary.

Take care out there.

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