Our team and our most recent adventurers ended up going out in what some were saying was the biggest storm in 5 years for California. While it was epic, amazing, and kind of insane, a lot of our gear got wet from the mass amounts of snow. Is it possible to repair and take care of backpacking gear that has been exposed to the elements of moisture, dirt, and liquid? Absolutely. Is it possible to ruin your stuff cause you didn't clean it properly? Absolutely.
Backpacking and hiking gear use a lot of synthetic materials that can be eaten up by the harsh chemicals in a lot of standard cleaners and detergents. If your gear got wet, dirty, or smells funky, don't just assume your standard cleaner will take care of the problem. Head over to your local sporting goods store to pick up a bottle of sport wash. I prefer and recommend "Nathan's Sport Wash", it comes in an orange bottle.
Sport washes contain less harsh chemicals and detergents that are safe for your synthetic materials. If you are washing your sleeping bag, whether it is down or synthetic fill, only use a front loading washer. When it comes to drying your gear and sleeping bags, air drying is the way to go, a regular dryer with that kind of heat is a sure fire way to quickly end the life of your stuff. Your down sleeping bag will likely get it's loft displaced after a wash in that machine...here's how to fix it... tennis balls. Throw some tennis balls in your dryer on air dry only, NO NO NO heat, how much heat? None. After a few minutes of the tennis balls bouncing around with your down sleeping bag, it's loft will displace normally and you'll be ready to hit the trails again!
Take good care of your gear as it tries to take good care of you.
- Chris Duarte