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Walking The Dog; Enjoying some time with our furry friends

Walking the dog is something many of us have the privilege of enjoying, particularly in the countryside. The outdoors is for everyone, so it’s important that we’re all responsible dog owners, keeping our outdoor spaces clean and beautiful, and making sure our furry friends are kept under control at all times.

Now, more so than ever, we need to keep a close eye on our canine companions as we’re walking them. With the pandemic sweeping over the nation, social distancing applies to our pets as much as it applies to us. It’s important that we continue to enjoy walking the dog, and it’s even more important to keep them, us and our communities safe.

Walking The Dog

Countryside Code

The countryside code is there to enable as many people as possible to enjoy the outdoors, whether we’re walking the dog or out for a run. When you’re walking the dog, make sure to always consider other countryside goers and don’t let your dog invade other people’s space by jumping up or barking at them excitedly.

One of the biggest rules of the countryside is always leave no trace of your visit. This includes taking your litter home, and when you’re walking the dog it means picking up after them and never leaving waste bags in bushes or hedges. These are unsightly for other walkers, and often end up being forgotten and left there.

When you’re walking the dog off the lead, only do so if you can keep your dog under effective control, making sure that they don’t cause any unwanted mischief or disturbance, particularly if you’re walking the dog near other animals and livestock. If you’re unsure of your dog’s recall abilities, it’s much safer just to keep them on a lead. However, if a farm animal begins to chase you as you’re walking the dog, it’s much safer for the both of you to let go of your dog. Your dog is much quicker and more agile without being attached to you, so will be able to escape more easily, and you are less of a threat to livestock without your dog, so they’ll be more likely to leave you alone and let you move on so you can continue walking the dog in peace.

Always make sure to follow any signs and instructions about where you may enjoy walking the dog, as not all paths permit our furry friends. You could even learn what the different footpath signs mean, such as open access land, closed access and footpaths where you’ll need to keep your dog on a lead.

When walking the dog, always make sure you take everything they might need. This includes plenty of water, as, depending on where you’re walking the dog, there might not be any access to water, and we don’t want to see your pooch dehydrated. Take plenty of poo bags, as you never do know how many you’ll need and take a towel to dry off afterwards, particularly if your four-legged friend enjoys a dip.

Many dogs simply can’t resist saying hello when they see a fellow pup approaching, but use your best judgement on this. If the other dog looks excited and their tail is wagging away nicely, it should be fine to let your dog introduce themselves. However, if a dog looks uncomfortable, is rigid or even baring their teeth, it’s best not to let your dog approach. Whilst some dogs love other dogs, many others feel threatened by them and may even respond aggressively if your curious canine gets too close for comfort.

Always remember that if you’re walking the dog in public, by law they must be microchipped and wearing a collar with an ID tag that has your name and address on it.

Walking The Dog

Walking The Dog in Lockdown

Many dog owners have been concerned about walking the dog during the lockdown that many countries all over the world are currently experiencing. Just remember though, that in many countries it’s still OK to continue walking the dog, as long as nobody in your household is showing any symptoms of COVID-19 and you and your dog follow the social distancing guidelines at all times. This means only walking the dog if you feel well and healthy enough to do so, and do not meet up with friends or other dog walkers to walk together.

You can practice social distancing when you’re walking the dog by avoiding busy areas and always keeping at least two metres between you and anyone else. If possible, try not to allow your dog to interact with any other humans or animals, and often, using a lead is the best way to do this, ensuring that you have full control over your dog’s whereabouts at all times.

Always wash your hands before you head out, and as soon as you get back from walking the dog. It’s also a good idea to wipe down or wash your dog after your outings. As tempting as it is, try not to touch other people’s dogs if they do come up to you. Whilst COVID-19 cannot be transmitted through animals, if someone with the virus has coughed or sneezed on their dog, the virus can spread to people or animals who then touch the dog. Just smile and say hello and continue walking along the path, the dog will soon get distracted by something else!

It’s important to put together a plan for walking the dog if you do have to quarantine yourself. You can ask a friend, relative or neighbour to take on walking the dog if you are unable to, but always follow social distancing guidelines when handing your dog over and welcoming them back. If your dog is struggling to entertain themselves, there are plenty of ways you can have fun together. As well as walking the dog, you can play indoor games, create an indoor obstacle course, learn some new tricks or even set up a sniffing game for your dog to hunt out their favourite treats.

Walking My Dog

I feel very lucky in these current circumstances to have a dog, and she’s one of the things I include in my list of things to be grateful for right now. Being a Hungarian Vizsla, she’s quite a large dog, and with her only being about one and a half, she usually requires a fair bit of exercise. She took a lot of getting used to lockdown, and I think it’s because it’s impossible to explain to a dog what’s going on. At first, my partner and I still walked her together once per day in the afternoon, but I soon realised this wasn’t going to work. I can gauge many of her facial expressions and throughout my day of working at home, I was getting the side-eye a lot. She wasn’t happy with me for not taking her for her usual morning walk, and for being incredibly boring and sitting at my computer all day rather than petting and playing with her.

Walking The Dog

Lockdown has taken a lot of getting used to for everyone, and I think we’ve all found ways of making our routines work better for ourselves. A miserable dog is what it took for me to start going for my once a day walk at lunchtime, meaning Seal got to have another walk, and I noticed her becoming happier and less moody as the days went by. She started eating better, she started moping less and she even started playing with her toys on her own; something she’d completely lost interest in at the start of lockdown.

I’m also lucky enough to live near an array of public footpaths, as well as a park for walking the dog, so I’ve still been able to let her off the lead for a run around and I’ve had plenty of walks to choose from every day. I’ve also discovered a few more footpaths that I never knew existed before, bringing some excitement to every walk, and not just for Seal! Lockdown is making us all appreciate the little things, and for me this includes walking the dog and all these new discoveries.

If you’re looking for the perfect outfit for walking the dog, you should always include a lightweight jacket, particularly with the weather being so unpredictable these days. Our NESSH Jacket is lightweight, warm and has plenty of pockets for treats, poo bags and toys to keep your dog truly looked after on every walk.

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Getting Back To Nature: How to feel at home in the outdoors

Getting back to nature can feel like a mountain of a task in today’s climates when we’re surrounded by technology and all sorts of screens. But that’s no reason to keep putting it off. There are so many benefits to getting outside and being with nature, even if it is just in your own back garden. So if you feel like you’ve lost touch with mother nature, it’s never too late to dip your toe back in the water.

On Your Doorstep

If getting out in the countryside is difficult for you, that doesn’t mean you can’t get back to nature. If you don’t have a car or means of transport, try getting back to nature by walking through one of your local parks, or even just down by the side of a river or canal. Find a nice spot to read your book for a while and as you listen to the sound of the birds and feel the blades of grass on your feet, you’ll start to feel like you’re getting back to nature already.

If you have a garden at home, this is a perfect way to get back to nature, without even going anywhere. Spend some time gardening to really get to know the nature around you, understand who lives and what grows in your own back garden. You’ll be surprised what flora and fauna will thrive just metres away from where you sleep at night.

Another really productive way to get back to nature is to grow your own food. You’ll know by now that you can grow food on the tiniest of balconies and window sills, so getting back to nature isn’t as hard as it seems. Try your hand at a herb garden to feel a little closer to nature, or if you’ve got the room in your garden, how about planting some potatoes or some carrots? You’ll feel like you’ve really got back to nature when it’s time to use them for dinner.

If you’re starting at the very beginning of your journey back to nature, go small at first by bringing a few plants into your home. You’ll soon find yourself adding to your nature collection as you find different plants and flowers that you think will look great in your living room or kitchen.

Further Afield

If it’s easy for you to get out into the countryside, woodland, moorland or to a lake, one of the best ways to start getting back to nature is by learning to identify the animals and plants around you. Why not treat yourself to a book of birds or plants so you can work to figure out what you see when you get out? Invest in a decent pair of binoculars so you can see wildlife from a distance, without scaring them off by getting too close.

Alternatively, use your camera to take beautiful photographs of the outdoor spaces you visit. If you get some really good ones you can even have them framed and hang them up in your home, taking yourself back to nature every time you look at one of them, as you remember the location and the moment you were there.

When you journey somewhere new, try taking little to no money with you. Take a picnic and perhaps a flask with you instead, so you’re not tempted to go and hide somewhere inside with a coffee. Embrace the elements, whether they’re hot or cold, and you’ll really feel like you’ve got back to nature.

Get the family involved and go on a camping trip so you can all get back to nature together. The kids will love being outdoors, exploring and discovering new things. Plus, sleeping under the stars together will give you a real sense that you have indeed made it back to nature.

Try switching off your mobile when you get outside, giving yourself only your senses to focus on; the feel of the breeze, the smell of the grass, the sound of water running. You’ll soon feel back to nature when you can recognise where you are and what’s in front of you with your eyes closed.

What Being Outdoors Can Do For You

Getting back to nature can not only improve your physical fitness, but your mental health too. Being amongst the plants and the wildlife can reduce your stress and elevate your mood as you clear your mind of the daily chores in your life and let your innate self get back to nature. Getting some fresh air every day can improve the quality of sleep you get as your body clock resets to the natural light around it.

Allowing yourself the time to get back to nature, be that alone or with family or friends, alleviates the pressures of work and home life, as you concentrate on only being with each other in a beautiful and serene space, rather than the load of washing you’ve got to do when you get home, or the paperwork you need to file when you get into work in the morning.

You may also find that encouraging yourself and others to get back to nature will also naturally encourage your conservation habits. As you get back to nature, you may find you begin to care more about the environment and those within it. As more and more people begin caring about the environment, more effort will be made to conserve it in all its glory, for generations to enjoy for years to come.

Getting back to nature can be as extravagant or as simple as you make it. There’s no pressure to travel miles away to the top of a mountain. Start small with a few plants in your indoor space and as you get closer and closer back to nature, you’ll find you want to take bigger steps to explore all mother nature has to offer. When it’s time to get outdoors and get exploring, our NESSH Jacket will make sure you’re kept warm, dry and comfortable when you’re out in the elements. Take a look at our website to find out more about our story and how our jackets can help you to get back to nature.

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Being Prepared In The Outdoors; All The Essential Hiking Gear To Take With You On A Short Hike – Part One

Hiking Gear

If you like the outdoors, have a friend who does too, and have the right selection of hiking gear to hand, getting outdoors for a short hike is one of the simplest ways to soak up the thrill of fresh air and enjoy discovering stunning views. 

The hiking gear you should take with you all depends on how far you’re journeying, how remote the location is, and what the weather forecast suggests. The good news is, for a short hike, you shouldn’t need to carry quite as much hiking gear. The general rule is the further the hike, the more remote the location and the more inclement the weather, the more equipment you’ll need to take.

When the outdoors is calling you, making sure you’ve got all the essential hiking gear with you before stepping out the door, will mean that whatever nature throws at you, your hiking gear has you covered. Take a look at our list below to make sure you’ve always got the essentials on whichever short hike you’re embarking on.

Hiking Gear

Key Hiking Gear

When it comes to hiking gear, the essential equipment you need will vary with the seasons and how far you’re intending on hiking. For a short hike, there are fewer ‘essentials’ you’ll need, but you might find that the more you get outside, the further you want to go!

Hiking Backpack and Cover

For a day hike, a backpack which holds 15-20 litres should be enough space for all the hiking gear you’ll need. Having a cover, or even a large plastic bag to put over your backpack in the rain will keep all your hiking gear inside nice and dry.

Map and Compass

Even with all the technical hiking gear in the world, there’s nothing more reliable than a trusty map. Having a map of the area you’re exploring, a compass and knowing how to use them means you’ll always be able to find your way back.

Hiking Poles

Even if you’re young, fit and agile, a couple of walking poles can be extremely useful as part of your hiking gear collection. These poles give you stability and can help to stop you from falling or slipping in the mud, all whilst offering your knees tremendous support on all kinds of terrain.

Knife or Multi-Tool

A small utility knife can be a lifesaving piece of hiking gear in an emergency. They can be used to cut bandages, remove splinters and repair all sorts of equipment, and if you don’t end up needing it for any of these things, you can even use it to cut your sandwiches.

Headlamp or Torch

It’s important to remember that with the outdoors, plans and timescales can often go out the window, and it’s wise to always expect the unexpected. So, being prepared with a torch could be just the piece of hiking gear you need to finish your walk safely and reach shelter.

CamelBak or Water Reservoir

A water reservoir is possibly the easiest and most effective way to carry water and stay hydrated when you’re out exploring the countryside. Many backpacks now have space for these too, allowing you to easily access your water when you’re hiking. For a day-long hike, take at least two litres of water as an essential addition to your hiking gear, but if you’re on a shorter hike, you shouldn’t need quite as much.

Handheld GPS

A handheld GPS is a surefire way to know exactly where you are when you’re feeling a little lost. They are a great alternative if you’re no good with a map, as they can tell you where you are, without you having to figure it out. This handy item of hiking gear can help you to find campsites, water and an alternative way back in case of an emergency.

Hiking Gear

What to Wear

Even with a vast collection of technical hiking gear, falling short on the correct clothing will hinder your ability to face the outdoors and the surprises it can throw at you. Loose-fitting, comfortable clothes are usually fine, and it’s worth packing a raincoat and a lightweight insulated jacket too, just in case the weather takes a turn. 

Hiking Boots or Shoes

There are many different hiking gear brands and styles to choose from when it comes to hiking boots. If you’re not sure what you should go for, opt for a trusted brand that you’re confident champions durability. If you have weak ankles, it’s wise to get boots rather than shoes, to protect your ankles and help to stop you from going over on them.

Breathable T-Shirt or Long-Sleeved Shirt

You can wear a breathable shirt rather than packing it with your hiking gear. These kinds of shirts will help to keep you cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cold, and they won’t rub or become soaked with sweat after a few hours of walking. Long-sleeved, lightweight shirts can also help to protect you from the sun and insects.

Waterproof or Quick Drying Trousers or Shorts

These kinds of shorts or trousers are not only great for movement as they’re generally loose-fitting and comfortable, but due to their material, they’re also fantastic for keeping you both cool and warm as you need it. Plus, being waterproof or quick-drying, they’ll not slow you down if it does start raining.

If you’re looking to kit yourself out with all the best hiking gear and you’re trying to find that ideal insulated coat to take with you, our NESSH Jacket is designed with hikers and adventurers in mind, to keep you protected in the elements. Take a look at our product page to view all the specifications.

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Down Fill Power; Which one should you choose?

Down Fill Power

There are all sorts of options out there when choosing a down jacket, such as the insulation type, the style and the Down Fill Power, not to mention the colour! There are advantages and disadvantages to both down and synthetic insulation, but if you’ve decided that down is for you, there are several different Down Fill Power grades to get familiar with and choose from.

Down jackets tend to use either goose or duck plumage, which are both known for their exceptional warmth, but when it comes to Down Fill Power, what does this mean and which one is right for you?

What is down?

Down can be found in between the birds’ skin and their outer, waterproof feathers. The down is exactly what geese and ducks use to keep them warm and to help them to float on the water, and is unmatched in its ability to insulate. This is because air is one of the best insulators out there, and down clusters capture air within them. So with a down jacket on, air is warmed by your own body heat, and then trapped next to you within the down, which is why you’re kept so warm.

The one thing to bear in mind when on the quest for a down jacket is that the down does in fact come from an animal, so it’s important to make sure that whichever Down Fill Power you choose, make sure the down is certified by the Responsible Down Standard.

Down Fill Power

What does Down Fill Power mean?

Down Fill Power is the rating system used to assess the quality of goose and duck down. Ranging from 300 – 900+, the number can usually be found on the sleeve, tag or label on the item. The number is representative of the volume in cubic inches of a single ounce of down when the down is fully lofted, so essentially, Down Fill Power is how much space an ounce of the down takes up.

The higher the number of the Down Fill Power, the more space one ounce takes up, resulting in more air being trapped and the jacket being warmer. However, this doesn’t always mean that the higher the Down Fill Power, the warmer the jacket; that depends on the weight and quantity of down.

For example, a jacket with a low amount of 800 Down Fill Power may not be as warm as a jacket with a high amount of 500 Down Fill Power, but the warmer jacket will weigh a lot more, making it unsuitable for some activities such as hiking, climbing or skiing. The lower fill power will also be a lot less compressible as there’s less air in the down to squash.

Down is formed in clusters, and the maximum loft is achieved when the down clusters are fully expanded, as this is when they take up the most space. Larger clusters come from older birds, and because they are larger, they can trap more air, giving them greater insulating power. So higher the Down Fill Power, the larger the clusters tend to be, and the longer the jacket will retain its loft.

High quality down is considered to have at least 550 Down Fill Power. There’s no equivalent test for synthetic insulation, so you can’t use the Down Fill Power rating system for those kinds of jackets, making it difficult to compare the two in terms of warmth to weight ratio.

Synthetic Insulation vs Down Fill

Synthetic Insulation and Down Fill each have their own advantages. A synthetic jacket is better in wet weather but doesn’t always keep you as warm, whereas a down jacket is arguably the best material to keep warm, but won’t perform too well in the rain. Here at Dark Peak, we offer both synthetic and down NESSH jackets, so you can choose the one that fits your lifestyle best. Our synthetic jackets are both vegan and allergy-friendly, sporting 3M Featherless FL700 insulation; a synthetic insulation that gives industry-leading warmth to weight as well as incredible compressibility. Our down jackets use 850 Down Fill Power goose down, putting it right at the top end of the scale in down quality. What’s more, we only ever use Responsibly Sourced goose down, making for an ethical jacket, as well as an incredibly warm and lightweight one.

Down Fill Power

Which one should you choose?

A high Down Fill Power jacket will be lighter and more compressible than a lower Down Fill Power jacket of the same warmth, so if you’re after a down jacket to keep you warm whilst you’re out hiking or climbing, a high Down Fill Power is right for you.

The right Down Fill Power for you depends on the main activity you’ll be using your jacket for, and how warm and compressible you need it to be. If you’re a keen hiker or climber, high Down Fill Power is the right choice for you, and our NESSH Jacket boasts a very high 850 Down Fill Power, which will keep you toasty warm when you’re out in the elements. Take a look at our product page to find out more about our high quality, high Down Fill Power NESSH Jacket.

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Outdoor Activities: How to Get the Kids Excited about Going Outside

Outdoor activities all too often take a backseat now thanks to phones, tablets and televisions. Although screen time can be fun and even educational at times, there’s nothing like learning about the environment around us and getting back to nature.

If you’ve ever wondered why your kids enjoy the cardboard box their new toy came in, more than the toy itself, the answer is simple: imagination. This is exactly why kids love sticks, leaves and mud. These pieces of nature do nothing on their own – unlike toys and devices these days – so a child has to use their imagination and creativity to come up with uses for them. Outdoor activities encourage kids to step outside of their comfort zone, using sticks as pens to draw with or make dens, and by using mud as their canvas to draw on or make messy mud pies.

There are all sorts of opportunities out there, and if you can get your kids involved in fun outdoor activities, they’ll always be excited about going outside.

Leave No Trace

The first – and maybe most important – thing to remember when taking part in outdoor activities is to treat the countryside with respect, and leave no trace of your presence there after you’ve left. A few key tips for doing this are as follows:

  1. Never leave litter – pack it in, pack it out.
  2. Only use what has already fallen (unless you plan on eating it).
  3. Don’t trample plants, break sticks off living trees, or pick wildflowers.
  4. Never disturb nesting animals.

Try to use only what nature offers you. If you do need to use anything like rope or string, just make sure to take it back with you at the end of the day. Kids learn by example and by instilling a respect for nature and the environment through fun and responsible outdoor activities at a young age, you will help them grow into responsible adults who will pass that respect onto future generations. If you’re interested in finding out more about this, keep an eye on our site – we’ll be going into more detail about the importance of Leave No Trace in a future post.

Outdoor activities: how to get the kids excited about going outside

Wildlife

The great outdoors is home to all sorts of wildlife, so make the most of it when planning outdoor activities for your little ones. They’ll love seeing who can spot the most squirrels or identifying different types of birds or insects. Once they get a little older, they’ll also be able to start tracking animals by identifying paw prints or fur that’s been caught on fences or trees. Encourage your little adventurers to listen to all the sounds going on around them and challenge them to identify which noise belongs to which animal. Kids are often fascinated by animals, so using wildlife to support your outdoor activities will always be a winner. Just remember to treat wildlife with respect, encourage unobtrusive observation, and make sure not to interfere with the wildlife they encounter.

Building, Making And Creating

Sticks are great when it comes to outdoor activities; their possibilities are endless. If there’s a stream nearby, why not skip the easy option of ‘Poohsticks’ and instead make boats! Use sticks for the hull, leaves for the sail, and anything else you and the kids can find to make each boat. Then race them to see whose boat is the fastest!

One of the main outdoor activities kids love is building dens, and let’s be honest, you’ll probably enjoy this just as much as they will. If the kids are old enough, they should be able to lift relatively big sticks, so you can try building a den big enough for them (and you) to sit inside. Use long, straight sticks to build the main structure, lots of thin, bendy sticks to weave between the big sticks, and as many leaves, moss and grass to cover the walls and make the carpet. If your kids are quite little and big sticks are a bit of a challenge, they can still get involved with den making by building them for animals or fairies.

For the more artsy children, outdoor activities can involve using sticks as pens, with mud as their paper. They can write their name, draw pictures and even use other items they’ve found to stick in the mud to create a masterpiece. Or, if they’d rather not use mud as their paper, bring a small bag or box for them to collect their favourite items in and when you get home, they’ll be all set to make a nature collage.

Most kids will love messy outdoor activities, so head off to find the muddiest spot you can for mud pies. If you’ve got beach buckets or even small plastic tubs, take them with you, if not, be prepared to get even messier. Fill the buckets with mud, and whatever else the kids can find to put in them, turn them over onto the ground and voila; one mud pie. If you’ve not got buckets with you, it just means you’ll have to use your hands to mould the mud into a pie shape instead. Here, the most appealing pie wins, just don’t eat them. As far as outdoor activities go, this one is one of the muckiest, but also one of the most fun!

If your kids really struggle to be away from their tablets, give them a camera or a phone to take some pictures with. They might still be on an electronic device, but their focus is on the outdoor activities they’re taking part in as well as nature and what they can see. Eventually, the kids might get interested enough to put the phone down and get involved in some more hands-on outdoor activities.

Outdoor Activities: How to get the kids excited about going outside

Nature

Nature has so much to offer simply by being there, making it one of the best props for outdoor activities. The kids will love a scavenger hunt, so make a list of a few things to find such as pine cones, feathers and twigs and send them off on their adventure. You could even get a nature picture book to help you identify any plants, trees or wildlife you come across.

The nearest, stream, river or lake can be a great place for a variety of fun outdoor activities, such as paddling, skipping stones and searching for creatures that live in or near water, such as frogs, tadpoles, fish and birds. Water can be hazardous, so always take care and supervise your kids carefully. Be sure to check for water hazards such as fast flowing currents, and beware of dangerous animals if you live in an area where they are known to inhabit.

If they’re old enough, the kids will love the thrill of climbing a tree. This is one of those outdoor activities which should be left to your best judgement and should only be attempted under your supervision. The achievement of climbing even just a short way up a tree will make your kids proud of themselves, give them a confidence boost, and even encourage them to problem solve and work together so that everyone can complete the challenge.

Sometimes, when you’re out doing outdoor activities, you might come across wild garlic or a blackberry bush. Take a few bags or jars with you when you go out, in case you come across anything you can forage and include in that evening’s dinner. Your kids will love knowing where their food has come from, and the fact that they were involved in the picking and making of it. Educate yourself on edible plants that grow near you and of course, if you aren’t certain a plant is edible, then it’s best to leave it be.

Games And Exercise

As well as walking to your destination, your little energetic monsters can get some exercise with games and outdoor activities, such as hide and seek and tag, which are far more fun when you’re outside in nature. You can also set up races and challenges for everyone to get involved in. Why not have your own mini Olympics with relays from tree to tree, weight lifting with small stones, climbing up rocks and anything else you can think of?

An obstacle course competition is possibly one of the most fun outdoor activities out there, and nature offers a lot of obstacles. Use a fallen tree trunk as a balance beam, rocks for climbing, streams for jumping. There are all sorts of challenges waiting to be overcome, and the kids will thrive off completing them, giving them the confidence and skills they can use in future.

These are all outdoor activities which the kids will love getting involved in. Take them to the same places throughout the year so they can see the change in seasons and the varying items nature has to offer for different times of year, and every time you head outside, take a picnic so you can be with nature all day long, just maybe bring the mud pie suggestion out after everyone has eaten! Here at Dark Peak, we’re all about outdoor activities and getting everyone back to nature. Take a look at our pages to find out more about our love of the outdoors.

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Helping the Homeless: Making a Difference for Someone Sleeping on the Streets

Helping the homeless is something most of us think about doing when we encounter someone living with homelessness on the street. Maybe it’s in the moment, or sometime soon after we feel like we should do something to help, but many people aren’t sure of the best way to lend a helping hand. Should you give money? Should you give food? Should you simply offer a conversation? When it comes to helping the homeless, some of these things are more helpful than others, so below are a few pointers that will really help you make a difference.

The first thing to do if you’re interested in helping the homeless to any extent is educate yourself, so you can gain some understanding of rough sleepers, without judging them. Learn about the reasons someone could end up sleeping rough; it’s often not what you might think. These include a lack of affordable housing, loss of a job, divorce, illness, substance abuse, domestic abuse, amongst a whole host of other reasons. If you’d like to know more about the causes of homelessness, some good resources are listed at the bottom of this article.

It’s also wise to research local charities, non-profits or shelters which work towards helping the homeless, so you can pass on this information to any homeless people you meet. They might not be aware of the support available to them and might be grateful to know of organisations who can offer them food, shelter or even just a listening ear.

How to Act

One of the main things to bear in mind when approaching a homeless person is that they are in fact just that; a person. Helping the homeless doesn’t have to be difficult; all they might want from you is a little acknowledgement, compassion and to be treated like a human being. A homeless person might spend their whole day being ignored, so a smile and a simple ‘hello’ can go a long way towards improving someone’s day.

When striking up a conversation with someone on the streets, show respect and compassion towards them and their situation. Firstly, make eye contact so that they feel valued and second, if the person is sitting down, try to speak to them at their eye level, by crouching down or asking if you can sit with them for a short while.  One of the easiest ways to help is to ask them if there’s anything they need and then offer to buy them something if you can afford it. Sometimes this can be as simple as offering to buy them a cup of tea or coffee.

If you see someone who looks to be in immediate danger, call the emergency services and let them know where they are.

Sometimes the homeless person you approach might not want to talk to you, or might not be in an appropriate state of mind for conversation. You can still help by taking the time to find out which organisations in your area are geared towards helping the homeless people in your area. These organisations – be it a shelter, soup kitchen, registered charity, or non-profit etc – will almost always appreciate your support. Be aware that these helping the homeless organisations all have different needs; some may ask for lightly worn clothing, others might prefer monetary donations to provide meals and other services to their homeless clients. Talk to them and ask what they need and if you can help, donate whatever you are comfortable with. Whatever you do, don’t just send a bunch of old clothes or some tinned food etc to one of these organisations unsolicited, as while they’d probably appreciate that your heart’s in the right place, they might not be set up to receive these items.  

What to Give

Remember, when you see someone begging in the streets, that not everyone who begs is actually homeless. This is why a lot of charities and shelters advise that you might not be helping the homeless at all by handing out money, which could be spent on alcohol or drugs. While providing short term mental escape from their situation, these do not actually help a person and could result in them being left in a worse mental state or in a physically vulnerable condition, unable to look after or protect themselves.  

In many cases, it’s much more helpful to donate food, clothes and other useful items, instead of money. In addition to this, care packages containing a few essential, low-cost items are a great way of helping the homeless. Below is a list of items to consider giving:

Helping the Homeless: Making a Difference for someone sleeping on the Streets

Food & Drink

  • Water bottle or a soft drink
  • Canned food with pull tabs that can be eaten cold, such as tinned fruit or tuna
  • Crackers
  • Peanut butter
  • Cereal or granola bars
  • Cheese
  • Mints
  • Tea or coffee or another hot drink
  • Pet food

You could also consider donating a gift card for a food shop or café (we suggest ones that don’t serve alcohol). This way, they can choose the meal they fancy the most, and even escape from the elements for a short while.

Additionally, more and more cafes are choosing to try helping the homeless with a pending coffee scheme, whereby you can buy an extra coffee and leave it as ‘pending’ until someone comes in who can’t afford one. Ask if your regular cafe does this, and if so contribute. If they don’t, make a friendly suggestion to their management that they consider starting a similar scheme.

Toiletries

  • Wipes
  • Alcohol hand sanitizer
  • Tissues
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Dental floss
  • Nail clippers
  • Plasters
  • Lip balm
  • Comb or brush
  • Deodorant
  • Hand lotion

Other Useful Items

  • Blankets
  • Sleeping bags
  • Rucksacks
  • Cups
  • Utensils
  • Books
  • An encouraging personalized note

Helping the homeless with a package made up of some of the above items is a great way to show you care, though bear in mind that the essentials required by a homeless person vary from place to place and season to season. For example, in the winter, great items to give are gloves, hats and heat packs, as well as a decent jacket or even a sleeping bag. However, the summer heat means that summer essentials include sun cream, a sun hat, or perhaps a frozen bottle of water to help protect from the sun and cool down.

Another great thing to include when helping the homeless with care packages is a list of free resources and helplines in your local community. A rough sleeper might not always be aware of the assistance available to them, so a list like this could get them the support they need to get off the streets.

Helping the Homeless:  Making a Difference for Someone Sleeping on the Streets

Giving Clothes

Giving clothes is a great way to begin helping the homeless in your area. The below items are always near the top of many shelters ‘items we need’ lists:

  • Coats / jackets
  • Socks (new pairs)
  • Gloves
  • Base layers (t-shirts etc.)
  • Sweaters / Hoodies
  • Trousers / pants
  • Shoes

Of course, not everyone is the same shoe size as you and your old jacket might not fit the nearest homeless person who you’d like to donate it to. It’s often better to donate clothes through an organization who can sort them and distribute them appropriately. If you have lightly worn clothes consider donating them to a local shelter, but make sure to contact them first and ask what they need, before wasting a journey turning up with bags of old clothes.

Alternatively, you could consider running a coat drive. One Warm Coat (https://www.onewarmcoat.org/ ) is a US national non-profit organization that works to provide a free, warm coat to any person in need. They support individuals, groups, companies and organizations across the U.S. by providing the tools and resources needed for helping the homeless, collecting lightly used coats for donation to people in need.

Similarly in the UK, Wrap Up London https://wrapuplondon.org.uk/ run a yearly winter coat drive to gather coats for the local homeless. Don’t live in the US or UK? Start by searching the web for “coat drive UK” (change UK for your country / city) to find out which organisations arrange coat drives near you.

What to Do Next

Depending on where you live, there might be a local or national organisation nearby, for when you come across a homeless person who looks as though they need a helping hand. For example, StreetLink (streetlink.org.uk) work in the UK towards helping the homeless across England and Wales, by connecting people sleeping rough with local services that can support them. If you don’t live in the UK, there may be a similar organisation in your home country – the best place to start is by searching the web.

Helping the Homeless: Making a Difference for someone Sleeping on the Streets

If you live in the UK and the weather looks to be getting bad, get in touch with your local council to ask about SWEP (Severe Weather Emergency Protocol). This is an initiative whereby local authorities aim to provide emergency shelter to homeless people in extreme and dangerous weather conditions. If there is a local SWEP location helping the homeless to escape the weather in your area, point people you see in the right direction so they can get shelter.

Similar to this in the US, some fire stations, libraries or recreation centers open their doors on especially cold nights as emergency shelters, or warming centers. Make a point of knowing what sort of emergency weather services are available to help the homeless people in your area, so you can pass this information on if you encounter anyone who needs help during extreme weather events.

For ongoing ways to keep helping the homeless, you could consider calling up your local shelters to find out which items are needed and try and source them. It’s amazing what items you can find when you have a clear out, that would be gratefully received by a homeless shelter.

If someone is begging aggressively, or even harassing you, call the police and report the incident. Again, if someone looks to be in any immediate danger, call the emergency services to get them the help they need.

There are many gestures big and small which can contribute towards helping the homeless. If you’re looking to work towards helping the homeless, you can do so with our NESSH Jacket. We’ve designed a jacket tailored to the specific needs of a homeless person, and for every NESSH Jacket we sell, we give one of these jackets away as part of our #OneSoldOneGiven initiative. This means that by purchasing one of our NESSH jackets, you are also helping the homeless. Take a look at our website to find out about our story and the only jacket in the world which keeps two people warm.

Find out more about the causes of homelessness:

UK:

Homeless Link: https://www.homeless.org.uk/facts-figures

Crisis: https://www.crisis.org.uk/ending-homelessness/about-homelessness/

Streets of London: http://www.streetsoflondon.org.uk/about-homelessness

USA:

Lendedu have published this useful guide listing programs and resources available to people facing homelessness: https://lendedu.com/blog/get-back-on-your-feet-guide-for-homeless/

National Alliance to End Homelessness: https://endhomelessness.org/homelessness-in-america/

National Coalition for the Homeless: https://nationalhomeless.org/about-homelessness/

Europe: FEANTSA: https://www.feantsa.org/en/about-us/faq

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Down Jacket Care; How To Safely And Effectively Clean Your Pride And Joy

Down Jacket

How to wash a down jacket is one of the biggest questions that outdoor clothing owners face. You’ve invested in a down jacket, so to preserve its quality, it’s worth investing your time into keeping it looking and functioning at its best.

Many hikers, cyclists, adventurers and climbers believe it isn’t possible to clean a down jacket, for risk of ruining it or being left with a down jacket that’s not as insulating as it once was.

The truth is that it is totally possible to wash a down jacket, you just need to make sure that it’s done properly, using the right equipment and detergent to avoid the panic of thinking you’ve ruined your prized possession. With a bit of time and care, this guide will have your down jacket looking good, feeling warm and will actually extend its usable life.

What you’ll need:

  • Front loading washing machine (or large tub if hand washing)
  • Down jacket specific washing detergent
  • Dryer
  • 2 or 3 clean tennis balls or dryer balls

Expected time: 2 – 3 hours


Down Jacket

Down Jacket Washing and Drying Method:

1. Pre-Wash Preparation

Before you wash your down jacket, it’s a good idea to remove any loose dirt with a brush. Make sure you do up any zips or velcro, close any flaps and ensure there’s nothing in the pockets. Down jackets can tear against rough or sharp objects and surfaces, so don’t give them any excuse to.

Turn your jacket inside out, and if it’s really dirty, you can even soak it for an hour in warm (not hot) water, before sticking it in the washing machine. This will help to ease off any excess dirt, just try to squeeze out some of the water before you put it in the washing machine, but make sure not to wring the jacket out as this is likely to damage it.

2.a. Machine Washing

It’s important to note that you should only use a front loading washing machine for this step. If you don’t have access to one, we recommend hand washing instead (2.b). Do not use a top loading agitator washing machine, as this can damage the jacket.

The first thing you need to do when you wash your down jacket in a washing machine is clean out the detergent section of any leftover suds or powders. Then if you can, run a hot wash without anything inside the drum. This is to ensure that there’s no residue left in the machine that can damage the delicate plumes in your jacket.

Set the machine to a cool, gentle wash at around 30°C (some machines refer to this as the Wool Cycle). We recommend using a down jacket specific detergent, these are designed not to damage the water-resistant coating or the down itself. If you can get hold of NIKWAX Down Wash Direct, this is a great detergent to use.

Follow the instructions on the down jacket detergent, regarding the amount of detergent to use, and set the cycle going.

Once the machine has finished its cycle, run an additional rinse cycle to make sure all the detergent residue in the down has been washed away, and place the machine on a low speed or a gentle, delicate spin cycle to remove any excess moisture. After that, it’s time to start the drying process (3).

2.b. Hand Washing (skip this step if you followed 2.a)

Machine washing your down jacket will yield the best results, however, if you don’t have access to a front loading washing machine or if you’re not very trusting of your washing machine and you’d rather wash your beloved down jacket by hand, you can do so by placing the jacket in a large tub, or even the bath.

First, fill the tub with warm (not hot) water and leave your jacket to soak for about 30 to 60 minutes. Then, using the same down jacket friendly detergent, gently hand wash the jacket to remove dirt and stains. Finally, rinse the jacket well under cold water, making sure to remove any excess detergent, and then carefully squeeze out any excess water (making sure not to twist or wring it) before you start the drying process.

3. The Drying Process

Once your down jacket has been thoroughly cleaned, carefully lift it from the washing machine or tub, making sure not to twist or wring it en route to the dryer. Don’t be alarmed that it looks like a soggy mess, this will improve as the jacket begins to dry. Before popping it into the dryer, squeeze any excess moisture gently from the jacket, again without twisting or wringing the fabric.

Tumble dry the jacket on a low heat (some dryers call this a Wool or Delicates drying cycle) and before you close the door, throw in two or three clean tennis balls or dryer balls. These help to re-loft the down as it dries and stop it from clumping together. Do not try and speed up the drying process by using a high heat setting as this is likely to damage your jacket.

Take your down jacket out of the dryer approximately every 15 minutes to fluff the jacket by hand, as you would a pillow or a cushion. This might sound quite lengthy, but it will result in returning your puffy jacket to its best. Depending on the amount of down in your jacket, it can take up to 2 hours for it to dry completely, so make sure you’ve got a good book and a cuppa to hand. Once the jacket is mostly dry, you can begin to give it a little shake to reposition the down to any areas that feel a little empty, returning it to the dryer again for another 15 minutes or so. Once it’s completely dry, your down jacket should be as good as new and ready for your next adventure together.

Down Jacket

Things to bear in mind:

  • Don’t wash your down jacket in a top loading washing machine. The centre agitator is likely to damage it.
  • Don’t worry if your jacket smells a little straight after you’ve washed it – this should have disappeared once it’s totally dry.
  • The thing to bear in mind when you need to wash a down jacket is to do it as sparingly as possible, but as frequently as necessary, or in other words, about once or twice a year.
  • If the outer fabric on your down jacket is old, weak, damaged or deteriorated, we recommend hand washing instead of using a machine.
  • If you’ve got a synthetic insulation jacket, the cleaning process is much the same, except you don’t need to be as rigorous with the drying process, as the synthetic material doesn’t clump or absorb water in the same way natural down does.

Follow this simple guide to keep your down jacket in the best condition possible. It is commonly believed that washing a down jacket will damage it, but in fact, keeping it dirty and unkempt is likely to be more damaging. It’s good to take the time to care for your down jacket to ensure it has a long and functional life, keeping you warm. Take a look at our NESSH Down Jacket to explore the features it has to offer and to get to know our story.

Down Jacket