Any nature photographer will tell you that having high quality outdoor clothing can go a long way to making you more comfortable when you are out shooting. My friend Matt shares his advice on how to keep your clothing in good condition.
As well as running a growing walking holiday booking company, I also work for a well known outdoor clothing manufacturer. In both jobs, I deal with people who proudly own high-end, technical outdoor gear, but only in the latter role am I faced with the challenge of kitting out intrepid nature photographers.
My understanding of nature photographers is that they seldom stick to the footpath. Their mission tends to lead them off-piste through thick woodlands or up craggy peaks. They think little of wading through streams and camping out all day in the wet, unafraid of getting dirty in pursuit of their desired photo.
By its very nature, outdoor photography requires high-performance kit that will stand the test of time, but that kit also needs to be reliable and to achieve that, it needs to be well-maintained, or in other words, well-washed.
A mistake I see time and time again, which can severely shorten the shelf-life of a garment, is incorrect washing. It’s an issue that usually arises from not reading the care instructions on the hang tag the item was sold with (which are usually are pretty good) and instead reaching for the white label sewn into the left hand side of the garment.
The little white label is legally required to be there, but there’s little room to record washing instructions other than suggesting a 40C machine wash will do the job.
Your job is to ignore this particular care label and listen to my advice as I explain how to wash and care for a technical goretex or eVent garment (or a garment constructed using a similar breathable laminate fabric).
Follow my advice and you won’t go far wrong.
1. Buy the right product
Persil, Fairy, Ecover or an own brand supermarket fabric wash won't cut the mustard. Sorry! You’ll need an infuriatingly expensive product to wash your jacket, such as Nikwax Tech Wash and a bottle of Nikwax TX Direct. In my experience, this is the market’s best selling product for a reason - because it works.
2. Clean your machine
Take your bottles and cast them aside for a moment. Fill your washing machine with nothing but air, close the door and turn it onto a rinse cycle. Let it wash through. Big-brand washing detergents build up inside your machine and you don’t want these near your jacket. If you want to be thorough, give your machine a second empty wash, or clean it with a specialist machine cleaner.
3. Put your jacket into the machine
With your machine cleaned, you can now put your jacket into the drum. Pour the Tech Wash into the machine, either directly into the barrel or through the dispenser. Close the door and turn to a 40C synthetic setting.
4. Keep your jacket in the machine
Wash your jacket again with TX Direct, following the instructions above. This product helps to reactivate the DWR (Durable Water Repellent) treatment. Wash at 40 C.
5. Get out your iron
“My Iron??” I hear you say. I’m afraid so. The purpose of the iron is to heat up the treated jacket and re-activate the DWR treatment, which responds to heat. Switch your iron to a medium setting and iron evenly, not forgetting the corners. If you’re worried about burning an iron shaped hole in your £200 jacket, then iron through a towel - it’s the application of heat that’s required, rather than direct heat from a hot plate.
6. Dry flat.
To get the best results, don’t throw your jacket over a line, you’ll just get a washing line mark across your jacket. Try to dry it by distributing the weight evenly over a flat surface.
7. Test your jacket
Your shiny, good as new jacket is ready to battle the elements again. Throw it on and proceed to the nearest Welsh mountain for a thorough testing.
The author of this article takes no responsibility for a damaged jacket during the washing process. Jackets that are leaking after a wash are either; a) not waterproof and you have been mis-sold; b) have a damaged seam or broken seam tape; c) you are using a lightweight jacket for heavy weight use and asking too much of your garment.
If you have any questions about outdoor wear, feel free to contact me by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be happy to help and offer my expertise, but don’t be surprised if I try to sell BookMyTrails unique booking service in the process.