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TacHacker – Revitalizing Your Hardshell

We first published this article last year, but winter’s coming and it might be time to pull your kit out and check it over before it’s needed.

It looks like it’s going to be a LONG winter. During a recent shooting class I attended it started raining day one and by the middle of the second day it looked like a blizzard. Most of my fellow shooters were wearing waterproof breathable outerwear and several began to feel clammy and then damp the longer each day progressed. A couple of guys were wearing issue Gen I ECWCS parkas. Probably not the best garment available as WL Gore long ago decided that the basic design could not meet their “Guaranteed to Keep You Dry” standards. Of course these jackets were old. More than anything, they needed some maintenance.

The key to any modern outerwear is its Durable Water Repellent (DWR) which serves as your clothing’s first line of defense against moisture. There are quite a few treatments available and different manufacturers have their favorites but they are usually are based on flouropolymers. These are PTFE molecules that are applied to the surface of the fabric and cured at high heat to make them adhere better and increase performance. These treatments have a fluorine atom at one end which is highly hydrophobic meaning it hates water. Heat causes the fibers to align themselves with their flourines exposed. Water tries to move away from the flourines resulting in beading. This allows the water to roll off without wetting the fabric. Interestingly, Quarpel (Quartermaster Repellent) was one of the first DWRs and used to treat field jackets and other military clothing items back in the 1960s.

Since most of us can’t run out and purchase a new jacket every time the DWR needs refreshing I thought it would be a good idea to share a few tips with you that will not only revitalize your garment’s DWR treatment but also extend the life of your clothing.

DWR treatments work best when they are clean. I realize this seems counter to what you think is right since a DWR generally lasts about 25 washings and tactical garments get quite a beating in the field, but you need to wash your clothing. The first thing is to avoid using liquid detergents as well as fabric softeners. Additionally, avoid optical brighteners as they are not good for DWR or IR treatments. There are wash in treatments you can purchase as well as spray on options to help renew your clothing’s DWR. However, wash in treatments may affect the breathability of your membrane. One of the best spray solutions available is Revivex from McNett and it is what I have used in the past. It also serves as a stain repellent. Revivex can also be applied to garments that never had DWR in the first place so if you have hunting or field clothing that you find yourself wearing in inclement weather regularly you may want to give it a once over. If you use a spray treatment be sure to evenly coat your garment while it is still damp after washing and to pay special attention to any seams.

There are two additional ways you can put some life back into your DWR without a full retreatment. One is to put the garment in a conventional dryer on warm and the other is to iron it on low heat. This helps realign the fibers. If water fails to bead up on the surface of your garment you will need to retreat.

No matter which method you choose, proper maintenance of your foul weather clothing’s DWR will help keep you warm and dry and extend the life of your equipment.

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One Response to “TacHacker – Revitalizing Your Hardshell”

  1. Ian Wendt says:

    It might be better to say that you should avoid conventional liquid detergents, along with pretty much all of the typical powdered ones. They almost all leave behind some kind of residue, typically in the form of perfume or a “built-in” fabric softener. Nikwax, Grangers are some of the more well-known technical fabric cleaning agents, but one that I hardly ever see mentioned is Atsko Sport-Wash. It’s relatively cheap and it works for all technical fabrics, including down. It also does great at eliminating odors, for instance the notorious Fivefinger Funk.
    Revivex is definitely the bomb for actually restoring your DWR treatment, one of the consistently highest rated products out there. Wash-in treatments are fine on 2.5 or 3-layer WPB membranes that do not have a wicking liner. Any garment with a wicking liner or a drop-liner, you should use a spray-on treatment.
    Oh, you should also not use dryer sheets. Bad juju.