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How To Store Your Hiking Gear To Prevent Mildew

It’s summer, which means there’s no better time for a hike!

Before you remove those boots and stash them away for next weekend, though, it’s crucial to take a step back.

You never want to discover that your equipment has started to emit a nasty odor. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much effort to ensure that your gear receives a little TLC.

Here’s how to clean and stow your supplies correctly.

Shirts, Pants and Jackets

When you come home from a hike, there’s a considerable chance you probably don’t want to do any laundry. While you should let your clothes breathe for a couple of hours before washing, you don’t want to let them sit in the hamper for a week.

Here are a few tricks to follow when it comes to your outdoor wardrobe.

woman hiking in rain

Shirts and Pants

You likely wear athletic clothes to hike, as these garments provide breathability. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much for particular materials to soak up gross smells.

Turn your clothes inside out before you add them to the washer. Then, add a smaller amount of sports detergent than necessary – if you use too much, you’ll cause your clothes to take on product build-up.

You can also insert a cup of white vinegar if you don’t have odor-eliminating cleaners on hand. Set your washer to a delicate cycle with cold water.

You can let these articles air dry, or run a no-heat dryer cycle. It’s essential to let items dry before you put them away so that they don’t collect moisture.

When a garment becomes wet, it’s susceptible to mold growth.


You should wash your softshell or hardshell jacket as its care instructions state. If you can’t locate these directions, follow this process:

  1. Pour a capful of technical detergent into your washer.
  2. Empty and zip up your jacket pockets. Then, toss it in.
  3. Set your washer to a delicate cycle with warm water.
  4. Let the jacket air dry in a cool spot before you hang it up.


While you don’t need to clean your boots immediately after a trip, it’s better to be proactive. Elements like dirt and mud can cause excessive wear and tear, while moisture can lead to mildew on the inside.

Luckily, it doesn’t take much to clean your footwear.

hiking boots

Select an indoor spot that isn’t too hot or humid. Remove your pair’s insoles and let them air out.

Then, grab a brush, water and cleanser to scrub away any caked-on particles. You’ll need to pick a soap that works for your boots’ specific outer material.

Once you’ve gently cleaned the outside, it’s best to return your boots to their previous spot to dry.

You can also use this time to waterproof them, something you should do a few times each hiking season. When you want to store your boots, pick a ventilated area – avoid places like your basement or trunk.

A hallway shoe rack helps ward off mildew build-up and outsole decay.

Tents and Sleeping Bags

Your tents and sleeping bags can take on mold and fungus, too. That said, it’s not like you can pop your tent in the washer.

This gear requires special steps to prevent nasty odors and stains. Here are a few simple ways to tackle your tents and sleeping bags.

sleeping pad in tent


When you return from a rainy adventure, it’s smart to let your tents air dry before you stow them. If you see any residue on the outsides, you can remove them with dish soap, plus a little hot water.

Then, use a sponge to work the cleaner across the interiors and exteriors. You can try a brush for any pesky stains.

Find a sunny location for the tents to air out. Then, stow them where it’s cool and dry.

A dim area elevated off the floor works best!

Sleeping Bags

If your sleeping bags smell a little funky, it’s time to clean them. Most often, you can use dish soap and warm water to buff away stains.

However, if you sense it needs some elbow grease, here are a few pointers.

It’s essential not to use a top-loading washer. These machines come with agitators that can tear your sleeping bags throughout the cycle.

If you don’t have a front-loading washer, you’ll want to head to a laundromat. You should set the washer to a delicate cycle with cold water.

Then, use a special cleaner made for your sleeping bags’ insulation type.

Hang up your sleeping bags so that they can air dry. Feel free to leave them there until you need them again, as their packs can create an overly confined space that doesn’t allow them to breathe.

Use These Tips to Clean and Stow Your Equipment Correctly

If you don’t care for your equipment properly, it’ll become susceptible to mildew – and all the smells that come with fungi.

Use these suggestions to make sure your gear lasts a lifetime.

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