When you’re in between trips, it can be tempting to throw all of your gear into the cupboard and forget about it, but it’s important to clean and store it properly, and that requires a little bit of effort and care.

Hiking Boots

If you didn’t get the chance to properly clean and seal your hiking boots when you returned from your last adventure, now is the perfect time to make sure they’re clean and stored correctly, so that they will last for many years to come.

To clean your boots, first remove all the detachable parts of the boot or shoe, like insoles and laces. Wash your laces gently in warm water, and wash your insoles with a hard-bristled nail brush and warm soapy water. Both laces and insoles should be air dried away from direct sunlight or heat. Next, the inside of the boot should be wiped out with a wet cloth to remove sweat, salt, dirt, sand and grime.

To clean the main body of your hiking boot, you should seek out footwear specific cleaning products to ensure that you are only increasing the waterproofing capabilities of your shoes and not diminishing them. ReviveX® Boot and Shoe Cleaner is a great option for waterproof boots. Once your boots are cleaned and dried, you can apply a waterproofing and/or conditioning treatment. Liquid treatments like Gear Aid Revivex Leather Water Repellent, Gear Aid Revivex Suede and Fabric Water Repellent, Nikwax Fabric and Leather Proof Waterproofing require your boots to be damp, while Sno-Seal All Season Leather Protection and Nikwax Waterproofing Wax for Leather require your boots to be completely dry, after cleaning.

Photograph: Lachlan Gardiner

When it comes to storing your boots, keep them in a location that is cool, dry and well-ventilated, to avoid any mould growth. It’s also important to keep them out of the sun, so that they don’t wear and crack.

Another essential part of taking care of your boots when you’re not out hiking is making sure you’re still wearing them. Wear them doing jobs around the house or when you’re taking your dog for a walk. If you leave your boots sitting around for months at a time, the glue inside the sole hardens, which can lead to the different layers of the shoe separating from each other and falling apart. Unlike other shoes, you can never wear hiking boots too much!

Washing Waterproof Items

Cleaning and re-waterproofing your waterproof items can take a lot of time and effort, so what better time to do it than now? It’s important to regularly wash your waterproof items like rain jackets, rain pants and tents, because the build-up of dirt, oils, sunscreen, sweat and other surface contaminants can break down the waterproof membranes and the protective DWR (durable water repellent) treatment, allowing water molecules to seep into the fabric and lead to condensation in both your garments and tents. 

Photograph: Lachlan Gardiner

Jackets and pants

We recommend washing your rain jacket and pants every 10-12 days of heavy activity or when they are looking dirty. In between trips when you’re cleaning and taking care of all your gear at home is the perfect time to do this.

Every garment will have specific instructions on the tags that you should adhere to, but as a general rule, follow these steps. First remove anything from the pockets, making sure to close all zippers and Velcro as tightly as possible. Next, wash your waterproof items by themselves, in a regular washing machine in cold water, on a gentle cycle, and with no regular pieces of clothing. Only use a cleaning agent made specifically for cleaning waterproof garments. Nikwax Tech Wash Fabric Cleaner and Gear Aid Revivex Pro Cleaner both do a great job and have detailed instructions. 

Marmot and Patagonia jackets

Caring for your rain jacket properly will help the waterproofing last longer. Photograph: Lachlan Gardiner.

If your gear needs a little more attention as it is no longer beading water when wet, it’s time to treat the jacket or pants to enhance their waterproofing ability. If you need to re-waterproof the DWR coating, there are a couple of ways to do this. Wash-in water repellents like Nikwax TX Direct Wash-In Water Repellent or Gear Aid Revivex Wash-In Water Repellent are better for single layer or water-resistant DWR fabrics, like lightweight rain pants and jackets made to be packable. Waterproofing sprays like Nikwax TX Direct Waterproofing Spray are ideal for multi-layered garments, as you only want to treat the outer layer, allowing the inner membrane to maintain its porous properties and ensuring breathability isn’t reduced. To re-waterproof the garment, place it on a coat hanger and spray it evenly, with more spray on areas where the fabric wets out easily if you know they exist. For a more detailed explanation and a video, check out our blog on how to wash your rain jacket here.

Tents

Washing and re-waterproofing your tent will be a more careful process than washing and re-waterproofing your garments. Wash-in water repellents are perfectly fine to use for tents, as they don’t rely on breathable multi-layer systems in the same way that rain jackets do.

To wash your tent by hand, fill a bathtub or large bucket with enough cool water to submerge the tent body and fly. Add a small amount of cleaning product like Nikwax Tech Wash Fabric Cleaner or Gear Aid Revivex Pro Cleaner and agitate the tent, ensuring the product and water get to all corners of the tent. Let the tent soak for 20 minutes, then agitate again. After this, lift the tent from the water to observe its colour. If the water is brown, drain it, squeeze the water out of the tent and refill it, repeating the cycle. When the tent is clean, rinse it with a new round of water until all the cleaning residue is gone. Dry flat on a washing rack or clean surface, turning and flipping it until completely dry. This could take up to five days, so remain patient.

Photograph: Lachlan Gardiner

To reapply DWR treatment and ensure your tent remains waterproof, set up the tent and fly and let them sit outside until damp. Spray Nikwax TX Direct Waterproofing Spray and use a sponge to spread it all over the tent and fly, one panel at a time, including the floor and avoiding any mesh parts. Let the tent dry completely, before packing it away. If you’re wanting to be extra cautious, or you’ve had issues with leakage at the seams of your tent, Gear Aid’s Seam Grip + FC Fast Cure Seam Sealant is a great product to add an extra layer of protection against the outdoors.

If you want all the products you’d need to clean a tent in one, Granger’s Tent Care Kit would be ideal.

Down Items

Down sleeping bags and jackets can be a little time consuming to wash, so when you’re at home in between trips and have a bit of free time on your hands, it’s a great time to wash them. 

Down can be permanently damaged if it’s compressed for a long period of time causing a reduction in how much it puffs up and how warm it will keep you. Obviously, when you’re on the trail, you want to get it as small as possible, and that’s totally fine, but it’s important to counteract that and store it properly when you’re at home and have the opportunity to let the down expand out as much as it wants to. Your sleeping bag should come with a lofting bag to store it in when you’re in between trips, but hanging it over a coat hanger in your wardrobe does the trick too. Make the same effort with your down jacket, and hang it up or store it loosely in a drawer.

When it comes to down, washing it regularly is important to sustaining its warmth. After you’ve been on a long trip, or if you haven’t washed your down jacket and sleeping bag for a long time, you will notice that your items aren’t lofting as well. Much like waterproof items, down items perform best when they are free from any dirt, oils or other grime. Dirt attracts water and if the fabric absorbs any water it loses all insulating ability, can clump and is very difficult to dry out while on the trail.

To wash your down items, use an agent like the Gear Aid Revivex Down Cleaner, or the Nikwax Down Wash Direct, which enhance DWR and clean the outside of any grime.

Sleeping bag packed away tightly while on your adventure in comparison to when it is stored at home. Photograph: Gear Junkie.

Sleeping bag packed away tightly while on your adventure in comparison to when it is stored at home. Photograph: Gear Junkie.

Clothing

To wash your down jacket, place a maximum of two items in the washing machine, add the specified amount of down cleaner, and wash on a gentle setting with a slow spin. After the washing cycle has finished, lay the down jacket flat to dry properly, fluffing up the down as much as you can. After 24-48 hours, when the jacket is nearly dry, put it in a tumble dryer on low heat with two or three tennis balls to break up clumps of down, checking it regularly. 

Sleeping bags

To wash your sleeping bag, follow these steps.

  1. Undo zippers, flip inside out and soak overnight in a bath or large tub of lukewarm water.
  2. Hand wash using Gear Aid Revivex Down Cleaner or Nikwax Down Wash Direct. Gently knead the suds through the bag.
  3. If the bag is really grimy, leave it submerged in soapy water for a few hours.
  4. Rinse with fresh water to remove all traces of soap. Keep rinsing with fresh water until you cannot see any more suds.
  5. Gently squeeze out all excess moisture while your sleeping bag is still in the bath or tub.
  6. Carefully lift the soggy bag, placing your arms underneath it to support its entire weight, and place it into a washing basket. Down is very heavy when wet and can cause damage to the internal baffles, so be very careful when moving the bag.
  7. Prepare a clean, dry area out of direct sunlight and carefully lay the bag out flat.
  8. Pat the down from both sides of the bag to help minimise down clumping.
  9. Your down bag may require several days to dry completely. Hot, non-humid days are best.

You may dry the sleeping bag using the same method as the down jackets.

Mother carrying her daughter along a bushy trail.

Down for some mid-hike snuggles.

Sleeping Mats

Although storing your self-inflating sleeping mat inside its bag can be tempting because it takes up next to no space, it’s important that you let it naturally self-inflate, and store it in a larger space where it can breathe.

Over time, the baffled foam inside the sleeping mat compresses and can lose its ability to rebound to its absolute capacity, and to insulate as well as it should. It may also be permanently creased. If you’re worried about space, your mat can be loosely rolled and doesn’t need to be completely flat and opened, but what is important is that it has the space to breathe.

To clean your sleeping mat, wipe down the surface with a soapy, wet cloth, making sure to keep water far away from the valves. Let it dry in the fresh air, away from direct sunlight, before storing it as outlined above.

Photograph: Lachlan Gardiner

Water Bottles and Hydration Flasks

Now is a great opportunity to clean out your water bottles and hydration flasks. It’s important that when they’re not in use, you’re storing them correctly, without any leftover water that could encourage mould growth. Wash with soap, and thoroughly rinse out your bottles, before leaving them upside down to drain. Once you’re certain they’re completely dry, you can store them in a cool, dry place.

Bladders like the Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir 2L are more difficult to clean, but you can buy cleaning kits that help to do the job smoothly.

For both water bottles and hydraulic reservoirs, HydraPak Bottle Bright Tablets are fantastic to help clean out any dirt that may have collected inside your bottles or bladders.  

BeFree water purification filter bottle

Photo credit: Lachlan Gardiner

Hiking Packs

Your hiking pack is often the piece of gear that gets chucked around the most and taken care of the least. Most people know how they should be correctly storing their sleeping bags and sleeping mats, but taking care of your hiking pack is important too. Not everything on your hiking pack is necessarily bulletproof, and we want to share some tips to ensure that your hiking pack will hold up for many years to come.

Like all of your other gear, dirt and grime on your hiking pack will wear down the water-resistant outside layer and allow more water to seep into your pack. To get rid of this grime when you return from adventures, scrub your pack with warm, soapy water, then rinse with a hose and hang to dry, avoiding direct sunlight, for a few days and store it in a cool, dry space. Cleaning and lubing your zippers with silicone grease is really important too, and this can be done with a toothbrush. 

Photograph: Lachlan Gardiner

Making Repairs

In between trips is the perfect time to check all of your gear for any tears or abrasions and make repairs to ensure that any small hole is fixed before it has the chance to get any bigger. Once you have washed and dried your gear (and re-waterproofed if necessary), it is the perfect time to make repairs, before you pack up your gear and put it away.

We stock a range of maintenance and repair products. Some key products to point out include Gear Aid’s Tenacious Tape flex patches, both in Gore-Tex and non-Gore-Tex. They also do a mesh patch kit, a reflective tape, and a great all-around field repair kit. These are great for patching holes and preventing them from growing. 

 

Staying at home can feel unproductive, boring, and sad, but with dreams of your next adventures to keep you going, and plenty of ways to make sure you and your gear are ready to go when the moment comes, you’ll stay inspired for your next trips. Let us know the best tips and tricks for taking care of your gear that you’ve learned throughout the years!

 

#ExperienceIsEverything | #PaddyPallin

About The Author

admin

Some 80 years ago, a young bushwalker's dissatisfaction with the limited and heavy bushwalking equipment available prompted him to design and make his own. Before long, word spread, and Paddy Pallin's lightweight, functional designs were soon in demand among fellow bushwalkers. From its early days the company has concentrated on supplying bushwalkers, travellers and adventurers with the highest quality and most advanced products and knowledge. Since 1930 the company has grown to become Australia's leading supplier of specialist outdoor and travel gear. The company, still owned by the Pallin family, now has thirteen stores throughout Australia as well as online, mail order and corporate sales divisions. We are using our vast wealth of knowledge, and experience, to build an online community where we can share our stories, reviews and tech tips to help you research and plan your next adventure.

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