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Can You Wash A Hiking Backpack? All You Need to Know

Are you a nature lover? Do you love to explore the great outdoors, hike through challenging trails, and take in breathtaking views?

If yes, then you probably know how important it is to have a reliable hiking backpack that can carry all your essentials for the journey.

But what happens when your backpack gets dirty and starts to smell bad? Can you wash hiking backpacks, and if so, how do you do it?

The answer is a resounding YES! You can definitely wash hiking backpacks, and in fact, you should do it regularly to keep them clean and fresh-smelling.

But the method and frequency of washing will depend on the material of the backpack and how dirty it is.

In this article, we’ll provide you with some tips and guidelines on how to wash your hiking backpack, whether it’s made of waterproof material or not. We’ll also share some common mistakes to avoid. Let’s get started!

Key Takeaways:

  • You can wash hiking backpacks, and it’s important to do so regularly to maintain hygiene and prolong the lifespan of the backpack.
  • Hand washing and machine washing are both viable options, but each method requires different steps and considerations.
  • Always check the care label and instructions for your backpack before washing, and if in doubt, opt for hand washing.
  • Use mild detergent, avoid harsh chemicals, protect zippers and straps, and don’t forget to clean the inside of the backpack.
  • Proper storage is also important for maintaining the integrity of the backpack.
  • Don’t be afraid to get dirty while hiking – it’s all part of the fun! Just make sure to clean your backpack afterwards to keep it in top condition for your next adventure.

Handwashing Your Hiking Backpack

hand washing hiking backpack

If you’re a hands-on person and prefer to wash your backpack by hand, here are some simple steps to follow:

Step 1: Prepare your backpack

Before you start washing your backpack, remove all the contents, including any loose dirt or debris. Shake the backpack gently to remove any remaining dirt or debris.

Step 2: Prepare the washing solution

Fill a large basin or sink with lukewarm water and add a small amount of mild detergent or soap. Be sure to use a detergent that is suitable for the material of your backpack.

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Step 3: Scrub the backpack

Submerge the backpack in the water and use a soft-bristled brush to gently scrub the surface of the backpack, paying special attention to any dirty or stained areas.

Don’t scrub it too hard, as this can damage the material.

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Step 4: Rinse thoroughly

Once you’ve finished scrubbing the backpack, rinse it thoroughly with clean water to remove any soap residue.

Repeat the rinsing process several times to ensure that all the soap is removed.

Step 5: Hang to dry

After rinsing, hang your backpack to dry in a well-ventilated area

Do not use a dryer or any other heat source, as this can damage the material. You can also use a fan or a hairdryer on a cool setting to speed up the drying process.

Machine Washing Your Hiking Backpack

washing machine and hiking backpack

If you prefer to use a washing machine to clean your hiking backpack, here are some guidelines to follow:

Step 1: Check the care label

Before washing your backpack in the machine, check the care label to ensure that it is safe to do so.

Some backpacks are not suitable for machine washing (those with metal frames or those made from leather and silk), and washing them in a machine can damage the material or the zippers and frame.

Step 2: Empty the backpack

Remove all the contents from your backpack, including any loose dirt or debris.

Step 3: Use a laundry bag

Place your backpack in a laundry bag or a pillowcase to protect it from getting caught or snagged in the machine.

Step 4: Select the right cycle and detergent

Select a gentle cycle and use a mild detergent that is suitable for the material of your backpack.

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Be sure to use cold water to avoid damaging the material.

Step 5: Hang to dry

After washing, hang your backpack to dry in a well-ventilated area, avoiding any direct heat sources. Do not use a dryer or any other heat source, as this can damage the material.

Additional Tips for Washing Your Hiking Backpack

To give the best protection for your hiking backpack, here are some tips when it comes to washing a hiking backpack:


It’s a good idea to wash your hiking backpack after every few uses, or more frequently if it has been exposed to mud, dirt, or other outdoor elements.

Avoid harsh detergents or bleach

Harsh detergents or bleach can damage the material of your backpack and reduce its lifespan. Stick to mild detergents and avoid using bleach or fabric softeners.

detergent and hiking backpack

Protect the zippers and straps

Zippers and straps are usually the most vulnerable parts of a backpack, and they can easily get damaged during washing.

To protect them, zip up all the zippers and fasten all the straps before washing. You can also wrap the zippers and straps with a towel or a piece of cloth to prevent them from getting caught in the machine.

Don’t put your backpack in the dryer

don't put hiking backpack in the dryer

Heat can damage the backpack material and any zippers or straps. Hang your backpack up to air dry or you can use a fan or set the backpack in a well-ventilated area.

Avoid exposing the backpack to direct sunlight, as this can cause the material to fade or become brittle.

Don’t forget the inside

The inside of your backpack can also get dirty and smelly, especially if you carry food or other perishable items.

To clean the inside, use a damp cloth or sponge and mild detergent to wipe down the interior surfaces. Rinse thoroughly and let it air dry.

Store your backpack properly

After washing and drying your backpack, store it in a dry, cool place, away from direct sunlight.

Avoid folding or crushing the backpack, as this can damage the material or the frame.


man goes hiking in rocky mountain with blue hiking backpack

Washing your hiking backpack is an important part of maintaining its hygiene and prolonging its lifespan.

Whether you prefer to wash it by hand or by machine, check the backpack to see what is the right method for washing it. This way, your backpack can be safely washed, stay clean and fresh-smelling for your next outdoor adventure.

And don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the journey, even if it means getting a little dirty along the way!

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