A Simple Pack Wash

Bilberry picked out by the setting sun

This is probably the simplest blog posting, about the simplest bit of maintenance I’ll ever do…

But first a bit of explanation regarding why washing your pack might be something you want to do, and also how not to do it.

A few years ago, I was wandering around somewhere in the mountains near Chamonix when I noticed an odd whiff. It wasn’t the goats, it wasn’t my feet and it wasn’t a piece of cheese I’d snaffled into my pocket from a breakfast buffet and then forgotten all about (the very idea…). But it took me a while to track it down; it was the shoulder straps on my pack. They smelled kinda stale and like they’d been a bit too close to a sweating hiker for a few years too many.

I don’t sweat as much as some and I don’t wear a pack without a shirt of some kind, but the dirt and sweat had built up regardless. And since I was out there on the trail, it was rather inconvenient having to wash the pack.

So when I got home, I fed the pack into the washing machine (yes, I’m that lazy) and added some delicate detergent that I use on merino wool. Big mistake.

Why? Well the pack was essentially fine, but the buckle on the hip belt would no longer stay where I adjusted it. For the next several trips I ended up with sore shoulders since the belt had loosened repeatedly. I finally remembered to simply take some sandpaper to the bars that the belts ran through to roughen them up again and all was well.

So, now I have an even more lazy way of cleaning packs: Fill a bath with water. Add a little (just a little) soap. Soak the pack all day. Use some soap to scrub the inside of the shoulder straps with a small scrubbing brush. Finally just hang to dry.

Nice, non-pongy shoulder straps. Easy.

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