Blue-sky days are creeping out of the Northwest winter— and so are we. Just around the corner are wildflower days on Mount Rainier, picnic lunches on the Olympic Coast and big mileage trips in the Cascades. But we still have a few more weeks of waiting. What better to do than a bit of spring cleaning to get ready for those long summer days? Here are all the tips and tricks you need to spring-clean your gear into tip-top shape for the upcoming season:

Spring Cleaning
Summer in Mount Rainier National Park is just around the corner


A winter packed away in the garage can leave your tent in need of a clean. You’ll thank yourself when you’re laying down enjoying the fresh smell of summer wildflowers instead of mildew from last season. On a sunny day — they’re becoming more and more frequent around here, so no excuse — pitch your tent outside and lay out the rain-fly. Make sure the interior of the tent is free from any lingering bits of paper, energy bar wrappers, etc. Then, using a sponge, a bucket full of warm water and some mild dish soap, scrub down your tent inside and out. Do the same with your rain-fly. Take a look at your zippers and make sure they’re free from any grit to avoid breaks when you’re out on trips. Rinse down everything with a garden hose and let it air-dry in the sun.

Sleeping Bags

There are two routes for sleeping bags: the quick fix and the deep clean. If you want to save some time and a trip to the laundromat — and you’re sleeping bag isn’t that dirty— the quick fix is for you. Turn your bag inside-out and spray it down with a mild fabric refresher like Febreze. Then use a washcloth to dry any excess moisture on the bag. Next, hang the bag outside so that it can air out and dry. Try and leave it in the fresh air for 30 minutes to an hour.

In need of a more thorough washing? Front loading washers work best. If you don’t have one, head down to the laundromat. Run your bag on a gentle cycle using cool water and mild soap or soap made specifically for the job. NIKWAX Tech Wash for synthetic bags and NIKWAX Down Cleaner for down work well. To make sure all the soap residue is off, it doesn’t hurt to run it through a second rinse cycle when it’s finished. Next, on low heat, dry your sleeping bag with a couple of tennis balls to break up clumps.


Rack up the miles last season? All that use over time can result in tears and abrasions. Use seam grip (Gear Aid makes a reliable product) on any weak areas to reinforce the seams and avoid tearing, applying a thin layer over the area that needs help. Too late for reinforcements? Gear Aid also makes fabric patches to cover tears, but Duct Tape works too if the “well-loved” look is more your style.

Next, give your pack a wash to avoid having last season’s funk hanging around on this summer’s hikes. Shake out your pack to remove any lingering grit. Check the pockets and zippered compartments, where things may have gotten stuck. If you’re feeling industrious, use a vacuum to get rid of any stubborn dirt and give your pack a thorough clean. Then, take a bucket of warm water and add a bit of mild dish soap. Using a sponge, rub down the interior and exterior of your pack, paying special attention to the pack bottom, backpanel and straps — areas extra vulnerable to sweat and dirt. Rinse down your pack with a garden hose and leave it in the sun to dry.

There you have it. Now, even if you might be a little smelly after a few days on the trail, your gear will be staying fresh. Just a bit of spring-cleaning will get your gear into shape for the summer — start planning all your must-do trips, so you’ll be ready when things warm up.

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