Outdoor Gear Maintenance Basics: How to Make Your Stuff Last Longer

Check out our tips, tricks, and favorite products for outdoor gear maintenance, and learn how to repair your gear, rather than replace it.

Outdoor gear maintenance seems like a lost art in today’s consumer-driven society. Got a tear? Replace it! Lost a piece to your tent? Might as well get a new one. It’s hard to ignore the call of shiny, new stuff that promises to make you better, faster and stronger.

However, treasuring and preserving a good piece of gear, no matter how worn out it has become, can be the antidote to our addiction for constantly buying new. Learning how to keep things in good condition and how to make your gear last longer is a simple and cost-effective way to spend more time getting out there and way less time in the store.

Besides, there’s no telling how many stories of adventure (or misadventure) you’ll have ready to share at aprés thanks to your well-loved and patched up gear.

Want to make your stuff last a lifetime? Here are some outdoor gear maintenance basics to make your beloved gear last longer.

Why you should care about making your gear last longer?

Put simply, good outdoor gear maintenance habits save you money and keep things out of landfills. Not every hole, snag or tear means that jacket or glove is a lost cause in need of replacing — in fact, most gear today is built to last and can stand up to the wear and tear you put it through. Especially if you made a financial investment in buying that product, it’s worth taking care of and preserving. Just think about the sentimental value of it as well! You’ll appreciate the older stuff that lasts you through your many outdoor adventures more than a brand new piece of gear and that’s really what the stoke is all about, right?

Plus, it’s worth pointing out that the more money you save by not replacing your old, beat-up gear means more money you have to spend traveling to your next outdoor destination.

Don't let a little wear and tear keep you from using your favorite piece of gear for a lifetime. Check out our tips, tricks and favorite products to help you make your gear last longer.

Wash your gear to make it last longer

Add on a few more years of life to your jackets, pants, hats, gloves and other apparel items by washing them regularly. This oft-overlooked piece of advice is one of the best and most budget-friendly ways to save your expensive gear, after all, those products are typically high-ticket items and you don’t want to have to buy another $300-$400 dollar jacket next season, anyway. Cleaning and washing your apparel will help you save that few hundred bucks for your next plane ticket somewhere.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when washing your gear:

  • Remove all dirt, debris and residue when possible and before washing
  • Check the product tag for information on how best to wash it at home
  • Close all pockets, zip the zippers and even loosely tie any strings that might fall out of the drawstring pockets when washing
  • Clean out the excess detergent from your washing machine’s soap dispenser as it can damage gear
  • Use Nikwax Tech Wash to wash your apparel because it is specially formulated not to ruin any technical layers or coatings in the wash. Make sure you pay attention to the type of fabric your Nikwax is made for, as they have one for down, soft shells, etc.
  • Wash your items separately for the best results
  • When drying, check the product tag for instructions, hang or line dry is a safe bet if you don’t find the answer

How to keep your waterproof gear, waterproof!

A note about washing your waterproof outerwear: After many good washes, the waterproof coating on your jackets or pants, like DWR (Durable Water Repellent) may start to diminish. While this may take a long time to actually happen, it’s still a good idea to invest in a product like Nikwax that allows you to reapply a non-toxic, waterproof coating to maintain the DWR finish.

This also works for your waterproof hiking boots! Just like you would clean and wash your waterproof outerwear, keeping your waterproof boots in good condition also helps them last longer. Simply brush off the dirt and debris and apply a layer of the Nikwax Fabric and Leather Proof. Reapplying waterproof coating is easy to do at home and a good way to really make your gear last.

Find out what gear you need for your next backpacking trip

How to care for your tent and sleeping bag

Take some time post-adventure to care for the camping gear that keeps you warm and dry while you’re out in the elements: your tent and sleeping bag. Not familiar with how to care for the basics? Here’s a quick, crash course on how to do it.

  • How to clean and store your tent

When you get back from your trip, we recommend setting up your tent somewhere dry  so that any moisture can simply air dry. This is also a good chance to brush off any dirt and debris so that it’s as clean as possible. Spot clean if necessary. Don’t leave your tent in the compression sack but fold it nice and loose for storage in a larger bag that lets it breathe.

  • How to clean and store your sleeping bag

Follow a similar process as your tent for your sleeping bag when you get home. First, unzip and hang up your sleeping bag outside to let it air dry. Brush and clean off any dirt and debris, spot clean if needed, to make sure it’s clean. Zip and loosely fold up your sleeping bag in a larger bag, not the stuff sack, and hang it up for ventilation.

Check out our tips, tricks, and favorite products for outdoor gear maintenance, and learn how to repair your gear, rather than replace it.

Have a professional repair your outdoor gear

If there’s some damage you aren’t sure how to repair yourself, there are gear companies and stores that offer repair services. If the zipper on your down jacket is stuck, for instance, call the company that made it and see if they can help out. Or if your sleeping pad isn’t holding air anymore, maybe the valve can be replaced by the manufacturer. I’m often surprised by the success stories I hear from people who send very old gear in for repair.

Patagonia’s Worn Wear program is another awesome alternative to chucking your stuff into the trash. Rather than simply replacing it, Patagonia will accept back used gear from their brand only and resell it, giving you store credit for your next purchase. Want to fix what you’ve already got? The Worn Wear program also features an FAQ section on their website that allows users to submit questions directly to the team at Patagonia. Plus, you can browse their line of used and repaired Patagonia gear so you can feel good about your purchase if you really need to buy new.

REI also has repair services. They can help fix anything from damaged outwear to broken tent poles.

Many brands want your stuff to stay in good condition for the long haul, so check out their websites or stores for at home care guidelines and recommendations for your specific gear.

Check out our tips, tricks, and favorite products for outdoor gear maintenance, and learn how to repair your gear, rather than replace it.

Patagonia has a great repair program. You can even have quick fixes done in their stores.

Purchase a repair kit for on-the-go outdoor gear maintenance

Few things are better at ruining a trip than when you’re outside and your gear breaks. Whether it’s a backpack strap that’s come loose, a tear in your tent or even just a broken shoelace, these minor setbacks can be a huge bummer and really dampen your trip. The best way to deal with broken gear on the go? A repair kit.

Build your own repair kit with these essentials:

Easy ways to make all of your gear last longer

While those pricey waterproof outerwear layers and hiking boots are certainly top priority, it’s important to keep all of your outdoor gear in good condition. Of course, each product has its own methods of care, here are a few basic guidelines to be a gear cleaning master.

  • Thoroughly wash and clean everything before you put it away
  • Allow your gear to dry before stashing it in your gear closet
  • Keep everything in a cool, dry area
  • Remove the batteries from electronic devices to keep them from leaking or dying out

What are your tips, tricks, and pieces of advice for outdoor gear maintenance so it lasts a lifetime? We want to know, so share in the comments below!

Written by Kristen Bor

Hey there! My name is Kristen, and this is my outdoor blog. I discovered the power of the outdoors in my 20s, at the time I needed it most. Now 15 years later, prioritizing that critical connection with nature continues to improve my life. My goal at Bearfoot Theory is to empower you with the tools and advice you need to responsibly get outside.

2 comments on “Outdoor Gear Maintenance Basics: How to Make Your Stuff Last Longer

  1. Great article!

    I have however stopped using Nikwax water repellents on my hiking boots. Great stuff but I wish i had a buck for every container that ended up past it experiation date. I have all leather, fabric and combination fabric and leather hiking boots. I use a different water repellent on leather which does nor expire.

    Love free sole , duct tape and Nikwax tech washes.

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