Backpacking Storage Tips

Of course it’s more exciting to talk about getting outside and using our gear, but whether it’s due to a change in season or the onset of Monday, gear has to be stored between trips. The way you store your gear and how you treat it after each use will have a major impact on its longevity. Bonus – it will be super easy to grab and go the next time adventure calls. Here are a few backpacking storage tips for three of the essentials.





1) Hiking Boots

Backpacking Storage Tips

Nothing feels better than kicking off your boots at the end of a long trip. To ensure your favorite pair last as long as possible, invest 10 minutes into their care at the end of each trip. When the obvious dirt has been shaken, scrapped or clapped off, use a boot brush (or tooth brush) to clean them with warm water and a mild dish soap. Skip drying them in front of the fire or under the hot sun and let them dry naturally or by a fan. This will keep them from drying out and getting brittle. Soak up any extra moisture by stuffing them with newspaper. Condition and waterproof your boots a few times each year to keep them refreshed. If your boots come home a little stinky (it’s okay, mine do too) you can toss a few herbal tea bags inside to combat the odor (dryer sheets work well, too). Store your boots indoors in a dry place – keeping them in a shed or garage puts them at risk of becoming a home for creepy, crawly critters.


2) Tents

Backpacking Storage Tips
Photo by Zach Dischner

Making sure your tent lives long and prospers starts at the campsite. Even if you use a footprint underneath, avoid pitching your tent on roots and rocks and instead find a space that has even, clear ground to call your temporary home. Not only will you sleep better, you will prevent unnecessary wear and tear on the bottom of your tent. Make a habit of taking off your shoes before entering your tent to help keep dirt and debris at bay. Make sure to sweep and shake out your tent before packing it out.

When you get home, unpack your tent to make sure it’s completely dry before storing it. This may mean setting it up in your living room, back yard or porch for a night, but the alternative is worse. Storing a wet or damp tent will lead to an untimely end – and some horrible smells. Once your tent is dry and clean, tuck it away in a dry location with mild temperatures.


3) Sleeping Bags

Backpacking Storage Tips

First thing’s first – hang your bag inside-out somewhere to air out. Even if your bag didn’t get wet (we hope it didn’t) it needs the fresh air to help eliminate any odors and dampness. If you have the space, store your bag like this whenever it’s not in use. If you can’t hang your bag to store it, keep it in a light cotton sack (like a laundry bag or pillow case) – NOT the compression bag you use to pack it.

If your bag does get wet, air drying is the safest way to get rid of mold and mildew-causing moisture, but it does take some time. If the time between uses is short, you can toss your bag in the dryer on the air-dry cycle or very low heat. Pause the dryer every so often to make sure the bag isn’t heating up to a melting point. Be cautious of zippers and metal tabs that can heat up while in the dryer. Near the end of the cycle, throw in a (clean) pair of shoes or boots or a few tennis balls to keep the filling from clumping up. Need a quick fix between trips? Hang your back inside-out outside and spray it down lightly with an unscented fabric refresher (think Febreze). Whip away any places where the moisture from the spray has beaded, and let the bag dry in the open air.


So the next time you walk in the door sunkissed and dirt covered, exhausted from having left it all on the trail, crack open a cold beer and take a hot shower – then, do yourself a favor and spend a little extra time with your gear. You’ll thank yourself the next time you’re ready to head out again. Be good to your gear, and it will be good to you.

Helpful hint: When storing gear in bins or boxes, add a few dryer sheets. Not only will they absorb any unpleasant odors you brought home with you, but the fresh scent will keep you feeling clean on the next trip – even if you haven’t showered in a few days.

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