Tips to Protect Cold-weather Sailing Gear

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We’ve ruined as much gear through improper and inadequate care as we have through use. Proper care isn’t about appearance, its about function.

Proper hanging. A well-padded hanger is acceptable, but a thin hanger will damage the Gore-Tex lining in the shoulders. Hanging on a hook from the hood or collar will also cause leaks. Hang only by the provided loop. Improper hanging probably causes more leaks that all other causes combined.

Dry after use. Rinse with freshwater and dry before storage, especially when working in saltwater. Wash only by hand when needed. For after-wash treatments, we like Grainger and Nikwax products.

Lube zippers regularly. Around saltwater, a common cause of death is a frozen zipper.

Sanitize. Foul weather gear can become, well, foul. Wet deodorizers such as MiraZyme Odor Eliminator work well, as does soaking in 1 percent solution of benzalkonium chloride (see PS Fighting Mildew, Mold, and Lichen, September 2015). Don’t rinse; at the proper dilution these treatments leave a film that continues to protect after the garment dries.

Refresh the water repellent. Nothing-not even Gore-Tex-breathes when fully wetted out. If the water repellent coating is depleted such that water no longer beads-up, as soon as the first rain falls breathing will stop. Because of this, even a fully waterproof Gore-Tex garment can be wet on the inside, prompting some users to believe that it leaks. The solutions is to treat the garment every one to two years, following manufacture recommendations. Again, we like Grainger and Nixwax products. They work well and are approved for this use by Gore-Tex.

A stitch in time. Fix obvious tears and even a few worn threads. Patches can be glued on the inside using either polyurethane sealants (good) or Dr. Sails (best).

Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 45 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising. Its independent tests are carried out by experienced sailors and marine industry professionals dedicated to providing objective evaluation and reporting about boats, gear, and the skills required to cross oceans. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser who has been director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division since 2005. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license, has logged tens of thousands of miles in three oceans, and has skippered everything from pilot boats to day charter cats. His weekly blog Inside Practical Sailor offers an inside look at current research and gear tests at Practical Sailor, while his award-winning column,"Rhumb Lines," tracks boating trends and reflects upon the sailing life. He sails a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Yankee 30 out of St. Petersburg, Florida.

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