The backpack is the most essential piece of gear that a hiker owns. Each hike takes a toll on the backpack, adding sweat, dirt, grime, and dampness inside, as well as on the outside of the backpack. Therefore, it is essential to clean and store your hiking backpack correctly between hikes.
Our 5 hiking backpack storage tips are:
- Clean the backpack, inside and outside
- Dry the inside of the backpack thoroughly
- Keep the zips clean
- Wash the back padding and shoulder straps
- Clean the sternum strap, hip belt, & lumbar pad
So, there are some necessary steps to take before storing your hiking backpack. This may seem overwhelming, but we will walk you through it below. Keep reading while we take an in-depth look at the best way to store your backpack.
How Should You Store A Hiking Backpack?
You should store a hiking backpack upright inside its plastic cover in a cool, dry place after it has been prepared for storage by cleaning and removing any dirt, grime, or dampness. The preparation prior to storage is essential to extending the life of your hiking backpack.
During a hike, the backpack must always be stored with the back padding and shoulder straps facing up. However, most hikers do exactly the opposite and place the backpack with the back padding flat on the ground, rubbing it on dirt, insects, and small pebbles that stick abrasively. Changing this one habit can make a big difference to the life of the backpack.
5 Hiking Backpack Storage Tips
1. Clean The Backpack, Inside And Outside
During a long hike, a backpack tends to accumulate dust, dirt, and hiking sweat, as well as grease and food from dirty fingers. Food particles on the backpack surface will attract cockroaches and other insects. Therefore, all this buildup needs to be removed from the backpack surface before it is kept in storage.
Hiking backpacks that use a coarse, nylon fiber weave capture dirt and dust very easily,especially in windy areas. After a few days, dirt gets stuck in the fiber weaves and does not come out without a lot of effort. Before washing, remove the frame if possible. Apply any mild soap solution to the dirty areas, then use a toothbrush or small brush to loosen the dirt particles.
Allow the soap solution to soak for some time, then hose it down thoroughly with some pressure in the water. This may need to be done twice depending on the amount of dirt that has to be removed. However, it is well worth the time as the backpack comes out looking new. Of course, the backpack is going to be soaked so make sure to let the water drain out from each compartment before proceeding.
The insides of the backpack may be damp from a wet towel or smell of sweaty clothes that were shoved in during a long hike. Not to mention the stink of sweaty underclothes and dirty socks. Dampness from human fluids has a persistent smell that doesn’t usually go away quickly and may linger for some time.
The fastest way to remove these smells is by cleaning the inside with a soft brush and soapy water. Since the inside padding may have absorbed some of the odors, the inside may need to be washed more than once. Rinse the inside with clean water and then keep it in direct sunlight to remove the smells. Stubborn odors can be removed by giving the pack more time under the sun.
2. Dry The Inside Of The Backpack Thoroughly
Before a backpack goes into storage for some time, make sure that all moisture and dampness has dried out. If this is not done then the backpack will get musty, as well as allow the unpleasant smell of mildew to accumulate. If the backpack can be turned inside out, then do so and allow it to remain in direct sunlight for a few hours.
Sunlight is the best natural deodorizer that utilizes ultraviolet light as a disinfectant to remove mold and mildew. Open each compartment, then place the backpack in direct sunlight for the whole day. Turn it a few times so that the rear part of the backpack gets enough sunlight as well.
Silica gel is widely used as a desiccant in the electronic industry for most new industrial electronic products. It can be purchased in small cloth bags or pouches of different sizes. Place one or two small silica gel pouches in every compartment before zipping it up prior to storage. This ensures that any moisture inside the backpack will be absorbed by it, especially in a humid climate.
3. Keep The Zips Clean
The zips are the most useful parts of the backpack as they perform a few different tasks. They hold the backpack together so that your stuff doesn’t fall out of the backpack, as well as keep water out. If the zips are metal, they can rust or corrode. Therefore, before storing the backpack ensure that the zips are completely dry.
Even the molded plastic or nylon zips need some attention to keep them in good condition. If the zip teeth have dirt or grime caked on them, the chances are that the zip will get jammed on its next use. Prior to storing, the zip teeth need to be washed and cleaned. This applies to both metal as well as plastic and nylon zips.
Any dirt on them can be removed using a toothbrush and some soapy water. This is for plastic molded or nylon zips only, not for metal zips. After the dirt is removed, wipe the teeth with a cotton cloth and allow them to dry for a few hours before using the zip to make sure it opens and closes smoothly. A light layer of paraffin wax or silicone on the zip will remove any roughness.
The procedure is slightly different for metal zips due to the rust factor. A toothbrush must be used, but the soapy water needs to be replaced with low concentration isopropyl alcohol. Clean the metal teeth thoroughly using the alcohol, allow it to dry, then test the zip for smooth working. If the zip feels hard, it may need a light layer of paraffin wax on the teeth so that they interlock freely.
4. Wash The Back Padding And Shoulder Straps
Two areas of the backpack that maintain constant contact with the hiker’s body are the back padding and shoulder straps. Therefore, they absorb a lot of sweat and dust. The dampness in these areas is a magnet for dirt, leading to brown patches on the shoulder straps and back padding. As with the other parts of the backpack that are washed, special care needs to be taken with these areas.
Instead of using a soap solution, apply any mild anti-bacterial soap with a soft brush. Give it some time to soak in, then gently scrub it with the brush. The dirt comes out as brownish soap lather that can be rinsed away. If necessary, repeat the scrubbing and rinse 2 or 3 times until all the brown patches have been removed.
Leave it in direct sunlight for a few hours to dry out. Since the back padding can absorb water and does not dry up very fast, you may need to leave it under the sun for a day or so. Don’t overdo it as the water repellent treatment on the backpack surface gets weakened if exposed to sunlight for a very long time.
5. Clean The Sternum Strap, Hip Belt, & Lumbar Pad
Even though the sternum strap, hip belt, and lumbar pad are not going to collect as much sweat and dirt as the shoulder straps, they still need to be washed. The same soap that was used for the back padding and shoulder straps can be used while paying special attention to any brown areas.
The lumbar pad is likely to be a big repository of sweat and bacteria, so allow it to soak in the soapy water for some time before scrubbing it. As with the shoulder straps and back padding, permit them to dry up in direct sunlight for several hours. Squeeze the pieces to make sure all the water has dried out before re-attaching them to the backpack.
Now that all the various parts of the backpack have been washed, it is time to store it until its next use. Ideally, you should store your hiking backpack vertically from a hook, the same way they are kept in stores. Some people like to keep them in their attic or tucked away in some closet. The plastic rain cover needs to be fitted over the backpack to act as a dust cover.
When it is time to go for your next hike, take out the hiking backpack from storage and pack it with your regular kit. When transporting the backpack by bus or in a car trunk, use two rain covers, one for the front and the other for the back to protect the vital back padding.
A hiking backpack needs to be stored correctly to extend its life. However, the cleaning preparation that goes into it prior to storage can make a big difference to its utility as well, especially if the backpack isn’t going to be used for a few months. Proper storage of the backpack can go a long way in providing a more enjoyable hiking experience the next time you use it.