Quality gear costs money and is worth looking after. I have a hard and fast rule when I return from a trip, even if it’s late at night. I clean my gear and ensure that it is dry or lay items out to get dry so that I can pack them away the next day.
If anything is damp or wet it gets dried, this stops mould and mildew and in some case rot from developing.
I have an outside area that is undercover where I lay gear out to ensure that it dries. I avoid direct sunlight as the UV rays can damage certain materials such as webbing and rope. I check everything to ensure that it is clean and dry before putting it away. If stuff needs washing it gets washed properly depending on what it is and the care instructions. Most stuff merely needs brushing off and drying out-think fridges and cooler boxes.
Once clean and dried the gear gets packed away in a dark dry area ensuring no exposure to moisture and UV rays. I use a variety of stuff sacks and ‘Wolf Packs’ to pack my gear away. This regimen ensures that my gear lasts and is ready for my next adventure.
I learn from the exercise and make notes of anything that may need repair or replacement as well as any improvements or additions that could be required. Lately, I have used a note-taking app that allows me to save the notes and have them with me, ensuring that I can purchase anything that may be required.
Recently a friend and I met up to do a shortish hike which would see us out for a few hours, both of us carried day packs fitted with hydration bladders as well as a few snacks, rain jackets and other bits and pieces. When we stopped for a drink he spat a mouthful of water out as it tasted foul, on inspection we noted that the tube of the hydration pack was full of mould. It had not been correctly looked after when he last used it. I am extremely fussy with my hydration bladder as I do not want to get sick when outdoors, as such I felt it would be right to explain the cleaning and care of a bladder to him.
It is important to wash the bladder after use and ensure that it is dry before being packed away. I do not put energy drinks in my hydration bladder so I merely empty it and allow it to dry, after around 3 uses I wash and clean it. The more expensive imported reversible bladders can even be washed in a dishwasher. Standard bladders are best cleaned by hand using warm soapy water followed by a thorough rinse or two. As an alternative to soap, you can use a mixture of lemon juice and vinegar or even some baking soda in warm water. It’s important to clean the mouthpiece and the valve, I pull a piece of knotted cord through the pipe to dry the inner section. The inside of the bladder is dried with a paper towel then the bladder is placed on a stand and left undercover until it dries. Never dry it in the sun as any residual moisture condenses and builds up. I have experimented with a variety of options and although advised to use products suited to clean baby bottles steer clear of them. These products leave a chlorine aftertaste and the bladders need excessive rinsing. I have found ( don’t laugh ) that denture cleaning tablets are the best, I use them for my hydration bladder, water bottles and flasks as well as my trail shoes. Good value for money and highly effective! And I will save the best trick for last, when hiking in KZN many years ago a friend taught me to clean my hydration bladder and freeze it, the freezer prevents anything growing such as mildew or mould. As we moved out each morning we would rinse the bladders at night and fill them then freeze them. This gave us ice-cold water as we hiked each day.
Recently I was told that some of the major outdoor chains now sell hydration bladder cleaning kits, I have yet to verify this but hope to soon.