How To Take Care Of Your Hiking Gear
Di Westaway | Chief Adventure Chick at Wild Women On Top
“Buy less, choose well, make it last.” Vivienne Westwood, Fashion Designer
My worst ever gear catastrophe came enroute to Everest Base Camp in a cosy tea house. As my body thawed from the icy conditions outside, I carefully hung my expensive new down jacket around the back of my plastic chair.
When I stood up, my red jacket exploded in a shower of white feathers. It took me a few moments to realise that the weight of my gorgeous garment had pulled the flimsy chair backwards past the pot belly fire box, which instantly melted it.
I spent two hours with a needle and thread, wishing I had had a repair kit handy.
I love investing in quality gear because it keeps me safe and comfortable. However, its often expensive, so it’s essential I make it last. Most reputable brands have a section on their websites to help you with gear care and maintenance, but we’ve selected five hiking essentials to give you our top tips.
Your hydration pack (water bladder)
It's pretty gross when you open your hiking bladder to find a slimy bite valve or a smelly innards. To avoid this, you need to carefully clean it after every use.
How to clean it: No matter how tired you are, empty out the water immediately after use and wash with a combination of bicarbonate soda and lemon juice, then rinse well. The trick is to make sure you rinse well, including the tube and the bite valve mouthpiece. If you’ve been on a multi day hike, its worthwhile using a cotton bud to scrape around the inside of the mouthpiece to ensure there’s no traces of food and drink to become home to bacteria while you’re sleeping.
How to store it: Firstly, blow out the residual water in the tube, then dry out the inside by propping your bladder upside down on a bottle, or keeping it spread open with a modified metal coathanger or similar until it's dry inside. Store in the freezer where mould won't grow.
You don't want to climb into your newish tent to find mould staring at you from the ceiling. Here’s how to avoid it:
How to clean it: If you want a delicious fresh tent, you need to ensure it's clean and fully dry before you carefully pack it into the sack. If this is impossible in the wild, make sure to clean and dry it as soon as you get home. Clean by wiping out with a warm damp cloth then dry and air it out on the clothes line. Do not pack your tent up until it's super dry.
How to store it: Many tents now come with storage sacks so you can loosely roll them into a large bag and store in a clean dry place with room for your tent to breathe. If yours doesn’t have a sack, we recommend using a pillow case or similar to store your tent. Don’t roll it up tight into the tent bag until you’re ready to pack for your next adventure.
Your down jacket
Your down jacket is one of the most expensive items of clothing you'll buy, so it's important to know how to keep it looking and feeling its best!
How to repair it: There’s lots of down jacket repair kits on the market but the best one I’ve found is Tenacious Tape by Gear Aid, which is a clear waterproof sticky patch that you cut into a circle and stick on like tape. Don’t use an iron-on patch or you might melt your jacket.
How to clean it: For little marks, you can just sponge with warm water. If it needs a full wash, fill the bath with warm slightly soapy water (dissolved Lux flakes are great) and hand wash, or use washing machine on a gentle cycle at 30 degrees C. Dry flat in the shade and fluff feathers occasionally, or tumble dry on very low heat.
How to store it: Ideally hang in a dry place rather than squeezing into a stuff sack or pocket to ensure it's well aired.
Your Gortex raincoat
Over time, your waterproof jacket will stop keeping you dry. The good news is you can re-waterproof it!
How to re-waterproof it: Iron using a hot iron or throw in a hot dryer to restore the waterproof membrane.
How to clean it: Wash in washing machine on 30 degrees C on a gentle cycle and hang on the line in the sun to dry.
How to repair it: This is not the time for a needle and thread. Purchase a Gortex repair kit from your local gear supplier or online to match the brand and colour of your jacket.