Let's be real, camping, hiking, biking, and exploring outside are dirty activities. If you are out and using your gear, there is going to come a time that things are not looking (or smelling) as good as they once did. It is like a badge of honor when you get that perfect level of rugged wear that really embodies the adventures you've encountered. But there may come a time when that last dip in the mud, or debacle with the tree sap, or spilled mac and cheese might have pushed it a bit over the line from cool dirty to icky dirty.  If that sounds all too familiar, read on and get some pointers on how to keep your gear in tip-top shape! 


General Principles: 

  • Better safe than sorry:  always keep things gentle, it is better to approach that spot with finesse than to really scrub at it
  • Use a designated tech wash:  there are tons of great soaps and mild detergents out there that are specifically created to handle outdoor gear
    • We recommend Nikwax or Granger products
  • If you do not want to use a tech wash, you can make a vinegar and water solution (1 part water, 2 parts water)
  • When it comes to a backpack, we recommend trying to spot clean over fully immersing your pack given that it is better for the foam components of your pack. If needed, however, you can fully clean and submerse your pack at your own risk.


Spot Treating: 

If you only have one or a few spots that need to be cleaned, then this portion is for you.


  • Soft-bristled brush, sponge, or rag
  • Small bowl
  • Unscented mild dish soap 
  • Water 


  • Find all of the areas you would like to clean and make them easily accessible
  • Wet the spots that need to be cleaned
  • Using a small amount of dish soap, gently scrub at the dirty spots, working slowly to get as much of the residue off as possible
  • Rinse thoroughly to ensure no soap remains
  • Air dry your item until it is completely dry
    • It is crucial you ensure that it is fully dry before packing away or you run the risk of mold and mildew forming
    • Do not use a dryer


Full Cleaning: 

Does your tent or pack's wear and tear go beyond a few spots? If you need to clean your whole item, then this section is for you. If you have a couple of noticeably tougher spots, follow the procedure above then move to this set of instructions next. 


  • Clean bathtub or other large waterproof tub 
  • Cold to lukewarm water
  • Cleaner specifically designed for cleaning outdoor gear 
  • Sponge or cloth 


  • Spot treat any specific trouble spots with the guide above
  • Fill your tub with cool to lukewarm water
  • Follow the instructions on your tech wash and add the correct amount of cleaner to water
  • If washing a tent, turn your tent inside out
  • If washing a pack, be sure all of the pockets are empty  
  • Immerse the tent and rainfly or pack in the tub of water
  • Follow the instructions on the cleaner bottle to see how long to let your tent or pack soak
    • Feel free to gently move the tent or pack around in the water, ensuring all areas are coated in the detergent-filled water
  • Rinse thoroughly, be sure to drain and refill your tub as many times as needed to get all of the soap out of your items 
  • Dry completely and hang your item in an area with limited sun and wind and let it completely dry before storing


Problem Spots: 

  • Tree Sap or other mysterious sticky substance:  gently spot clean with a little rubbing alcohol or mineral oil, being careful not to scrub too hard, rinse and dry thoroughly 
  • Mildew:  try an enzyme cleaner and follow the instructions on the specific cleaner you are using (this often comes from a tent remaining damp for too long so be sure to fully dry the item after washing it)