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Gear Repair

Repair for tents, sleeping bags, and jackets

by: Brandon Behymer

You may be reading this in your office and wondering what the dirt feels like on a local trail. Maybe you’re yearning for the feeling of take-off, on your way to places and people far away. It’s that time of year again. The time of year that the holiday hangover begins to wear off and we all begin to realize we have 300ish days before it’s socially acceptable to unbutton our pants at the dinner table.  It’s also the gear repair season. Repairs on our liver, family bonds (nothing spices up the Christmas ham like family friendly conflict), and outdoor gear repairs.  Needless to say, I wish you luck with the first two, but I can actually help with the third.

The most important part of gear repair isn’t the gear itself, it’s you. Yes, even through all the ups and downs, cursing, and joy that you and your gear share, at the end of the day the gear is selfish. You invest all this money in it, the least it could do is dry itself out and quietly make its way to a cool (50-70 degree), dry closet and hang itself up. Then patiently await the next opportunity to carry your means of survival.  Making the habit of cleaning your gear when you get home from a trip is the single most important thing you can do as far as maintenance.  Though I don’t have the numbers to back up this statement, I venture to say the number of tents ruined due to being stored wet is astronomical. Whether it be a tent, jacket, stove, boots etc., cleaning it before storage will all but guarantee a longer lifespan of the product.

 

Tents

Setting up your tent in the garage or front yard after a trip is important to let it dry out. This prevents mold from building up and compromising the PU coating on the nylon that keeps you dry. After years of use you may notice some ‘bubbling’ on the inside of the seams. The seams of the fly are taped to waterproof all the little holes that are the result of stitching the fabric together. Once the tape begins to bubble or turn white and brittle, it’s time to tear it off and apply a new form of seam sealer. I usually use a silicon-based seam sealer and apply it with a brush. (video)

 

Waterproof Jackets

Waterproof jackets. The more often you wash these, within reason and properly, the better they will perform in the long run.  (video). If holes do develop in the fabric you can patch it with the same fabric the jacket is made of whether that be Gore-Tex, Event, Pertex etc. A bit of repair adhesive and a small patch will keep water out. A repair to a seam is a little more difficult to repair but not impossible.

Down Clothing and Sleeping Bags

Down is a material that only truly works when it’s dry. The key to longevity is keeping it clean and dry. This is an impossible task due to the nature of the activities in which down is used but care should be taken to accomplish this. I recommend only washing down pieces once it is noticeably soiled (video). The most common repair on down insulated garments is patching holes caused by embers from a fire burning through the thin nylon shell. This is easily fixed with a small piece of K-Tape.

Do you have some bigger jobs, or still nervous about doing your own repair? Stop by RRT for some more advice or professional help.

Down and Dirty: How to Clean Your Down Gear

Greetings RRT Adventurers! The Bear here with another gear update.

We know that the thought of your down gear is probably the last thing on your mind in the dead of summer, but that is precisely why we thought it would make for a good blog topic. We neglect our gear for months, cramming it into a closet, bag or stuff sack until we need it in the colder months and climes. What better time than now to give your down some TLC than when you know for sure you won’t need it immediately.

The following directions are geared mainly toward sleeping bags, as they are normally the garment we need to clean most often. However, down cleaning rules apply to any down garment (puffies, etc.) and will keep your gear feeling like it did the first day you bought it for years to come.

Before we dive into the bathtub of down-wash, let’s cover a few basics. First, make sure you have a down drying bag handy for any piece. Most jackets don’t come with a laundry bag, so keep a cotton pillow case around to use in its place. Remember to tie it shut before throwing it in the dryer. Second, if you notice your plumules (down feathers) sticking out of the garment, make sure not to pull them out. You are increasing the diameter of the hole each time you pull one out, and it is the nature of a down garment to have at least a few quills poking through. Instead, grab the protruding culprit from the other side of the garment, like the inside sleeve or bag liner, and pull them bag into the baffles. Finally, regarding storage, many sleeping bags and garments don’t come with store sacks. Kelty sleeping bags, for instance, come with a stuff sack but no storage sack while Sea to Summit and Big Agnes come with both. This isn’t an issue; it just means you need to store in hanging up. This will prolong the life of the bag and/or garment by allowing the down to maintain its loft.

Now, onto the nitty gritty…

Hand-washing

1. Fill tub with water.

2. Soak down garment in tub.

3. Pour an amount of down wash into the water; different washes will have different measured amounts, be sure to consult the specific wash you are using.

4. If bag or garment is heavily soiled, let it soak for up to an hour so the down wash can work its way through the soiled fabrics and plumules.

5. GENTLY knead the bag or garment from top to bottom while it is still submerged in the water. The goal here is to press loose dirt particles through the cloth into the water. Depending on the amount of grime, you may need to repeat this process a couple times. DO NOT pick the bag or garment up while it is wet.

Down companies have many variations on filling their products, but they are typically all done via a wand blowing down into the baffles, one by one, until the garment is full. Down, when it’s dry and fully lofted (fluffy) cannot push back through the openings the manufacture used to fill them. However, when wet (as you have seen in our dry down vs. standard down video on YouTube), down clumps together, and gravity and/or centrifugal force will pull it through the baffle openings. This results in uneven distribution as your down dries, sometimes in whole baffles being empty. So how do you avoid this?

6. Drain the tub, press the garment flat against the floor of the tub and roll it tight toward the drain.

What you will be accomplishing here is flattening the down inside the garment while simultaneously wringing the water out. This flattened down will not move, so long as you keep tension on the rolled garment. Think of it like wringing out a rag; the tighter you squeeze it, the more water it sheds. Be sure not to let up on it when you move to the next step.

7. Take the still coiled-up garment out of the tub and place it immediately in the laundry bag supplied with your down bag.

DO NOT dry your bag without one of these laundry bags. Gravity + Loose, Wet Down (even the compacted stuff mentioned above) + rapidly spinning cylinder = bad news. Set the drier to medium, and make sure to periodically stop the cycle and break up clumps from the washing process. Keep it in the bag, dry it until it is completely dry, like hot, fluffy dry. No moisture. Period.

8. You’re done! You know that awesome feeling you get from clean sheets? Exactly. If you’re going to store it, put it back in its storage sack (the bag you bought it in.) Otherwise, cram that thing back in your sleeping bag compartment and get yourself outside!

***

Machine Washing

DO NOT USE A TOP LOADING WASHER!!

Trust us on this one, front-loading only.

1. Follow the same rules for soaking as in hand-washing, spot treat directly with down wash to heavily soiled or stained areas and soak for up to an hour.

 

2. Turn the garment inside out prior to washing. Water will push through the lining material on the inside of the bag or garment more easily than it will through the shell as the shell is designed to be water repellent. Hence, if it won’t let water in, it won’t let water out either.

 

3. Use the normal, cold water cycle, with a cold water rinse

 

4. Run through a complete second cycle without soap. This will make sure the soap has completely washed out.

 

5. Wring as much water out of the bag as possible before attempting to pull it out of the washer.

Push and squeeze it into the bottom of the drum a few times; just make sure the bag isn’t sopping wet when you take it out of the washer. The baffles are sewn on with either a single or up to a triple stitch per baffle, but neither the thread nor sewing techniques are designed to support suspended weight. If you’ve picked up wet clothing, you know how drastically different the weights are. Water is heavy.

6. Follow same steps for drying as hand-washing. Wring out, put in drying bag, hot and fluffy, etc.

There you have it! Now, stop reading and go outside!

 

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