Gear Cleaning – Camping Supplies

Gear Cleaning - Camping Supplies Gear Cleaning – Camping Supplies

Spring is upon us, which means longer days, warmer nights, and many more opportunities for enjoying time in the outdoors. It is time to break out the camping supplies that have been sitting in a corner of the garage or closet all winter long. Before you move your gear into the car and hit the road though, it is a good idea to give it all a thorough look over. Even if you did your best to properly store everything, unforeseen damage can happen, and finding out about it at home is highly preferable to discovering the problem in the wilderness.

The best spring cleaning you can do happens in the fall, before you put your camping gear away. Removing any grime and properly storing camping supplies is key to elongating the life of gear. Failing to do these things may reveal funky smells and deteriorated fabric during your springtime inspection and clean.

The following recommendations really should be taken to heart during all times of year, but can work as spring cleaning guidelines for anyone who forgot to scrub their gear down during the fall. Instructions on how to properly store each of these items have also been included. Before cleaning your gear always double check the specific cleaning instructions given by the manufacturer for that product.


Backpacks should be emptied completely before being put away. This includes making sure all trash, crumbs, gravel, and other debris is removed from the large and small pockets alike. A hand-held vacuum cleaner works best for getting all the crud out.


Once your backpack is empty, look it over and smell it to decide if it needs a deeper clean. Excessive washing erodes the materials that your bag is made from, leaving it less sturdy and more water permeable. This is true for all fabric based outdoor gear. However, if your bag smells, washing is necessary and important, since failing to do so may allow a mold or fungus to grow, ruining the material. An excessive amount of dirt may also necessitate a deep cleaning.

Wash your backpack by hand in the tub or a large bin. Scrub thoroughly with a delicate detergent, using a large brush, cloth, or your hands. Rinse thoroughly with a hose or detachable shower-head, then air dry. Stand the backpack up to dry if possible, so that more fabric makes contact with the air.

If your backpack only has a few dirt spots on it and doesn’t smell, this thorough type of clean isn’t necessary. Spot cleaning will be effective for removing debris and will be easier on the fabric.

Store your backpack someone cool, dry, and out of the sun. Keep it off the floor, to stop critters from making it a home. If it is stored in the garage, keeping it elevated also prevents your bag from getting engine oil on it.


Tents should be cleaned after every use. This is especially true if it had any type of moisture on it when you put it away. If possible, allow your tent to dry in the sun at the campground before you pack it up. A wet tent needs to be taken out of its bag and dried as soon as you get home.

Once the tent is dry, clean all debris out. An easy trick is to take the stakes out while the tent is still pitched. Secure the fabric that makes the door so that they stay wide open, then lift the tent and turn it on its side, shaking the dirt out as you do so. Make sure to clean the corners and to wipe down the floor with a paper towel to ensure you get all the dirt. Any tough spots should be scrubbed with soap and water.

As you clean your tent also be on the lookout for any holes. Specialty tent patch kits can be found at outdoor retailers and online. These kits include the proper kind of needle, thread, and patch fabric (mesh and nylon) for repairing a tent, as well as instructions on how the repairs should be done.

Like a backpack, deep cleaning your tent is only necessary if you get something truly nasty on it or it starts to develop a bad smell. Dirty spots can be cleaned by hosing your tent down and gently scrubbing the grime away. A bad smell usually means mildew, which is more difficult to get rid of. One possible home remedy is to mix non-detergent soap with one cup of lemon juice, one cup of salt, and a gallon of hot water. Scrub the entirety of the tent with this solution, rinse, then set up and dry in the sun.

Make sure that every part of your tent is dry before storing it, since wetness is what causes mold. Although it is ok to keep your tent in its stuff suck, storing in a larger bag does put less stress on the seams and helps the waterproofing to last longer. However you choose to store it, make sure your tent is out of the sun.

Sleeping Bags

Sleeping bags should be washed periodically, especially if any type of smell has developed. They can be washed in a washing machine with gentle soap, however, make sure it is a front-loading machine that doesn’t have an agitator. This will be much easier on the fabric and better for your bag. Likewise, using the right cleaner can do a lot to maintain your bag. Pick one that restores repellency for the best results.

You can hang your bag to air dry or dry it in the dryer. If you do choose to use the dryer, make sure it is on the lowest setting. Put a few tennis balls in the dryer as well. They will bounce around throughout the cycle, hitting your bag, and stopping the filling from clumping as they do so.

The best way to store sleeping bags is on a hanger in a closet or spread out under the bed. A loose bag or pillowcase can also work though, and many bags come with a large mesh bag specifically for this purpose. Just make sure not to store your bag in its stuff sack, as this will cause it to lose loft and thereby become less warm. Also, make sure to keep your bag off dirty floors and out of direct sunlight.