Salts from your sweat and oil from your skin is seeping into your shoulder straps and hip belt. Grease spots splatter on your pack when you cooked your one-pot dehydrated cardboard meal. Dirt from muddy tracks, leaning your boots against your pack or from resting on the side of the track attaches to your pack. Food bits in the pockets have gone mouldy and attracted unwanted attention from 6 or 4 legged creatures. Zippers have stopped zippering due to dirt in the teeth.
Sound familiar?
All sorts of not good stuff can happen to your poor wee pack if you don’t look after it properly. A pack can be a huge investment. Luckily for you, in this post, we are going to cover how you can look after your pack so it will accompany you on many more hikes to come. Which let’s face it, is the whole point of a hiking pack really. 
All sorts of not good stuff can happen to your poor wee pack if you don't look after it properly. A pack can be a huge investment. Luckily for you, in this post, we are going to cover how you can look after your pack so it will accompany you on many more hikes to come. Which let's face it, is the whole point of a hiking pack really. 

 

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Whether you’re doing a light cleaning or a deep cleaning, here’s what you’ll need

  • A mild soap—one that has no fragrances or other additives.
  • Clean sponge or washcloth
  • Soft (not stiff) nylon-bristled brush or used toothbrush

Cleaning your backpack involves a bit more than just tossing it into the washing machine. In fact, don’t even think about doing that: you’ll ruin your pack. The agitation from a machine can break down fabrics. It can also break down the foam in your hip belts, shoulder straps and back panels. The straps can get twisted and ruined as well. A washing machine is not your packs friend. 


Techniques for Cleaning Your Backpack

Before you do aaaanything, read the instructions that come with your pack. Different fabrics will need to be treated in different ways. Not all fabrics are alike. If there are separate instructions that come with the gear, file it away for future reference. Often the best place is to use a shoebox that once stored your hiking boots and leave it with your stored hiking gear.

In general, follow these guidelines:

  • Never wash a pack in a washing machine or dry it in a dryer.
  • Use lukewarm (not hot) water, and use your soft sponge or brush sparingly, so you don’t harm any protective coatings on the pack.
  • Hang the pack to dry in the shade or indoors, not in the direct sun (UV light can degrade the fabric).
  • Zippers need occasional cleaning to remove fine sand, dust and other particles. Be careful not to scrub, many zippers have water-resistant coatings that you may damage. If your zipper is stuck, use a special zip lubricant to help it get on its merry way again.

You should do some general maintenance after each trip but probably won’t have to give it a complete washing every time.

Light Cleaning Slash General Maintenance

After any hike or an overnight trip, it’s a good idea to do a quick once-over of your pack. Here’s how:

  • Empty all pockets. Shake it upside down to get out sand and dirt. You don’t want to find a used sock in there from your previous hike. Trust me, it’s not a nice surprise. Mouldy food also isn’t a fun find.
  • Use your clean sponge (no soap needed) to wipe out interiors.
  • Lightly scrub any stains or spots on the exterior with your sponge and a little soap. You can use an old toothbrush for spot cleaning.
  • Use clean, cool water with your sponge or cloth to rinse off the soap.
  • When the pack’s dry, pop your Ten Essentials back in so you’re ready to go on your next hike.

the ten essentials packing checklist

Deep Cleaning

You may go years without properly cleaning your pack (guilty as charged here), but sooner or later you’ll want to get the funk, sweat and camp smoke out of it. Here’s how:

  • After emptying your pack, gently vacuum seams and crevices in the pockets and way down inside the main body of the pack to remove any crumbs, sand or loose dirt.
  • Remove the hip-belt and shoulder straps, if your pack allows. Wash those separately with a sponge and a little soap. Rinse well under running water.
  • If your pack has a removable metal frame, take that out and set aside.
  • Fill a bathtub or large sink with about 6 inches of lukewarm water. Use your mild soap. Submerge and swish your pack vigorously, sponging off the interiors and brushing exterior spots. Pay attention to any places that come in contact with the skin. Be gentle with mesh pockets.
  • Make sure any large stains and the back panel get a good look. Don’t forget the zippers, the dirt and dust can make them more difficult to use, so get that grime out.
  • Drain. Fill with 6 inches of clean cool water, rinse well. Rinse twice if necessary to remove all soap residue. A hose or detachable showerhead works wonders.
  • Leave it completely opened up to dry out, or hang it up to air dry completely before storing. It’ll take quite a while to completely dry, so don’t fret if it’s been a day or two.
  • Once dry, you can add lubricant to the zippers if you wish, as well as Nikwax Tent and Gear SolarProof (or similar) on the bag itself for waterproofing and UV blocker protection.

Storing Your Hiking Pack

Once you’ve cleaned your pack, store it in a cool, dry place, and hang it if possible. Whatever you do, don’t leave your pack on the garage floor. Water or other liquids like engine oil could seep into the pack and damage it. As well as liquid, mice and other small creatures can damage your pack. Mice will chew through the fabric of your pack on their quest to find food. There is nothing worse than finding out you’ve lost half your pack on your way up the hill due to a small hole courtesy of a hungry mouse. Am just assuming here but I could imagine that it wouldn’t be too good. Educated guess.

If you don’t have a garage, hang it in a wardrobe (simple hooks put up on the back of a door work well). Keep your pack out of the sun as UV rays can damage the fabric and store it somewhere dry. On a hook in the bathroom, prooobably isn’t going to be the smartest move. Use your noggin’ when it comes to storing your pack. Think of mould as little tiny creatures with large teeth who’s fave food is hiking packs. You don’t want them to be able to set up house.

 

Final Thoughts

It is inevitable that your backpack is going to need to be cleaned at some point; however, you can help to limit the amount of cleaning required by protecting your backpack from spillages inside and waterproofing it on the outside. Always make sure you check the washing instructions for your backpack before placing it in water, and especially before using the washing machine to clean it. By keeping your gear (relatively) free of dirt and grime and storing it properly you can make your gear last (almost) forever.

 

 

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All sorts of not good stuff can happen to your poor wee pack if you don't look after it properly. A pack can be a huge investment. Luckily for you, in this post, we are going to cover how you can look after your pack so it will accompany you on many more hikes to come. Which let's face it, is the whole point of a hiking pack really. 

All sorts of not good stuff can happen to your poor wee pack if you don't look after it properly. A pack can be a huge investment. Luckily for you, in this post, we are going to cover how you can look after your pack so it will accompany you on many more hikes to come. Which let's face it, is the whole point of a hiking pack really. 

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