Washing down products

One of the questions I often get asked here at Webtogs is how do you wash down products like jackets, sleeping bags, vests etc. With all down products they are a little tricky to wash, but it is still possible.

The only thing we would recommend is Nikwax’s down wash. Ordinary detergent will clump your down together and will result in a product that just won’t insulate you any more, so it is critical you use the proper stuff. To the same end you need to ensure that all of the normal detergent is gone from your washing machine. To do this, clean the detergent draw and put the washing machine on empty on a hot wash (90 degrees if possible) to dissolve all of the detergent from around the drum.

Follow the instructions on the down wash for the quantities and put the bag on a delicate wash. Once the wash has finished I like to put it on the same wash again without any detergent which just ensures all of the cleaning agents have been thoroughly rinsed out.

Once the wash has finished the best way of drying it is in a laundrettes tumble drier on the coolest setting possible. I always check to see if there are any sharp bits in the drum first as well, particularly with high end bags that have a thin face fabric. It also helps to put a couple of tennis balls in there with whatever you are drying to help break up any clumps of down. Down always takes a long time to dry and if the down is still clumping within the baffles it is still wet. Once it is completely dry you will be able to break up any clumps by shaking and manipulating the bag.

If you don’t have access to a tumble drier, then you will need to hang it in an airing cupboard or somewhere warm for about a week, making sure you break up any clumps that form to ensure the down dries thoroughly. My top tip for sleeping bags is to always use a bag liner which helps to keep the bag clean. You can wash the liner a lot easier than the bag itself, and it will extended the periods between it needing a wash.

All of this may seem a bit of a long winded process, but you down product will end up in great nick with the down performing as it should!

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Behind the scenes at an outdoor company

The good folks over at lightweightoutdoors.com have put a brilliantly geeky post on how outdoor clothes, specifically waterproof jackets are made by Keela up in Fife in Scotland.

It’s an incredibly interesting read for anyone who wants to know how a waterproof jacket is put together, looking at seam sealing, ultrasonic sewing machines (do they make superhero costumes with that I wonder?) and abrasion testing. It just goes to show how much thought goes in to making a coat. The next time I am out with my Kongur, I’m going to have a bit more respect for what’s gone in to making it.

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Cycle Touring Maintenance Essentials

The Toothbrush

No I’m not talking about twice-a-day cleaning your pearly whites. I’m talking about caring for your bike.

For my current cycle tour from the UK to Cape Town, I have in my panniers all manner of spare parts and tools for on the road repairs and maintenance.
There’s one piece of equipment I have used more frequently than any other:

It’s a toothbrush.

Many of the roads I’m travelling are dusty. The dust fills the air when vehicles pass. I create my own little orange clouds from my bike tyres. This dust settles on everything; on you and your bike. Ok, so you end up looking filthy, but you can still pedal. The bike on the other hand doesn’t fare so well. The dust clogs the chain and it’s not long before the bike is creaking and groaning in response.

Oiling the chain only makes more dust congeal. You have to clean the chain properly and remove all the dirt. The best way I have found to do this is with an old toothbrush.

A toothbrush is the perfect size to get in-between the individual chain segments and clear the dirt and dust away. It’s lightweight and takes up next to no space, which are two important requirements for any cycle-touring equipment. It’s also very cheap and can be bought anywhere. It takes less than a minute.

You don’t have to be cycling on Africa’s dusty roads to take full advantage of the toothbrush either. You can use it whenever you clean your bike – whether that’s during a regular clean while on tour or after a particularly muddy mountain bike ride on the trails back home. All you have to do is let the mud or dirt dry and use the toothbrush to dust it off. Only then can you get out the lubricant and give it a good oil.

The toothbrush can also be used to easily reach the dirt in those hard to get to parts of the bike. It can also be used to smooth oil finely over the entirety of the chain. Too much oil on the chain is wasteful and only exacerbates the problem of dust clogging.

Other Essentials

A rag: For cleaning the rest of the bike, any old piece of cloth can be used. Together with the toothbrush it’s all you really need besides a supply of water.

Oil: For lubricating the chain and preventing rust

Multi-tool: For making adjustments, tightening loose parts and general repairs. A complete multi-tool should have a set of hex wrenches (Allen keys), screw drivers and box end wrenches (ring spanners), tyre levers and a spoke key. It may not be as easy to use as individual tools, but it’s compact size and weight make it perfect for cycle touring, or even taking with you on the trails.

Puncture Repair Kit and Pump: Punctures are inevitable, it’s just a matter of when it will happen. You’ll need to be able to remove the tyre (using the tyre levers from the multi-tool), repair the whole in the inner tube and re-inflate the tyre.

Duct tape and Cable Ties: For everything else. A little imagination may sometimes be needed, but almost any other problem can be solved with the use of either duct tape, cables ties or both.

Useful online resources:
Park Tools: With excellent step-by-step guides for all bike maintenance and repairs
(http://www.parktool.com/repair/index.asp)

Topeak: This company produce an excellent range of multi-tools, including their ‘Alien’ series
(http://www.topeak.com/products/Tools)

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Mountain Rescue – how to safe safe and enjoy the fells

Andy Howell over at Must be this way has drawn attention to the fact that Cicerone and the various Mountain Rescue Teams in the Lakes have drawn up a basic but useful leaflet for what to do if things start to go a little pear shaped on the Hill. If you are new to hillwalking, it’s a useful prop to remind you of what to do. It’s even good to remember best practice for us old timers as well ;)

To download the leaflet, simply head here

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This is my bike.

This is my Bike

my bike

It takes me home.

It brings me to work.

It takes me through rain and sun.

It carries my son who I love a lot.

It goes through fields which it shouldn’t do.

It gives me pleasure.

This is my bike.

I like her a lot.

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