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A Young Lady’s Perspective on Kayaking

| Posted in Kids Kayaking |

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by Margaret Branson, Jackson Mississippi

 

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My Experience Being a Junior Kayak Instructor

| Posted in Kids Kayaking, Women and Whitewater Kayaking |

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by Olivia McGinnis

I often go kayaking in Bryson City, North Carolina. There is a kayaking store called Endless River Adventures in Bryson City.  Endless River Adventures offers kayaking instruction, guided raft trips, unguided raft trips, and fly fishing instruction. They sell Wave Sport kayaks and kayaking gear. ERA is mostly run by a lady by the name of Juliet and also a guy named Ken.

This past summer, Juliet asked me to be a Junior Instructor for Endless River Adventures’ Beginner Kid’s Camp. I was so excited, but I also didn’t know what to expect and was a little nervous. Kid’s Camp is three days and, depending on the day, around seven hours long.

We met at ERA in the morning with Pelle and Ellie, the two ERA instructors who were helping with the camp. When all of the kids got there, they all got in one of the ERA vans and we loaded their kayaks in the trailer behind the van. We drove to the Finger Lake to teach everyone basic strokes and to get them used to their kayaks. When kayaking, you have your paddle and kayak, the gear that you usually wear is a helmet, a PFD, and a spray skirt. A spray skirt is something that you put around your waste and then put around the hole that you sit in in your kayak so water doesn’t pour in. What is good to know how to do in kayaking is how to roll. A roll is when you flip over in your kayak (intentionally or unintentionally) and you use your paddle to flip yourself back up so you do not have to swim, also known as the wet exit. What we were teaching/working on with the kids at the lake was how to swim. There is a loop on the front of your spray skirt that you need to pull if you flip and can’t roll up. Once you pull the loop, your spray skirt should pop off of your kayak and you need to push yourself out of your kayak.

One girl forgot how to pull her spray skirt when we were practicing the wet exit. I wasn’t in my kayak because the instructors were out of their kayaks helping the kids (who were in their kayaks) with the wet exit. The girl was struggling under water and I was the one keeping an eye on her and helping her at the moment. The other instructors were about fifteen feet away and didn’t notice what was going on. I swam over to her and she put her hands on my shoulder and got her head out of the water so she could breathe. I pulled her spray skirt for her and she swam out of her kayak.

Later that day we went on a small portion of a fairly simple river called the Town Tuck (Tuckaseegee). We ran only one rapid that day because the kids were mostly new to kayaking and were pretty tired from being at the lake for most of the day. I sat in an eddy (calm water behind a rock) in my kayak above the rapid so if anyone had trouble and flipped I could paddle down and help them. The instructors all went down and the last little boy to go down the rapid in his kayak got scared and paddled into the eddy next to me. “I don’t think I can do this.” He told me, his voice shaking with nervousness.

“You’ll be fine, I promise. You’re one hundred percent skilled enough for this rapid. Once you run it you’ll be so proud of yourself and you’ll realize how much fun it was. I swear, you’ll have an amazing time running it.” I told him.

I talked to him for a long time about what we were going to do in order to go down the rapid successfully. After a while of encouraging him, he finally followed me down the rapid and, like I had promised him, he did brilliantly. It felt really good to see him paddle into the eddy at the bottom of the rapid with a huge grin on his face. “I told you that you’d do really well! Aren’t you glad that you ran it?” I asked him.

“Yeah!” He replied, stilling smiling like crazy.

That day I learned so much about teaching and how good it felt after you helped somebody learn something. I made lots of friends and a couple of them I became really good friends with and I will most likely see them next year at the Kid’s Camp.

Throughout the next two days of the camp, I helped kids learn the technique of strokes, balance, rolling, and just having fun kayaking. It felt really good helping people learn. Not only did I teach them something, they taught me something: how to be a good instructor.

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Review of the Big Dog Force Canoe

| Posted in Kayak Gear Reviews |

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by local boy J.J.

This boat has a non-traditional look being small but it feels good on river. Things I like:

  • The initial stability is stout enough to not tire out your core and your lower back when you are just floating.
  • You can relax in easy water and not feel like the boat wants to shift from edge to edge.
  • The secondary stability is awesome and predictable. It truly has the ability to save you. This boat can handle a lot of lean. When making a peel out or eddy turns this boat is as sharp or smooth as your skills will allow it to be.
  • When taken over drops it surfaces level and quickly and it does punch holes well. The plastic is strong and I have for sure put that to the test.
  • It boofs well and lands very solid.
  • I am very surprised at how well a boat that size paddles even when it is swamped. It does lose some speed but keeps stable and that gives you the ability to catch that last second eddy when you need to.
  • This boat is incredible and good lines are rewarded with fast ferries and sharp eddy turns. Bad lines are rewarded with water in your boat. This is a great creeker. If you want to make moves instead of just paddling straight down river this boat can do it.

Although this is now my favorite canoe I have to be fair and let you know about the down sides. The boat is a bit heavy for trails and the factory foot pegs could use more adjustment points. The sides of the hull have plastic tanks instead foam to take up air space beside your hips. These do tend to take on water but they are easy enough to drain. The front deck has a lip that could act as a splash deflector to keep the hull dry in moderate chop. However, this seems to deflect small waves into my face when I hit them at a bad angle. Overall the negatives are just me nit-picking when in reality this is the quickest sharpest most comfortable canoe that I have paddled.

If you want a boat that will allow you to push your abilities this is a great one for it. If you are a beginner or intermediate paddler this boat will show what you are doing wrong or right. Do it right she treats you well. Do it wrong and you will swamp out.

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2013 Kayaking World Championships Hits National Networks

| Posted in Endless River Adventures News |

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Whether you were here in the Nantahala Gorge for last year’s 2013 Freestyle Kayaking World Championships, or tuned in for the live streaming,  you could not miss the cool drone circling above the freestyle wave… particularly during the evening semi-final event.  Coming out of that is a broadcast production that begins a month-long national television run this week.

The hour-long broadcast will feature footage of the Nantahala Gorge,  Swain County and exciting competition footage and interviews with some of the event’s top kayakers. The broadcast has the potential to expose millions to freestyle kayaking and to the compelling natural resources the North Carolina Smokies and Swain County.

Fox Sports Net National will carry the event on 14 regional sports networks and additional affiliate networks, reaching 100 million TV households in the first run and a cumulative total of more than 450 million TV households including repeat airings.

Broadcast schedules of the 2013 ICF Canoe Freestyle World Championships vary according to regional sports network coverage areas, so viewers should check local listings.   After the event’s initial run on Fox Sports Net National the event will enter syndication on regional television broadcasts.

Check out the listings for Southeastern Regional Networks:

Fox Sports South

Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee Monday, May 5 @ 10am
Thursday, May 15 @ 3pm
Sunday May 18 @ 12:30pm
Sunday, May 18 @ 6pm
Thursday, May 29 @3pm
Fox Sports Florida

 

 

Florida, Southwestern Alabama Tuesday, May 6 @ 4pm
Saturday, May 10 @ 8am
Thursday, May 15 @ 3pm
Saturday, May 17 @ 3pm
Monday, May 19 @ 9am
Mid-Atlantic Sports Network2  (MASN2) Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia Sunday, May 4 @ 12pm
Monday, May 5 @ 8am
Thursday, May 8 @ 3pm
Sunday, May 11 @ 12pm
Tuesday, May 12 @ 8am

 

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Test Your Creeking Skills on a Slalom Course

| Posted in Whitewater Slalom |

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The million dollar question in kayaking: “how do I know my skills are solid enough to start creek boating?”

You can go over the checklist in your head:

  1. Boat Control
  2. Angle Management
  3. Stroke Timing

But how to put those three to a “test” to see if you have the skills to start boofing those awesome drops and running the creeks lines?

Slalom Gates. Yep – slalom gates.

Hop on a slalom course in a Class II-III stretch of whitewater. If you cannot confidently run a series of gates in Class II-III rapids — where you have a 3-foot wide margin with each move (3 feet being the width between the two poles of a slalom gate), then your creek boating preparation check list is incomplete.

There is always a set  of gates below the Freestyle Wave on the Nantahala. And spring heralds in a whole series of slalom competitions….

and we have a library of articles about why slalom is great training for river running so Read More….

 

 

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It’s Slalom Season in the Southeast

| Posted in Whitewater Slalom |

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It’s race season in the southeast!  Spring always welcomes in a host of well known races held across the southeast. Many of the races are citizen races (open to the public) and offer opportunities for paddlers to test their slalom skills., as well as down river and some good-humored boatercross events.

In February, the Alabama Race series kicked off with the first Locust Fork event.  March welcomes in the Mulberry Fork Race,  followed by one of spring’s favorites: NRC Glacier Breaker, the second Locust Fork race, the Alabama Mountain Games (this year dedicated to BomberGear Founder Richard Franken), and the NRC/Bank of America US Open.

Don’t be shy about participating in the events. They are fun, competitive but not intimidating,, many include good music and regional entertainment, and they all provide a great opportunity to learn how much slalom and river running actually compliment each other.

Endless River Adventures is a proud supporter of these events.

 

 

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Costa Rica or Ecuador: How to Choose

| Posted in Costa Rica Whitewater Kayaking, Ecuador Whitewater Kayaking |

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“If you had to chose between the two, would it be Costa Rica or Ecuador?” That is a question often asked of us when someone is trying to decide where they should travel for a winter paddling trip.  Our response:  “Don’t choose.”  One of the joys of paddling is the opportunity to explore new rivers, new countries, new cultures, making new friends on and off the river.  It might not happen in consecutive years, but plan on exploring both countries in a kayak!

Traveling with your kayak is a special adventure

Rather than thinking in terms of “choosing” instead pick the trip that works better for your current skill level and your current schedule.  Both Costa Rica and Ecuador offer paddling opportunities almost year-round, but there are definitely better times to choose in order to maximize your paddling time. Following are just a few tidbits to help you decide where to go….this time.

Enjoying the pure vida of Costa Rica

The definition of “adventure travel” is something you are doing you wish you were home talking about.  If you are not a seasoned traveler, or prefer more of the comforts of home, try Costa Rica first. The infrastructure in Costa Rica is advanced (except for the roads) and Costa Rica understands tourism. There is very little suffer factor.  Looking for a bit more adventure?  Ecuador. Once you cross over into South America, there is the chance of a bit more “adventure travel.”  The showers are not always hot, you do not always find toilet paper in the bathrooms of public restrooms, and there is less English spoken.  In both countries the people are welcoming to tourists and with only a  few exceptions, very hospitable.

Enjoying the kayak surfing - not bad for early winter!

Time of Year. Both countries have better times for maximizing paddling.
Looking for early winter paddling before ski season kicks in?  Costa Rica is your better bet. October, November, early December is considered the tail end of the rainy season. Usually by early December the country is starting to make the transition between seasons.  The country is also making a transition from the “low season” tourism-wise to high season.  It would be similar to when would you prefer to travel to southern Florida: off season or peak tourism season.  Chosing high season means you just have to factor in more tourists, higher prices, less flexibility with tagging on additional siteseeing at either end of the paddling week.  Does that mean don’t go if that is the only time you can get away? Certainly not. Rivers like the Pacuare are run year-round by the rafting companies, as are some of the dam controlled rivers like the Rio Balsa.  And in the dry season, there are a couple of Class IV-IV+ runs on the West coast that open up with lower water.

Enjoying the boof of Ecuador

Looking for one of the best places to paddle during the cold winter months?  The Ecuador is your choice November, December, January, through mid-February.  In the Oriente of Ecuador, there is less seasonal difference between dry season and rainy season. It is more “wet and wetter.”  To give an example: In the Oriente, January is considered the “driest” month of the year, and the average rainfall for January is nine inches.  Those are statistics, so don’t consider it written in stone.   In a “normal” year, there is a definite change in weather that kicks in by mid-February and the “wetter” tends to be more the norm.

"Rain" is the operative word in rainforest!

Skill Level.  International paddling immediately increases the difficulty of the rivers because of the fact that there is less access to the rivers, less roadside boating, and you must factor in a lack of familiarity with the rivers you will be paddling.  An international trip is not the time to try and upgrade your paddling experience. Chose a trip that is within your current comfort zone. And bring your roll with you.

Continuous is the nature of rivers in both countries

Class II-III versus Class IV?
The rivers of Costa Rica are optimal for Class II-III through Class III-IV trips.  The West coast is more accessible to the main kayaking areas so it is easier to travel from the West coast to the central region, giving you more options for paddling.  On the other hand, if you are a Class IV boater looking for the definitive Class IV paddling country, Ecuador is where it’s at. There are great Class III and Class III-IV options without a doubt, but quality Class IV whitewater is where Ecuador really shines. Are there Class IV options in Costa Rica. Of course! And Class III in Ecuador? Without a doubt. It is just that both countries have their favorites.

Loving life on the river!

What is to be expected? Choosing either Costa Rica or Ecuador, you are guaranteed beautiful scenery, amazing people, and fantastic whitewater.  What is not guaranteed is which rivers you will run during your visit as weather conditions affect water levels.  Over and above the obvious (that as kayakers we are dealing with Mother Nature in all her quirkiness), there are several factors unique to Costa Rica and Ecuador:

  1. Rain Forest Conditions.  Paddling down rivers surrounded by rain forest is a remarkable experience.  The views can be most distracting at times!  The whole rain forest environment also sets up conditions that paddlers are not used to at home.  Because both countries deal with lots and lots of rain, the ground tends to be very saturated. A hard rain can bring rivers up between one and thirty feet (seriously).  There is no place for the additional water to go but downhill into the watersheds.  In both countries, you will see rivers spike, and then drop almost as quickly.  Could you get rained out on a paddling vacation? Rained out in a trip’s entirety is highly unlikely, but there have been given days in both countries where there just flat-out is no where to paddle because all the rivers are too high. It pays to be paddling with folks who know how weather patterns affect particular watersheds in that country as they are better at reacting to anomlaies and getting you where you need to be to still have a great day of paddling, even if it means doing some traveling.  You don’t want to base your whole trip on one specific run because you might not get on that particular river that trip; but you may end up on a river that becomes your new favorite.  And if you miss out on a run you had on your wish list, this merely sets up an excuse to have to come back again!
  2. Northern Cold Systems. From November – February, winter weather patterns in Canada and North America can definitely affect things even as far south as Ecuador, but more typically in Costa Rica. You will not see snow flurries, but sometimes the weather can be chillier than normal.
  3. Staying Healthy.  Tourism in both Costa Rica and Ecuador are driving economic factors. Should you assume you might get a bit of gringo-itis while visiting either country? No. But don’t be surprised if you end up with a little funkiness going on in your digestive tract.  When you travel you are dealing with bacteria foreign to your system. It potentially sets up a bit of a battle in your digestive tract.  Take some precautions to remain healthy throughout your visit.

The delicious fruit is almost reason enough to travel!

And finally, just a little bit of a checklist to get you started for traveling out of your backyard:
  • Get some sleep in preparation for your trip!  Because of the work it takes to actually embark on a vacation, paddlers often work longer hours leading up to their trip, miss out on some sleep, then hop on an airplane full of germs.  Particularly in November and December, there is the winter flu season at home. All you need is someone coming down with the same sniffles / stomach their kids brought back from day care and combined with travel, viruses tend to like to join the party.  Arrive in country with a healthy immune system.
  • Be aware of what you are eating.  It is winter and you are eating fresh fruit and drinking fresh fruit juices in quantities unheard of at home.
  • Wash your hands. Frequently.
  • Careful with the water.  In respectable hotels and restaurants, care is taken in preparing food and serving water/juices. In Costa Rica you can actually drink water right out of the tap and in both countries, bottled water is readily available.  When most people get caught unaware is brushing their teeth. Use bottled water to do so.
  • Female travelers, there are additional things for you to think about. Here is a bit of information to help you with your trip planning…
  • Yogurt, lots of water, washing your hands frequently, getting good sleep and bringing along some Imodium are all great preventative measures.

Finally, regardless of your destination, arrive with an open mind ready to embrace the culture, the things that are “different” from home, the people, and the language.  Pull out that high school Spanish and you will be surprised at how much of it comes back.  Don’t be naïve about caring for your valuables.  And enjoy every moment of your time …remembering that every day, someone at home is probably shoveling snow!

Let your kayak take you to beautiful places!

 

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90+ Miles in One Week = Scouting Week

| Posted in Costa Rica Whitewater Kayaking |

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Scouting week is always the lead in to our trips down south.  This past week we spent the week paddling every river we include on our itineraries, with three being the average – three rivers or sections a day. Average mileage was 20+ miles/day and we did not stop to sightsee much along the way.

Our 2013 Costa Rica Guides Daniel and Cooper.

On top of rerunning each section of river, we also spent time checking in with contacts for what the access points are about this year, new projects that might affect the rivers, and just re-networking with friends and contacts. It also gives Miguel a change to make sure the roads are all passable and that we don’t run into any surprises along the way.  Twenty two years here in Costa Rica, and you would think that a scouting week would not be necessary….but when the rivers change as much as they do here in Costa Rica, it is a mandatory part of our trip logistics. Here is why the rivers change so much…..

If you are not planning an international trip this winter, feel free to live vicariously through our trips here in Costa Rica and Ecuador through the Endless River Adventures’ Facebook page and the blog site and the extensive photo albums we share with each trip!

And check out all that is about our trips to Costa Rica and Ecuador to help you with your wish list!!

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Costa Rica Kayaking: The Most Important Guide

| Posted in Costa Rica Whitewater Kayaking |

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When asked what makes Costa Rica so special, the rivers are always the obvious answer for many paddlers…but if you look beyond the whitewater, it is the people of Costa Rica that make an experience so memorable. And no one epitomizes the pura vida of the “ticos” better than our driver Miguel.

Miguel has been with Endless River Adventures since before there was even an Endless River Adventures.  He and Ken teamed up on Ken’s second trip to the country.  At the time, neither would have guessed that they would share so many years together, with so many amazing paddling friends.  Our trips would not be the trip they are without Miguel.

With the staff of Endless River Adventures, there has never been a question as to the caliber of guides folks will have on the river.  But what is often overlooked is the value of the “guia del camino.”  Miguel is hands-down our most valuable guide.  He and his vans have taken us to the put ins and take outs of rivers from one end of the country to the other, and even accompanied us for some Panama exploratories early on.

The van that can! 20 years and we have missed a total of one day in all those years because of vehicle problems.

In a 20+ year partnership, Miguel and his family have made their home our home, Ken sat in the dining room of the Morera house with a sketch pad, pencil and erasure drawing out the original plans for the Endless building twenty years ago.

Special moments with our friend go far beyond the Endless staff that has worked in Costa Rica all these years.  Miguel is often the first person folks meet when landing in San José.  Boats are outfitted in his back yard, allowing for the opportunity to get to know his family, his pets, and his life.   Over the years, paddlers that come with us have seen his children grow up, going from small toddlers playing among the kayaks to graduating from school and becoming adults. There are always many “abrazos” when folks show up in Costa Rica.

From toddler to partner, Miguel and Fabian are the best father-son team and a part of what our trips are about.

 

Our trips would not be of the caliber they are without having someone as trusted as Miguel.  He has scouted out with us every river we have ever paddled, learning not just the obvious put-ins and take outs, but alternate access points, emergency access points, and developing fun side trips that we could combine with paddling.

He has come to have a 6th sense about when rain might affect the next day’s paddle and is the first one tapping into his sources to find out water levels.   For those who have not been with us in Costa Rica, it might be difficult in this day and time to imagine not being able to just pull up water levels on the internet.  Nothing of the sort exists in Costa Rica (weather forecasts themselves are almost nonexistent).  Over our 20+-year partnership, we have developed a network of friends across the country that we can contact to ask, ”how is the level of the river” relative to a particular rock on the bank/mark on a bridge…. Miguel’s help with that has meant that over the years we have missed very few days on of paddling even in high water years.  There is a bit of mystery surrounding our friend – and that is how he manages to site a sloth/toucan/iguana when he is so focused on driving down the road.  Some have suggested that he spends time before we arrive planting some of the favorite critters in strategic trees along the way!

If anyone is going to see something cool, it is Miguel. How does he do it??

And of course, his input has always been invaluable for finding that cold “cerveza” stop after a great day of paddling.

We have a powerful partnership with this warm-hearted, always smiling, caring Costa Rican.  When asked about his thoughts regarding the celebration of our 20th anniversary this year, Miguel wrote:  “En el año 1980 conocí a personas que sin saberlo afectarían mi vida de la manera mas linda, mis hijos se llenaban de emoción cuando se les decia vienen los kallaqueros , tengo como gran recuerdo que el diseño del edificio se dio una noche que ken no podía dormir y el la sala de mi casa se puso a dibujar, la confianza de tener muchos kalllak guardados en mi casa, pero sobre todo saber que E.R A es parte de mi vida, de mi familia, crecí con ellos y hasta que dios me lo permita estaré con ellos porque son mi parte de mi familia, estarán en mi corazón por siempre.”

It is with great anticipation that we, the guides, land in Costa Rica tonight, knowing that our friend will be waiting for us to start another great season in Costa Rica!

When you ask about the key guide on our trip - it is hands-down Miguel!

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So You Want Your Dry Top to Last

| Posted in Kayak Gear Reviews |

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If you think that buying a dry top, wearing it, and then pulling it out of your gear bag every once-in-a-while is all you have to do to keep it in one piece, you will soon be unpleasantly surprised.  There is actually some dry gear care and storage advice that will keep that expensive piece of equipment drier longer and keep the gaskets from coming apart.  here is a little advice from our store guru, Braden.

GASKETS:
When you get your new dry top, dry pants or dry suit the gaskets SHOULD be really tight because they will stretch a bit. Do not trim your gaskets without giving them a chance to stretch first. We recommend stretching them overnight on something slightly larger than the opening of the gasket. REMEMBER: Trim at your own risk, and know that your gasket will not be covered under warranty if it fails.

Treat your gaskets every 4-6 weeks with 303 Protectant. Rub it onto the gasket and let sit for a few minutes before wiping clean with an absorbent cloth until the gasket is dry.

Rinse your gaskets with fresh water after each use, especially if you wear sun block or bug spray. Allow to dry completely before storing.

Small holes and tears can be repaired on a gasket with a patch kit. In the event of a full blown tear gaskets can be replaced, saving the dry top.

DRY WEAR:
Your gear does require maintenance in order to protect the integrity of the product.
After each use, rinse the gear in fresh water and allow it to dry thoroughly inside and out before storing.

Once or twice a year, wash your dry top in the washing machine.  Use ONLY a cleaner designed for this purpose and do NOT put your garment in the dryer.

If your garment starts to get wet on the inside the first thing you do is wash it. Nikwax and Revivex are two brands we trust. After washing, check the taping on the seams inside the jacket/pants/suit. If any of the taping is beginning to peel up, use Aquaseal to glue it back down.  Often times these two simple things can keep you and your gear happy together for a long time.

If you are still getting wet, try a DWR treatment.  Nikwax and Revivex have DWR treatments that work well.. If using a spray, the garment should be wet before application of spray. In either case, heat is needed to set the DWR. Use and Iron on medium low setting. Place a thin piece of cotton in between iron and garment and DO NOT iron gaskets or zippers!

STORAGE:
Store either hanging or loosely rolled.  Avoid sun exposure and moist or hot environments. Sun, heat, humidity, extreme dryness, exhaust fumes etc. effect the longevity of the life of your garment so be thoughtful in where you want to store it.

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