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Editors' Choice

How to Keep Your Pack From Getting Gross

In the field stuff happens, and knowing how to cope can be the difference between a great trip and a miserable one. Plus, your backpack should last many years, but only if you know how to keep it working properly.

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Pack damage is innocuous at first—fraying webbing, abrasion on the packbag, small tears in mesh or stretch-woven pockets—but if left unattended, these little glitches could eventually spell doom for your beloved load hauler. Hungry critters, UV damage and mold can compromise your pack’s water resistance. Keep your pack clean and dry to avoid the worst.

Follow these tips, from Kristin Hostetter’s “Complete Guide to Outdoor Gear Maintenance and Repair: Step-by-Step Techniques to Maximize Performance and Save Money,” to keep your backpack finely tuned, properly stored, and operating at its best.

Marmot Graviton 58 Pack

Prevent & Maintain:

  • Protect both your pack and your back by never lifting your pack by just one shoulder strap. Use the hauler handle on the frame, below the lid if you need to carry it by hand.
  • Prolonged rain calls for a specialized cover. Backpacks—for the most part—are not waterproof, but water-repellent (there are exceptions). Your pack will likely repel light to moderate rain, but if serious, prolonged rain is a possibility, bring a specialized pack cover. It will help keep your pack dry and reduce the chance of mold.
  • Keep extra buckles in your repair kit. Be sure to measure and make sure they’re the right size as the ones on your pack.
  • Catch tears early. The minute you see a hole wearing through mesh or fabric on your pack, slap some Seam Grip on there to keep it from spreading. Fix bigger mesh holes with a needle and thread.
  • Vacuum it. Neglect this chore and your pack will become a magnet for squirrels, mice, raccoons, and other critters who are well-known for chewing through even tough, 1,000-denier Cordura to get to a few crumbs from your Clif Bar. (Don’t store food in your pack at night either.)
  • Give it a good scrub. Once a year, wash it with warm water and a mild dish soap. Give it some serious elbow grease, particularly in areas of the pack that come in contact with your body: the shoulder straps, the hipbelt, and any back padding.
  • Hang it in the shade to dry. UV damage can wreak havoc on a pack as much as it does on your tent.


  • Seal webbing edges. Keep edges from unraveling by melting them slightly with a lighter.
  • Carry a Duraflex Slik Clip. This little buckle can join any two pieces of 1-inch webbing without sewing, which is handy if any of your pack straps break.
  • Big gashes call for tech support. Send it to the manufacturer or a specialist for any repair that requires a frustratingly tedious sewing job.
  • Restore water resistance with Nikwax’s Tent & Gear SolarProof. It adds DWR and helps blocks UV rays.
  • Re-apply seam tape. It’s very rare that your backpack has seam tape. If it does, you’re likely the owner of a specialized rolltop pack that’s billed as 100% waterproof.
  • Peel off the old tape. Clean the seams using an alcohol prep pad and let dry. Next install an applicator brush on a tube of Gear-Aid Seam Grip and simply re-paint the seam, being sure to cover both lines of stitching. Let cure overnight.

Stay dry in the wettest conditions with Marmot’s EVODry – rainwear reinvented at the molecular level.

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