Skip to content

The Importance of DWR for Outdoor Gear

When it comes to selecting outdoor gear, there is one term you should familiarize yourself with: DWR. Standing for Durable Water Repellent, DWR plays a crucial role in ensuring the performance of your gear, whether it's a jacket, a backpack, or even a tent. In this article, we will delve into the meaning of DWR and why it is an essential feature for outdoor enthusiasts.

DWR is a chemical water repellent treatment applied to the surface layer of a fabric. The importance of DWR is that it keeps you dry and comfortable during outdoor activities by preventing water from seeping into the fabric, compromising insulation, and adding weight.

Understanding the importance of DWR and how it works will help you make informed decisions when choosing outdoor gear that can withstand the elements. So, join us as we explore the ins and outs of DWR and discover its significance in ensuring your comfort and performance in the great outdoors.

Understanding DWR: What is it and how does it work?

DWR, or Durable Water Repellent, is a chemical treatment applied to the outer layer of fabrics used in outdoor gear. The purpose of DWR is to create a hydrophobic barrier that prevents water from saturating the fabric. When water comes into contact with a DWR-treated fabric, it forms droplets that roll off the surface instead of being absorbed. This is due to the surface tension created by the DWR coating, which causes the water to bead up and slide off.

The DWR treatment works by modifying the surface of the fabric at a microscopic level. The chemicals used in the treatment lower the surface energy of the fabric, making it less attractive to water molecules. Instead of being absorbed, the water molecules form droplets on the surface, which are then repelled by the DWR coating.

It's important to note that DWR is not waterproof. While it provides excellent water repellency, it does not make the fabric completely impervious to water. Over time, the effectiveness of the DWR coating may diminish due to wear and tear or exposure to harsh conditions. However, regular maintenance and proper care can help maintain the performance of the DWR treatment.

Benefits of DWR in outdoor gear

The benefits of DWR in outdoor gear are numerous and important. One of the main benefits is its role in ensuring breathability during outdoor activities; with the loss of DWR, breathability is extremely reduced. This is especially important during strenuous activities where body heat and perspiration can build up quickly. By allowing moisture to evaporate, DWR helps regulate body temperature and keep you comfortable.

DWR prevents the cooling of body heat. Because water is a substance that transfers heat easily, a moist jacket can make you feel very cold. Therefore, by securing DWR, you can keep heat in and keep your body cool in the rain, which in some cases may save your life in severe environments such as extremely cold regions.

Furthermore, outdoor gear that has lost its DWR will weigh more due to moisture. A wet jacket will weigh many times more than it should. Maintaining DWR will also reduce the weight of gear and protect the climber's fitness.

As with DWR itself, the less water it contains, the faster your outdoor gear will dry out. This speed of drying can be very useful, especially on trails where you will be spending many days in the mountains.

Common misconceptions about DWR

One of the most common misconceptions is that the fabric will be completely waterproof if DWR is applied. As mentioned above, DWR provides water repellency, not waterproofness. Waterproofing and water repellency are two different physical phenomena to begin with. Yes, it may appear to be able to withstand light rain or snow, but it is by no means waterproof. It is just that water is not absorbed by the fabric, and the surface tension of the water itself causes the water to curl up. If pressure is applied, water will pass through.

Another misconception is that DWR is a permanent treatment; while DWR coatings are designed to last, it is inevitable that they will wear off with use. Factors such as friction, laundering, and exposure to UV light can accelerate the degradation of the DWR coating. A more common mistake is the misconception that the DWR will degrade over time. Many blogs and other sources say as much. However, this is not true; DWR does not naturally degrade at our lifetime level. It does not degrade over time, but only with use.

Factors affecting the longevity of DWR coatings

Several factors can affect the longevity of DWR coatings. One of the primary factors is abrasion. Continuous friction between the fabric and external surfaces, such as backpack straps or rocks, can wear off the DWR coating over time. It's important to be mindful of how you handle and use your gear to minimize abrasion and prolong the effectiveness of the DWR treatment.

Washing and cleaning methods also affect the life of the DWR coating. Rinsing during washing is very important, as detergent residue will affect the DWR. Rinse three times to eliminate as much detergent residue as possible. It is also important to use detergents that rinse well. Detergents with high alkalinity will rinse poorly, so detergents with low alkalinity should be used and the amount of detergent used should be carefully considered.

 Detergent is not the only factor that can cause a decrease in DWR due to washing; DWR also has the property of becoming acclimated to water. Prolonged exposure to water causes changes within the DWR coating, and the water-accepting components come to the surface.

Proper care and maintenance of DWR-treated outdoor gear

To maximize the lifespan and performance of your DWR-treated outdoor gear, proper care and maintenance are essential. Here are some tips to help you maintain the effectiveness of the DWR coating:

  1. Follow manufacturer's instructions: Always refer to the care instructions provided by the manufacturer for cleaning and maintenance. Different fabrics and gear may require specific cleaning methods to preserve the DWR coating.
  2. Use mild detergents: When washing your gear, opt for mild detergents that are specifically designed for outdoor fabrics. Avoid using fabric softeners or bleach, as they can degrade the DWR treatment.
  3. Applying heat: Heat may cause reactivation of the DWR. In the case of post-washing, always allow the jacket to dry before applying heat. Otherwise, energy will not be used to reactivate the DWR and heat will be used to evaporate water. The same is true for a wet jacket. However, heat will not always reactivate the DWR coating, and it will not make sense if the DWR coating itself is peeling off due to wear.
  4. Applying DWR treatment: If DWR reactivation is not obtained after the heat application process described above, the DWR coating itself may have peeled off. In this case, the DWR will need to be reprocessed. There are a variety of DWR sprays on the market that can be applied to fabrics. You can also hire a DWR reactivation specialist like us. We use a special process to reactivate the DWR, so you will get a better quality DWR treatment than if you do it yourself.

By following these care and maintenance practices, you can prolong the life of your DWR-treated outdoor gear and ensure optimal performance in wet conditions.

Alternatives to traditional DWR coatings

In recent years, there has been a growing concern about the environmental impact of traditional DWR coatings. Some of the chemicals used in these treatments, such as perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), have been found to be persistent and bioaccumulative in the environment. As a result, manufacturers and outdoor enthusiasts are seeking alternative solutions that are more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

One alternative to traditional DWR coatings is the use of non-fluorinated DWR treatments. These treatments use alternative chemicals that are less harmful to the environment while still providing water repellency. However, non-fluorinated DWR coatings, while effective in repelling water, are not as durable as fluorinated coatings.

Another emerging solution is the development of bio-based DWR treatments. These treatments use renewable and biodegradable materials derived from plants, such as corn or soy, instead of synthetic chemicals. Bio-based DWR coatings offer a more sustainable option while still delivering water repellency. However, they may have limitations in terms of durability and performance under extreme conditions.

It's important to note that the development and adoption of alternative DWR coatings are still ongoing. As technology and research progress, we can expect more sustainable options to become available in the future.

The environmental impact of DWR and sustainable alternatives

The environmental impact of DWR coatings is a significant concern, primarily due to the presence of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs). These chemicals have been found to persist in the environment and have the potential to bioaccumulate in organisms. PFCs are also known to be toxic to organisms at certain levels of intake and have been linked to various health problems in humans.

To address these environmental concerns, regulatory bodies and industry organizations have taken steps to phase out the use of certain PFCs in DWR treatments. Some countries have banned or restricted the use of specific PFCs due to their potential harm to the environment and human health.

As mentioned earlier, the development of non-fluorinated and bio-based DWR treatments offers more sustainable alternatives to traditional DWR coatings. By using alternative chemicals or renewable materials, these coatings reduce the environmental impact associated with DWR treatments. However, it's important to continue monitoring and researching the long-term effects of these alternatives to ensure their safety and effectiveness.

Choosing outdoor gear with durable and eco-friendly DWR coatings

When selecting outdoor gear, it's important to consider not only the performance but also the environmental impact of the DWR coatings used. Here are some factors to keep in mind:

  1. Check for eco-friendly certifications: Look for gear that is certified by recognized eco-labels or organizations. These certifications ensure that the gear meets specific environmental standards, including the use of sustainable DWR coatings.
  2. Research the brand's sustainability initiatives: Many outdoor gear brands are taking steps to reduce their environmental footprint. Research the brand's sustainability initiatives and their commitment to using eco-friendly materials and coatings.
  3. Consider non-fluorinated or bio-based DWR treatments: If environmental sustainability is a top priority, consider gear that uses non-fluorinated or bio-based DWR coatings. While these coatings may have some limitations in terms of durability, they offer a more sustainable option.
  4. Look for gear with durable DWR treatments: Some brands offer gear with enhanced DWR coatings that are designed to be more durable. These coatings can withstand more abrasion and washing cycles, reducing the need for frequent reapplication.

By considering these factors, you can make more informed choices and support brands that prioritize both performance and sustainability.

Conclusion: Embracing DWR for enhanced performance and environmental responsibility

Durable Water Repellent (DWR) is a crucial feature in outdoor gear that enhances performance and keeps you dry and comfortable during outdoor activities. By repelling water from the fabric, DWR prevents saturation, maintains insulation, and enhances breathability. However, it's important to understand that DWR is not waterproof and requires proper care and maintenance to ensure longevity.

While traditional DWR coatings have raised environmental concerns, alternative solutions are being developed to provide more sustainable options. Non-fluorinated and bio-based DWR treatments offer a reduced environmental impact while still delivering water repellency. It's essential to consider the environmental implications of DWR coatings when selecting outdoor gear and support brands that prioritize sustainability.

By embracing DWR and making conscious choices, we can enjoy the great outdoors while minimizing our impact on the environment. So, next time you gear up for an adventure, remember the importance of DWR and its role in keeping you dry, comfortable, and environmentally responsible.