Love Your Shell: Care for It

EMS Shell jacket

Shells' water repellancy and breathability diminish with time and wear; do something about it.

Two things: Your so-called three-season rain jacket probably is not made of polyurethane, so the “proof” qualities will wear away without care.  Also, if you find the breathability of the jacket suffocating now, don’t replace it; there is a better way.  Same goes for winter shells. 

While proper water-proof shells are basically durable plastic bags, like the Helly Hansen Voss jacket and pants, they are really only good at keeping the wind and rain out if you are reasonably sedentary.  We bird watchers or the Queen’s guard should appreciate these shells a great deal.  These “rubber” shells are non-breathable and require little-to-no care. 

Breathable jackets that use Gore Tex, HyVent DT, Conduit and other brands of treatment require maintenance to maintain optimum performance.  For those of us stuck in Peaklessburg, our shells are probably worn year-round but rarely get to see “action” on the trails or up a route.  Still, wearing it every day is every day wear.  Your sweat clogs the pores on the inside of the jacket, preventing it from breathing, and both the sun and the rain skim off the protective water resistant coating.  Both are reparable. 

Nikwax treatmentTo restore breathability, the shell needs a wash, especially on the inside.  I like to hand wash my jackets and snow pants, so I get a bucket and fill it most of the way with water (leave room for the garment) and two caps full of Nikwax Techwash Gel.  Gently massage the fabric.  Sometimes the garment’s label might be in conflict with the recommended water temperature for the Techwash Gel, which is warm.  If the shell says wash in cold water I put just a little hot water in first with the cap full of Gel just to activate the soap, and then fill the rest with cooler water. 

Once the shell dries most of the way and still a little damp, I lay the garment flat and systematically spray every section of the shell with Nikwax TX Direct.  The shell needs some water moisture on it to properly receive the spray treatment.  If it over dries prior to spraying, run it through the shower for a moment.  Be sure to put an unused trash bag under the shell before spraying: the spray can leave tiled floors quite slippery.  Follow the instructions on the bottle, which calls you to wipe off any excess spray and water from the garment after a few moments.  Then repeat on the other side before allowing it to hang dry.   

Some of us could have had a fashionable leather bomber jacket for what we paid for our shells.  We ought to care for them so they give us a great deal of protection over a long time, from the snow, rain, and ice.  Maybe even some protection from city smog. 

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One thought on “Love Your Shell: Care for It

  1. That was informative and descriptive method of washing an outdoor jacket. That was a great step by step instruction. You do nice writing.

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