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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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ISPO News: The Nikwax Hydrophobic Down™ Experience

To prove the superior performance of Nikwax Hydrophobic Down (NHD) over conventional down we took a group of colleagues and friends of Nikwax into the Alps, at -20 degrees temperature, to float 2 NHD sleeping bags on a lake. Head to www.nikwax.com/ispo2018 to find out what happened.

Stay warm and dry at this year’s ISPO with Nikwax Hydrophobic Down.
Although down offers superb insulating properties, it clumps together if it gets wet, leaving you feeling cold. Nikwax’s revolutionary Hydrophobic Down is a water resistant down fill that retains loft and recovers quickly after a downpour; all without adding weight.

PFC-free, Nikwax Hydrophobic Down is environmentally safe and is already being used by trusted outdoor brands including Berghaus, Rab, Mountain Hardwear, Alpkit and Therm-a-rest.

It works by adding a flexible Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish to each individual down filament, thereby reducing the absorption of moisture – whether from the inside (perspiration, condensation) or the outside (rain and snow). It maintains its high performance loft and insulation properties in cold and damp conditions.

Wet down loses its insulating properties because water conducts heat away from the body up to 25 times faster than air
It’s also heavier and loses its breathability, resulting in a cold, wet and uncomfortable experience. But a reduction in insulation can also be dangerous and in severe cases can lead to hypothermia.

That’s why Nikwax Hydrophobic Down is the optimal down fill for sleeping bags, jackets and gilets. It’s down that has a water resistant treatment applied to it which is at least 50 times more water resistant than standard down, maintaining loft, breathability and an ability to continue to insulate.  Furthermore, because it stays moisture free, there’s less bacteria trapped inside a garment, which can result in the breakdown of damp down. This increases the useable lifetime of clothing and gear and also provides odour resistance.

Nikwax Hydrophobic Down’s radical features offer clothing manufacturers more versatility as their products can be used in a much wider variety of conditions
The increased performance of Hydrophobic Down in comparison to similar down filled garments means Nikwax treated down will continue to be effective in conditions where conventional untreated down filled items would fail.

 

 

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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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How to wash your down garments safely.

Winter is at an end and the weather is improving for outdoor activities. Now is a great time to clean your down items before storing them away ready for next winter.

Many people can be nervous about washing down items, but cleaning them with the right product is important to maintain performance, and Nikwax has the perfect aftercare product for you to use!

Nikwax Down Wash Direct is the high performance technical cleaner specifically designed for both hydrophobic and regular down filled items. Easy to use, Down Wash Direct cleans effectively whilst restoring water repellency, maintaining fill power and reviving insulation.

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To care for your down items just follow these steps:

Washing – cleaning and waterproofing

  • Regular detergents can damage the natural properties of down. Cleaning with Down Wash Direct will clean down items and restore the durable water repellency (DWR) of hydrophobic down.
  • Carefully read the washing instructions of Down Wash Direct for either machine wash or hand wash, for best results.
  • For regular down filled items you should follow the washing process with Nikwax Down Proof (in a separate cycle) to add high performance water repellency.
  • Ensure you follow the manufacturer’s aftercare recommendation when washing your down items.
  • For optimum results do not overload your washing machine. Sleeping bags and very large down jackets are best washed in a bath (or equivalent) and then spin dried in a washing machine.

Spinning

  • It is important to remove the maximum amount of water from the down items. To achieve this, spin dry on a slow setting three times. If the items are spun too quickly whilst holding a large volume of water, it is possible to damage the down’s delicate structure.

 

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Drying

  • Tumble dry (if the item’s care label allows) on a low setting, until `clumps` have disappeared from the down fill. This helps ensure the down dries thoroughly and quickly as possible.
  • During the drying process tease apart the clumps regularly to restore loft to the down. Tennis/dryer balls can be used in the drying process to break up clumps.
  • After drying we recommend the item(s) are air dried for at least a day in a warm, dry space.
  • If your item cannot be tumble dried, you should place the item flat on a drying rack in a warm, well ventilated room and repeatedly (every 2 hours) tease apart clumps to restore the loft. This process can take up to 24 hours.

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Storing your down items

  • Down items should be stored in a dry place and hung loosely.
  • Compression bags for sleeping bags are meant for transportation only, however some sleeping bag brands do provide a larger bag specifically for storage.

Nikwax Down Wash Direct is safe and easy to use; it is free from dangerous fluorocarbons (PFCs), non-aerosol, is water-based and biodegradable.

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Peter Kohl joins forces with Nikwax to exclude PFCs

Peter Kohl are a substantial, central European-based, supplier of high quality Down to the Outdoor Industry. With over 100 years of experience in providing high quality processing, they adhere to the certified Responsible Down Standards, to ensure down has been ethically sourced.

Peter Kohl was the first Down finishing company in Europe to install the Nikwax process for producing Nikwax Hydrophobic Down (NHD). NHD is a highly water-resistant form of down which is produced in an environmentally friendly way, without persistent chemicals such as PFCs.

Now Peter Kohl are confirming their commitment to innovation and sustainable production by signing an agreement with Nikwax whereby they will ensure that PFC (fluorocarbon water repellents) are excluded form every part of the Peter Kohl production process. This will mean that NHD from Peter Kohl can be used, in future, by brands who want to progress their commitment to zero PFC in production, and Zero Hazardous Discharge.

Down is the optimum material for very cold conditions, providing exceptional insulation for the absolute minimum weight. But until recently its big drawback has been its vulnerability to water. When normal down gets wet and it loses all of its ability to keep you warm. However, Nikwax Hydrophobic Down provides the optimum outdoor insulation solution – water-resistance, low weight, and high insulation, without the use of hazardous persistent chemicals.

  • You can shake NHD with water for 1000 minutes and it still will not sink.
  • You can wash it at least 5 times with Nikwax Down Wash Direct and it will maintain its water-resistant and insulation properties.
  • Therefore NHD is not only a high performance material, but also a material that will give you a long and useful life.

Nick Brown, CEO of Nikwax said Peter Kohl have been a fantastic partner for this project and have cooperated at all levels in term of development. This is a highly important step on the road to showing that the best available technology can also be the most sustainable technology, and moving PFC products out of the outdoor market.”

Jürgen Sandvoss, Head of Outdoor Sales at Peter Kohl said “We have been highly impressed with the waterproof performance of the Nikwax Hydrophobic Down., and this has encouraged us to make this commitment to zero PFC in our production. We know that ultimately all of the Outdoor brands want to take the most sustainable route, so we believe that this is not only a good moral decision, but a good business one too, and excellent for the consumer.”

Nikwax has pioneered the move away from polluting PFC water repellents and continues to demonstrate that high performance waterproofing can be achieved with minimum environmental effect. Nikwax Hydrophobic Down can only be produced with materials that have been screened for ethical sourcing, so the Nikwax brand wraps up sustainability and animal welfare under one banner.

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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!