The arrival of longer days and warmer weather along with the loss of snow at higher elevations means its backpacking season. But before you begin logging miles and sleeping under the stars, it’s a good idea to make sure your backpacking gear is ready for the season ahead. Performing some simple maintenance as you get your gear out of hibernation is a great first step to ensuring a successful season.

1. Rain Gear

From spring showers to summer storms, if you spend enough time outside, you’re sure to get caught in the rain. To stay dry, you’ll want to make sure wet-weather gear, like your trusty Thunderhead jacket, is at its best by first cleaning it and then restoring its water repellency.

Steer clear of regular detergents—which can damage the waterproof coating on rain jackets—and opt for cleaners formulated especially for waterproof garments, like Nikwax Tech Wash. Once the garment is clean, revitalize its water repellency using either a spray-on or wash-in waterproofing, like Nikwax TX.Direct Spray or Nikwax TX.Direct Wash.

2. Footwear

No matter if you’re backpacking in full-leather boots or lightweight trail runners, take a few minutes to give your footwear a quick cleaning. A toothbrush and a technical wash like the one used for rain gear are a good combination for scrubbing away last year’s dirt and grime.

Take the time to check in on the overall condition of your footwear. What is the condition of the laces? How are soles holding up? Are there foreboding tears or worn stitching? If your footwear is on its last legs, consider replacing your old shoes and breaking in a new pair before your first overnight trip.

Credit: Tim Peck

3. Tent

The last thing you want on a backpacking trip is to get to your campsite and discover there’s an issue with your tent. Before hitting the trail, set your tent up and make sure all the key pieces—footprint, guylines, stakes, etc.—are present and in working condition.

Next, give the tent a quick inspection to ensure there are no rips, tears, or holes, and that all the zippers are functioning properly—addressing any issues you find. If your tent is dirty, mildewed, or has a funky smell, hand-clean it using a technical wash meant for outdoor gear.

4. Sleeping Bag

When you curl up in your sleeping bag after a long day on the trail, you drag dirt, sweat, and oil from your skin with you. If your bag is looking a little haggard, now is the time to show it some love. You can spot-clean small stains and patches of dirt with warm water and a technical wash, but if your sleeping bag is particularly dirty, you’ll want to give it a deep clean.

Sleeping bags are best cleaned by hand or in a front-loading washer, as the agitator in top loaders can damage them. Use an appropriate technical wash—for example, Nikwax Down Wash for down sleeping bags and Nikwax Tech Wash for synthetic bags. This is also a great time to clean any puffy coats in need of laundering!

Credit: Tim Peck

5. Sleeping Pad

Discovering that your sleeping pad has a slow leak on a backpacking trip is a special type of hell. Luckily, spending a few minutes checking up on your pad at home can save you from a night of sleeping on the cold, hard ground. To check your pad, inflate it and put some weight on it (books work great). If the pad holds air, perfect. If not, find the hole and patch it before heading into the backcountry.

6. Water Filter

The beginning of backpacking the season is the perfect time to go over your water filter. First and foremost, replace or backflush dirty filters. Next, inspect any tubes or containers to ensure they’re clean, replacing any that have passed the point of no return. Most cleaning kits include a brush for reaching the hardest-to-clean grime.

Credit: Tim Peck

7. Pack

It goes without saying that your backpack is a pretty important piece of gear—it’s called backpacking, after all. Before hitting the trail, make sure all your pack’s zippers are functioning and all of its buckles are in working order. Also, take a second to open up each pocket and clean out any wrappers, trash, or debris left behind from previous trips. Finally, be sure to check the pack’s overall integrity and patch any rips or tears in the fabric.

8. Restock First-Aid Kit

First-aid kits are a frequently overlooked piece of backpacking gear—it’s common to not think about them until you need them. Check the medication in your kit and replace any that has expired. Similarly, restock any first-aid items you used last year and neglected to replace. Consider too whether your kit includes sufficient material to deal with serious bleeds, breaks, and other injuries.

9. Headlamps

Your headlamp is a small, yet vital, piece of backpacking gear and you’ll want to ensure it functions well before your first night in the backcountry. If using traditional batteries, make sure they have enough juice and consider adding a spare set to your kit. If using a rechargeable headlamp, make sure it’s fully charged, and think about adding a power bank and charging cord to your kit.

Credit: Tim Peck

10. Gather Your Gear

Dig out all your backpacking gear—including the aforementioned items—and ensure you’ve got everything you need for your first trip. Do you have fuel for your stove? Bug spray? Have you had a craving for a particular freeze-fried meal over the winter? Generally, the earlier in the season you shop, the better selection you’ll find. Stocking up on must-haves in the spring can keep you chasing days in the mountains during the backpacking season, rather than your favorite type of jerky.

Have another tip for prepping gear for backpacking season? We want to hear it—tell us in the comments!