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The Essential Tech Wash

Guest blog courtesy of Giles Babbidge – a commercial and editorial photographer & writer specialising in the outdoor markets. You can find out more about what he does over at his behind-the-scenes website – www.theactivephotographer.com – or catch up with him on Twitter – @gilesbabbidge.

 

TechWash is one of those products which I have come to view as a standard item in my kit cupboard. Some might question why – surely it’s just a maintenance product? – but actually, therein lies the point. Time and time again, the old adage rings true – look after your kit and your kit will look after you.

Ahead of my winter 2014/15 camping activities, I knew that certain items could do with a spot of TLC. In particular, there was one main culprit lurking on the list – my trusty 20-year-old Ajungilak synthetic winter sleeping bag. What better way to see how TechWash really performs, I thought, than setting it to task here?

Now, don’t get me wrong – the bag wasn’t full of fleas(!) or looking like it had never been cared for in its long life. Just general wear and tear, but it was certainly overdue a spring clean.

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One Sunday, I put aside a morning to complete the process. Following the bag’s care instructions (wash at 60 degrees, rinse several times, spin and tumble dry), I added 150ml of TechWash. For 1-2 items of kit, this amount is recommended for medium/hard water areas; in soft water areas, you’ll want 100ml.

So how did it come out? Was it a success or was the passing of time just too much of an adversary?

Well, I kid you not – the results were so good that I would gladly say the bag looked as close to new is it could do, given its age. The sort of dirt you would expect a sleeping bag to pick up through typical use seemingly vanished and in particular, the renewed loft (or ‘fluffiness’) was incredible! Seriously, the pictures you see here don’t do it justice.

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And that’s the important bit, of course. As many of you will know, loft = insulation = warm, comfortable nights spent under the stars in the great outdoors.

Naturally, the real proof of the pudding was always going to be taking it out into the field during a ‘real world’ situation. And so, the first big test was a wild camp/photography trip to Snowdonia, during which I was shooting publicity pictures and bedding down on the snow at night. If you’re interested in hearing more, you might like this edition of my podcast, in which I gave an overview of the trip.

Sure enough, I went to sleep each night with a wry smile on my face; my sleeping bag worked like a treat, and I’m convinced the comfort level was noticeably improved by its recent Nikwax treatment.

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TechWash is ideally suited to revitalising the breathability and water repellency of waterproof gear, including clothes and rucksacks, and certainly as a go-to general purpose cleaning agent, I’ve found it does a fantastic job. If you read the Nikwax Blog regularly, you might remember how I also used it ahead of waterproofing some fleeces with Polar Proof; that article can be found here.

 

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The Benefits of Using Nikwax Polar Proof

When it comes to looking after my kit, I always treat clothing as I would my photography gear; to keep items in prime condition, it’s essential to use recommended cleaning products and follow suggested guidelines. By doing this, I can be sure that they’ll last longer and perform better, even with regular (dare I say, unforgiving) use. 

When it comes to caring for fleeces, it’s a two-part process that I use. First, I clean them using Tech Wash, following Nikwax’s recommendations alongside those outlined on the fleeces’ care labels. You might ask why I don’t simply use regular detergent; well, the quick answer is that with this approach, I know the garments will have the best head start when treating them with Polar Proof.

Polar Proof washing machine

It’s true what they say – Tech Wash really does revitalise garments, and I’m sure this is also part of the reason why they feel so much softer when pulled out of the washing machine after applying Polar Proof. For example, when I’ve compared like-for-like with an untreated fleece, it is noticeable just how much physically ‘flatter’ the untreated one is. Thanks to Nikwax, the fabric is given renewed volume; this equates to improved insulating and breathability qualities. With more air trapped between their fibres, my fleeces feel great when worn next to the skin as base layers.

In terms of how much solution I use, I’ve always followed the recommendation of 1 full cap (50ml) of Polar Proof for 1 item and 2 full caps (100ml) for 2-3 items. The temptation is to think that maybe this isn’t going to be enough, but actually it is plenty. In all the years I’ve used the solution, I’ve never known it to leave any form of residue or fail to deliver on its promise. 

Polar Proof drying naturally

My preference is always to allow garments to dry naturally outdoors. Yes, tumble drying them works very well, too, but why not take the most environmentally-sympathetic route where possible? Besides, on a fine day, they’ll dry in no time at all!

So, what about water repellency?

In my experience, the beauty of wearing a Polar Proof-treated fleece is two-fold. When I’m dashing around, I can be sure that perspiration won’t be unnecessarily absorbed directly into the garment, which would otherwise make me cold and uncomfortable when I finally stop. With added water repellency, the time I can take going about my business in the rain without having to grab a waterproof jacket is considerably extended, too. Oh, and I also get to feel just a little bit smug as I watch the water beading off whilst colleagues suffer in their sponge-like garments!

polar proof nikwax beading

Don’t get me wrong, my treated fleeces are never going to do the same job as a full-on Gore-Tex shell, but they certainly do a fine job of keeping drizzle and sudden downpours at bay until I have the opportunity to reach into my bag for complete wet-weather protection.

 

Giles Babbidge is a commercial and editorial photographer & writer specialising in the outdoor markets. You can find out more about what he does over at his website – www.gilesbabbidge.co.uk – or catch up with him on Twitter – @gilesbabbidge.