Backpack Care

Just as people can become attached to inanimate objects, travellers can become attached to their gear. I know I already expressed my love for my fuschia suitcase, but I also have an attachment to my red Mountain Equipment Co-op pack. It’s been throughout Europe and Nicaragua, but now it smells and looks like it’s been dragged behind a bus on each trip.

This is my pack. My momma bought it used at a MEC Gear Swap 4+ years ago. It’s been residing under the stairs in my basement apartment, and somehow this guy found it:

Meet Molson, aka The Cat Who Sleeps In Backpacks. The pack was dirty to begin with but he somehow added an extra layer of fur and various cat debris to it over the past year. Instead of wasting over $150 buying a new pack, I decided I’m going to try to breathe some new life into my old one. The only problem is it’s a 75L internal frame pack which 1. Doesn’t fit into my washing machine and 2. Couldn’t even be machine washed because of the metal parts. I’ve done some research on how to launder packs and it seems my only option is to do it the old-fashioned way — by hand.

From all the tips I’ve found online the majority of them seem to have the same message:

  • remove the straps, frame (if possible), belt and any other detachable parts
  • use a mild detergent in an effort to preserve any rain guard coating the fabric may have
  • use a soft bristle brush to scrub
  • use cold to lukewarm water to wash and rinse
  • hang upside down and allow to drip-dry

Now, because I’m in a basement apartment I don’t have the luxury of having a bathtub. Instead, I had to take on this challenge in my stand-up shower. It was a bit of a tight squeeze, but not overly challenging it turned out. I used lukewarm water and regular laundry detergent along with a bristle brush to scrub it down. In lieu of a special detergent I used whatever I had on hand because I’m running short on time, but there must be some sort of special soap available for this type of thing at MEC or other sporting goods stores.

So, it’s not rocket science — dip the brush into the soapy water then scrub your bag. Pay special attention to the zippers, straps, seams, etc. I scrubbed the hell out of mine just to make sure I didn’t have to do it a second time. Once I was satisfied with its cleanliness I literally turned on the shower and stuck the pack under the running water to rinse it off. My pack has straps on the bottom to attach a sleeping bag, so I flipped it upside down and hung it from them on my shower rack. I noticed that water was kind of pooling inside, so I turned it inside out as best as I could.

I’m not sure how long it will take to dry, but seeing how I only have four more full days left before I leave I hope it’s not long. I still have to pack this bad boy.


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