Joyful campers: find out how to look after mountain climbing gear, even within the pouring rain | Style


Being out in the elements requires protection from them, and as any hiker knows, an outdoor adventure often comes with sweaty, dusty and/or wet weather.

While this is part of the fun, leaving dirt, moisture and sweat behind can shorten the life of outdoor gear; turn a cheap hobby into a very expensive one.

“Consistent washing of gear really helps extend the life of a product,” says Patagonia’s Corey Simpson, because engineered fabrics “all work better when they’re not clogged or covered in dirt and oil.”

Wash while hiking

If you need to wash your gear during a camping trip, Simpson recommends “finding a creek, stream, or river to rinse the garments.”

While rinsing is fine, using soap in a stream is not. Unless your campsite has its own laundry room, clothes should be hand washed in a bucket or tub of biodegradable soap and the resulting gray water should be dumped away from running water.

Finally, hang the clothes to dry in the sun or wind.

What to do when it rains

Keeping your gear dry is one of the most important parts of maintenance, but that can be difficult when you get caught in the rain halfway up a mountain on a multi-day hike.

The first thing to do is shake off excess water and then find a dry place to hang. Robert Fry, General Manager of Product at Kathmandu, suggests “the vestibule of your tent” as a good drying spot “so there is no chance it will drip and wet your dry gear like your sleeping bag”.

using your body heat

If your down jacket is soaked through, Simpson suggests “shaking the jacket to wick away the moisture… and re-inflate the down.” You can also use your body heat to dry the jacket. Wear the jacket over any moisture-wicking layers you have, then rub your hands across the jacket to allow friction and heat to penetrate the garment from the outside. Finally, pull your shell over the jacket and keep moving so that your body heat gets into the garment from the inside as well.

You can use the warmth of your body to dry damp socks while hiking. Photo: Maria Fuchs/Getty Images

This also works for drying your socks. If your shoes and socks are soaked, Simpson recommends wringing excess moisture out of your socks and hanging them to dry. But if they’re still damp the next time you head out, “put them in the inside pocket of a jacket so your body heat dries them.”

For the shoes themselves, shake out the excess water, remove the footbeds and place near a fire under a watchful eye.

On the way home

Loading dirty, wet gear into your car for the drive home can feel like you’re creating more chaos to deal with, which isn’t a mood when you’re tired after a big adventure.

Simpson suggests keeping large plastic bins in the trunk of your car so “you can stash dirty, wet, smelly gear in there without getting your car dirty.”

Clean up after the hike

When you get home from a hike, first shake or rinse dirt and debris off your gear, then wash each item according to the care instructions. According to Fry, waterproof products and breathable fabrics “should be washed with a specially formulated detergent [them] on a cold, gentle cycle”.

Once everything is clean, make sure your gear is completely dry before storing it away. According to Fry, this should help prevent mold growth, which is important. “Mould is not only a nuisance to clean, but it also creates a bad odor, shortens the life of your equipment and in some cases damages your equipment beyond repair.”

To properly dry your gear, hang or lay it flat in a well-ventilated area. Fry says you can “speed up” the process by “absorbing some of the excess moisture with towels.”

dealing with mold

If you find your gear getting moldy on or between trips, use a specialized cleaning product like Granger Footwear and Gear Cleaner to clean everything spot-free before washing.

Then, says Fry, “soak your gear in cold or lukewarm water and, if care instructions allow, remove dirt with a soft cleaning brush or cloth.”

Inspect and repair

As your gear ages and shows signs of wear and tear, it’s important to recognize this, according to Fry, as it “can affect your overall experience and safety when spending time ‘outside'”.

Of course, sometimes the damage is superficial and doesn’t affect the performance of your equipment. Simpson says, “If your favorite hiking shirt has a few holes in it, don’t worry, you can keep using it and earn a few more rips and tears.”

Fry suggests inspecting gear after every ride, and if you spot any serious problems — like broken zippers — take them straight to a specialist repair shop. This way you don’t have time to forget about the problem before the next adventure.