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How to Deodorize Your Hiking Backpack

You're about to go on a hike, and...what’s that smell? It doesn’t take much effort to realize it may be coming from you. We've all been there, and I’ve experienced this several times with my hiking backpacks. This odor comes from all the dirt, grime, and the main culprit – sweat!

There are a couple of methods you can use to clean your hiking pack. Depending on the material, you can machine wash or hand wash it. I have a waterproof Osprey pack, so I use this method to maintain the waterproof coating, but you can easily adjust it by changing the washing solution you use. Let's dive into what materials you'll need, the washing process, and a quick solution to getting rid of smells.

Materials to Clean Your Pack

  • Plastic Tub (Optional)

  • Hot Water

  • Nikwax Tech Wash

  • This wash is for waterproof materials. If you have a backpack that isn’t waterproof, you can opt for using Dawn or another cleaner.

  • Microfiber Cloth

  • Tide Antibacterial Fabric Spray (Optional)

How to Wash Your Hiking Backpack

This method has worked the best for me to remove the smelly sweat from my backpack. I personally use a plastic storage tub to do this because when I washed it in my actual tub the first time, parts of my pack got bleached. Why? Well, I’m guessing it had to do with the cleaning products I use to wash my shower. To avoid this, I use a plastic tub! I haven’t had any issues since.

Once you’ve decided on where you want to wash it, let’s get started with cleaning:

  1. Remove everything from your pack! You don’t want to leave anything in there that might get ruined in the water.

  2. Release all of the straps around your backpack to expose any dirt.

  3. Add your Nikwax Tech Wash to the water. According to the instructions on the bottle, you’ll need to add 1.7 fl. oz per item. This is roughly 3 tablespoons.

  4. Mix the cleaner into the water, and then add your backpack into the tub.

  5. Make sure it’s completely soaked, and use your microfiber cloth to clean around the backpack. Do this until you feel you’ve cleaned every area.

  6. Rinse your backpack in cold water 3 times. This is according to the wash instructions, but to make this process easier, I dump the hot water out and only fill it up with enough cold water to cover the backpack.

  7. Hang your fresh and clean backpack up in a place where it can air dry.

  8. And voila! You are all done.

The Speedy "Stop, Spray, and Go" Method

There may be times when your backpack isn’t completely dirty, so a full-on wash isn't necessary every time you use it. It may just be the sweat on the back of it or straps causing a bit of an odor.

You may have seen I listed Tide Antibacterial Fabric Spray in the materials list up there. Well, I recently did a test to see how effective it was at killing that pesky smell on my hiking pack.

To determine if it worked or not, I sprayed one of the straps and left the other alone. After about 25-30 minutes, I came back to smell it, and it worked like a charm! So, if you need a quick stop, spray, and go solution – add this bottle to your next shopping list.

Let Me Take You Through the Steps!

If you can smell you, others can too. But don't sweat it! Use one of these methods to get your gear smelling fresh again. I hope this was helpful and if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below.

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