Pesky little buggers - but they work so well. Zips are often the Achilles heel of any product we use them in. There's no real substitute for them though. We use the best quality YKK zips for maximum durability. As the end user you can definitely have a say in the lifetime you can expect from your zips.
- Try and de-stress the zip when you are sliding it. By this we mean take any load off the zips by making sure you are holding the ends together. For example, on a pair of pants, do up the button before you do up the slider (and, conversely, undo the zip before the button if you are taking them off. If a bag is really full, do up a compression strap or get someone to help you by holding the sides together. A sign you are doing things right is if the slider can run freely - you don't want to be using it to pull the zip together.
- Make sure the zip is free of any foreign objects before you run the slider over them
Tread Lightly on the Earth
In much the same way that we all are aware of the need to treat our world as we would like it to treat us, our products, like anything else, will last longer with due care and attention. We make things as well as we can due in large part to a desire to resist the trend to disposable, or short life expectancy products that is so prevalent these days.
A few grams of prevention is worth a ton of cure, and putting your pack down on the grass rather than the rocks will ultimately mean it lasts you longer, saving you money and all of us space in the landfill. And it's generally the case that a more elegant and 'finessed' approach can be a lot better - bush bashing, for example, is definitely easier with less actual bashing and more ninja-like stealth. Easing your way through the bush is a lot more energy efficient and you won't get hung up on errant branches anywhere like as much. You, your trip, your gear, and the landfill will all be better for it.
The Washing Machine
To put it bluntly, the standard New Zealand top loading washing machine is a heavy handed brute of a thing. It uses way too much water, and shortens the life of your clothes with it's central agitator and harsh spin cycle. The longer, gentler wash cycle of a front loading machine is somewhat out of pace with modern life - no throwing a load on when you get out of bed and realise it's a good day for hanging laundry out - but on the other hand you can put a load on and squeeze a in a ride in the evening while it goes through.... So:
Definitely no packs in the washing machine - it's simply too harsh on zips and buckles, and straps can and do cause fights with the washing machine, generally to the detriment of both parties. Hand washing with mild soapy water and a soft bristled brush, followed by a good rinse is your best bet.
Clothing: No rocket science here - close any zips, inside out is a good idea to protect the outer face of the fabric, and an eco friendly washing powder is generally best for the washing, the environment, and your wallet (yes the boxes are more expensive but check out the little baby scoop that's inside).
Fabrics and Materials
All our fabrics are carefully selected to be as hard wearing as possible. A bit of tender loving care when required will keep them performing for years to come. The general principles are to clean or wash things as gently as required to get the product clean, as often as necessary. Salient points include:
Don't store your pack or clothing wet. It's pretty tempting to throw things into a pile when you get home shattered from a ride/tramp/mission but storing things wet is probably the number one factor in shortening the life of a product. Particularly if there is canvas involved, which can mildew. At the very least hang things up to air before you hit the couch - although if things are still wet the best thing is to give them a wipe down with some mildly soapy water and possibly a gentle brush to get ingrained dirt out. In our experience this happens a lot more easily if you've got a bucket with a couple of good brushes ready to go under the sink in the laundry - just add soap and water, and in 10 minutes you'll be done.
Zips require a bit of love every now and again. Zips are a great way to provide access to part of a pack quickly and with a good size access point, but on most products they will be the first thing to wear out. Typically they wear most when used when dirty - the dirt particles accelerate the wear of the slider (which is made of fairly soft materials so that it wears rather than the teeth). Keep zips clean and if you are really keen, a wee spray with silicon so they glide easily. Oh and if you can slide the zip when there's no tension on the panel it's in then you are saving your zip a lot of stress. Do up the button on your pants before you zip them up, and maybe do up the compression straps on a pack or bag if it's overloaded, or get someone to help hold the sides together.
Specific Care :: WK & FM Supertrousers
These have been a bit of a runaway success story and we're really excited that people are out there putting them to use in so many areas. Landscapers, builders, tree surgeons, ecological restoration businesses, nursery staff, and film crews have been loving them. As they are just the type of people we had in mind when we designed them we couldn't be happier.
The fabric we chose for these, a 12oz European canvas, is a fantastic fabric, perfect for these pants (well and tent roofs, but that's another story). It does require a bit of special care in the first few days of ownership though.
Essentially the WK's require a bit of a wear in period to soften the fabric before any prolonged walking (tramping, for those who need it spelt out - is there no limit to the sort of things people will try in these things?). In a couple of cases we've had people buy them and wear them on extended walks without having put them through a few wear and wash cycles first, and the stiffness of the fabric means it creases into points rather than nice soft folds, add in some abrasive like clay or mud, and the pants can actually wear a hole in themselves where the crease meets a seam. We can actually envisage the first wash in a top loading machine (they're the devil, really) resulting in similar damage possibly, which is why the care tag says that they should be hand washed. Well actually it says that because it's the same care tag we use for packs but it's still good advice initially.
During the breaking in period, it's important to realise that some discolouration will occur. The waterproofing agent that's uniformly coated over the fabric isn't designed to come into contact with washing of the kind that pants get, and will move around during the first few washes. This can and often does result in a mottled or blotchy appearance during the breaking in period. Once this period is over, the pants will have a different look to when they are new - slightly lighter and less consistent to out of the box pants, but no less good looking!
Once they are broken in and soft then your WK's are in the zone - we've yet to hear of anyone legitimately wearing out a pair of these - and we've been trying to do it ourselves since the first prototypes were made.
Specific Care :: Canvas gear
C-Canvas is a wonderful material. A blend of polyester and cotton C-Canvas is highly breathable while retaining a reasonable level of water resistance. Traditionally valued in New Zealand for it's utility in tramping packs (we have a lot of water and mud) we also use this fabric in our Dreadnought HD trousers where it excels in creating a long lasting and highly breathable trouser for cold mountain conditions.
Like most natural things canvas is pretty easy to look after:
Storage and washing
Store your product dry, so that no nasty mildew will grow on its
If soiled, sponge or light brush with mild pure soap (a woollen wash or sunlight soap) to clean any biological (mud etc. can harbour enzymes and acid or alkali components which can damage canvas) material on it and drip dry
If your product loses it's water repellency or you require a higher level of water resistance you can treat canvas with a range of products:
Nikwax - 'Cotton proof' is a Nikwax product specifically designed to proof poly/cotton fabrics while maintaining breathability.
Grangers - These guys advertise a product called 'G-Line tent and gear' which looks promising, we haven't tried it yet though.