Guide to Cleaning and Storing Your Camping Gear

How To Store Camping Gear

Fast-forward to next springtime, when you’re excited to get back into the great outdoors. You roll or hike into your favorite camping spot, only to find your tent, sleeping bag, or mess kit has rotted over the winter or gathered mold and now has a bad smell - yuck!

Camping gear is expensive enough, so you need to take good care of your equipment to prolong its useful life - and clean equipment works better, smells better, and lasts much longer when stored correctly.

In this post, we’ll take you through the basics for cleaning your tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, camp kitchen equipment, and packs.

1-man tent


Tents are typically made from treated nylon, which doesn’t need to be cleaned after every trip. But before storing it for an extended period, you should erect the tent and give the inside a good vacuum, to remove any sand, grit, or dried dirt from the floor. Check for any tears or loose stitching and repair/patch as needed.

Then, using a bucket of water with a gentle, non-detergent soap, wipe the inside of the tent down with a sponge.

If you see any mold spots, use a spray bottle with some diluted white vinegar to give it a gentle scrub. Once the inside is thoroughly clean, open the flaps and move to the outside of the tent.

Inspect Your Tent for any Damage

Repeat the process to thoroughly clean the outside surfaces - then flip the tent on its side so you can wipe the underside of the floor clean - take care not to remove the waterproof finish. 

Once everything is wiped clean, ensure you give every surface enough time to dry completely. Of all the things you could do to extend the life of your tent, drying the tent before storing could be the most important. Suggest a light cleaning between  trips, and a thorough cleaning before storing for the winter (longer than 3-4 months)

Now that your tent is completely dry (like really dry), it’s time to pack it away. Try to use a bigger bag than what you would pack the tent in for a trip to allow the fabric to breathe. Store in a dry place with an even temperature and low humidity - like a bedroom closet. Best to not store in direct sunlight, and not in a damp basement. For the poles, store those fully extended so the elastics can relax.

woman in sleeping bag

Sleeping Bags

Compared to tents, sleeping bags are much easier to clean. While camping, keep the sleeping bag as dry as possible. Give them a good shake every morning, and lay them out in the sun to dry before packing up for the day. Sleeping bag liners can be used, and are easier to wash than your sleeping bag, so consider getting one of these. 

Before storing it longer-term, throw your sleeping bag into a washing machine, and wash it in cold water on a gentle cycle. Use a mild detergent and avoid washers with agitators, as these can harm your bag.

Once washed, throw your bag into a dryer and set it to low. It may take multiple cycles to completely dry - synthetics will dry faster than down. Be patient with it, and never turn up the heat, because you’ll damage the filling. 

If your lower-temperature bag has thick pockets of down, you should throw in a couple of dryer balls to help break up any clumps of down. Take your time with the drying process, as it's critical to remove all moisture before storing.

To store, just like tents, a cool dry place is best - moderate temperatures, and low humidity, like a bedroom closure. To keep the insulation fluffy store the bag in a loose, breathable bag - like a pillowcase

Therm-a-Rest sleeping pad

Sleeping Pads

To clean your pad, just sponge it with warm water (like you would a tent). Hang your pad to dry making sure the valve(s) are open and hanging down to remove any built-up moisture inside the pad.

Pad Repairs

If you have any holes in your pad, now is the time to repair those. Most pads ship with a repair kit, but sometimes you need to get creative. We've had decent success with bike tire patches, or duct tape. While not pretty, they get the job done, and we would prefer an ugly pad that lets us sleep, rather than a deflated pad that doesn't.

Sleeping pads are best stored completely unrolled under a bed or hanging in a closet, with the valve(s) open. If you do need to roll it up, roll it loosely and store it in a dry place.

hiking boots

Hiking Boots

Your boots take a lot of abuse and are likely to be extra dirty at the end of the hiking season. Since they take good care of you, you should return the favor by giving them a good cleaning and reproof before storage.

Start by removing the laces, and insoles and pulling out the tongue to expose the creases. Take a stiff brush and knock off any loose dirt. Then introduce some warm water with a gentle detergent and thoroughly clean all surfaces.

Wash the insoles separately and sprinkle a little baking soda inside each boot to knock down any remaining odor. Stuff them with newspaper and set them aside to dry. 

Importance of Reproofing

Once you’ve cleaned and dried your boots, it’s time to give them a fresh waterproofing treatment. The product you use will depend on your boots - synthetic fabric vs. leather vs. suede - make sure you use the correct treatment and follow the instructions on the can.

Store in a cool dry place, and out of direct sunlight.

Water filtration

Camp Kitchen Gear

When it comes to camp kitchen gear, ensuring proper maintenance and storage is essential for enjoyable outdoor cooking experiences. Whether you're dealing with mess kits, coolers, cooking pans, or kettles, these steps will help keep your gear ready for your next adventure.

1. Clean and Dry Thoroughly: Before storing, meticulously clean all camp kitchen gear. Remove food residues, grease, and grime. Use warm water and a mild detergent. Dry each piece completely to prevent mold and odors.

2. Ventilation is Key: Avoid sealing or tightly rolling equipment that can trap moisture. Proper airflow helps prevent mold and mildew growth. For coolers and portable fridges, store them with lids or doors slightly propped open to allow air circulation.

3. Water Storage Gear: Ensure water storage containers and bottles are stored with their lids off. You can attach the lid to the equipment with a zip tie to prevent misplacement.

4. Stoves and Lanterns: Thoroughly clean camping stoves and lanterns, ensuring all components are present. Repack them for easy access next time. Replace partially filled gas bottles and used candles for optimal performance.

5. Batteries and Lighting: Remove batteries from flashlights, lanterns, or LED lights to prevent leakage. Pack rechargeable devices with their charging cables for future use.

6. Knives, Axes, and Shovels: Clean, oil, and sharpen these tools before storage. Pack them into protective sleeves along with any extra parts to maintain their condition.

By following these guidelines, you'll ensure that your camp kitchen gear remains in excellent condition and is ready to serve you well during your next outdoor cooked meal.