Saturday, December 4, 2010

Keeping Dry in the Rain: Restoring the DWR of Rain Gear Fabric

Most of us have come to know and love our breathable rain gear.  I remember using GORE-TEX® equipment for the first time in 1985 on Kodiak Island, Alaska.  Staying warm, both then and know, is all about staying dry and being properly layered.
A GORE-TEX® membrane (or other manufactures’ waterproof membrane) in your clothing does not guarantee that you will stay dry.  Back when I first started using protective breathable rain wear I did not fully understand the importance of maintaining the water repellency of the fabric to which the waterproof membrane is bonded.  
Over time, outer fabric wear from abrasion, exposure to dirt, sweat and other contaminants reduces the performance of GORE-TEX® and other membranes.  This occurs as the Durable Water Repellant (DWR) treatment on the outer fabric surface degrades.   When this occurs, the outer fabric can easily become saturated and a condition known as “wet out” can occur making you feel damp.  This may make your garment appear as though it is leaking. 
If you want your raingear to work to its optimum potential a few easy maintenance steps are all that is required to avoid this condition.  Remember to follow the manufacturer’s care instructions that came with your garment.  In the case of GORE-TEX® products, you can get on the internet and visit their product care center for additional information about GORE-TEX® care. 
The first step is proper washing of your garment.  As mentioned above, it is absolutely necessary to keep your GORE-TEX® product clean to maintain performance.  GORE-TEX® recommends warm water (104 degrees) with a powder or liquid detergent.  No fabric softener or chlorine bleach should be used.  The garment must be thoroughly rinsed to remove all detergent residues.  Some people recommend using a performance wash specifically developed to clean water repellant membrane garments.
Next, you will want to dry your garment in the dryer on the warm setting.  Always follow the garment manufacturer’s care instructions.  The heat from the dryer will reactivate the DWR treatment on the fabric. You can test the DWR’s performance after drying by putting a few drops of water on the outside of the fabric.  You should see the water bead up and roll off the fabric.  This is an indication the DWR has been restored.  If the water does not bead off but soaks into the fabric, the DWR treatment of your garment must be restored.   Some also recommend using an iron to restore the DWR of the fabric.  I personally prefer to use the dryer.

The final step, if needed, is to apply a restorative DWR treatment to the fabric.  Gore recommends a topical treatment as opposed to a wash-in treatment as those could affect the breathability of the garment you are treating.   Follow directions on the DWR treatment product label.  These will likely require running the garment back through a warm dryer after application.
What happens if you damage your rain gear?  In the case of GORE-TEX®, if you puncture or tear your garment you can use a GORE-TEX® Fabric Repair Kit to restore temporary protection from leakage of water into the garment. Permanent repairs can be made through a certified GORE-TEX® product repair center.
Take care of your gear and it will take care of you!  Now go out there and start training in the rain.  I will see you out on the trail.  Happy hiking and hunting!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Advertisement in Eastmans' Hunting Journal Holiday Gift Guide

Find our latest book about do-it-yourself coastal black bear hunting on page 22 of the 2010 Eastmans’ Holiday Gift Guide!