How to Clean Your Outdoor Gear
We all love to play in the dirt, but all that grime can be detrimental to the life of your gear. Keeping your gear clean can help you adventure for longer. At the end of an adventure-filled season, you may want to spend a little time giving your most coveted tent, puffy, and sleeping bag a little TLC (tender loving care, not chasing waterfalls, or a feel-good tv channel). We’ll show you how to get the most life out of your favorite adventure items with this guide on how to clean your outdoor gear.
Clean Your Outdoor Gear with Nikwax
Nikwax has always had somewhat of a cult following. Why? Because it’s built specifically to keep your tent, sleeping bag, and down products lasting longer.
When you use your gear, dirt and grime build up on the material. This clogs the natural “pores” of the fabric. As a result, your favorite puffy doesn’t insulate as well. You sweat and the moisture can’t escape, leaving you feeling colder.
Your tent takes a beating in the summer sun. The waterproofing on your tent wears out and you find yourself miles from home, in a drippy situation.
Here’s a few Nikwax products we recommend to keep your gear in tip-top shape mile after mile:
- Nikwax Tent and Gear Solarwash and Solarproof: Spray-on cleaners and protectors for anything that needs water proofing or UV protection. Great for packs, tents, awnings and other hard goods.
- Nikwax TechWash and TX.Direct: cleaners and sprays for technical clothing like rainwear, synthetic goods, and wind layers.
- Nikwax Downwash and Downproof: Literally the only products we trust that are safe for technical down (including hydrophobic down).
How to Clean Your Down Jacket
So what’s the skinny on how to clean your outdoor gear that contains down? You want to wash your down articles as little as possible, perhaps once, maybe twice a season. If you’re down jacket is a little dirty then you may want to spot clean, instead of full-on washing. If your coveted puffy is has a nice layer of grit, it’s time for a good wash.
Washing your down jacket opens up the pores of the material so it performs as good as new. However, cleaning down isn’t straight forward. You’ll want a down-specific product like Nikwax. Here’s what to do:
- Read the direction on your downwash product. Follow them specifically for the amount of product to use.
- Read the care instructions on your down jacket. Use good old Google if you cut the tags out.
- Use a front-load washer or bathtub to wash up to two jackets at a time in hot water.
- Agitate with your hands or clean on a low setting with a slow spin.
- Rinse until the wash has disappeared.
- Next, apply the Nikwax Down Proof waterproofing wash to add water repellency and revive breathability back into your puffy.
- Remove from the wash and put products in a dryer. You want to re-loft your down, so do not hand dry.
- Put on low heat and dry several cycles. Tease the loft back to life using a tennis ball or dryer balls in the dryer with the jackets. Alternatively, use your hands every half hour or so to tease the down. Do not use a dryer sheet. Be patient, warmer heat will melt your gear!
Many companies, like Rab, have washing programs, if this list sounds intimidating. Check out if the company that made your puffy offers something like this.
Cleaning Your Sleeping Bag
Cleaning your sleeping bag is exceptionally important. You want to keep your favorite sleeping bag lasting for years.
Down and technical fabric works together to create insulation that breaths. Breathable fabric allows the natural moisture your body creates to escape, leaving you feeling warm instead of damp and cold.
Follow the instructions above for washing your sleeping bag, except only wash one bag at a time. For synthetics, you can use the Nikwax TechWash and TX.Direct.
Store your sleeping bag loose, preferably in a large (we mean very large) laundry bag. This keeps the loft fresh. When bags are stored on hangers or in compression sacks, they clump or compress the natural loft. Loft keeps you warm, so over time your bag’s loft breaks down, making it less effective at keeping you warm.
Cleaning and Re-Waterproofing Your Tent
Give your tent a little love after a season of sleeping under the stars. Tents should be washed and rinsed seasonally (more if you use it often). After every adventure, it’s a good idea to set up your tent to air out when you get home. This gets rid of any unwanted moisture build-up, which can cause mildew and stink. When the tent is set up in your yard or living room, give it a once over with a gentle broom to get rid of any dirt.
Washing your tent at the end of the season keeps it fresh. You’ll also want to re-waterproof your tent as well. If you’re using your tent nearly every weekend, then you’ll for sure want to do this annually. For less use, consider re-waterproofing and protecting your tent every three to five years. Here’s how:
- First, read all care instructions on your tent. Also read the care instructions for your Nikwax Solarwash and Solarproof products. Follow these instructions first for quantities and any particular washign instructions.
- Set up your tent in the yard or indoors.
- Spray on Nikwax Solarwash evenly. Spray larger sections, like footprints or rainflies in sections. Start with a hidden area to test-spray.
- Rub in the product with a damp (not wet) sponge or towel. For tricky areas with excess staining or dirt, use a soft nylon brush.
- Rinse with clean water using a different cloth or sponge.
- Next, spray Nikwax Solarproofing onto appropriate areas. You don’t need to spray nylon straps or webbing.
- Wait for two minutes then wipe down any excess with a damp cloth.
- Inspect your handy work and go over any areas you may have missed.
- Let your tent air dry.
- Repack tent and store for the season.
These simple steps ensure you’ll get the most life out of your gear. You’ll not only save money, but you’re protecting the environment too by buying less. When you care for your tent, puffy, and sleeping bag, you can keep your favorite pieces of outdoor gear feeling like new for longer.
About the Gear Tester
Meg Atteberry is a full-time freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast. Her mission is to empower others to get outside and have an adventure. She loves a sunny crag and delicious trail snacks. When she’s not wordsmithing you can find her hiking, climbing, and mountaineering all over the world with her fiancé and adventure pup, Nina. To learn more about Meg, check out her blog Fox in the Forest. She’d rather be dirty than done up.