We all know the feeling. You get home late at night, you’re tired, and you have to get up early for work the next morning. The last thing you want to do is clean up all your backpacking gear. But, if you want to ensure all your stuff holds up for years to come, don’t just throw it in the corner of the garage and forget about it. Here are a few quick things you should do as soon as you get home from that awesome backpacking (or even camping) weekend. You’ll be happy you did when it’s time to roll out again.
Water Filter: Depending on the type of filter you use, least of all remove any hose and let dry completely. If you use a reservoir type filter, fill with warm water and a mild detergent, do not use bleach or boiling water. Scrub the inside of the reservoir with a sponge or soft brush, then rinse completely. Remove the hose and let both the reservoir and hose fully dry before storing.
Clothes: Wash any dirty clothes and make sure they are completely dry before storing. If you have stinky synthetic apparel, check out this post on how to get them smelling fresh again.
Bear Can: Wash and dry before storing.
Water Bottles, Pots, and Dishes: Wash all bottles and other camp dishes when you get home and let them dry out completely before storing. If you have stubborn stains in your bottles or hydration reservoirs, try using Bottle Bright. A tip for keeping your pots clean when cooking over campfires or open flame–rub bar soap on the pots before use. They may still turn black and sooty, but the soap helps them wash clean when you get home.
Backpack: Make sure everything is out of your pack before storing. You don’t want to find a moldy, half eaten granola bar next time you pull your pack out of the closet. If it’s dirty or stinky, check out this post on how to clean your backpack.
Tent: It’s highly likely that you had to quickly pack up your tent in the morning and shove it in the stuff sack full of dew, condensation, and dirt. So, as soon as you get home, air out your tent and rain fly either by hanging it over a railing, or setting it up in a cool, dry place. Once dry, either sweep or shake out your tent, making sure that rocks, leaves, dirt, dog hair, and branches are all out of the tent before packing it. If there is a ton of dirt on the bottom of your tent, you can use a sponge and mild soap to wipe it off. And always let it air dry before re-packing. Roll your tent lightly with the poles and stakes (in their bags) rolled into the tent body and store in the stuff sack or large breathable bag in a cool, dry place.
Sleeping Bag: You will want to air out your sleeping bag when you get home for at least 24 hours. If it’s really dirty or been used often, you can wash it in on the gentle cycle in a front loader washing machine using a down wash or a tech wash. Dry in the dryer on medium to low heat along with a couple of tennis balls to help break up any insulation clumps. Hang the sleeping bag until you are sure it is completely dry, then store loosely in a large breathable bag or hang in a closet.
Sleeping Pad and Pillow: Air out your pad and wipe off any dirt before rolling and storing.
To Do List: Make a list of what needs to be repaired before you forget. Zipper sticking on your tent? Hole in your jacket? Ran out of gas for your stove and need to buy more? I also jot down a list of things I wish I would have brought with me or left at home to continually dial in my ultimate backpacking gear list.
Any other quick gear maintenance tips you follow when you get home from your backpacking trip?