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5 key pieces of advice on how to choose and care for a down jacket…

It’s been a warm start to winter but now the weather is getting colder you can officially start the search for a new, cosy jacket if your current one has reached the end of its useable life with you. There is nothing worse than feeling the chill in plummeting temperatures and down reigns supreme for its ability to keep you insulated. There are several key things to consider when purchasing a down jacket – far more than just style, colour and fit! Check out our tips on how to make the best choice for your needs…

 1. Think carefully about the activities you will use your down jacket for…
Consider the environment you will be wearing your down jacket in and the level of activity you undergo. Will it be for daily use, such as dog walking, the school run, or travelling to work? Or will it be for occasional use whilst walking or hiking? Perhaps you have a climbing or skiing trip to look forward to, or even a winter camping expedition…

High energy activities warrant a down jacket that is lightweight, won’t restrict your movement, and won’t cause you to overheat when working hard. Less strenuous activities suit a thicker down jacket.

2. Pay attention to fill power & weight…
This is the terminology used to describe the volume of down when it is fully lofted (at its fluffiest!). A jacket with a higher fill power means the down clusters take up more space and therefore trap more air, which equates to a higher warmth-to-weight ratio (900-fill power is a better insulator than 550-fill power).

However, be aware that a high fill power doesn’t always result in a super warm down jacket. It also depends on the amount of down used. For example, an item that has 150g of 700 fill power will be less warm than an item with 300g of 550 fill power.

The benefit of lighter items is that they can be compressed down and stored away, which is useful for mountain activities where space-saving is key.

Down filled gear should always display a fill power rating so be sure to check before you buy:

Medium

400 – 500

Good

500 – 550

Very Good

550 – 750

Excellent

750 – 900

 

3. Understand the difference between natural down and synthetic fibres…
Down is an excellent insulator because it traps air between its fibres, which is what makes you feel warm and cosy, whilst being easy to compress and pack down small. However, it is susceptible to rain and snow, and down jackets that are not treated will absorb water, resulting in the down clumping, becoming heavy, and making you cold from loss of loft and insulation. It can also take a long time to dry out a down garment and restore its loft. Hydrophobic down is regular down that has been treated with a water repellent coating, meaning it has an improved ability to deal with moisture.

Synthetic fill is cheaper than down and easier to clean. However, it tends to make a jacket heavier and (sometimes) bulkier than one containing down fill. Synthetic fill is less susceptible to moisture so could be considered better for use in wet conditions. However, the jacket will not be as warm as down and may be harder to pack away if needed. It is a good solution if you suffer from allergies.

4. Buy your down jacket responsibly…
The Responsible Down Standard (RDS) aims to protect ducks and geese used for down, by incentivizing the down and feather industry to treat these animals humanely; allowing companies to know what’s in their products so they can report truthfully to consumers, and rewarding those organizations leading the way.

The key factors:

  • Live plucking is prohibited
  • Force-feeding is prohibited
  • Respect for the animals’ welfare, from hatching to slaughter is in place
  • RDS down and feathers are identified (ensuring non-RDS down is not mistaken for RDS-certified)
  • Each stage of the supply chain is audited by third party certification
  • Only products containing 100% certified down can carry the RDS logo.

5. Care for your down jacket with specialist products…
Down items require expert care to keep them performing at their best time and again; definitely do not put them in the wash with normal detergents, as these can damage the down by leaving hydrophilic (water-attracting) residues on the fabric and fill.

Nikwax Down Wash. Direct® has been created specifically for hydrophobic and regular down filled gear. It thoroughly cleans and removes all dirt and contaminants that have built up on both the outer fabric and down fill of your jacket, whilst reviving its breathability and insulation. In the case of hydrophobic down, it also revitalises the durable water repellency (DWR).

When it is time to re-proof your down jacket (when water no longer beads up and runs off it) we recommend you use Nikwax Down Proof, our high performance wash-in waterproofer. It adds DWR to the fabric and down fill, and improves the natural, insulating properties of down.

All Nikwax products have been formulated for use in a washing machine, making your life easier! After washing your down jacket on a gentle cycle and spin drying it, we recommend a tumble dry. Down jackets should never be left wet, which risks permanent damage to the delicate down fill.

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Newsflash – Haglöfs have partnered with Nikwax on their new Nordic Expedition Down Hood Jacket

We are excited to share that Swedish outdoor clothing and apparel brand Haglöfs has chosen us to supply the down for its new and award-winning Nordic Expedition Down Hood Jacket! Filled with H Platinum Down, which features Nikwax Hydrophobic Down+, the jacket takes weatherproof insulation to the arctic level.

“Haglöfs is focused on high performance and driven by sustainability, like Nikwax. When we heard about NHD+ with the improved shake time of 10,000 minutes, it felt like a natural choice for us. We know the performance of NHD+ will mean a lot to our customers, who can now stay out for even longer.  To work with a company that is also driven by sustainability is a perfect match for Haglöfs.” Jenny Spiik, Haglöfs Textile Designer

Combining the qualities of Nikwax Hydrophobic Down+ with super conductive graphene (an allotrope of carbon), the jacket was awarded Product of the Year at this year’s coveted ISPO awards for providing unparalleled protection and insulating performance:

“If you want excellence from the science in textiles – this is it!  A function-first design that hides a wealth of technology…”  ISPO Jury

Nikwax Hydrophobic Down+ is an evolution of our Nikwax Hydrophobic Down, which provides high performance, environmentally friendly and PFC-free insulation, and is the first hydrophobic down to exceed 10,000 minutes in the industry-recognised down shake test*, which mimics the equivalent of seven days constant exposure to water. 

Down is, by nature, susceptible to humidity so when it gets wet it clumps together, causing it to lose its loft and insulation qualities. However, Nikwax Hydrophobic Down+ filled gear keeps users warm, dry and comfortable for longer in a variety of conditions. This is because it won’t wet out in rain, snow, or condensation caused from perspiration, which makes it perfect for use whilst alpine trekking and mountaineering.

Nikwax Hydrophobic Down+ has a flexible and durable water repellent finish on each individual down filament that helps to retain its natural structure and maintain insulation, even after seven days constant exposure to water.  This increases the range and extremities down garments can be used in, and increases their longevity as the down doesn’t absorb water.

Even better, the efficacy of Nikwax Hydrophobic Down+ filled gear can be infinitely renewed and maintained in a washing machine using Nikwax aftercare products…

Down Wash Direct® is the specialist technical cleaner for regular and hydrophobic down filled gear. It removes all dirt and contaminants that have built up on both the outer fabric and delicate down fill without harming them. It also effectively revives durable water repellency.

Down Proof is the high performance wash-in waterproofer that adds water repellency and revives insulation in down filled gear whilst maintaining breathability to keep you drier and warmer.

Watch our ‘how to’ video here

*The shake test works by shaking down continuously in a canister of water. Whereas untreated down becomes soaked in just 20 minutes, NHD+ excells over 10,000 minutes.  Read more here.

 

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Get your gear ready for the half-term winter break

The half-term holidays are not far away and lots of us will take the opportunity to get away on a short winter break. Whether you choose to travel abroad to spend time on the wintry slopes, or even just have a staycation here in the UK, we guarantee you will be taking key pieces of winter kit with you – you just never know what the weather will have in store!

Winter’s break in the Nordic countries or a spot of skiing in the Alps?
Half-term has proven to be a popular time for families to visit the lands of the northern lights, with prices often being slightly cheaper than around Christmas. Perhaps some huskie sledging in Finland? Or, you just prefer to head to the slopes for some skiing in the Alps?

Either way you all need to be kitted out appropriately to keep warm and dry in such cold conditions.

Down jackets can benefit you in really cold, and damp, conditions
If you already have an insulated down jacket, then check it now to see if it needs preparation for your trip, or have you used it already over the start of winter? If items have been used a number of times then they could use a clean, in order to ensure optimum performance whilst on your break.

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Nikwax Down Wash Direct
People may feel nervous about cleaning their down jackets, for fear of the down fill clumping and not returning to its original condition. Fear not! Even if your jacket is not hydrophobic, Down Wash Direct will efficiently clean it without harming the item in any way. Dirt and body oils are removed from the outer fabric and the down fill, whilst durable water repellency is restored. Your down gear will have a prolonged life and its performance will be optimised in cold and wet conditions.

  • Down Wash Direct can be used on your jacket easily in the washing machine.
  • Dry the item thoroughly afterwards. We recommend you spin dry the item a number of times, in order to get as much water out as possible.
  • If you have a tumble dryer, and if the item’s care label allows, then this is the perfect way to ensure the down is completely dry after cleaning.
  • Remember to tease apart any down clumps during the drying of the item – it will help restore the loft so that your jacket is back to normal ready for use.
  • Air the item in a warm environment for a day or so after drying.

After your trip, and when it comes to putting the down jacket away until next season, be sure to store it appropriately. Folding your garment away in a bag will compress the down. Ideally you need it to have plenty of room in order for the loft to be maintained and also keep within a warm environment.

Tempted by a staycation this February?
Wherever you may choose to stay in the UK for this winter break, there is a very strong chance of rain. However, there are still plenty of activities to keep you busy and allow you to continue enjoying the outdoors.  

Wet weather gear should be a must-have for this February half-term. Waterproof items are covered in what is known as a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating – this is what causes rain to ‘bead up’ and roll off the garment, instead of being absorbed into the fabric, which causes it to ‘wet out’. Some people think they cannot wash their waterproof items for fear that this coating will be damaged, when actually it will be reduced if the items are not kept clean.

Nikwax Tech Wash & TX.Direct
The perfect aftercare companions to ensure all of your family’s rainy day clothing is kept in top condition and therefore keep you safe, warm and dry if you experience a wet half-term break.

  • Dirt will eventually prevent the DWR from working, which is when you will get cold and damp in your waterproof clothing.
  • Normal household detergents actually leave water-attracting residues on the fabric, so cleaning with these will not help your waterproof clothing to stay waterproof.
  • Tech Wash is the no.1 high performance cleaner, designed especially for wet weather gear. Cleaning away all dirt, it will revive the DWR on the outer fabric, whilst making sure that garment remains breathable.
  • Eventually, after lots of use, the DWR will need replenishing on waterproof items.
  • TX.Direct is the easy to use wash-in, or spray-on, waterproofer. It leaves a flexible water repellent treatment on the item, while making sure moisture can escape through the fabric from the inside.
  • The result? Your clothing will work again at its full potential.

When the season turns and you plan to put your wet weather clothing away, try to keep it hung up loosely. Don’t be tempted to put it into a stuff sack, because this could lead to the items becoming creased, which in turn could lead to the DWR starting to wear off.

Don’t forget your feet!
Wherever you spend your half-term break, footwear cannot be forgotten. If your feet get wet and cold, then inevitably the rest of you will feel this too. Keep the following Nikwax staple items in your cupboard so your shoes can be cared for too.

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Footwear Cleaning Gel & Waterproofers
Suitable for all outdoor footwear, Footwear Cleaning Gel is a sponge-on aftercare product easily applied by hand to clean away all of the dirt, which may be causing your shoes to absorb water.

  • Rinse shoes to dampen the footwear, then apply Footwear Cleaning Gel generously over the area to be cleaned.
  • You can use a stiff brush to help remove tougher dirt or mud.
  • Rinse well with clean water.
  • Leave the shoes to dry naturally, whereupon the DWR will be revitalised and your shoes will remain comfortable, breathable and supportive.
  • If waterproofing is then required, ensure you use the appropriate product for your type of footwear – these can be used whilst the shoes are wet.
  • Waterproofing Wax for Leather: designed for all smooth leather footwear – perfect for leather hiking boots for example. It keeps leather shoes waterproof, prevents them from stiffening and maintains breathability so feet do not get sweaty inside.
  • Fabric & Leather Proof: for combination outdoor footwear. You can either sponge or spray on to the footwear to provide instant DWR, which will develop when the shoe is left to dry naturally.
  • Nubuck & Suede Proof: provides the same high performance as our other footwear aftercare, but is optimised for nubuck and suede shoes.

Keeping all of your kit cleaned and proofed with Nikwax aftercare will help ensure your clothing will last for much longer and allow you to stay dry and warm when you are enjoying all of your outdoor adventures.

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The Nikwax Expert – Learn About Down

Jamie Maguire, Key Account Manager at Nikwax discusses down, how it works and how to care for it, with key information that could benefit your customers when they are searching for that perfect winter jacket or sleeping bag. Learn about the power of award-winning Nikwax Down Wash Direct® – safe, high performance cleaner for all conventional and hydrophobic down clothing and gear  tokeep it working at it’s best .

What is down?
Down is the layer of fine feathers found underneath the exterior feathers of birds. Duck and goose down is most commonly used in down jackets because of the fantastic warmth it offers. Out of all natural fibres, down arguably has the greatest warmth-to-weight ratio and possesses excellent abilities to compress and recover, making it a great insulator. Down feathers are rounded in shape and made up of soft plumes, prongs and nodes that air.  Whereas feathers are flat, rigid and aerodynamic for flying. As down also has a three dimensional shape it can ‘loft’ and trap more air than any synthetic material. By trapping air down, warmed by body heat it can keep the  heat you generate inside your  jacket, keeping you warm and toasty.

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Are down jackets waterproof?
Probably not, but some down jackets and sleeping bags handle rain better than others. There are down jackets that have a waterproof, breathable outer material but they are few and far between, most down jackets are made with a windproof fabric that has been coated with a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) treatment. A DWR coating makes water bead up on the surface of the jacket and roll off, this means your jacket will shrug off a bit of snow and light rain but will become overwhelmed in really wet conditions. Water has long been the enemy of down. When down soaks up water it loses its loft, collapses, traps water and no longer offers any insulation. Recent advancements in chemistry, such as Nikwax’s development of ‘Hydrophobic Down’ which can resist up to 50 x less water than standard down is down that has been treated with a PFC-free solution that prevents down from absorbing water. If down doesn’t  absorb water then it won’t lose its loft, if the down can loft then you stay nice and warm. Simple.

Should you clean your down kit?
Most definitely yes. Regular cleaning of your jacket or sleeping bag will ensure it a long life and make sure that it keeps performing at its best. Dirt on the outer fabric and body oils trapped on the inside of the jacket or sleeping bag stops the DWR working and will attract water, will stop the down lofting and these all need to be cleaned away. As a down jacket or sleeping bag is a specialist piece of kit made with delicate natural components and high-tech synthetic materials it’ll come as no surprise to you that there’s a very specific way of cleaning it. Don’t worry though as it’s really simple to do at home.

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Nikwax Down Wash Direct is the best product to clean all your down kit and clothing as it’s specially formulated for hydrophobic and conventional down. It will effectively clean the item and restore its water-repellency at the same time safely and easily in your washing machine.  Like all Nikwax products, its water based, PFC-free and doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals so it’s kind on the environment.

It’s best not to use conventional household detergent as the chemicals and perfume they tend to contain can damage down and they leave behind residues that will impair the DWR and loft of the down.

Anything else?
Remember the water repellent treatments on the jacket and the down? Well they wear off. Don’t panic though. Regular cleaning with Nikwax Down Wash Direct will revive  the water repellency on both fabrics and down that is lost through normal wear and tear.

If you haven’t kept on top of cleaning your down jacket and a top-up from Down Wash Direct isn’t enough to restore the water repellency then all is not lost. Nikwax make a product called Down Proof that will apply a fresh DWR to down jackets and sleeping bags and will even make non-hydrophobic down water repellent. Just follow the instructions on the bottle and all will be well with your kit again.

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Nikwax® Unveils New Down Wash Direct®

Nikwax, the global leader in outdoor aftercare, is excited to introduce Down Wash Direct®, the first aftercare product specifically designed to clean and maximise the performance of both regular untreated down and treated hydrophobic down.

Down is a highly effective insulator, but quickly loses its insulation powers when saturated with water. Water-resistant down fills, such as Nikwax Hydrophobic Down (NHD) technology, address this issue. Nikwax has developed the innovative Down Wash Direct to serve the expanding offering of treated, water-resistant down products.

With repeated use, dirt, oil, and other contaminants diminish the water-repellency of treated down and so to restore performance it requires special care.  Down Wash Direct ensures optimal results by cleaning effectively, revitalising insulation, and restoring the water-repellency of hydrophobic down clothing and sleeping bags.

It also improves the water-repellency of regular down, with tests revealing untreated down absorbs almost 40 times less water after just one wash in Down Wash Direct. Additionally, it ensures the water-repellency of the down item’s outer fabric is maintained or even improved.

Nikwax founder and CEO, Nick Brown, said:  “Building on the market leading Nikwax Down Wash, this is the solution that our customers will be looking for to keep their treated down gear performing at the highest level.”

Like all Nikwax products, Down Wash Direct is PFC-free and water-based for the lowest environmental impact. In addition, Nikwax only works with down processors that are committed to ethical sourcing.

The new products will be hitting the shops in time for winter 2015!