hikers on a hill

How to Care for Your Hiking Gear & Outdoor Clothing

Posted on August 16, 2023 by Steven Toltz

Long, scenic hikes through the mountains and adventurous backpacking journeys require gear and preparation —  with some of the most important pieces of gear being your trusty summer hiking clothes. Modern hiking apparel offers durability, moisture wicking, and water protection, giving you the edge you need to beat the elements. Your hiking clothes are a necessary part of the adventure, and what’s equally necessary is ensuring that you’re caring for your summer clothing accordingly. Find out how to keep your hiking clothes in their best condition and extend their lifespan on the trail.

Related: How to Clean and Maintain Your Camping Gear

Your Summer Hiking Clothes and Their Materials

Hiking clothing is generally made with a blend of the four most popular fabrics for outdoor activities:  

  • Nylon 
  • Polyester 
  • Spandex
  • Wool 

These materials are used because of their durability, insulation, light weight, ability to dry quickly, and resistance to water. Each of these fabrics are excellent at wicking away moisture, and they won’t retain nearly as much water as natural fibers would.

Differences Between Synthetic Materials and Natural Fabrics

Most of these materials are synthetic as opposed to natural, such as cotton; cotton is a no-go on the trail, as it can absorb a ton of moisture, dries very slowly, and can chafe the skin. Not every type of natural fabric is bad for hiking, however; wool performs similarly to synthetic fabrics and is a particularly popular choice for wintertime, though it can also be used in fleece jackets that are perfect for cool summer night hikes. Wool is especially prized for outdoor activities due to its ability to retain its insulation properties when wet. 

While these fabrics may succeed at wicking away moisture and keeping you cool, they can still trap sweat and body odor, which can be particularly potent after a couple hours on a summer trail. But throwing everything in the washing machine on high heat with loads of detergent can ruin your gear — and it may not even get rid of the odor!

Hiking gear is often an expensive investment, and one wrong move when cleaning your outdoor apparel can render your most trusted article deformed, discolored, or outright wrecked. Here’s where dry cleaning can save the day! 

Unsure what kind of care your clothing needs? Always make sure to check the care symbols on the label. 

Related: Which Fabrics Should Be Dry Cleaned?

How to Care for Your Summer Hiking Clothing and Their Special Materials

To keep your summer hiking gear clean and fresh, follow the steps below immediately after your hike or excursion: 

    1. Remove all your gear and separate the items that should be washed immediately and those that can wait until the next trip (e.g. windbreakers and rain jackets).  
    2. Base layers and undergarments should be washed immediately after you wear them, as letting them sit will only increase the chances of unpleasant odors sticking around.
    3. Read the care instructions on your clothing carefully, as not all fabrics can withstand the same wash cycle. Nylon, polyester and spandex are all sensitive to high heats and can melt, shrink and otherwise deform when exposed to high temperatures. Wool is best washed by professionals.
    4. After washing, let your hiking clothing air dry flat on a rack that allows the air to circulate completely around the fabric. Never stretch or wring these fabrics; you can also lay the clothing flat on a clean, absorbent towel and roll the towel tightly to remove some moisture from the clothing.

Read More: Why Do My Clothes Still Smell After Washing Them?

For Unbeatable Results, Dry Clean Your Summer Hiking Clothes

For everything that can’t be washed at home, we recommend treatment at a professional dry cleaner. The only time you should be worrying about your outdoor adventure gear is on the trail — for all the cleaning and care, put your trust in Dependable Cleaners. With 24-hour self-serve kiosks, free pickup & delivery, same day services, and environmentally friendly dry cleaning, we’re the busy Colorado nature-lover’s best friend. We’ll have you back on the trail in a snap, and we can even help elevate your outdoor presence with our water-resistance and waterproofing treatments. What are you waiting for? 

Find a location today, or give us a call at 303-777-2673