Your Outdoor Skills: Taking Care of Your Gear Part 1 - Clothes and Sleeping Bags
You’re trip has come to a close and you arrive back home dirty, tired, and happy, refreshed from your trip. You spent time planning what to pack and how to pack before leaving on your trip. On the trail, you appreciate the time spent preparing prior to leaving and kept mental notes about what to do differently next time. When you arrive back home, it’s time to unpack and clean up!
After days, weeks, or maybe even months on the trail, your gear has seen a lot of use - you wore the same shirt every day for three weeks and cooked with your favorite Littlbug wood burning stove at least twice a day! So, now that you’re home, it’s time to clean your gear and store it properly so it’s ready to go for your next trip!
Obviously, you’ll want to wash your stinky clothes if you think you can salvage them. Sometimes they have seen too much sweat and dirt and it’s best to toss them or repurpose them into a rag. If you’re one that likes to camp with a towel, you can throw that in the wash too. Regular laundry detergent works well for most clothing like socks, pants, and shirts.
Be mindful about your clothing. Some of your clothes may need special washing treatments like rain and down jackets. Waterproof items like rain jackets often have an outer treatment that rubs off at friction points like where your backpack rests or your arms rub against your side.
Dirt can also compromise the waterproofing of your rain jacket. If you don’t wash it regularly or after a trip, you may see a decrease in your rain jackets ability to keep you dry. One way to know when you should retreat your rain jacket is if water stops beading on top of the jacket and instead, soaks in.
Retreating your rain jacket is quick and easy, usually requiring a quick step between washing and drying. We recommend checking the recommendations from your jacket’s brand since every brand is slightly different.
Down is light, packs down small, and keeps you warmer than synthetic. However, if you don’t take care of your down jackets and sleeping bags, they start losing their ability to keep you as warm as you remember from your last trip.
When you wash your down gear, we suggest using tennis balls or something similar when drying them. This technique helps in restoring the fluff to bring back its optimal temperature rating. We also recommend not letting your down jacket sit in the washer too long once its finished its final rinse.
Littlbug Tip: If you want to take your down care to the next level, use down specific detergents to get the best results. A favorite of ours is Grangers Down Wash.
If you forget to wash your clothes right after a trip, happen to wait a little too long between washes, or you maybe on a multi-month trip with little to no access to wash your gear. Don’t worry, your jacket and clothing won’t be ruined forever - they’ll just not be at 100%, and that’s OK! Once you remember, or have the opportunity, it’s easy to get them back to performing like they should with a quick washing and drying cycle.
Since sleeping bags tend to be large and bulky, we suggest using a front load washer. This protects the bag and keeps the washer from becoming unbalanced throughout the cycle. However, if you don’t have access to a front load washer, a top load washer will do the trick, just make sure to put it on a gentle cycle.
If you have a down sleeping bag, you’ll want to consider using the washing techniques we discussed about down under the topic of clothing. Synthetic sleeping bags can be washed and dried similarly to your clothing. We like this performance cleaner for outdoor wear from Granger, but any laundry detergent works great.
For storing your sleeping bag, synthetic or down, you should hang them in a closet or store them in the large bag that may have come with your sleeping bag. Do not store them in their stuff sack for long periods of time. Make sure they are stored loosely, and not packed in tight. This allows your bag to air out, and not compromise their warmth ratings.