Gear RX: How to UV Protect Outdoor Gear



Published Aug 18, 2022 3:00 PM

Is the sun shortening the life of your outdoor gear? 

The sun’s intense UV rays fade fabrics, weaken fibers, or even cause the fabric to dry out and crack. It is impossible to keep our gear out of the sun when we are camping or hunting, but is there a way to protect the materials from UV damage?

Depending on the piece of equipment, there are several options to prolong the life of your gear even with extended sun exposure. 

Store and Maintain Gear Properly

Gear storage, cleaning, and general maintenance are essential in gear care. These simple things can drastically reduce wear and improve your gear’s lifespan. Although general maintenance and cleaning don’t necessarily protect equipment from UV damage, dirty fabrics can degrade fibers, leading to premature deterioration that is only worsened by sun exposure. 

How and where you store outdoor equipment can directly impact prolonged sun exposure. For instance, if you store equipment outside or under a shelter that still gets sunlight, even if it is indirect, it will weaken the materials over time. Materials like plastics and fabric are more susceptible to sun damage, but other materials like rubber and neoprene can also dry out and crack. 

Storing equipment in a temperature-controlled environment with little to no sunlight is ideal. You also want to protect equipment from water damage, rodents, and mold/mildew. 

Treat Fabrics with UV Protection

Beyond doing the backend work with cleaning and storing gear properly, there are other preventive things we can do to further protect items like tents, jackets, and backpacks from UV damage. 

Some items like tents often come with some waterproof coating. Within that coating, a sun protectant may also be present. Unfortunately, most waterproof and UV protectant coatings wear off over time. That means you need to reapply waterproof coatings to keep your gear fully functional. 

The purpose of a UV coating is to add sun protection. Luckily, reapplying these coatings is made easy with tent and gear solar washes. They work well for materials that spend a lot of time outside, including backpacks, awnings, and tents. 

With no protection, the strength and integrity of many fabric fibers degrade in as little as two weeks of sun exposure. 

How to apply Nikwax Tent & Gear Solarwash

  1. Set up the tent or lay materials on a flat surface to make application easier. 
  1. Using the spray bottle, coat the materials evenly to the outside of the fabric. 
    • Clean large items like tents in sections for best results.
  1. Using a damp sponge/cloth, rub the solar wash into the fabric. Use a soft-bristled brush in heavily soiled areas. 
  1. Rinse residual wash off of the fabric using clean water and a sponge/cloth. 
    • Take special care to rinse all residual solar wash off of the materials, or it may leave marks and streaks. 
  1. Allow the item to air dry. Do not store until all of the materials are completely dry. 

Apply solar wash to either wet or dry fabrics. So, if you are already cleaning your gear, make things easy by applying the solar wash at the end and letting the fabric air dry after. To combine the benefits of waterproofing and UV protection, consider using the Nikwax Solarproof instead. The solar wash and solar proof are both spray-on applications.

Other UV protectants are available, and their application process may differ from the directions provided above. Follow manufacturer instructions for best results.

Nikwax solar wash is water-based, making it is safe for use on outdoor equipment. It is fluorocarbon free and non-flamamble. 

FAQ

Q: Can sun damage cloth?

Yes, the sun can damage various materials, but prolonged sun exposure makes it especially easy for the fabric to be damaged. It can cause the cloth to fade, weaken fibers, and increase the likelihood of cracking or rips in the material. 

Q: What causes fabric to fade in sunlight?

The sun emits ultraviolet (UV) rays, which cause the fabric to fade. UV rays break down and weaken chemical bonds within the material, which can change or fade the colors. Not all fabrics react the same way or show fading quite as fast, but many materials get a bleaching effect from extended sun exposure. How do you make fabric UV resistant?

Q: How do you weatherproof fabric?

Weatherproofing fabric is as easy as washing the fabric sometimes. Nikwax makes a variety of material-specific cleaning and weatherproofing solutions to do this. While directions vary from product to product, some can be applied while washing, and others are sprayed or painted onto the materials.



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