Time for Spring Gear Cleaning

Despite the snowpack you may see on the ground, spring is officially here. Whether you've been using your gear hard all winter or it's been sitting in a muddy pile since last fall, now is a good time to take stock and clean and repair your outdoor clothing and equipment.

Here are a few brief and general suggestions to get you started. Tell us your gear cleaning and organizational checklists, tips, and stories below, both for the gear you're putting away and the gear you're taking back out of storage.

Number one rule: always follow the manufacturer's directions. There is a lot of variability between outdoor gear materials and their proper maintenance and repair. You don't want to void any warranties either. If you didn't hang on to the care instructions that came with your gear, check the manufacturer's website; many brands list care instructions online. Then, have the right supplies and know what you're doing before you start messing with your $500 sleeping bag.


  • Clean your outerwear and gear with the right products for the job.
    Wash, clean, and treat clothing, outerwear, and footwear. There are numerous products made to clean and treat specific materials: soft shells, down, wool, hard shells, full-grain leather boots. Clean anything you're putting into storage too. (Grangers, McNett, and Nikwax, among others all sell cleaning, repair, and treatments products and kits for outdoor gear, with detailed instructions.)
  • If you need to clean your sleeping bag, again, read the manufacturer's directions. Use only mild soap, not detergent. Wash in a front-loading or commercial machine or by hand (NOT in an top-loading agitator machine or by dry cleaning). Rinse very well. Be very careful lifting up a wet sleeping bag; support all of its weight. Tumble dry on low heat (throw in some tennis balls with a down bag). Find and fix any leaks in your sleeping pad.
  • Set up your tent or shelter outside. Clean off any dirt and debris. Hand wash, if necessary. Make sure you have all the parts. Repair any rips. Now is a good time to seam seal your tent for the new season. Make sure your tent is fully dry before storing.
  • Make sure your stove is clean and ready to go. This is another case where you want to read the manufacturer's instructions closely. Many stove manufacturers sell repair and maintenance kits for specific stove models. Stoves with pumps may need the pump oiled. Don't leave old fuel in a stove you're not using regularly.
  • Store all gear clean, dry, and in its proper place, with all of its parts. Sleeping bags should be loose, not stuffed. Same for any insulated garments.
  • Review your supplies. Check first aid kids for outdated medicine and prescriptions, then restock. Restock or replace any gear repair and maintenance kits and survival gear you carry. Check batteries and replace spares. Buy items like stove fuel, trail maps and guidebooks, favorite meals and snacks now, so you won't waste time looking for them on your way to the trailhead.
  • Get organized. Once your gear and supplies are ready for the trail, organize and label the bins in your gear closet/room/storage space, so you can find exactly the gear you need by activity when you need it: day hiking gear, check; paddling gear, check (I highly recommend a label maker for bins). That way, you can get out the door quickly, without leaving something essential behind. Update and print out your gear checklists (if you've got a laminator, put it to use).

Taking the time to clean and organize your gear now can mean better backcountry trips this spring and summer.

Discuss gear repair and maintenance in the forums

Check out reviews and info for Gear Care and Maintenance products.


Filed under: Outdoor Skills

Comments

Seth Levy (Seth)
TRAILSPACE STAFF
410 reviewer rep
1,055 forum posts
March 21, 2011 at 11:44 a.m. (EDT)

I don't use a water filter much any more, but before the first overnight of the season, I'll typically run a liter or so of tap water with 6 drops of bleach through it.  Who knows what large, angry bacteria have been growing in it all winter!

Rick-Pittsburgh
1,631 reviewer rep
3,962 forum posts
March 21, 2011 at 4:32 p.m. (EDT)

Just figured I would throw this out there. If ya go on the Nikwax site and take a 5 question quiz ya get a sample bottle of their Waterproofing wax for leather. Enough to prolly do a couple pair of boots. Ya do register your email, etc but no worries, they don't sell or outsource your info so ya don't get slammed with emails. If ya refer 3 people to this ya get bonus product. They have to enter your name when they register. Nikwax does this to promote their products. The link is below-

http://quiz.nikwax.com

Ray Anderson
0 reviewer rep
4 forum posts
March 25, 2011 at 9:24 p.m. (EDT)

I used to clean my water filter after winter storage, but now I use Aquamira. It comes in two square bottles and you mix drops from both. It's light, easy, and clean.

Rick-Pittsburgh
1,631 reviewer rep
3,962 forum posts
May 20, 2011 at 9:14 p.m. (EDT)

Filter wise I just pull/clean the check & butterfly valve, and boil the filter. The rest I clean with pretty much the same mixture as Seth mentioned.

mikemorrow
329 reviewer rep
1,124 forum posts
May 20, 2011 at 10:04 p.m. (EDT)

I clean my gear after every trip. Plus who lets winter stop the backpacking? I do use a water filter, if going back out within a week I put it in the fridge. Otherwise I use water and bleach.

Callahan
245 reviewer rep
1,469 forum posts
May 21, 2011 at 12:09 a.m. (EDT)

mikemorrow said:

I clean my gear after every trip. Plus who lets winter stop the backpacking? I do use a water filter, if going back out within a week I put it in the fridge. Otherwise I use water and bleach.

 +1 on this.

I too clean, repair and re-pack.  Come on pick up the slack.  Before you forget about it and nothing is working.

denis daly
87 reviewer rep
1,061 forum posts
May 21, 2011 at 12:37 a.m. (EDT)

Callahan said:

mikemorrow said:

I clean my gear after every trip. Plus who lets winter stop the backpacking? I do use a water filter, if going back out within a week I put it in the fridge. Otherwise I use water and bleach.

 +1 on this.

I too clean, repair and re-pack.  Come on pick up the slack.  Before you forget about it and nothing is working.

 I agree with both of you..I have 3 tents now I use a 5 gal bucket use Nikwax tech cleaner let each one sit awhile.Then rinse fresh water. Set them up rinse again. Let them dry check to see if they need to be resealed and do make repairs. Then Nik wax tent and gear solarproof..I also keep a buggout bag out of habit.

Packin' With The Dog
0 reviewer rep
6 forum posts
June 19, 2011 at 8:41 p.m. (EDT)

Rick-Pittsburgh-  Thanks for the link to nikwax.  I am going to use it on my Mephisto and Timberland walkers.  I really found this blog full of useful reminders.  Thanks. 

Rick-Pittsburgh
1,631 reviewer rep
3,962 forum posts
June 20, 2011 at 4:49 p.m. (EDT)

No prob. I am not sure if they are still doing this promo but its worth a shot.

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