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My Saturday Mornings in The Lakes

Introducing Jonathan James, Lake District dweller and Nikwax user. Jonathan has lived in Cumbria for over 10 years and takes to the hills most weekends to exercise, decompress and take in nature. With some of the UK’s most stunning scenery right on his doorstep, Jonathan gives us a flavour of how a typical Saturday morning unfolds – and leaves us dreaming about a life in the Lakes…

My regular, early alarm goes off on a Saturday and it is always with a little trepidation that I look out of the window to see what weather the morning may bring. I am Digital Director for an advertising agency, with offices in both Kent and Cumbria, and my busy weeks consist of travelling up and down the country between offices and meetings, juggling workloads and managing client deadlines. Whilst I love my job, I often get to Friday evenings feeling quite drained!

So, over the past few years I’ve got into a routine of getting up early on a Saturday as often as I can and taking myself off for a few hours on the nearby hills – my version of going to the gym. I find it a great way to decompress, clear the mind, leave the previous week’s worries behind and recharge.

We are lucky enough to live in North Cumbria with the northern Lake District hills, or fells as they are called up here, on our doorstep. Whilst the fell weather forecast the night before may suggest good conditions, even a short walk can herald a multitude of seasons and the weather can change in minutes. The only consistency is, usually, rain. After all, as the saying goes up here – ‘No Rain, No Lakes’!

I always pack my bag with full wet weather gear, regardless of the day, except during the height of summer. Also, even though I know the area around here like the back of my hand, I always take a map and compass, just in case. If the weather changes and visibility is minimal, you need to be able to navigate. It’s rare that an early morning walk doesn’t require a warmer top layer and my Rab® Microlight Alpine jacket generally does the trick. It has a Nikwax Hydrophobic+ down fill and retains great warmth, even if caught in a light shower. I love Tech Wash® and always use that for cleaning my walking kit when I get home. Every month or so I also find it important to use TX.Direct® Wash-In to reproof my kit. It is invaluable to keep my kit both clean and waterproof, essential up here!

One of the great things about the far northern fells is that whilst they are very accessible from the M6 motorway, Carlisle, or some of the bigger towns of the Cumbrian west coast, they are far enough away from the honeypot villages of the south lakes to remain fairly tourist light – especially during the winter months. I have a few regular walks, but a 10km route around and up High Pike (2,159 ft) is one of my favourites, a real hidden gem. There is a small parking area by a cattle grid at the farmstead in Calebreck, a few miles away from the villages of Hesket Newmarket and Caldbeck. From here, an old mine track loops around the northeast base of the fell and the views slowly open up as you gain height on the northern side of the fell. The Caldbeck fells around here have been mined since the 16th century, copper and lead being the main ores extracted, and the historical evidence is now littered across the fells. Rather than being unattractive and a scar on the landscape, I find it adds a ruggedness to the area and gives a glimpse into the very non-touristy use of the fells of years gone by. Walking around the rocky, sandy soil heaped fell-side, with the various old mine workings now sealed off with wooden fencing, in the height of summer it can feel a little like being in a spaghetti western set. Whereas during the cold winters, it makes you realise the hardships that the local miners must have had working there in all weathers trying to earn a living. It makes my own previous week’s hardships pale by comparison!

Turning off in a southerly direction from the mine track and joining the main path from Caldbeck, you then take a well-trodden yomp directly to the fell summit. From the roads nearby, High Pike can seem quite unassuming, but being the most northerly Lakeland fell over 2,000 ft, the views from the top can be impressive – north over the city of Carlisle and Solway Firth towards the Scottish Borders, east to the Pennines, and over the nearby, more famous, fells of Blencathra and Skiddaw towards the southern Lakes. Of course, there are many times when you have to imagine what the view is like! An unusual and touching element of this particular summit is a slate bench, which bears the inscription “In memory of Mick Lewis who loved all these fells”. He died in 1944 aged 16 and a small, recent addition is dedicated to the memory of his mother, who died in 1970. Both lived in Nether Row, a small hamlet at the foot of the fell, and it makes you ponder just how many stories there are that live in the hills and valleys in sight of where you are standing.

Heading down in a southerly direction from the top you follow Carrock Beck, which hugs the southern side of the smaller West Fell. On the way down, the fell opens up to a wider valley between High Pike and Carrock Fell, it’s slightly higher neighbour. Doing this walk regularly, it’s wonderful to see how differently it can look during the changing seasons. In summer, the way the light hits the fellside, breaking through clouds whose shapes race in the wind across the lower farmland, with an abundance of wildlife dotted around the land and buzzards soaring high in the warm air. Through to cold, harsh winter with crisp, silent snow covering the higher landscape, frozen becks and only a few glimpses of visiting winter birds and the hardy Cumbrian Herdwick sheep. Both climates are very different but neither more beautiful than the other.

Following the beck down it eventually takes you back to the parking area where the walk started. Most of my Saturday walks have a habit of ending up in the little village of Uldale, at the wonderful Mae’s café for breakfast. Another hidden gem! It’s located in the old village schoolhouse, often with the log burner roaring, and it is a welcome spot to dry off, warm up and add back the calories just burnt off.

Heading home with that wonderful feeling you have after being out and about exercising in nature, knowing the rest of the weekend is ahead of you, really does make that early Saturday morning alarm worthwhile.

Buy Tech Wash and TX.Direct now

 

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Nikwax – the Hydrophobic Down and aftercare specialists

Did you know that Nikwax has enhanced the performance of nature’s best insulator (down) to create the lightest, most efficient, water-resistant down? Nikwax Hydrophobic Down + and Nikwax Hydrophobic Down Recycled were launched in 2020 to keep people warmer and drier without the use of harmful fluorocarbon (PFC) chemistry…

  • Nikwax Hydrophobic Down (NHD) + is the world’s best performing hydrophobic down! It is up to 250 times more water resistant than standard down, conserving its natural insulating qualities even when wet.
  • NHD+ keeps users warm, dry and comfortable in a wider range of conditions. It will not wet out from rain, snow, or condensation produced whilst exercising or camping. NHD+ also keeps users warmer and drier in extreme cold, making it perfect for use whilst alpine trekking and mountaineering.

  • NHD+ is the first and only hydrophobic down to exceed 10,000 minutes on the industry IDFB 18a Shake Test. That’s 7 days constant exposure to water! (Standard Down lasts a maximum of 20 minutes shake time. To be considered hydrophobic, treated down must reach a minimum of just 40 minutes shake time).
  • Nikwax Hydrophobic Down Recycled was created to support our brand partner Rab®, who wanted to use recycled down with a high performance hydrophobic material, so their customers do not have to choose between high performance and a sustainable product.
  • Nikwax Hydrophobic Down Recycled was the first and only recycled down to achieve 1,000 minutes on the IDFB 18a Shake Test.
  • All down (not just NHD) can be maintained with Nikwax aftercare!

Nikwax has been supplying the likes of Rab, Haglöfs® and Therm-a-Rest® with NHD for nearly ten years. Used in their jackets and sleeping bags, our Partner Brands supply extreme explorers with expedition clothing and gear that must survive arctic temperatures and extreme weather conditions. Here’s what they have to say about us:

“As the Masters of Insulation, our customers expect our products to deliver superior performance for longer. That’s why we chose NHD treatment to dramatically reduce the negative effects that moisture can have on the down insulation and ensure our jackets absorb less water, dry faster, and retain their loft for longer, whatever the conditions.” RAB

“With the Hydrophobic Down water-resistant treatment in our sleeping bag range, Therm-a-Rest’s customers know they are buying into long-lasting quality and performance. Our long-term partnership with Nikwax is vital to the brand and what we stand for.” Therm-a-Rest

“When we heard about the hydrophobic down increased shake time of 10,000 minutes, it felt like the natural way to go. And for us to work with a company that is also driven by sustainability, it feels like the perfect match.” Haglöfs

NOMAD is taking another step forward in the process of creating innovative and sustainable products by working with NHD+.” NOMAD

Did you know that Nikwax down aftercare products have been cleaning and proofing down gear for over 25 years? Nikwax extends the life of down filled jackets and sleeping bags by restoring and protecting their insulating properties and water repellency. Easy to use in a washing machine or by hand, Nikwax is water-based and PFC-free.

Down Wash.Direct® is a technical cleaner that revitalises the durable water repellency (DWR) and insulating properties of both hydrophobic and regular down filled clothing and sleeping bags, without damaging the delicate structure of down. Down Proof is a speciality waterproofer that protects and improves the natural insulating properties of down filled gear from wet and damp conditions. Our high performance down care duo will optimise the performance of down items in wet weather whilst minimising weight gain due to water absorption.

Old gear? Clean it first with Down Wash.Direct before replenishing its DWR with Down Proof, which will cause water to bead up on the outer fabric once more. When used on NHD-filled items, the loft, insulation and breathability are also all maintained.

New gear? If your jacket or sleeping bag is relatively new, or has been recently treated with Down Proof, cleaning it with Down Wash.Direct will not only remove contaminants – such as dirt and body oils that can cause the fabric to attract water – but it will also revitalise insulation, breathability and DWR.

However, don’t just take it from us that our products are the best in the business, see what our customers have to say about Down Wash.Direct and Down Proof:

“I finally got around to using Down Wash.Direct on my Arc’teryx Thorium jacket. I am currently serving as an infantry soldier in the army reserve and have used the jacket for several exercises over the winter. Typically for down time or while on stag (sentry duty) worn under my combat jacket. It has taken a fair bit of punishment and duly picked up a fair bit of mud/sweat/tears along the way. Before using Nikwax in the washing machine, I ran a quite empty cycle to rinse any detergent. The jacket came out fully cleaned and after a cool tumble dry was puffed back up and suitably clean. The outer waterproofing has reactivated well and when last worn in light rain the water beaded up and ran off well in droplets. In summary, I will definitely use this again. I’m always a bit nervous about washing down jackets as they give the impression that they won’t come back to life, but, in this case, Nikwax Down Wash.Direct has performed really well.” James Bees

“Great performing product! Easy to apply either by hand or machine wash and lasts for several months of use or even when stored and not used. The warmth in my jacket and pants have not been lost and the down remains full and fluffed up.” Connor Duckworth

“I feel the protection and waterproofing it gives my outdoor clothing is the best available. The water repellent coating it leaves on my clothing is second to none.” Stephen Reilly

“I find Down Proof to be very effective at keeping my down jackets’ waterproofing in working order.” Gillian Craig

I am always impressed by quality of the products that Nikwax produce, and the current version of Down Proof is exceptional. Alan Cole

 

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How to choose a down jacket this season

Winter is coming and now is a great the time to start shopping for your new winter jacket. Nothing beats down for its ability to insulate you and keep you warm. It’s lightweight and incredibly cosy. After all, there is nothing worse than really feeling the chill when you are outdoors and the temperatures have plummeted!

Did you realise that there are a number of elements to consider if purchasing a down jacket? It is not just about the style, colour or fit; so to ensure you can find the perfect down jacket to suit your needs, then read on for all the advice you need.

Activity
Think about where you would wear your down jacket the most. Would it be for daily use – dog walking or going to work? Perhaps it would be for regular hiking trips you may take, or because you are going climbing or skiing. High energy activities mean you should ideally have a down jacket that is relatively light, because thicker down jackets will end up feeling bulky, potentially restrict your movement and possibly make you feel too hot. Less strenuous activities would suit a thicker down jacket.

Fill Power & Weight
This is the terminology used to describe the volume of down when it is fully lofted (that means at its fluffiest). Down works as an insulator because air gets trapped between the fibres, which in turns is what makes you feel toasty. Down jackets and other down items should always display what the fill power rating is on the item when you go to buy it.

A down jacket with a higher fill power means that the down clusters take up more space and therefore are capable of trapping more air – which means better warmth to weight ratio. So a jacket with 900 fill power would be better quality than a down item containing 550 fill power down. An item weighing less means it can be compressed down and stored away (in a backpack for instance) – useful for activities such as climbing, because you need warmth, easy mobility and the ability to pack the item away compactly and easily when conditions change.

A way to view the quality of fill power can be as follows:

400 – 450

Medium

500 – 550

Good

550 – 750

Very Good

750 – 900

Excellent

However, don’t be fooled by thinking a high fill power rating means you have a really warm down item. It also depends upon the amount of down used within that item. For instance, an item that has 150g of 700 fill power would be less warm than an item that contains 300g of 550 fill power down, however the latter would be a much heavier and bulkier garment.

Down or Synthetic?
You will find similar jackets that have a synthetic filling. How do you know which to choose?

Down is a natural insulator and will provide you much more warmth, whilst being easy to compress and is also lightweight. However, regular untreated down is susceptible to water. When it rains or snows, it will absorb water, making the down clump together, making the garment heavy and making you cold. Water inhibits the properties of regular down from performing as it should and it can take quite some time to dry a down garment out and restore the loft.

Synthetic fill is less expensive than down and could be considered easier to clean. It’s also a good solution if you have an allergy to down. However, this fill will tend 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 to use in wet conditions, yet the items will not be as warm as down and may be harder to pack away if needed.

Hydrophobic down
Hydrophobic down is regular down which has been treated with a water repellent coating, meaning it has an improved ability to deal with moisture.

Nikwax Hydrophobic Down (NHD) is a leading example of water repellent down that will keep you dry, warm, comfortable and safe. It is environmentally friendly, formulated without any fluorocarbons (PFCs) or harmful chemicals, so NHD safely prevents down from absorbing water. Down jackets and gear such as sleeping bags that contain NHD will resist water up to 50 x less than regular untreated down. It also means that the down jacket or gear will resist water much more effectively, will dry much faster and retain its loft and ability to insulate you

The benefit to you? Well, you can use your down jacket or gear in a wider range of conditions that you would normally be able to and stay dry and warm when you need to most. Also, because of the technical formulation of NHD, it protects the down fill from microbial action which can actually cause damp down to breakdown – this means your down jacket will have a prolonged life!

Look for responsible, ethical down filled items
Unfortunately there are practices out there whereby down is sourced by the means of plucking the down feathers from a live bird, causing unnecessary harm and suffering to the animal. As a consumer you want to be safe in the knowledge that any down filled item you purchase is not one where the animal has suffered.

This is where the Responsible Down Standard (RDS) comes into play. This is a global voluntary standard which encourages companies to certify the down products they produce contain down which has not been sourced from birds which have been subjected to inhumane treatment. RDS aims to make companies morally accountable and lead to consumers trusting in those products which are RDS certified.

The main key points of the RDS are:
Live plucking is prohibited.
Force-feeding is prohibited.
Respect for the animal welfare from hatching to slaughter is in place.
RDS down and feathers are identified – to ensure that non-RDS down is 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.

Nikwax will only work with down manufacturers who hold all necessary certification under the RDS certification systems and are audited under such systems, to ensure that the down used for Nikwax Hydrophobic Down is ethical and safely sourced. Look for the following logo to check if a down item you are interested in purchasing is safe and has followed the practise for animal welfare.

Don’t forget to care for your down jacket
Down items do need specialist care if they are to remain in their utmost condition and keep you dry time and time again. Don’t just put your down jacket in the wash with normal detergent! This could harm the down, plus you also do not want to damage the jacket by putting it on the wrong wash cycle.

Nikwax Down Wash Direct is the specialist aftercare, created specifically for all hydrophobic and regular down filled items. All dirt and contaminants which have built up on the outer fabric and down fill of your down item will be thoroughlyremoved – this alone will revive the natural breathability of your item, whilst revitalising the insulation and, in the case of hydrophobic down, revitalise the durable water repellency.

Once you need to re-proof your down jacket then Nikwax Down Proof is the high performance wash-in waterproofer that can be used safely and easily in a washing machine.  It will add durable water repellency, therefore improving the natural insulating properties of the down fill.

Just be sure to wash your down items on a gentle cycle, then spin dry multiple times (each time increasing the speed of the cycle) in order to remove water from the down according to the care label. Drying is key! Tumble drying is recommended, if the care label allows, to ensure it dries as quickly as possible. Down should not be left wet otherwise it could be permanently damaged.

Pick the right down jacket and use the appropriate aftercare this winter and you can just get outdoors feeling warm, comfortable and dry with a jacket or gear that goes on and on.

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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.

machine

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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The Best Technology can be Environmentally Friendly

Nikwax is excited to have just launched its most advanced Nikwax Hydrophobic Down at the OutDoor Trade Show in Germany, which welcomes over 900 exhibitors from the global outdoor market.

Nikwax Hydrophobic Down is being built into sleeping bags and garments worldwide, and once again we have proven that high waterproofing performance can be achieved without the use of environmentally dangerous chemicals such as PFCs.

Down provides amazing lightweight insulation, but until now has had one major failing – if it gets wet it will rapidly lose its fill power and loft, resulting in you becoming cold and the item taking a long time to dry out.

Nikwax Hydrophobic Down resists damp and wet conditions, meaning your gear’s loft and fill power is maintained, even when the external fabric is saturated, and you stay warm and cosy when you need it most.

The official industry method used to assess the water resistance of hydrophobic down is the `shake test`. In this test, the down is placed in a glass jar of water on a shaker table and shaken 50 times a minute to see how long it takes to get wet. We are proud to announce that the latest production of Nikwax Hydrophobic Down resists shaking and remains dry for at least 1,000 minutes, or 16 hours 40 minutes (certified result from IDFL, IDFB shake test). In the world of Hydrophobic Down manufacture no one measures higher than 1,000 minutes, so this is an outstanding result!

Nikwax Managing Director, Nick Brown said, “Nikwax has achieved this by not only creating clever chemistry, but developing unique processes that take into account the variability of down as a raw material. The best available technology can be eco-friendly.”

Back in November 2014, we floated a Nikwax employee in a Nikwax Hydrophobic Down sleeping bag on a lake in the UK to demonstrate the exceptional performance of our down treatment. To further highlight this, we repeated the event another three times at the OutDoor fair in Germany! Check out the photos below.

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Nikwax demonstrates that High Performance outerwear does not depend upon PFC technology

Nikwax Waterproofing has until now been best known as a world leader for its waterproofing aftercare products. However, Nikwax is now entering the international world of supplying PFC free water-repellent technology to manufacturers of outdoor clothing.

Nikwax is launching two new garment component products at ISPO 2014: Nikwax Hydrophobic Down, which is being built into Rab Down garments, and the Nikwax Analogy Waterproof System which is being used to construct Páramo waterproof clothing. Both products are completely PFC free, and both have been shown to function at a high level in extreme conditions. Continue reading Nikwax demonstrates that High Performance outerwear does not depend upon PFC technology