The rainy season is encroaching upon many of us, and that means that it is the time of year to start thinking about bringing your rain gear out of storage or to start thinking about purchasing new gear. Before deciding to spend a lot of money on new gear, I encourage you to take a look at the condition of your existing rainy weather gear and determine if it just merely needs some rejuvenation versus replacement. If you do determine that you have to, or would like to replace your gear, please consider donating your old gear or recycling it instead of throwing it away - for example, Patagonia offers this program for its products: https://www.patagonia.com/recycling.html
Most rainwear has a treatment on the exterior of the material called a durable water repellent (DWR). Even jackets with a breathable and waterproof membrane, like Gore-Tex®, need a working DWR on the exterior to keep the internal cloth from becoming saturated with water.
The DWR finish on technical gear can diminish in performance for a number of reasons; including heavy use, years of use, body oil, dirt, and by the number of times you have washed the gear. The good news is that sometimes the repellent can be revived by using a technical gear wash in a washing machine, such as Nikwax Tech Wash and following the wash with a few minutes in a clothes dryer on a low or medium heat setting. If your gear falls into the category of heavy use, and/or if you tried to rejuvenate the gear by using a tech wash and drying (as above described), and the gear is still not water repellent, you may need to re-apply a DWR via a spray-on or wash-in method. You may also find that as you examine the wear on your gear that you may have to do some other forms of repair, including sealing the seams and fixing any tears or wear spots in the material.
Don’t be down, you probably just need some new DWR!
How to Tell if Your Gear Needs Maintenance
First, test your rainwear by spraying some drops on the exterior. If the water beads up and rolls off, your DWR is in good shape. If you find that the water sits on the fabric and that the sprayed section of fabric begins to darken, it means that water is making its way to the fibers and wetting the fabric, and it is time to apply a new DWR.
Second, take some time to thoroughly examine the seams of the rainwear, and determine if the seams still intact and if there is fraying of any sort near the seams. Do the same spray test on the seams and if the water seeps through the seams and if the fabric darkens, the seams may need some extra attention.
Use this time to additionally inspect the lining of your jacket. If the lining is peeling or delaminating, then your jacket is probably not worth saving.
Third, determine if there are any rips, obvious wear spots or holes in your rain wear (both interior and exterior). These types of damage may also render your gear retired (depending on extent and size of the damage), but for the most part, can be repaired with a little bit of effort.
MAKING THE REPAIRS
Re-Waterproofing (adding a new DWR Finish):
1. Wash your jacket with a technical gear wash. I recommend Nikwax’s Tech Wash, though there are a few others out there that will also do the trick.
2. Wash your jacket using TX Direct Wash-In. This will revitalize the waterproofing in your jacket’s membrane and add fresh DWR. If you prefer you can also use TX Direct Spray-On instead of, or in addition to, a wash-in option: To use the spray, simply apply the spray evenly to the fabric surface and remove any excess with a damp cloth.
3. Dry the jacket. To dry your jacket, tumble dry it on low heat for no more than ten minutes. This will help to shake off most of the water and start the drying process. Take your jacket out of the dryer and hang dry overnight.
What you might need:
Rips and Wear Spots: For small to medium rips (about the size of a quarter, or slightly bigger) and wear spots, a simple patch will typically resolve the issue.
1. Once the tears have been found, clean up and cut any loose fibers at the tear with scissors. For a larger tear, try to use a needle and thread to first close the hole. If you are really bad at sewing, find someone who knows how to do it to show you or, can do it for you- if you do a poor job at this step, it can actually cause more damage to your gear.
2. If your jacket has a pinhole or tear, use Gear Aid’s Gore-Tex fabric patches to patch the hole. Cut the patch in either a circular or oval shape to reduce the chances of peeling. For a stronger bond, use an iron on its lowest possible setting for a few seconds on the patch to bond it to the jacket. (A note of caution: be extremely careful using an iron. If the iron is too hot, it will melt your jacket.)
For abrasions, use Gear Aid’s Tenacious Tape to cover the damaged areas and cut the patches in circles or ovals to reduce the risk of peeling. The steps for repair vary if you have a roll or pre-cut patches (see below).
For the roll: Roll out a piece that will cover the tear with about an inch of space on all sides. Cut the tape from the rest of the roll and trim the corners and round out into either a circle or an oval.
For the patches: Pull the patch out of its container and measure to make sure it will overlap the tear by about an inch on all sides.
3. Apply the Tenacious Tape: peel the backing from the Tenacious Tape and carefully apply it to the outer fabric of your jacket. As you press down, start in the center and work your way out - this will help to avoid air bubbles. I like to use the end of my knuckle to get extra pressure, and rub in a circular pattern. Allow the patch to set for 24 hours before using.
4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 on the inside of the jacket. While not completely necessary for small tears, adding a patch on the inside of the jacket can help to seal out water completely and will make for a longer lasting repair. For a larger tear, this step is a must. Once the inner patch is applied, allow it to set for 24 hours before using.
5.Aquaseal: If you find that the edges of the patch are peeling, or you are generally dissatisfied with the patch’s adhesion to the fabric, you can add aquaseal to the edges with a brush to ensure a watertight, flexible mounting of the patch to the gear fabric. Aquaseal is not a breathable adhesive, so keep that in mind when applying to the fabric, and use sparingly as needed. You may also use aquaseal for tears, small holes and seam damage, but again- it is not a breathable glue, so use sparingly.
What You Might Need:
Seam Repair: In most cases, you can get away without doing seam repair - and be fine by just applying a new DWR to the entire garment and by repairing obvious wera spots and tears. I tend to like to do the job extra well when spending the time to gear repair, so if you are like me in that way, you may be interested in doing the seam repair to add extra insurance to your repair and re-waterproofing efforts.
Here are the steps to using Gear Aid Seam Sealant:
1. Clean and dry all surfaces.
2. Remove old seam sealer ( with stiff bristle brush (i.e a toothbrush) and isopropyl alcohol.
3 Shake well before use.
4. Remove inner foil and pull brush top open.
5. Squeeze bottle gently and apply a thin, even film to stitching on coated side of fabric (or inside of item).
6. Use brush to work into needle holes, sewn joints, corners and under lap-felled and folded seams.
7. Clean drips and excess with damp cloth.
8. Allow to fully dry before use or folding – minimum two hours at room temperature or longer if colder. Test for dryness before use.
What You Might Need:
I wish you the best of luck on your gear repair, and hope that you find these tips and tricks to be useful. If you learn anything yourself as you repair and re-waterproof, or already know something that was not mentioned in this "how-to" I'd love to hear about it!