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Backpacking Gear Maintenance Checklist

Three season gear on the AT
Three season gear on the AT

 Backpacking gear is expensive and you need to take care of it to extend its lifetime. Here’s a checklist of gear maintenance tasks I try to do the morning after I get home from a backpacking trip:

  1. Air out my sleeping bag, or quilt to make sure it’s dry before storing un-stuffed.
  2. Hang up my tent, tarp or hammock and make sure it’s completely dry to avoid mildew.
  3. Dry my sleeping bag if it’s damp.
  4. Dry my bivy sack if its damp.
  5. Throw out all my accumulated trash.
  6. Wash my cook pot, plastic spoon, and olive oil bottle.
  7. Stash any uneaten leftover food to prevent our house mice from eating it.
  8. Wash my dirty hiking clothes.
  9. Let my trail runners or boots dry.
  10. Let my gloves and hats dry, or run them through the wash.
  11. Replenish my first aid kit, particularly any Leukotape strips I used.
  12. Replenish my DEET and sunscreen.
  13. Replenish my Aqua Mira.
  14. Replenish my gear repair kit, particularly extra headlight batteries.
  15. Replenish my firestarter kit, including matches, esbit cubes, and vaseline covered cotton balls.
  16. Replenish any tent pegs I might have lost on the trip.
  17. Let my water Sawyer filter dry out. Backflush it, if it ran slowly on my trip.
  18. Inspect my backpacking liner for punctures, and repair with scotch tape, if necessary.
  19. Repair any damage to my pack or stuff sacks with tenacious tape.
  20. Store unused fuel in a safe place and dispose of used fuel canisters.
  21. Recharge my camera battery.
  22. Clean my camera lens.
  23. Recharge my portable battery.
  24. Put my maps in my map drawer.
  25. Put all my other away, so it’s easy to find for my next trip.
  26. Refill the gallon water jugs I keep in my car for impromptu car camping or resupplying my drinking water.
  27. Fill up my car’s gas tank for my next trip up north.

Admittedly, this is a long list, but taking care of it after your trip when you can still remember what went wrong or needs to be replenished will save you a lot of time and hassle, especially if you leave packing for your next trip until the last moment.

Written 2009. Updated 2014. 

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12 comments

  1. Luckily we have a huge conservatory where drying or airing kit is an easy matter to do. In the past I had to be more creative with hanging the tent up :)

  2. I use stacker boxes (plastic crates). I have a ready box that has all the stuff that we need for a trip out, a second options box (stuff that may or may not go) the rest of the stuff is squirreled away in a double wardrobe, under the bed, in the garage, in a chest of drawers, in the loft… I think I need to donate, throw out or sell some of it :) And like Sarah I also have a couple of these crates for food stuffs.

  3. The photo is a few months old – since then it's gotten better and worse at the same time. Behind the chair and out of view is a hanger rack with all kinds of gear hanging and piled on top of it. In addition, I have 12 big plastic drawers which are stuffed with more clothing and gear (water filters, stoves, socks, hats, mittens, pants, maps, etc). I store shelters in the basement along with most of my kayaking gear, except my boats (3) which are in the garage. Every time I clean up it just gets messy within 2 weeks, so I don't clean up that often. But – maybe it would be worth straightening things out a bit and doing and audit of my gear. I know there are things that I have that I've forgotten I own.

  4. Baz – I like the ready box idea. I've done something like it in the past and it's good because you can see everything.

  5. You need bins ;-) In my office I have 3 of them in one corner that contain just my cooking gear – the pots, pans and stoves that I use currently for the blog/website (there are about another 3 bins in the garage as well with the stuff I don't use often!) Then the other thing I have is the food bins – one is just containers of dried veggies/fruit/carbs, another is single serving packets and flavorings/seasonings, another is shelf stable meats, cheeses and everything else. I keep my hiking food separate from the house food. Makes it easier to grab and go!

    We have a lot of gear since there are 3 of us – so the large Rubbermaid bins are well featured. Our garage has IKEA shelving that holds the bins. Bike gear, kayaking, hiking, etc. The shelves have the tents and snowshoes as well.

    Maybe someday I will post a photo of my office of shame ;-)

  6. Once again you have published a great list. Post trip clean up is so important. I am working on my own system right now and I have a front hall that looks a lot like your picture. I have a couple of things to add to your list…

    *Take a close look at everything carried and decide what was REALLY essential.

    *Make a list of the meals that were trail wonderful.

    *Make a wish list for gear improvements and a research plan.

    I also have a question about fuel. I have an MSR whisperlite stove and I wonder about the shelf life of the fuel. Also, how do you know when the fuel is too old to use? I don't use the super-refined fuel. Do you or any of your readers know about this?

  7. It's tiring and a hassle but post trip kit sorting is essential if you're not going to ruin good gear.

    I lent a an old but perfectly serviceable backpack to a non backpacking friend, who's son was doing a DOE taster trip. The weather was wet and when i finally got the bag back it was ruined because they hadnt thought to hang it up to dry. He hasnt offered any compensation – grr!

  8. I set my tent up in the basement after a trip. This allows me to inspect every inch for wear and tear and let it thoroughly air out before I pack it away.

  9. um…oh dear. I am one of those people who chucks the stuff in the corner and worries about it over a period of weeks…. :(

    I wish I was more organised !

  10. You can see everything and re-check the stuff before stashing your kit in your rucksack. Before I used one I'd often find that something I thought I'd packed hadn't been.

  11. Truth be told I dry the tent sometime during the week. I wash my kit when the wife says it is smelling too much in the laundry basket, and I clean out my pans when I am planning the next walk. I do wash the trail shoes straight away and dry them, as I like using them walking the dog. The sleeping bag is aired and put away ASAP. Some good, some bad. Good list from you.

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