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How to Wash Camping Gear

April 17, 2022

Camping is a great way to relax and unwind. For one thing, it allows you to put away your phones and just concentrate on spending time with your family. That’s not all, either. Believe it or not but it can actually benefit your health in several ways!

For starters, it can do wonders for your stress levels. There’s just something about being in the wilderness that allows you to escape the binds of itineraries and schedules. Aside from that, you get to escape from asthma-inducing air pollution. Instead, you get to enjoy the fresh air—that in itself can help lower your blood pressure and boost your immune system.

Chances are, you’ll be doing a lot of physical activities (e.g. fishing, hiking, biking, etc) as well. In other words, you’ll be burning a considerable amount of calories. As you do so, you’ll also be able to soak up some sunshine, which will allow your body to produce vitamin D.

What Gear Do You Need For Camping?

There are many things that you want to bring when you’re going camping. For one thing, you’ll need a tent (assuming that you’re not staying in a cabin). In addition to that, you’ll need a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, camping pillow, headlamp, and camp chair. Depending on whether or not the campground has a kitchen, you might also need to bring a fire starter and cooking utensils.

camping gear

In terms of what to wear, it’s highly recommended that you pack moisture-wicking clothes. That way, even if you sweat, you’ll remain dry, which can make a huge difference when you’re in the wilderness. Make sure to wear proper shoes as well as you never know what the terrain might be like.

Keeping Your Camping Gear Clean

It’s important to wash your camping gear once you get home. Take the sleeping bags, for instance, they can easily get covered with dirt or oils. The same thing goes for sleeping bag liners. If anything, they tend to get even dirtier as they’re closest to the ground. The good news, though, is that you can probably wash your sleeping bag less often if you use a liner since it acts as a protective layer.

As for your camping pillow, you want to wash that too. After all, things from your hair can easily transfer onto the fabric. The last thing that you want is for it to be dirty as that can shorten its lifespan.

Keep in mind, however, that there is a right way to wash your camping gear. For example, certain things might not be machine washable. When in doubt, look at the care label on the item—it’ll tell you what to do and what not to do. Or you know, you can just follow our instructions below!

Common Fabrics Used For Camping Gear

Most camping gear (e.g. tents, sleeping bags, liners) are made of synthetic fabrics. Why? They’re much more durable than their natural counterparts—that makes them a much better option for camping when you’ll be spending almost all of your time outdoors.


Polyester is a synthetic fabric that’s often used for sports gear. What sets it apart from its natural counterparts? It’s durable, moisture-wicking, and quick-drying. Not to mention that it holds its shape better. That’s one of the reasons why it’s a standard for sleeping bags, liners, etc.


Nylon, aka polyamide, is a strong fabric that’s made of long polymer chains. Similar to polyester, it is very durable. At the same time, it’s smooth to the touch and is able to pull moisture from the skin. Water-resistant and lightweight, it’s often used for various kinds of camping gear.


Polyethylene fabric is made of thermoplastic polymers. The second-most commonly produced plastic in the world, it’s commonly used for pool covers, protective covers, etc. In terms of camping gear, it’s often the fabric of choice for tent floors.

How to Wash Camping Tents

You should always clean your tent after a long camping trip—that’s especially true if it was exposed to fine dust, tree sap, bird droppings, or sand.

washing tents

Are Tents Machine Washable?

The answer is no—you don’t want to put your tent in a washing machine. Even on a delicate cycle, it can easily destroy the seam thing, fabric coatings, and mesh. The same thing goes for dryers; they can generate enough heat to cause damage.

The Proper Way to Wash a Camping Tent 

The best way to clean a tent is to wipe it down with a mild soap. To do so, pitch it in your yard—that way, you can easily access all of the surfaces. From there, hose it down with water. Using a sponge or soft brush, gently wipe the fabric (make sure to get the inside layer as well).

When you’re done wiping, turn on the hose and rinse the entire tent thoroughly. Continue until all of the soapy residue is gone. From there, let it dry completely before putting it away (you can just leave it out in the sun).

As far as the fly goes, you can spread it on the grass and wash it that way. Afterward, you can hang it on a clothesline so that it can air dry.

Best Way to Wash Sleeping Bags

There are two main ways to wash sleeping bags and we’ll be going over them below.

Can You Machine Wash Sleeping Bags?

Most sleeping bags are machine washable. For the best results, use a front-loading washer or a top-loading machine without an agitator. If it’s your first time washing the bag, it’s a good idea to read the tag before washing.

machine wash sleeping bag

First things first, you want to close all velcro attachments and zippers. Consider turning it inside out if it has a waterproof shell. From there, carefully place your sleeping bag in the machine. Add a scoop of ACTIVE detergent and run a delicate cycle; do not use hot water. While you don’t want to wash it with other items, you can add a few towels to balance the spin of the machine.

Once the wash cycle is finished, run a second rinse cycle. It’s crucial that you get out all of the detergent. If necessary, you can check whether or not it’s completely rinsed by pressing down on the fabric—if soap suds come out, you’ll have to rinse it again.

Transfer the sleeping bag to the dryer and run it on low heat. You don’t want it to be too hot as it can melt the filling. When it’s almost dry, add a couple of wool balls to the dryer—that’ll help break down any clumps. Make sure that it’s completely dry before storing the bag away.

Hand Washing Your Sleeping Bag

Don’t have a washer? No worries, you can wash your sleeping bag easily in a tub. Start by filling it with cool or warm water. Add half a scoop of ACTIVE detergent and place your bag in. Using your hands, gently work the soap into the fabric. Pay attention to the most heavily soiled areas. Allow it to sit for at least one hour.

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Drain the tub and press on the bag to remove any remaining water. Re-fill the tub with clean water and use it to rinse the sleeping bag. It may be a good idea to let it soak for 15-20 minutes first. Afterward, press out the water with your hands. Repeat until it’s obvious that all of the soap is gone.

Finally, you want to squeeze out as much water as possible from the fabric. From there, carry it to the dryer and run it on a low setting. Alternatively, you can lay it flat on a clean towel so that it can air dry.

Spot Cleaning Your Sleeping Bag

Sometimes, all your sleeping bag may need is a bit of spot cleaning. To do that, you want to make a soapy paste by mixing a bit of ACTIVE detergent with water. Once the powder is dissolved (you can speed things up by swirling the water), dip a toothbrush in the solution so that the bristles are saturated.

Use it to gently clean the stained spot. Generally speaking, it’s best to use circular motions. Once you’re done cleaning, rinse the soap away with water.

The Best Way to Clean Sleeping Bag Liners

sleeping bag liner

It’s best to hand wash your sleeping bag liner as the washer can cause damage to the fabric. It might be a little time-consuming, but it’s worth it. All you need is a container that’s big enough for you to put the liner in (e.g. bathtub).

First things first, fill the container with water. Do not use hot water as it can compromise the fibers. Turn your liner inside out and place it in the tub. Add a half a scoop or so of ACTIVE detergent and mix until the powder is dissolved. Allow the liner to soak for 5-10 minutes.

Drain the tub and refill it with cool water to rinse the detergent away. You may have to do this a few times to completely get rid of all the soap. When you’re done, lightly squeeze the excess water from the fabric and lay it flat on a towel to dry.

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