Getting your kids outside on the regular can be challenging. The shiny myth of the family that goes outdoors in rain or shine with smiling faces and sparkly clean gear is awesome, but in reality is really hard to actually achieve.
For one thing, getting a kid outside when the weather is less than perfect (see: muddy, snowy, cold, windy, rainy, icy) is really hard. It requires tons of clothing, which your kid is probably screaming about putting on, or is losing half of in the 20 feet from their room to the front door.
For another, quality outdoor gear for kids is expensive. Believe me, if I could afford to dress my kid in Patagonia from head to toe, I totally would do it. But it’s referred to as “PataGucci” for a reason, and he’s likely to outgrow the gear after 2 months or lose it at daycare.
While I do suck it up sometimes and shill out half a paycheck for important pieces, like quality base layers or down jackets, I do sometimes settle for less-than-stellar quality (see: Target and TJ Maxx) or hand-me-downs from friends and Goodwill. And of course, there’s my own gear too, which is feeling some age, but I spent all my money on my kid’s gear, so I can’t afford to replace it.
The balancing act is hard. Listen Mama… I hear you.
Luckily there’s a secret weapon in my arsenal to help me make the hand-me-downs better and to help me really take care of the good stuff, so it lasts longer. My secret weapon… Nikwax!
Nikwax is known for their waterproofing sprays, but they make all kinds of awesome cleaning products too. I’ve been using Nikwax for years and it’s GOOD STUFF. They were kind enough to send me a few newer products to try out, so I’m now more familiar with their line than ever before.
So here’s a few of my favorite Nikwax gems to keeping your gear clean, waterproof and lasting over the long haul:
The first rule to making your equipment last for as long as possible is to keep it CLEAN. I know, I know… there’s not always time to clean up after a dirty camping trip, or a long couple of days of skiing. There’s usually a mad rush to get dinner, get the kids to bed and then prep the family for work/school/daycare the next day.
If you’ve ever tried to clean synthetic layers (nylon, polyester), you know that the stink doesn’t always 100% go away, even after washing. If you have any boys/men in your family, you are probably especially aware of that fact. Nikwax’s Base Wash is the answer to your stinky-pit prayers. It takes the stink out of virtually any technical fabric and cleans it gently enough to not damage the fibers or leave a residue behind that affects wicking performance.
Down Wash Direct
Down Wash Direct is designed to clean and restore loft and water resistance to down-filled jackets and sleeping bags.
After a summer of camping, I took one sniff of our sleeping bags and almost passed out. I usually take my sleeping bags to the dry cleaners once a year, but I really don’t need another errand on my to-do list. I popped 2 sleeping bags into my front-end loading washer (NEVER put sleeping bags into a top loader with an agitator. Sorry. They won’t survive.) with some Down Wash and it took all the grime, drool, boogers and diaper stains out, as well as the old-feet smell. After putting them in the dryer with a few tennis balls to help restore the loft, they were as good as new (and it was way cheaper and easier than a trip to the dry cleaners!).
Polar Proof is really nice for fleece layers, adding a layer of water repellency.
After a washing a load with Base Wash to get the fabric clean, I did another wash with my toddler’s fleece jackets using Polar Proof. Now obviously the fabric is too porous and absolutely nothing is going to make it fully water proof. This isn’t a miracle-cure product! But it does help water to bead up on the surface, making it easy to shake, brush or drip off. It’s very helpful for outer-layer fleece jackets and pants in snow and light rain, as it keeps the outdoor fun going longer, even if the weather turns south.
I especially like Polar Proof, because my little guy shouldn’t wear his puffy jacket in his car seat because it’s too bulky, but he can wear a fleece jacket! It makes it much easier to go in and out of the car when running errands and not have to take his puffy off and on, even if it’s snowing. It’s also gentle enough for my toddler and his sensitive skin!
Tx.Direct Wash-In and Spray-On
I’ve been using this wash-in waterproofing for EVER. I’m happy to report that this stuff is the real deal.
Old jacket, losing it’s water repellency? Gaiters leaking? Off-brand jacket not holding up in the weather? Wash all these with Base Wash first to get them squeaky clean and revitalize the technical fabric, then wash with TX.Direct Wash-In or Spray-On. Put them in the dryer and, voila! You will be fully protected with a great DWR finish (Durable Water Repellant)! It’s really magical and I don’t know HOW it works, but I know that it DOES work better than any other waterproofing spray out there.
Use the Spray-On for bulky items that you can’t put in the washer, like your backpack. Wet your pack down with this stuff, let it dry, repeat to make sure you didn’t miss any spots, and you are in business.
Like Polar Proof, nothing will make a porous fabric fully waterproof, unless it was originally designed to be that way. But TX.Direct creates a DWR barrier that keeps gear waterproof in anything but a long, sustained, heavy downpour. So if you are out and about and it starts to drizzle, you can stay out and enjoy stomping some puddles, and still be confident that the stuff in your pack will stay dry.
Fabric & Leather Proof
This is a sponge-on waterproofing designed specifically for footwear. It works on thick, heavy fabrics, including nylon and leather. If you find your shoes are leaking a bit more than they should, or you want to add a better finish to your little one’s snow boots, this is a great option.
The important part is to really clean your footwear well first. Wash it in the sink and really scrub your shoes with a brush to get all the embedded dirt out first. After they fully dry, apply Fabric & Leather Proof with the sponge and let them dry (and air out – this stuff smells pretty strong) overnight. Then you’ll be good to resume puddle stomping and creek-crossings!
Full Disclosure: Nikwax provided free samples for me to try of their products. As always, however, all opinions are genuinely my own and I say it like it is!
Meet Team Member, Ginny: Ginny has spent her career focused on getting people outside; working with the Park Service, Forest Service, Student Conservation Association and Keystone Science School, as well as spending a decade in the outdoor retail industry. She practices what she preaches, so can usually be found outside: downhill and cross-country skiing in the winter and hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, riding her dual-sport motorcycle, running, and SUPing in the summer. She currently lives in Colorado with her husband, 1-year old son, and awesome trail dog.
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