At NWAC, we know the stoke caused by the season’s first snowfall and the anticipation of heading to the slopes or venturing into the backcountry. As you prepare for your next winter adventure, it’s important to address a commonly overlooked aspect: gear maintenance. For this blog post, we’ve invited local PNW-based company GEAR AID to explain why gear care and repair matters when getting ready for the winter season.

Photo by Truc Allen

The shift toward PFAS-free gear

Before we dive into practical tips and advice, let’s discuss the recent move towards PFAS-free chemistry in outerwear products. Historically, PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), commonly referred to by the more generic term PFC (perfluorochemicals), have been widely used in manufacturing water-repellent gear.

However, they earned the nickname “forever chemicals” for a reason – they break down very slowly in the environment. Studies have linked PFAS exposure to harmful health effects for both humans and wildlife.* The shift towards PFAS-free gear is driven by a commitment to reduce the outdoor industry’s impact. 

Here’s the catch – while PFAS-free gear and formulas are better for the environment, they often require a little more maintenance. Unlike their “forever” counterparts, they don’t last indefinitely, and regular upkeep ensures their long-term effectiveness. Now that we’ve covered the science, let’s debunk some gear maintenance myths.

Common misconceptions around gear maintenance

  1. Fear of Damaging Gear: Many winter enthusiasts hesitate to maintain or repair their gear, fearing they may inadvertently worsen the condition. This hesitation is understandable. However, cleaning and re-treating as needed will actually optimize performance and extend your gear’s lifespan. 
  1. Repairs Are Unnecessary: Some people will buy new gear at the first sign of wear and tear on their old goods. This approach stems from a culture of not knowing how to make repairs, and leads us to believe that we need the latest and greatest kit to get out into the mountains.
  1. Concerns About Environmental Impact: The notion that gear maintenance products and formulas harm the environment has discouraged many from using them. However, as we’ll discuss, options exist that are both good for your gear and better for the environment.

These misconceptions persist because gear maintenance is typically viewed as a daunting and complex task. However, maintaining your gear can be straightforward and rewarding with the right know-how.

The benefits of gear maintenance & repair

Let’s shift to the benefits of gear maintenance and repair. Dispelling the myths outlined above is essential because regular upkeep offers numerous benefits:

  1. Extended Gear Lifespan: Proper maintenance can significantly extend the life of your winter gear, saving you money in the long run.
  1. Improved Performance: Well-maintained gear performs better. You’ll stay warmer, drier, and more comfortable during your winter adventures.
  1. Environmental Responsibility: With the outdoor industry’s increasing commitment to sustainability, proper care and maintenance keeps your gear in your arsenal and out of the landfill.

Most winter gear is designed to withstand maintenance and repair. Industry-leading brands manufacture durable and resilient equipment that’s meant to be used.

Gear maintenance tips for winter enthusiasts

Now, let’s dive into practical tips for maintaining your winter gear:

  1. Cleaning and Washing: Regularly clean your gear to remove dirt and debris that can damage fabrics and materials. These contaminants can impair their rain-repelling ability by causing abrasion, reducing surface tension so droplets don’t bead, and clogging breathable membrane pores. This means that just washing your gear can be enough to bring back its water repellency. Use fragrance-free cleaners without fabric softeners – these additives leave residue on fabrics and will reduce their water repellency.
  1. Re-Treating Water Repellent: Over time, the water repellency on your outerwear will inevitably wear off. To restore it, consider re-treating with a Durable Water Repellent spray (also known as DWR) to help reinforce its ability to shed rain and snow, keeping you dry and comfortable in the mountains. After applying, place in the dryer on low heat for 15-20 minutes to reactivate the DWR.
  1. Patching and Repairing: Every tear in your gear tells a story worth remembering. By repairing holes and rips, you’re extending the life of your equipment and carrying the memories of some pretty cool adventures with you. Sometimes people use duct tape to patch gear in an emergency, but it’s not functional or permanent. Consider a patch that will be stronger, last longer, and won’t leave a damaging residue that can affect the ability of your gear to repel water.
  1. Gear Storage: Protect your winter essentials – outerwear, skins, skis/boards, etc. – by storing them in a clean, dry space. Prevent mold and mildew growth with proper ventilation. Maintain stable temperatures for ideal storage conditions. Check your gear before the season begins to ensure it’s ready for your next adventure.

Are you stoked to prep your gear for winter?

Don’t let common misconceptions keep you from caring for your winter equipment. Maintaining and caring for your gear is a straightforward way to extend its lifespan, improve performance, and reduce your environmental footprint by minimizing your need for frequent new gear purchases. 

As you prepare for winter, equip yourself with the knowledge and tools to maintain and repair your gear. With the right approach, and a little expert advice from NWAC and GEAR AID, you’ll be ready to embrace the beauty and excitement of winter while ensuring your gear stays in top condition. Have a great winter ‘23-’24 season!