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Essential Gear

How to Make Your Hiking Gear Last

October 17, 2016
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Gear takes on a life of its own. We rely on it. Boots become old friends. A favorite jacket holds memories. Here are five tips to take care of your gear so it lasts for many adventures to come.

I have a grey wool sweater with a black-and-white snowflake pattern around the collar and sleeves. It was my mother’s ski sweater in the 1970s. Forty-six years later, it’s still going strong. I mend the left sleeve regularly, given its tendency to split at the cuff. And if I pair it with a good base-layer shirt, I only have to wash it twice a year: before and after winter.

This sweater is a familiar friend. I remember being wrapped in it as a kid during a family winter hike, its sleeves hanging down to my knees. I remember wearing it with self-conscious pride during my first ski season, worried my friends would think it was tacky rather than retro. Now I wear it because I love it. I hope it lasts another 46 years.

Any outdoor enthusiast has pieces of gear like that – wearable memories, clothing with soul. Here are five tips to make sure you’re looking after your friends.

1. Buy quality. That’s the first step. Invest in good fabrics and pieces that are well made. It will cost more, sure, but a $150 sweater that lasts for 46 years works out to little more than $3 per year. Also, check out the clothing company’s returns and repairs policy.

2. Wash infrequently. This is going to be a tricky one for some people, but washing is hard on clothes and it’s hard on the environment. Wash as needed: We tend to wash clothes like shirts and jeans too often, and hard-shells and jackets too little. Here are a few rules of thumb to follow:

  • If it looks and smells clean, it probably is.
  • Spot-clean small stains rather than washing the entire garment.
  • Dirty outer-wear (like down jackets) functions poorly, so wash it at home after adventures. Tip: To keep your down fluffy, put three tennis balls in the dryer with your down jacket and dry on medium-low heat.
  • Follow the garment instructions: the Diablo Tank, for example, is constructed from an eco-conscious, breathable fabric that’s engineered to enhance its natural ventilation. Because of its unique fabric properties, it needs to be machine washed in cold water, on a delicate cycle, no bleach or fabric softener. It also should be washed inside out and tumble-dried on low or line-dried.
  • Condition your muscles, not your clothes. Fabric softener can affect technical fabrics that have quick-drying, moisture-wicking, or breathability properties.

3. Storage matters. UPF light can damage gear, so store it in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. When line-drying, whites can stay in the light, but keep dark colors in the shade. When storing, don’t hang clothes with delicate fabrics. Sweaters like the Three Seasons Pullover should be hand-washed, line-dried, and stored folded up, rather than hung.

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4. Where do you fail? We’re usually hard on our clothes in the same way, time after time. Watch for fail patterns in your clothes – Do you take out the knees? Cell-phone wear in the same back pocket? Thigh-seams worn from rubbing together? Once you know your particular areas of wear-and-tear, shop mindfully, looking for reinforced areas where you need them. It also pays to find a good local tailor or repair shop that can mend your favorite, broken-in pieces.

5. Think long-term. Buy gear from companies that are mindful of what they’re doing. Sustainable clothing might not have an immediate impact on the longevity of your gear, but it will matter in the long run – for all of us. Royal Robbins works with bluesign Technologies, which is a commitment to sustainable apparel production for the entire textile chain, from chemical suppliers to manufacturers. More than 30 styles (like the Discovery Jacket) already use bluesign® approved fabrics, with more on the way. Getting the process right takes time, but Royal Robbins is committed to reducing negative social and environmental impacts.

Do you have a favorite piece of outdoor adventure gear or hiking attire that’s stood the test of time? Share it with us here!

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RELATED LINKS:

  1. Sustainable Sorona: Performance and Softness
  2. Reducing Impact with bluesign Technologies
  3. Pushing Forward by Leaning Back: Building from a Heritage of Environmental and Social Responsibility

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