Review: Grangers Down Care KitGear
From a corrie high on a Torridon monster, we could see the weather coming towards us. We were momentarily bathed in a golden light before the wall of water hit. There was nothing we could do but endure the downpour, secure in the awareness that behind were more rays of light. Double rainbows appeared above us and disappeared. And beyond, the vast expanse of Torridon was interrupted only by enormous sleeping giants, ancient colossi that looked as though they would wake at any time.
October is an enlightening time in the Scottish Highlands – there is little that can be planned. As we checked the twice-daily updates of the Mountain Weather Information Service, each forecast was different. Even as we stood at the bottom of Beinn Eighe, weather systems swirled around us. Snow, sharp showers, glorious sun, grey clouds, hail. You can’t plan for the weather in the Highlands, but you can prepare.
Two of the non-negotiable products in my bag as we set out on a camping trip were a down jacket and a down sleeping bag. Nothing yet invented can match the warming properties of down. These feathers, usually taken from geese, provide an unsurpassable loft that traps warm air. Sleeping on a mountain in October, it was down I wanted to be wrapped in. Down is not without its problems, however. Thankfully, most of the outdoor industry now uses a traceable and sustainable sourcing strategy for down (check with retailers first), but it is hopeless when wet. It clumps up and loses much of its warming power. Again, technology in the last few years has improved considerably with manufacturers now treating down with products that make it hydrophobic. By doing so, it does not absorb as much water and retains more of its loft. At the same time, synthetic insulation that also repels water on a micro level is gaining rapidly on down for warmth. And while the wet Scottish weather could harm the down, imagine what a washing machine will do.
I’ve always avoided washing down jackets and sleeping bags in the past, regardless of the, well, aromas, preferring to smell and stay warm. So it was with some trepidation that I threw one of my favourite down jackets into the washing machine with a cap full of Grangers Wash + Repel Down 2 in 1. The instructions were for a complete wash at 30˚C. Once the run has finished, the critical part is to tumble dry it for at least an hour with the three dryer balls. These help bash out the clumps (I’ve previously heard advice to throw in a tennis ball when drying down).
The water-based formula is designed not to harm the hydrophobic treatment of the down or synthetic material in an insulated jacket. Not only does it wash the down and the outer material (which is probably where the smelly bacteria reside), it also adds to the water repellency of the outer jacket or sleeping bag itself.
And so, facing temperatures below zero in Scotland, I popped on my down jacket and felt no clumping. In fact, it felt no different at all. That’s how these things should be: unnoticed, part of a routine, integrated into small moments of daily living yet helping to make gear last as long as it possibly can.
Ben Saunders, polar explorer and record-breaking long-distance skier, has tested Grangers in much harsher environments than Torridon but had a similar experience with the equipment. On being announced as Grangers’ first brand ambassador, he said: ‘Polar exploration remains one of the most demanding pursuits possible to undertake. There is rarely any margin for error, and the consequences of mistakes or equipment failure can quickly prove fatal. I’ve used Grangers aftercare products for many years – since I was 11 years old in fact – and they have proved their worth time and again in the worst conditions imaginable.’
He also highlights the environmental credentials of the 80-year-old company. Grangers are bluesign-accredited – the first aftercare company in the world to be so – meaning the entire production chain is free from harmful substances and processes, and all the water-based products are PFC free.
Ben will be testing Grangers products in some of the harshest environments in the world. I, on the other hand, will continue to benefit from his and Grangers’ expertise. Not, frankly, that it crossed my mind as I lay warm and cosy in my sparkling clean sleeping bag on a frigid night in the Scottish Highlands. Instead, we poked our heads out of our tents (also recently treated with Grangers products!) and watched nature’s night-time show. There was no artificial light for miles, and the rainclouds were replaced by clouds of stars.