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 marine products for serious sailors for more than 45 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising or any form of compensation from manufacturers whose products we test. Testing is carried out by a team of experts from a wide range of fields including marine electronics, marine safety, marine surveying, sailboat rigging, sailmaking, engineering, ocean sailing, sailboat racing, and sailboat construction and design. This diversity of expertise allows us to carry out in-depth, objective evaluation of virtually every product available to serious sailors. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser with more than three decades of experience as a marine writer, photographer, boat captain, and product tester. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.

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