Now is the time that many of us are looking at a big pile of gear that probably got put thru the ringer this summer. It likely includes sweaty, dirty baselayers, apparel and footwear, grimy sleeping gear, and weather- and sun-worn packs and tents. Before packing your gear away, take some time to give it a little TLC so it will be ready to go again next year—and save you money for not having to replace spendy gear and apparel.
You can revitalize your gear and apparel by cleaning and maintaining it with good performance cleaners and repair products. It’s best to choose cleaning products specially formulated for performance and gear materials. Follow each cleaner’s directions carefully for the best results. You should avoid using household detergents as they can be harmful to technical materials, and can inhibit their performance. Here are a few of our favorite gear maintenance products, with a few tips from the experts.
You can win a gear tune-up kit with some of the items on this page! Just post a photo of a piece of gear that needs help to our Facebook thread or on Instagram. Tag your photo with @pctoregon and #cleanmygear. We’ll choose one winner on Nov. 20, 2017.
After spending weeks (or months) hiking in the same couple pairs of underwear, baselayers and socks, they’ve likely taken on a life of their own—and not a pleasant one. Defunkify Active Wash is a gentle, biodegradable powder detergent that removes funky odors and stains from performance wear. Once you’ve cleaned your apparel with Active Wash, keep it funk-free by treating it with Active Odor Shield, which helps repel odors through multiple uses and extends the life of your layers. Both detergents are non-allergenic and safe to use on all wicking, down and water-repellent materials.
After hiking in the same apparel for multiple days … or weeks … or months, the buildup of dirt, grime and body oils starts to impair your gear’s performance. Breathable fabrics become less effective and DWR finishes start to degrade. You can revitalize your apparel with Nikwax’s specialized Tech Wash and Down Wash. (You can use Down Wash on your sleeping bags, too!) If your rain gear and DWR apparel needs re-proofing, use some TX.Direct after washing. These biodegradable formulas will clean and revitalize performance materials, and ensure it will continue to perform as intended and desired.
For cleaning sleeping bags, always follow the manufacturer’s directions. Use a large machine (without agitator) so the insulation and internal baffling system won’t get twisted and compressed. Close all zippers and wash the bag inside out. Spin twice to remove excess water. For drying, keep it on low heat; this will take many cycles. Throw some clean tennis balls in there to help reduce insulation clumping. — Kendall Wallace, NEMO Equipment, Inc.
Frequent and prolonged exposure to sun, wind and rain can take a toll on tents and backpacks, effectively weakening their materials and degrading their water repellency. Give your tents and packs an end-of-season tune-up with this high-performance waterproofer and UV blocker. This enviro-friendly formula is nonflammable and VOC- and fluorocarbon-free. Application is easy: just wash your gear, spray on the proofer, then wipe clean. Treating your gear with Solarproof will increase its DWR effectiveness and improve its UV resistance, helping your gear last longer.
Hiking boots and footwear often take a serious beating on the trail—probably more than all of your other gear combined. After long periods in the dirt, sun, rain, mud and perhaps even snow, your boots are likely to need some serious TLC. Start by scrubbing them with ReviveX Boot Cleaner to remove dirt and unclog the material’s pores and breathable elements. Once clean, restore their pliability and water repellency with ReviveX Water Proofer & Conditioner. There are formulas for both leather and synthetic footwear. Be sure to follow cleaning and re-proofing directions for best results.
If your tent has gone a season (or a thru-hike) without a good cleaning, give it a bath while it’s set up or hand wash it in the tub. Test the zippers. If they are sticking, use an old toothbrush to clean out dirt and debris. — Kendall Wallace, NEMO Equipment, Inc.
When cleaning your gear, it’s also a good time to make needed repairs. Poke a hole in your sleeping pad? Snag your jacket on a tree limb? Blow out your boot’s sole? Instead of purchasing an expensive replacement, fix it with an inexpensive repair product from Gear Aid. Use Tenacious Tape patches on tents, pads, jackets and other items to fix small holes and tears. It’s better than duct tape and water repellent. For boots, packs and other items that need more than a patch, use Seam Grip. This waterproof adhesive works on just about all materials and will keep your gear running strong.
When choosing a cleaning or repair product, be sure to choose the product best suited for the items you’re treating, e.g., leather, synthetic, wool, etc. Then follow the product’s directions to ensure the best cleaning or repair results. Keeping your gear clean, treated and in good repair will prolong your gear’s life and performance, which will save you money and ensure good times on trail.
Do you have hiking gear in need of an end-of-season tune-up? Watch our Facebook and Instagram pages. We’ll be giving away a gear cleaning kit with several of the items featured here.
The cleaning products featured on this page are products used and approved by PCT: Oregon personnel. This post contains affiliate links. All purchases made through these links help support the costs and operations of PCT: Oregon. For more information on PCT: Oregon gear reviews and affiliates, click here.
Thank you to NEMO Equipment, REI and Revolution House Media for additional tips and information.
Main photo: A pair of worn, mud-caked boots and dirty hiking socks in dire need of some care.