TacHacker – Revitalizing Your Hardshell

It’s that time of year again boys and girls. I’ve made this an annual post for the past few years. Winter’s on its way so this is the perfect 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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2 Responses to “TacHacker – Revitalizing Your Hardshell”

  1. JM says:

    Good advice, dryer trick was a good help. Will check out Revivex.

  2. Jorge says:

    I’ve used the NikWax non-ionic detergent called Tech Wash to clean my vapor permeable gear and followed that with a NikWax TX-Direct wash in water repellent. If I do this at the beginning of the rainy season all I have to do is use some of their TX-Direct Spray On from time to time….Im involved in Search and Rescue in Oregon…on the wet side…and I work for a large footwear and apparel manufacturer…in this part of the country we say that there really isn’t bad weather, only poor apparel choices!