How to Clean and Store Your Gear
By keeping your gear (relatively) free of dirt and grime and storing it properly you can make your gear last forever.
Hiking every weekend is good for the soul, but it can be hell on nylon, leather, and the rest of your backpacking kit. So before you toss your dirty, dinged-up gear in your closet for the winter, try these simple cleaning, repair, and storage tips.
Boots Wash with warm water to remove dirt. Avoid soap, which can clog breathable membranes. Seal the exterior with a waterproof treatment appropriate to the material, paying special attention to the seams.
White gas stove Disassemble and wipe down all parts with a fuel-soaked rag. Inspect gaskets and O-rings for damage, then lube them with mineral oil. Soak the shaker jet and needle in gas to remove any gunk.
Backpack Dunk and scrub it in a large plastic tub of warm, soapy water. Rinse with a hose and hang to dry. Inspect straps for tears and abrasion. Clean zippers with a toothbrush, and lube them with silicone grease.
Sleeping bag Wash all bags with a gentle detergent in a front-loading washer. Dry in a front-loader, and add tennis balls to keep the insulation from clumping. Hang it in a closet or stuff it in a large, mesh bag.
Sleeping pad Sponge clean with warm, soapy water and hang until completely dry. Store flat or loosely folded with the valve open (under a bed is a good spot) to prevent cracks and creases.
Water filter Soak the filter and hoses in a warm water bath diluted with bleach (1 Tbs. per gallon) or chlorine dioxide tablets. Clean ceramic filters with a brush or sponge. Stash in your freezer to prevent mold growth.
Hydration bladder Scrub with soapy water, soak in a diluted bleach solution, then rinse. Clean screw caps or zip-top closures with a toothbrush. Hang upside down to drain water, and when completely dry, store in a fridge.
Smart storage Keep your gear in a cool and dry place like a closet–not in a garage. Stackable opaque plastic bins protect against UV light (which degrades urethane coatings), water damage, and dust.