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Outdoor Gear Spring Cleaning

As we make the transition from winter to spring, do you have a spring cleaning regimen for your outdoor gear? Clean gear makes for better functioning and longer-lasting gear. And well-organized gear gets you outside faster, with the right stuff.

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. Have the right supplies and know what you're doing before you start messing with your $400 sleeping bag.

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.

  • 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 what you're putting into storage too. (Grangers, McNett, and Nikwax 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). 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.


Oh, I thought maybe we were gonna clean the "outdoors", not a bad idea.

Actually I will probably wash a bunch of stuff (jackets and pants) in goretex wash and then do the wash in DWR and then dry em in a hot dryer to activate everything.

Us dirtbags don't really want to be seen with a bunch of shiny clean gear so I won't clean my tents. I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I threw my pack into a washing machine recently, but since its an $850 pack I wanted it at least look like spectra since everybody goes "wow is that a spectra pack?"

Jim S

Storage of gear can make a big difference. Storing in open net bags things like tents and sleeping bags. Then hanging it off floors will help keep it fresh and ready to go

I usually pick a brutally hot mid-summer weekend and do this, as I can hang stuff outside to dry in the shade. I also "Obenauf" my various boots then and thus get'er all done in 3-4 days. Sometimes, if I get all the work done and everything is drying, there is time for a couple of BEERS!!!!

Jim S......What is your ...$850.00... Spectra pack, a McHale? I know a guy who bought a huge pack from Dan, on my recommendation as he is rich and has everything else and he had it coloured a neat mossy green as he hunts with it. This is a "full Dyneema" rig and it nearly made me sell all my various MRs and Bozeman DDS plus the few others I have and get one like it......really super stuff and packs made from it are the way to go, IMO, lighter and tougher than 1000D whatever.

Thanks Alicia for the tips. Perfect indoor activity for a cool, rainy spring day.

I agree with others in saying proper storage is very important. Be sure to test your equipment. I'm glad you pointed out the first aid kit. Lots of things in there that can expire! Water purification tablets expire too - check them as well..

Thanks for the article.

I've been setting up a spare bedroom as an outdoor / camera / my stuff gear area. Getting my printer out of the living room is something both my wife and I have wanted to do since I got it.

Will be nice to have my camping stuff better organized and in one location. Right now some in in the garage, some in the laundry room, and some in the pantry.

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