Guest Contributor: David Gillogly
My best experience with Nikwax came about a year and a half ago as I was doing some minimalist backpacking. On this trip I was traveling between 25 and 40 miles per day, through Rocky Mountain National Park.
A few months before the trip, I had used a couple Nikwax wash-in products.
I used Down Wash Direct and Down Proof.
They were absolutely phenomenal.
As an alpinist, going minimal while backpacking always seems pretty laid back. There’s zero technical gear to carry other than an ice axe. Cutting weight seems pretty easy after my experience with alpine climbing. I decided to leave the bivy sack in the car and hoped for decent weather, even though there were showers expected. I saved fourteen ounces, and I figured it would be worth it.
About four days into the 7-day trip, the weather turned sour. Hiking in poor weather has never bothered me much, but arriving at Odessa Lake in a dense fog, and under the threat of more incoming rain, made me a little bit uneasy. It poured all through the night and into the early morning.
In between sporadic moments of sleep, I hoped my down sleeping bag wouldn’t get soaked. Even though I had found a fairly protected area, I still ended up with the usual river running down my back. I figured the down would be utterly soaked and wouldn’t be fully dry for the rest of the trip. After all, I had heard that dry-treated down only works so well, and from past experience with down, I knew that wet down was practically dead weight.
To my amazement, the next morning, I found the down was perfectly dry.
Sure, the bag itself had quite a bit of water that needed to drip out, but I was blown away that the down itself was dry.
I’ve had down bags get soaked with what seems like a light sprinkle. I hear a ton of ultralight backpackers talk about their “simple” sleeping systems…
“All you need is XYZ’s tarp made of blahblahblah poly-amazium material and hiking poles and…”
The simplest, lightest, and fastest system is to use a high quality, treated-down sleeping bag (the Rab Neutrino 400 in my case) with additionally applied Nikwax.
Ultralight/minimalist backpacking is not for everyone. And that is fine. However, for those people that do this activity, I rarely recommend a different system.
The down-fill itself is also very deserving of praise here. Rab Neutrino bags are filled with Nikwax Hydrophobic Down, also known as “NHD.” Essentially, the down feathers are made water-repellent after a factory-applied treatment of Nikwax.
Also, there’s another garment, that despite not being filled with NHD, has been made better by Nikwax wash-in products…
The Outdoor Research Transcendent Down Hoody is a go-to layer for general mountaineering and even easy rock climbing. I “down-proofed” this jacket about the same time as the sleeping bag, and I was so glad I did.
A couple of months ago, during an easy multi-pitch climb in Vedauwoo, I was very grateful I had done that waterproofing treatment. While rappelling, our rope became badly stuck, to the point where my partner ascended to sort things out. I waited at the next set of rap rings while the quickly-approaching clouds brought rain, then snow, then small hail, then rain again.
The jacket’s outer shell got wet, but I was super impressed that the Nikwax Down Proof held its own and kept the down insulation dry.
Testimonial submitted by David Gillogly, a minimalist-advocating, crampon-wearing, 14er-climbing Geology student, who resides in Wyoming.