Cleaning and Caring for your backpacks

Cleaning and Caring for your backpacks

Posted by Richard Lievaart on 25th Feb 2021

All of the gear we own and use outdoors is designed to be light and flexible but also strong, waterproof, warm and durable depending on what the product is.

In our last instalment of caring for your gear, we will take you through your hiking best friend, the backpack.

If you missed the previous ones, check out:

Great all round tips I have always tried to stick to with gear:

    • Avoid – Avoid damage ( take off the down jacket before you walk through a bush)
    • Store correctly – Keep tents dry, don’t leave your Down sleeping bag in its stuff sack
    • Maintain – Use the correct products to clean and look after gear regularly
    • Know the lifespan – Eventually your tent will just be too old and it’s time for a new one

Caring and cleaning your Backpacks

Your bag is your best friend when you are on a multi-day hike. It has all your gear in the right pockets, and it should be sitting on you back like a turtle’s shell, comfy and a part of you. In order to keep it like this we need to clean it. Oils and salts from your sweat get caught in the padding and the fabrics this will degrade the fabric if not taken care of. Your zips will also get filled up with gunk and will wear out and get sticky. This is just what happens with age.

To avoid damage, you can rinse and lightly clean your bag after every hike – you won’t need to use detergents unless it is very dirty. Just rinse it in a lukewarm water bath and give it a light scrub in any stained areas. Empty all the pockets and give them a wipe with a cloth, wipe the zips but be careful not to scrub them as many zips have a water-resistant treatment, but rinse the small dust particles out and then get some zip lubricant.

If you have not kept it clean and it’s now looking a bit funky and maybe has a little smell, then it’s time for a deep clean. Our all-time favourite Nikwax Tech wash time ;)

  • Take out all the gear, tissues and energy bar packets from the pockets and give the pockets a good vacuum to get all the dust and crumbs from between the seams.
  • If your bag has a removable frame then take this out carefully – make sure you know how it came out so you can put it back correctly. Do the same with the hip belt and shoulder straps and wash these separately.
  • Fill a tub with lukewarm water and add the Tech Wash as per the bottle’s instructions. Submerge the bag and let it soak for a few minutes, so all the tough stains have a chance to soften. Then use a sponge and wash the interior and then the exterior of the bag. Be careful with the mesh pockets and give some extra attention to places that come in contact with your skin.
  • Then Drain the tub and rinse the bag with cool clean water and get all the soap out. Keep rinsing until the soap is gone, again make sure that any places that come in contact with you have no soap in them as this can lead to irritation on your next hike.
  • Then hang the bag in a dry shady spot or indoors, not in direct sunlight. UV light can degrade the fabric.
  • You can then add a dry lubricant to the zips so they run smoothly. This can be any lubricant that has a wax base rather than an oil base. You can use bees wax or candle wax, just don’t use too much. Look at the bicycle lubricants or Cam lube. Do not use Q20, this will just make your bag dirty again.

While doing all this cleaning check your bags buckles and the fabric to make sure they are all still looking good. Any chipped buckles should be replaced or repaired, and the straps may need a stitch or two to make sure they are still strong. Keep a spare buckle in your pack in case you need one.

Then when all is looking good, replace the 10 essential items so you bag is ready to go.

Happy hiking!