How to Spring Clean Your Gear

Whether you’re a newbie to the outdoor world or a seasoned veteran, I’m sure you’ve discovered that gear plays a central role in your experience in the outdoors. The gear industry is massive and there are numerous companies selling similar items with expensive price tags. I’m a big proponent of renting, sharing, or borrowing gear but there’s some gear you just have to purchase for yourself. We all know gear can get pricey so it’s important to learn how to take care of your gear so that it’ll last for many adventures to come!

It’s officially Spring which means it’s the perfect time to engage in some Spring cleaning. It’s important that gear gets washed/cleaned and it’s really important that it’s done properly. Below is a guide on how to wash some of the most common outdoor gear.


Jackets and sleeping bags are probably the most common down-filled items that people own. If you’re practically living in the item you might want to wash it a couple of times a season. If it only gets used on weekends or occasionally, washing it once a year is probably fine. Supposedly washing down actually improves its longevity!

  • Read the care instructions on the label
  • Use a front loading washing machine on a cold water setting
  • Use a detergent that is specifically for down like Nikwax
  • Dry on low or no-heat and throw in a couple of tennis balls to get the fluff back
Photo by Roman Pohorecki from Pexels

Waterproof Clothing

If your jacket seems to have lost its waterproof feature or just soaks up all the water rather than repel it, it doesn’t mean it’s time to get a new jacket! When your jacket starts wetting out, it may just be time to wash it and reset the fabric’s Durable-Water Repellent (DWR) finish.

  • Check the care instructions on the label
  • Do up the zippers and velcro and brush off any dirt or mud
  • Outdoor gear companies recommend that technical gear like waterproof jackets be washed with a technical detergent that resets the repellency such as Nikwax or Granger’s
Photo by Alesia Kazantceva on Unsplash


Think about the sweaty back you had at the end of the hike or the trash you stuffed in your pack on the last backpacking trip. Did you know that the salt from your sweat can corrode the zippers and cause the nylon fabric to deteriorate? If your backpack looks dirty, smells funky, or seems to be a bit crispy, it’s definitely time to wash it! If you’ve never washed your pack and have used it for more than a season, you’re overdue for a wash. You may not be shocked at this point to learn that you can’t just throw it in the washing machine.

  • Empty it out completely and vacuum the inside to get all of the dirt out of the nooks and crannies
  • Put warm water and a delicate detergent into a bucket of water and use a cloth or sponge to wash the pack, be sure to thoroughly clean the areas that directly touch the skin but don’t scrub too hard because many packs have a weatherproofing coating that you don’t want to scrub off
  • If the zippers have gunk in the treads, use cold water and a toothbrush to clean them
  • Be sure to rinse the pack thoroughly
  • Hang dry the backpack in the shade
Photo by Triptographer Shani Leead

Water Bladder/Bottle

You’re probably used to regularly cleaning your water bottle (or at least I hope you are), but are you as diligent when it comes to cleaning your water bladder? It’s really important to clean water bladders properly and dry them thoroughly so they don’t become mildew. There are a number of cleaning products on the market. Whether you’ve got a Platypus, CamelBak, or other bladder, the cleaning process is the same. You’ll need a few different tools to thoroughly clean your bladder. Check out REI’s stock of reservoir cleaners.

  • You’ll need mild dish soap and an additional cleaner such as reservoir cleaning tablets, baking soda, lemon juice, or bleach
  • Other helpful tools include a reservoir cleaning brush, kitchen scrub brush, and a knotted cord that fits into the tube so you can run it through the tube
  • To dry it, you’ll need clothespins and a hanger, a whisk to put inside the bladder to keep it open, and paper towels that you can stuff inside the bladder

For detailed instructions on how to properly wash a bladder, read the REI guide How to Clean A Hydration Bladder.


The most important thing to remember about caring for your tent is to always make sure it’s completely dry before you stuff it in a sack and store it. Tents can easily grow mold and mildew if they’re even slightly damp. Hang the tent outside in a dry and shady place. Be sure not to leave it out in the sun since the fabric will begin to deteriorate if left in direct sunlight for an extended period of time. If it’s dirty, follow these steps.

  • Shake it out to get the dirt, pine needles, and whatever else it brought home out of all of the nooks and crannies
  • Use Nikwax Tech Wash or a non-detergent soap like dish soap and a sponge or rag to spot clean the tent
  • Submerge the tent in soapy water
  • Rinse thoroughly
  • Hang the tent outside to dry in a cool shaded area and make sure that it is 100% dry before you store it
Photo by Triptographer Ryan Tuttle

If all this talk of cleaning is making you reconsider what gear is truly essential to own, our friends at Coozie Camping might be able to help you out! They rent gear such as tents, sleeping bags, and other camping essentials and they’ll do the cleaning for you. You’ll still need your own jacket, boots, and other personal items so you can’t avoid cleaning outdoor gear entirely. Good luck with the Spring cleaning and I promise your gear and your wallet will thank you!

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