Care, Maintenance, and More…
Depending on whom you talk to, winter either came early, or winter came just in time. I am of the view that winter came just in time. My yard was cleaned up and ready, we had a great night of trick-n-treating with the kids, and then bam, the snow came. Had it waited one more week I would even have had my winter tires changed over on my car.
In Regina, cross-country ski trails were set, the toboggan hill was open, and I have even heard of a couple folks tromping around in their snowshoes. As a retailer of winter wears, business picked up in a hurry too. Folks realizing kids outgrew a ski pant, or lost some mitts, or we in need of a new pair of warm winter boots. There were lots of customers looking for warm solutions to the new season coming and we have a store FULL of solutions.
I have been selling products from The North Face for just over 20 years now, and Neil here in our Regina store has been selling The North Face even longer than that! Back in the day, (yes I can use that term now), The North Face product was only sold through quality outdoor stores, where staff used the product and could help people find their cold weather solutions based on experience. I am proud to say that we still offer those grounded basics in our 3 North Face stores, (Regina, Winnipeg & Saskatoon.) As the popularity of The North Face grows, so does their distribution. The North Face can be bought in some large chain stores, and on websites where customers can get short changed on some important information.
Hopefully you are still reading this so you are privy to that important information. Here it is… The North Face has a lifetime warranty on their products (with the exception of footwear having a 1 year warranty,) AND The North Face products require proper care to maintain the warmth, waterproofness, and durability of their products. The North Face can repair damaged jackets for a fee if it is not covered under warranty, and they now have a recycling program for all the old jackets, clothing, or footwear that you have worn out.
The lifetime warranty is a fantastic benefit if the unfortunate should happen to your item. With a less then 1% chance of failure, it is still a great feature to know that if a zipper breaks, or stitching comes out, or a snap or buckle fails, The North Face will either repair your item so that it’s as good as new, or replace it. If you should happen to damage your jacket due to wear & tear, The North Face has authorized repair centres where we can send your item to be repaired, for a cost. This came in handy for me personally when I got a hole in my jacket last winter. I sent the jacket back first to get an estimate on how much the repair would cost, then I was able to decide and get the repair done. Repairing down jackets is a little pricey but the work they do is exceptional and I really have to look to see where the repair was. Before an item goes back to North Face for warranty or repair, the item must be properly cleaned.
This brings up the next paragraph on how to properly care for your jacket. Please wash your jacket as necessary using the correct product. There are a few correct products out there, I am partial to the Nikwax brand, but I have also used Grangers and McNett products in the past. Nikwax has a simple system of colors to know what to use on your jackets. Green capped bottles are the washes, or cleaners. Down jackets should be washed in DOWN WASH, and synthetic jackets and non-insulated jackets get washed in TECH WASH. All North Face jackets and parkas are machine washable and dryer safe. Faux fur trim has to be removed from the hoods before washing, because they can only be spot cleaned by hand. We have had a couple jackets come in to us where the customers were not told that important piece of information. The North Face being the awesome company that they are, try to help out when they can. Washing a down jacket is easy, drying it is the tricky part. Maybe tricky is the wrong word as it’s easy to dry, it just takes some time and patience. What works for me is to toss the down jacket (freshly washed) into the dryer with a couple dryer balls and a large, dry cotton bath towel. The towel seems to help soak up moisture from the jacket and is heavy to beat the down to fluff it up. Use your lowest heat setting on your dryer. After a dryer cycle, pull the jacket out and lay it flat. Using your hands, press out the down in the baffles and feel for clumps and large wet spots. Manipulate the down in those spots by pulling it apart and spreading it out. Once you cover the entire jacket, toss it back in the dryer for another cycle. Depending on the size and style of down jacket, it could take up to 3 rounds to get a perfectly dry plump jacket again. Speaking of plump, old down jackets need a little TLC from time to time. A classic line is “my jacket is not as warm as it used to be” and sometimes its because we age and experience cold differently, or sometimes our down is matting a little and not as lofty as it was. If you wash and dry your garment in the appropriate cleaners, and you may be amazed at how “plump” it will be again.
Word of caution though, be weary of down parkas that are NOT machine washable and recommend dry-cleaning only. They will be warm at the start, but will slowly degrade with out the ability to properly care for them. We tend to launder our clothing quite frequently, perhaps even weekly. We often forget or maybe just feel concerned about washing our somewhat expensive outerwear jackets. By using the appropriate products, you can’t hurt your garment from washing it, in fact, keeping it clean will extend the lifetime of your garment, plus the water repellency and breathability will perform much better as well.
Now back to the simple color system from Nikwax. Green is for Cleaning, and Purple is for Proof! The products with the purple caps are treatments to re-apply the durable water repellant coating on the jacket, the “DWR”. Jackets from The North Face, even ones that are not waterproof have a DWR coating on them that allows water to bead or run off the jacket on contact. Think of this treatment like Scotch-guarding on a sofa and how it runs off and doesn’t soak in if a drink spills on it. DWR coatings will wear off over time due to abrasion on the fabric. Wearing a daypack hiking or a backpack trekking will wear the DWR off the shoulders and back of a jacket. Down hill ski jackets and pants are another classic example. Riding chairlifts and contact with your jacket wears the DWR off. One way to re-invigorate that DWR coating is to toss the jacket in the dryer and heat it up again. It’s awesome to have a dryer in your condo on a ski vacation for this very reason. The heat from the dryer brings the DWR back to the surface of the garment again and water will bead off again. Eventually the coating wears off enough that you need to re-apply, and the purple bottle of Nikwax does just that, it replenishes your DWR. Make sure you wash your garment first! There’s no point in sealing in any dirt or grime with the DWR. DWR on rain jackets, including GORE-TEX jackets is also very important. Too many times to count, people have told me their jacket is no longer waterproof when in fact the jacket is just no longer beading water, which reduces the breathability, causing moisture from condensation to build on the inside, and someone is made to feel like the jacket leaks. A great way to test for this is to run water on the jacket and see if water pours or seeps though. If it does seep through, refer to the lifetime warranty part above in the Blog. If water does not seep in, chances are your jacket just needs a little TLC, a wash and proof treatment from Nikwax.
Eventually a rain jacket will wear out it’s life. Congratulations to you because that means you’ve had lots of adventures, or bought a lesser quality brand, in which case I am sorry. My very first GORE-TEX jacket from The North Face was a mango coloured Mountain Light Parka, 2 Ply GORE-TEX, that was zip-in compatible. I bought it in 1996 and wore it for many seasons while having a ton of great adventures. (I was recently reminded about all those adventures when a box of old photo albums was returned to me and I got to flip through the pages and reminisce.) I can’t remember the exact year when I had to replace that jacket but I do remember I replaced it with a North Face Ama Dablam stretch GORE-TEX jacket around 2002. My good old Mountain Light jacket just did not bead water like it used to, the fabric was worn and treatments would wear off as fast as I could wash them in. I still have that jacket though, and still wear it when I don’t require the performance of a more breathable water-proof jacket.
How long should a jacket last? Well it really depends on how much you wear it and how well you look after it. Technically, outerwear like The North Face was designed for technical outdoor adventures. A climbing trip, a mountaineering trip, back-country ski adventure, canoe expedition, backpacking trip, etc. Use the outerwear on the trip as gear, then store for the next trip. Everyday wear proves to be the toughest on jackets. Wearing a winter jacket 5 days a week, 5 months of the year can be a lot. Even with all that wear, The North Face jackets do stand up extremely well. Some signs of everyday wear will show as wear on the seams, on the cuffs, in the neck area of the jacket, and my favorite was a jacket that was worn out where the seat belt went across it from vehicle use. Back to how long do they last, my simple answer is: a really long time. Generally the jackets outlast your use for the jacket. And once a jacket does reach its end of life, The North Face now has a recycling program for that jacket.
“Clothes the Loop” is an end-of-life recycling program that is offered in The North Face stores across North America. We have the collection bins placed in each of our stores: Winnipeg, Saskatoon, and here in Regina. A great thing about this program is that they take clothing, outerwear, or footwear items that are worn out, or can no longer be worn, and recycle them. They break up the item into its components like zippers, buttons, fabric, and insulation and recycle it accordingly. Any brand can be donated to the recycle bin, and as a small reward for your donation you will receive a $10 coupon towards a new item from The North Face.
So the next time you find yourself needing some new clothing, footwear, jackets or gear, think about The North Face as more than just a popular brand. Think about how The North Face is building products that they stand behind, will maintain, and then recycle after a long life of adventure. Geoff