How To Clean A Hiking Backpack: What To Do & What Not To Do

Who doesn’t love to go hiking? Well, almost everyone does that. Hiking is a great way to recover from the stress of everyday life. But the difficulties come after that. Depending on the weather, your equipment might be full of mud and soaked with rainwater after a long hike – especially your backpack.

There are so many do’s and don’ts and so many different steps for cleaning a hiking backpack. But, if you are a newbie and want to know about cleaning a hiking backpack, then don’t worry. We have got you covered with a detailed, step-by-step guide: How to clean a hiking backpack?

How to Clean A Hiking Backpack: The Process of Washing

If you are an avid hiker, you want to invest in a high-quality backpack. With such an investment comes the need to take good care of it. So just washing it with water may not be enough.

While you are carrying your backpack on your shoulders and sweating on a hiking journey, the salts from your trickling sweat and the oil from your skin may hamper the hip belt and the shoulder straps. Well, there are different ways of cleaning a backpack. Let us see what they are.

1. Light Cleaning

After a short trip, it is always necessary to have a light cleaning of your backpack. Here is how to do it:

  • Empty the bag, shake it, and turn it upside down so that all the small pieces of dirt or any such things get out of the bag.
  • You may use a tissue to clean the interior of the bag. If you find any light spot, then try to wipe that particular spot with soap and a sponge.
  • But make sure you use cold water only to rinse off the mark. When that specific part is dry, you are good to head out for your next trip.

2. Deep Cleaning

Well, there is no compulsion or mandatory rule to wash your backpack. Depending on the brand and overall condition, you may use your backpack for years. But the stink and the damage are on you, buddy. And if you don’t want to be responsible for it, get hold of your backpack and be ready to take it through the deep cleaning process.

  • So, the first thing is the same as light cleaning. You have to empty your bag and wipe it off casually to remove the backpack’s dust, dirt, or crumbs.
  • Vacuum through the crevices and seams of the pockets in the backpack.
  • The next step is removing the hip belt and the shoulder strap from the backpack.
  • Then wash the straps separately with the help of soap.
  • Rinse it well under a running tap.
  • Also, if your backpack has a detachable metal frame, it should be easy to detach it. Let the frame be set aside.
  • Now comes the central part. A large tub or sink needs to be filled with lukewarm water of about six inches, and make sure to use a mild soap. Now all you have to do is, submerge the bag and wash it vigorously.
  • With the help of a tissue or a soft sponge, clean the bag’s interior and, with the use of a brush, you have to clean the exterior of the bag.
  • But you have to go gentle with the mesh spots and any parts that might contact your skin.
  • Lastly, we now drain all the water.
  • In the next step, rinse it again with fresh water. Double cleansing is good for having a clean, healthy backpack that removes the soap from it entirely and does not allow any residue collection.

These are just general guidelines, so before you wash your backpack, go through the guidelines provided to you by the backpack manufacturer.

How Should You Dry Your Backpack?

The next step after washing your backpack is how you should dry it. You need to follow a thorough process to dry your gear properly. And now, we will share the detailed steps of drying our wet backpack with you.

  • Keep the backpack on a chair in an unfolded manner and switch on the heater in front of it. But be careful; this process may ruin your backpack when it is done regularly. So, avoid doing this method regularly. It is fine when done once in a while. Note: Don’t do this if your backpack is made of leather!
  • One of the easiest methods to dry your wet backpack is electric fans. With the help of these electric fans, one can blow warm air onto the bag. If you keep your damp backpack in front of the electric fan, the backpack’s period to dry up will decrease. Some set the temperature low, while some can do the drying at a higher temperature. The temperature depends on the material from which your backpack is made of. So, if you follow this method, fix your electric fan at the right temperature.
  • An alternative to an electric fan is an electric heater. You have to take a chair, put your unfolded bag on it, and keep it in front of the electric heater. Adjust the temperature accordingly to the backpack’s material.
  • The next trick you can apply to dry your wet backpack is putting a towel inside it. You need to open the zippers, put them in the towel, let them soak all the water and, after some time, take them out. Then hang your wet backpack upside down for the dripping water to get out quickly. A drying rack can be used on which the damp backpack can be clipped and hung.
  • Another easy alternative to all of the methods mentioned above for drying your wet backpack is letting the water from your backpack soak under the sun. Well, not direct scorching sunlight, as sometimes the color of the bag may fade. So, choose a place where you will be able to get a good amount of sun and proper wind.

If you use an electric fan or an electric heater, do not use overheating or extremely low temperatures. Use the one appropriate for your bag, depending on the quality of the material of your backpack.

How Are You Supposed to Store Your Backpack after Cleaning?

It is pretty obvious that after you are cleaning and drying your backpack, the next step is storing the backpack the right way. Storing your hiking backpack is not an easy task, but let us see some of the steps that need to be considered:

  • The storage of hiking backpacks is the last step of our cleaning guide. You cannot keep it unfolded or anyhow you like in a safe place. There are even techniques for it. And the first thing that you have to get done is to have an appropriate storage place. And for that, you will need the proper containers. And speaking of containers brings us to our next point, a flat tube having lids or storage bins.
  • Using a flat tube with lids or storage bins are the right containers to store your cleaned and dried backpack. Remember to not have airtight storage containers, as when your gear is getting exposed repeatedly to quite a level of humidity; it can reduce the quality of your backpack. Hence, you can try out ventilated boxes.
  • You have to make sure that the bin where you keep your hiking backpack must have a lid. This keeps away insects such as moths, dust, and water from your cleaned hiking backpack.
  • You can also use a laundry basket to store your hiking backpack. You can keep them all in a tall laundry basket when you have other hiking pieces of equipment such as hiking poles, tripods, oars, or skis. Also, a quick suggestion is to put a label with a note saying “hiking backpack” on the laundry bag to notice it and remember it.

Never store or keep an unfolded, unclean, or wet hiking backpack inside your storage bins. Make sure you are using a clean storage with a lid and use storage according to the size of your hiking backpack.  

7 Things to Avoid While Cleaning Your Hiking Backpack

Your hiking backpack should be something you are investing in for just one time. It must be of good quality to use for a long time. And so, there must be certain things that may ruin the quality of your backpack. So, those mistakes are to be avoided while cleaning and drying your hiking backpack. If you are aware of those precautions, then fine, and if not, let us take you through it.

  • Avoid using a washing machine while cleaning a hiking backpack at all. The churning inside the washing machine may destroy your backpack and fade away the color of your backpack.
  • Do not make use of any kind of electric dryer too frequently. It can make the quality of your backpack thinner and might even lessen the durability of the backpack.
  • Never use hot water to wash or clean your hiking backpack. Always use lukewarm water to clean your gear. Use a sponge while you are about to wipe away the water for the inside part of your hiking backpack only. And do not use a brush for the interior part of the hiking backpack.
  • For the exterior part of your hiking backpack, use brushes, but do not be too harsh. Be careful with the mesh pores as well.
  • Avoid using direct sunlight to soak up your wet hiking backpack. Use the proper shade to hang your hiking backpack.
  • Do not forget to clean your hiking backpack occasionally. Rather clean it frequently. The zippers are to be cleaned frequently to remove the fine dust particles and the dirt that may get accumulated on them. Avoid scrubbing the zippers as some may be resistant to water.
  • If any of your zippers are stuck someplace, use a lubricant to make them work perfectly again.

Conclusion: How to Clean a Hiking Backpack

Wrapping up, it may be said that hiking backpacks are a delicate, fragile, and expensive thing. So, you must take care of it while cleaning, washing, or storing it in a dry place. Hopefully, this article will guide you through the entire process, and you will not struggle with that “guessing game” anymore.

Further reading: You might also be interested in reading our post about how to clean hiking boots

Last Update: 06. May 2022
About the Author

My name is Thomas, and I love the outdoors. I'm currently living in Germany and I would like to encourage my readers to go outside with this blog. Here you can read more about me.