How to Clean and Wash A Hunting Backpack

Hunting is a hobby, but it’s also a sport and even a means of survival. When you know how to hunt, you will be able to eat what you shoot. You will be independent and self-reliant because hunting teaches you about surviving in nature and sometimes pushing your limits.

One of the many things you will learn as a hunter is that proper gear is essential and can make a difference between life and death. An appropriate backpack for hunting can store and organize all your gear without affecting your comfort or freedom of movement. In time, you will learn the day hunts will require different equipment from overnight hunts.

Just like with everything else you need for hunting, it’s only a matter of time until your backpack becomes dirty, especially if you do backpack hunting. But do you need to wash it after every hunt? Is it safe to wash the backpack? If yes, should you wash it after every hunt? To these and many other questions, we answer down below.

Why should you wash the hunting backpack?

Even if aesthetics are important, you shouldn’t wash the backpack only because it will look nicer. A clean and fresh-looking pack puts you in a good mood; we have to admit that a neat looking backpack won’t make you a better hunter, nevertheless.

For some, a bit of dirt will add a good camo feel; it looks like you mean hunting. In many situations, cleaning the hunting backpack will be necessary, so here are the main reasons to do it:

  • Even if dirt and leaves don’t pose a problem, blood does. Blood from the kills can carry viruses, diseases, and parasites, and so cleaning the hunting backpack will help preserve your health and your family’s.
  • You never want old rabbit, deer, or duck blood in the pack; when in contact with food or clothing, it could make you severely sick.
  • Old leaves, dirt, or blood, or another type of grime that builds up in the hunting pack could smell in a couple of days. The smell is unpleasant for any of your hunting pals, but it can also inform a prey where you are.
  • Debris or residue in the backpack will spill over all items in the pack. Even if your clothes, gloves, or hat were clean when you left home, you might discover that they’re all covered in dirt by the time you get to your hunting place.
  • Debris may clog the zippers, and it will become complicated to open/close it to access your gear. The longer you wait to clean the bag, the more difficult it will be.

It’s like with a red sauce dish. It’s straightforward to clean the plate right after you ate; if you leave the container out for a couple of days, the red sauce will dry, and washing it will be a pain.

What’s the best method for cleaning the hunting backpack?

No matter if you’re aiming for light or deep cleaning, you should never begin without checking the washing instructions on the label. Many backpack fabrics are put through various treatments to make the material waterproof; using hot water or detergents could ruin the water resistance. Not only will you destroy the backpack’s waterproofness, but you also render the investment you made into it completely useless.

No matter how time pressed you are, you should never wash and dry the hunting backpack in the washing machine. The detergent will leave a scent on the bag, and that will give you a way to your game. Blood and dirt can also leave some residue in your washing machine, and you will find it on your clothes next time you’re using it. As for drying, it goes without saying that the tumble dryer will most likely shrink the pack.

What’s the best method for cleaning the hunting backpack

Before everything else

You don’t just go ahead and wash the backpack; you have to proceed by following specific steps:

  1. It would help if you began with emptying all of the pockets and compartments. It’s not possible to wash the hunting backpack when you have gear inside.
  2. Turn the hunting backpack upside down with all pockets and compartments open as far as they go. Shake the backpack so that you remove dirt, sand, and debris as much as you can.

Light cleaning

When you’re washing the hunting backpack after every hunt, a light cleaning is enough. It would help if you did it after a hike or overnight trip.

  • Use a clean sponge for wiping out interiors (you don’t need soap). A coarse dish sponge will be enough. You may use a very mild soap to wipe stains or dirt from the inside/outside of the pack. Use a scent-free soap, nevertheless.
  • Gently scrub the spots or stains on the exterior with some soap and the sponge.
  • Use cool and clean water with the sponge/cloth to rinse off all soap.
  • Let the pack air dry.

Deep cleaning

It could take years until a deep cleaning of your hunting backpack will be necessary; you will have to remove the camp smoke sooner or later, though.

  • Empty the backpack and carefully vacuum the seams and crevice in the pockets; go deep inside the pack’s main compartment as you have to remove all loose dirt, crumbs, or sand.
  • If possible, detach the shoulder straps and hip belt as well. It would help if you washed them separately with some soap and a sponge. Place the straps and hip belt under running water for a good rinse.
  • For backpacks with a removable metal frame, you have to detach it and detach everything that allows it.
  • Put 6 inches of lukewarm water in the bathtub or a large sink. Add some mild soap to it (scent-free is ideal). Gently submerge the backpack and sponge off the interior; brush off the exterior stains. Don’t scrub very hard the mesh pockets and pay attention to areas that contact your skin.
  • Drain the dirty water and fill the tub/sink with clean, cool water, rinsing your pack until the water runs clear. Rinsing more than once for removing all soap residue will be necessary most of the time.
  • Hang the backpack up and allow it to air dry but in a place away from direct sunlight.

One last thought

You should never skip reading the labels with care instructions for your backpack; different manufacturers may have various recommendations for the washing, according to the materials and technologies for the pack.

Also, don’t forget to clean the zippers on your backpack. You have to remove dust, sand, and particles that could build up in the zippers, affecting the performance and durability. Don’t scrub, especially if the zippers come with water-resistant coatings. Use a lubricant made for zippers to make the stuck zippers work correctly once again. The last thing you want when you’re out there is not to be able to reach your gear in a blink of an eye without making a noise.

Do you have a waterproof backpack? Here’s how to take care of it!

It’s not worth paying the high dollar on a weather-resistant backpack if you’re not willing to take good care of it. Suck backpacks are made with materials and technologies requiring specific cleaning and maintenance. How often should you wash your waterproof bag? Do you have to do it after each use? Will frequent washing alter the waterproofing? To these and many more questions we answer down below.

Waterproof backpacks from reputed manufacturers are made to withstand frequent washing. You want to clean your bag to expand its durability and lower the risk of mildew. The most important thing to remember is that it’s not the washing but the improper washing method that can alter a waterproof backpack.

Do you have a waterproof backpack Here's how to take care of it

What is a waterproof backpack?

If your backpack is labeled as waterproof, it means you can submerge entirely in the water without worrying that the gear inside will get wet. Waterproof is less about being in the rain but more about being underwater. A waterproof backpack is made to withstand extreme conditions and not light summer rain.

With a waterproof backpack, you will be able to walk through a waterfall and still have the gear inside the pack dry. Such bags aren’t necessarily made with waterproof materials. You can find backpacks made with waterproof materials and waterproof zippers but are labeled as water-resistant and not as waterproof models. That’s because a pack becomes waterproof through a complex process.

Be aware of the “20/80” rule

Many backpackers use the “20/80” rule when washing their waterproof backpacks. This means that after 20 washing, a waterproof bag would have kept 80% of its initial water repellency. The principle is valid for all waterproof-breathable gear. However, if your backpack has a polyurethane coating for waterproofing, the material will maintain its waterproofness for more than 20 washings. Therefore, you shouldn’t avoid washing the pack whenever necessary. Remember, though, that you have to use the correct method.

Before you start the washing

Always begin the cleaning by checking out the care label and tags with washing instructions from the manufacturer. You should find details about the best method to care for and wash the backpack. The pack size matters when selecting the cleaning method; you will be able to handwash a small but not a large bag. Always read the washing instructions because some materials don’t allow machine washing.

Needless to say, some steps when washing a waterproof backpack are similar to those when washing a non-waterproof bag. Here’s what you should do before washing the waterproof pack:

  • Empty every pocket and leave each unzipped and unfastened
  • Examine the straps for abrasions and tears. Remove the straps and hand wash them. Machine washing can damage the straps.
  • Remove the harness and hip belt, if applicable. Also, remove detachable pockets and clean them separately from the main backpack.
  • If your pack has a metal frame, you must take it out before washing it.
  • Brush off the bag outside and inside. Use a damp cloth and mild antibacterial soap/detergent to wipe off stains, plant matter, and food spills.

How should you wash your waterproof backpack?

Light cleaning

Use some lukewarm water, a mild soap, and a soft brush to wash your backpack lightly. Never pour anything inside the bag and dissolve the cleaners in water before adding the pack to water.

You only need a sponge and some soap to lightly scrub the stains and spots on the exterior and a clean sponge to wipe it on the inside.

Deep cleaning

If you hand wash your backpack, start filling a large sink/bathtub with 6-7 inches of lukewarm water. Use a non-detergent soap or a detergent free of fragrances, dyes, and chemicals that might ruin the waterproofness. Submerge the pack and use your hands to agitate it a bit.

Never use a regular detergent or fabric softener because they will, for sure, damage the waterproofness. Spend more time on areas that come in contact with your body, such as the stomach and the back.

If it’s possible to wash the backpack in the washing machine, place it in a laundry bag/pillowcase so that the zippers and straps don’t get caught. Use the cycle in cold water to wash your waterproof backpack.

Drying Your Backpack

Needless to say, you should never dry your waterproof backpack in the dryer. Always hang it up to dry in the shade and even indoors. Direct sunlight will alter the fabrics, whereas direct heat sources (radiators) will damage the waterproofness.


Years of use and washing can decrease the waterproof ability of your backpack. You can use a re-proofer spray to maintain your backpack’s properties. Even if re-proofer sprays aren’t cheap, they will help the material resist water for a long time. Always apply the waterproofing treatment after a thorough cleaning.

How to take care of your waterproof backpack?

Properly washing your waterproof backpack is just one step from maintaining its abilities. You also need to take good care of it on a regular basis. Details come down below.

How to take care of your waterproof backpack

Have a regular wipe down

You should reduce dirt buildup inside and outside your pack. Therefore, wipe your backpack regularly with a damp cloth and mild detergent. Dry the bag entirely before using/storing it.

Use a rucksack liner

Many hunters avoid using rucksack liners because they take a lot of space. However, if you learn to pack them efficiently, you can actually increase your storage space and evenly distribute the weight inside the pack. The rucksack liner will lower the risk of spillage and eliminate the need for frequent washing.

Use wisely your backpack

Even if your hunting backpack is tougher than regular backpacks, it still needs proper care and washing. For instance, you should avoid dragging it on the ground because it will wear down the material and even cause holes. Pay attention to thorns and bushes because they can rip the backpack’s fabric.

If you need a waterproof backpack that will keep everything inside dry, even when completely submerged underwater, make sure to examine a few aspects. A roll-top opening and single compartments are essential for such performance. If the pack has just one compartment, a few zippers are entry points for water. Zippers represent a sensitive point for waterproof backpacks and can negatively impact their abilities. Also, a roll-top opening will keep water out similarly to a dry bag. The roll-top will create airtight protection so the gear inside the bag will stay dry.

Robert Dwayne

Robert Dwayne

To say that I am an outdoors enthusiast is probably an understatement. I am hyper passionate about everything outdoors: hiking, survival, hunting. On this website I am sharing my stories and experiences, and I hope you'll find inspiration to take up your own adventures!