Forgetting to properly clean or store backpacking gear: It happens to all of us, right? We forget to wash those spoons thoroughly when we get home. Or leave our sleeping bags packed instead of hanging up. It's easy to get caught up in the “maybe just one more trip” mindset. Then we forget to do those chores. And that can lead to disaster for some pieces of gear.
That's why today we're going over things necessary to keeping your backpacking gear in top shape. It's easy to overlook or forget something. Or, there might be some things on our list you hadn't even thought of! We'll also cover what you can do to prepare for the next hiking season.
Packing up your gear at the end of the season is always kind of sad. But don't procrastinate! We hope this article helps you keep your gear in great condition for years to come!
Cleaning, Checking, and Storing
- See if you need any replacement parts - It's always nice to have any replacement parts you need before spring rolls around again. But, it is especially important with the current supply chain issues. It may be several months before you can, say, get a replacement pole for your tent.
- Air your tent out/clean it - This is important so you don't end up with a stinky, moldy tent in the springtime. Any extra body oils and moisture can cause funk when bagged up. At the very least, set it up in the yard, air it out, and sweep out any debris from the inside. If you don't feel like giving it a thorough wash, at least spot wash areas that need it. (Such as sap-covered areas.) Be sure to follow manufacturer's instructions on proper cleaning.
- Wash your sleeping bag - Again, always follow the manufacturer's instructions. It's better to err on the side of caution than to ruin a bag and need to buy a brand new one. Synthetic bags usually do fine in washing machines. Cleaning down bags makes some people nervous. There are companies you can send them in to be professionally washed. Or, in some cases, the manufacturer can do it for you. See our article on sleeping bag care for general instructions on washing down sleeping bags.
- Be sure to clean your sleeping pad too - Any gear that body oils contact needs to be washed. Make sure your sleeping pad is dry on the inside and outside. REI recommends pointing a hairdryer on low heat into the valve to dry the inside.
- Clean out and spot wash your pack - Make sure you get all of those used snack wrappers, plastic bags, etc. It might be a good idea to vacuum any crumbs too. You can't exactly throw a backpack in the washing machine. But, you can still spot wash areas that need it.
- Clean and lubricate trekking poles - This can be an easily overlooked item. Cleaning your poles will help them last longer. Getting them “un-gunked” and lubricated will also make them easier to adjust. This is especially handy if you use them for both hiking and as poles for your tent or tarp.
- Clean water filters and bladders - A moldy tent or tarp is bad enough. But you especially don't want moldy items that hold your drinking and cooking water! Be sure to clean and dry these thoroughly at the end of the season. We'll have more on this in a future post.
- Resupply your first aid kit and check for out-of-date items - It can be easy to forget to do this since (hopefully) you haven't had to use much from it. But, a pain killer here and a bandage there can add up over time. Don't leave yourself without the basic items you might need!
- Thoroughly clean eating utensils, bowls, etc. - You know, the ones that have been half clean all season? We're all guilty of forgetting to properly wash forks, spoons, and cooking pots when we get home from a trip.
- Clean your hiking shoes - Help your favorite pair of hiking shoes last longer. Clean all of the dirt and debris from them at the end of the season. Make sure your laces are in good shape too.
- Check rain gear for tears - Remember that patch of briars you ran into while off-trail? If you haven't already, make sure there aren't any holes or tears in your rain gear. Renew its DWR (Durable Water Repellent) if needed too.
- Properly store your gear - Recommendations on how to correctly store gear are there for a reason: To prolong their life. Sleeping bags are especially important. Make sure to hang them up outside of their stuff sack. At the very least, leave them as uncompressed as possible.
- Stock up on backpacking meals - These dehydrated meals are convenient, but they can be pricey. Check outdoor gear retailers' websites regularly. You can find some good sales on them.
- Take advantage of year-end sales for any gear you need - Sale season is upon us. Stock up on the things you need and save some money!
- Remove batteries from electronics - Cold temperatures can run batteries down. Plus, they can corrode over time. Make sure to remove them from headlamps, flashlights, etc.
- Leave lids off of food and water containers - This helps prevent funky smells.
- Take stock of your gear - Think about what you used and what you didn't to cut down on unnecessary items. Only used your gaiters once? It's probably safe to leave them at home unless you really need them. (i.e. Check the forecast before a trip.) Didn't use that hatchet nearly as much as you thought you would? There's a hefty piece of equipment you can do without.
Organize your gear - If you have the space, organize your gear in a room or closet. Or, make a backpacking checklist to make packing easier next year. You can start with our printable list here.
For more detailed information on how to care for your backpacking gear, head over to REI's library of Care and Repair articles. For more general backpacking-related topics, head over to our Backpacking 101 page. Have a few trips under your belt? Head to our Expert Articles page for more in-depth articles.
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