Tutorial: How to store, clean, and repair backpacking gear

Once you find the right gear for you (based on your objectives) and spend your hard-earned money on it, you’ll want to make sure it serves you for as long as possible. You can help by

  • Storing it properly
  • Keeping it clean, and
  • Knowing how to repair it when something inevitably happens to it.

At some point, you may even venture into the exciting world of DIY, or MYOG: making your own gear.

Storing Gear

There are lots of ways to store your gear and stay organized. I find it’s helpful to have a dedicated gear closet or ‘area’ where you keep all of your stuff. Ideally, you’ll have a system of organization that works for you. Here are some things to keep in mind: 

  1. Rooftop storage containers are great. You can keep a lot of gear in them year-round without cramming it all into a closet. 
  2. Storing down is something you’ll want to develop good habits with. 
  3. Storing synthetic bags and clothing is a little less fussy, but the same general rules apply. 
  4. Sorting things by type will make your life easier. Example: Keep your shelters in one duffel bag, hang all your down in one place, use separate packing cubes for your base layers, mid-layers, puffy things, shells, gloves, etc.
  5. Crates/Shelves are great for garage/basement storage. 
  6. Duffel Bags work very well for car/travel. 
Packing cubes are a great way to stay organized.

Cleaning Gear 

It’s good practice to keep your gear clean, and it will prolong its useful lifespan. Wash your shelters after your use them, clean your zippers, clothes, and dry your things to keep them mildew-free. There are lots of resources on the internet on how to wash down and raingear too.

Don’t be afraid of washing down and other technical fabrics yourself.

Repairing Gear

Things happen. At some point, you’ll probably want to repair a small hole in your tent, patch a rip in your jacket, or something even more technical. Before these things happen, it’s prudent to have some idea how to fix them and also to have the materials on hand to do so.

Some of the most common issues involve:

If fixing your gear is simply beyond your skill set, you can hire a local seamstress, or use a site like RainyPass.com. You can even send it back to the manufacturer if it’s covered under warranty. Sometimes, companies may even opt to just send you a new item instead of repairing what you’ve sent in. Winner!

Off the rack repair kits at REI are usually better than the ones that come with products.

Modifying Gear

Sometimes, you may want to modify your gear a little bit. Usually, this is to make it more durable, perform a little better, or add some features specific to what you want to do, based on where you’re planning on going, etc.

Some common modifications are:

A DIY rock plate made out of plastic. Photo + Idea: Justin Simoni

MYOG: The Final Frontier

Eventually, it might serve you to learn about different fabrics, how to sew, and to go down the MYOG rabbit hole. Once you know how to fix, modify, and make your gear, it opens up a whole new world of possibilities. Every cottage manufacturer around today started in a basement with an idea and a sewing machine.

CONFESSION: I’ve made and modified quite a bit of stuff, and it’s a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s incredibly liberating to conceptualize your own designs and see them come to life. On the other, it’s a LOT of work, and prone to error. Sometimes it costs more in materials alone and almost certainly ends up being WAY more expensive when you factor in all the time it takes. That said, if you have the skills, the time, and the desire, it can be very rewarding.

Common MYOG projects include:

There are endless MYOG resources on the internet, but some of the ones I’ve used are:

DISCLAIMER: Don’t get discouraged if your first MYOG project doesn’t stack up to a professional level product It takes time, practice, and patience.

A custom partial solid inner I made for my MLD Duomid for winter use. It’s great, but…
TOTAL COST: 15 hours + $145 in materials. Worth it?

Parting Thoughts

  1. Here’s the best tip you’ll ever get: Take care of your stuff. Most high-end gear is simply not designed to be thrown down on a pile of sharp rocks. 
  2. Get in the habit of cleaning your gear regularly.
  3. Think of your gear closet as a garden you need to tend to.
  4. Organization is key. Figure out a storage system that you will stick with.
  5. MYOG is not for everyone. It usually makes more sense to do your research and find an off-the-rack or cottage manufacturer’s product that is close enough to what you want.

What tips and tricks do you have for storing, cleaning, modifying, making, and repairing gear?

Posted in , , , on March 22, 2021
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2 Comments

  1. Dave on March 24, 2021 at 6:43 pm

    Nice article, motivated me to get my gear closet organized.

    • Hunter Hall on March 24, 2021 at 6:48 pm

      #goals

      I’ll be honest with you: I omitted a picture of my gear closet for a good reason. 🙂

      I’ve got a system though!

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