There's hope for your tired skiwear-assuming it isn't fluorescent, that is. With some minor first aid, your trusty shell will probably survive a couple more seasons. And no, we're not talking about unsightly duct tape. A growing number of products are designed to extend the life of weather- impenetrable outerwear-by either renewing the fabric's waterproof finish or durably repairing rips and holes.
Most waterproof-breathable fabrics-like Gore-Tex, Ultrex, Entrant, and Sympatex-combine a breathable laminate or coating with a durable-water-repellent (DWR) finish that helps moisture bead up and roll off. But after prolonged exposure to the elements (not to mention your washing machine), that finish can wear away and leave your jacket or pants vulnerable to moisture absorption. Eventually, the fabric "wets out," meaning it can no longer repel water. If your skiwear is leaving you cold and wet, this is likely the problem. The following spray and wash-in products, available at most ski and outdoors shops, can remedy wetting out, keeping your ski gear performing much like new without interfering with the garment's breathable laminate or coating.
W.L. Gore Revivex
LOWDOWN: Like Scotchgard, but for your Gore-Tex. It repels stains and restores the fabric's water repellency.
THE DRILL: When sprayed on, Revivex adheres to areas of fabric where the original DWR finish has worn off. Then, with a tumble in the drier, the product's polymer chemically bonds to the remaining DWR for renewed aversion to moisture.
BEWARE: Also works on Gore's Activent and Dryloft fabrics, but don't expect the same performance on other fabric-companies' brands.
DETAILS: $20/10 ounces
Nikwax TX Direct
LOWDOWN: A strong-smelling liquid polymer that coats the individual fibers of high-performance outerwear fabric-leaving open spaces between fibers-renewing its waterproofness without affecting breathability.
THE DRILL: Place one or two pieces of clothing in the washing machine and fill with warm water. Pour in a bottle of TX Direct and run a full, heavy-duty cycle. Tumble dry. To prolong the life of the treatment, try Nikwax's Tech Wash instead of laundry detergent.
BEWARE: If you live in an area with especially hard water, you may see substandard results with TX Direct. To remedy this, presoak the garment in a concentrated solution of six parts warm water and one part TX Direct for two hours.
DETAILS: $12/10 ounces (Tech Wash, $10/10 ounces)
Kenyon Recoat 3
LOWDOWN: An environmentally safe, water-based urethane liquid that replaces the waterproof coating on nylon and other synthetic fabrics.
THE DRILL: Brush on a wet garment then seal the deal in a medium-heat drier. A second coat is recom-mended for frequently washed jackets. Use Kenyon's Wash Cycle Water Repellent for waterproofing fleece.
BEWARE: You can swim in a jacket treated with Recoat 3 and not get wet, but the stuff can reduce the breathability of some fabrics and will eventually wash out and need replacing.
DETAILS: $5/10 ounces (Wash Cycle, $6/16 ounces)
LOWDOWN: Restores the DWR finish on Gore-Tex and other fabrics, and goes a step further to increase your garment's life span by blocking UV rays, reducing fading.
THE DRILL: Wash the item with a nondetergent soap, then spray Tectron DWR on the wet garment and tumble dry.
BEWARE: Can cause color bleeding in some noncolorfast fabrics, and it's extremely flammable.
DETAILS: $7/11 ounces
Kiwi Camp Dry
LOWDOWN: Camp Dry renews waterproof finishes and repels dirt, oil, and water with a convenient no-washing-machine-needed process.
THE DRILL: Spray it on a clean, dry garment, then let dry for an hour to cure the bond.
BEWARE: Don't light a match; it's ozone safe, but highhly flammable. As with most spray polymers, use Camp Dry in a well-ventilated area.
DETAILS: $6/10.5 ounces
HOLE REPAIR Most manufacturers of waterproof-breathable fabrics say the only way to permanently mend a tear, rip, or puncture hole is to have it resewn by an authorized repair specialist. That's your best and most costly bet, but there are several less expensive ways to bandage your wounded wear.
McNett Outdoor Seam Grip
LOWDOWN: A clear, gooey substance that looks and smells like modeling cement. On most types of outerwear, its urethane formulation seals separated seams as well as tears and holes up to the size of a quarter with a flexible but durable bond.
THE DRILL: Dab between seams and pinch the bonded area with your fingers for a few moments. Allow to dry overnight. For holes, create a backing with tape, spread fluid, and then leave to dry. Tape can be removed when the goo is dry.
BEWARE: Don't inhale! Seam Grip contains Toluene, a chemical that's been found to cause birth defects and reproductive problems.
DETAILS: $7/1 ounce
LOWDOWN: To temporarily repair damaged outerwear without ending up looking like a vagrant, choose your K-Tape from an assortment of fabrics-clear urethane, lightweight nylon taffeta, reinforced ripstop nylon-and colors.
THE DRILL: Clean and dry the damaged area, then apply tape over the hole or along the length of a tear. Remove all air bubbles, and round off the tape corners to avoid peeling.
BEWARE: It might last all season, or it might come off in the next wash.
DETAILS: $2/2 18-inch strips
McNett Outdoor Gore-Tex Fabric Repair Kit
LOWDOWN: Designed to cover small holes and tears in Gore-Tex and Dryloft fabrics, but works on other materials, too.
THE DRILL: Apply directly to a dry, clean fabric wound. Patches can be applied in the field, but you'll get better results by warming the patch with an iron or tumbling the garment in a drier.
BEWARE: Durable but temporary. It might survive several washings, but it won't survive dry cleaning.
DETAILS: $11/4 patches