The Adventuress is a blog for women with adventurous spirits.
It's a source of inspiration, planning, tips, and advice from experienced travelers and outdoor adventurers
with the extra flair of being for women and by women only.


Cleaning gear POST hiking trips

Posted: Friday, June 22, 2012

You may be a whiz at cleaning your kitchen floor or toilet bowl... but a hydration system, backpack, or sleeping bag may not seem so instinctual.  Seasoned AGC guide, Jan Latham, shares a few tip on how to handle your outdoor gear with care...

Just got back from one of my favorite hiking trips for women—Introduction to Lightweight Backpacking with a wonderful group of participants who are now ready to do lots more backpacking and plan more active vacations! One of the questions that come up is ‘how to care for gear when you return home’. And---I have some answers!

Hydration Systems:

  • Fill the bladder and hose with warm water and no more than a teaspoon of chlorine bleach.

  • Soak overnight

  • Rinse very well with warm water

  • Separate hose from bladder and hang to dry. If possible hang outside in sunshine.

Never store a hydration bladder wet or partially full. Always empty and dry thoroughly. If, after storing, you find that the balder has grown mold follow the above procedure and soak for about 12 hours. There are also inexpensive kits, which can be purchased to facilitate the cleaning of the hoses. The kit includes a small brush on a long flexible metal rod that allows you to ‘scrub’ the inside of the tube. The mouthpiece can be detached and cleaned as well.


  • First---always read the labels! Yes, I know---I’ve encouraged everyone to cut all labels out but you should have somewhere you’ve saved them or written down all the information! Make sure there are no specific instructions or cautions concerning the care of your backpack.

  • The easiest method:

a. Hang outside

b. Use a soft scrub brush to initially eliminate topical dust, mud and/or debris both inside and out.

c. Soak with your garden hose.

d. Use a small amount of neutral ph soap (liquid hand soap works) or one of the commercially available detergents made specifically for outdoor products. One is called “Sport Wash” but your local outfitter will probably have a selection. Dissolve in a large bucket and use sponge and soft scrub brush to wash.

e. Rinse thoroughly with garden hose.

f. Hang to dry---I initially start out in the sun but then move to a more shady area where the bag can dry slowly with the air currents. This decreases the exposure of the bag materials to heat and the breakdown of the fabric by the sun’s rays.

g. The above process can also be done in a bathtub. The bag can be submerged (place something heavy on top to keep submerged) and soaked before rinsing and continuing as above.

h. If there are stains that do not come out using this method you can use some of the commercial stain removers keeping in mind what the fabric requirements for your particular bag are.

i. Ideally backpacks should be stored with all zippers open, all straps loosened and hung in a dry environment.

j. Proper care of zippers, buckles, etc. includes inspection and cleaning. Look at the Zippers to make sure the teeth are straight with no missing teeth. If zippers are difficult to zip use a bit of soap to lubricate. When zipping try to always use one hand to zip and the other hand to hold the portion being zipped to reduce stress on the zipper. Buckles and rings should be inspected to ensure they are working properly and are clean. Replace if broken. Replacement buckles, rings, etc. can usually be found at your local outfitter or contact the maker of your backpack.

k. Patching of any holes or tears can be done using heat sensitive materials or seek professional help.


Next post... we'll talk about cleaning sleeping bags!

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