How to Hand Wash a Backpack - For Backpacking or Baby!


You may want to wash your backpack for several reasons. Maybe it's been well used and just needs a little TLC after too many days on the trail. Or, like my current situation, maybe you got it second hand and you just want it to seem a little more new. Whatever the reason, washing your pack can be done with ease! 

I got this awesome, used, Kelty baby carrier backpack for my brother and his fiancé, who are expecting.

So firstly, I have to say that before getting any baby stuff used, make sure this is ok with the parents! I got approval from the fiancé to buy used baby equipment, and found out exactly what sorts of items were OK. She said that as long as it was washable and in good condition she was totally fine with it, and a baby-backpack was one of the things she rattled off! 

I found a used Kelty Tour, which normally retails for $190, for $50 on Nextdoor.  I scooped it up, and it's in great condition! It was definitely well loved, though, and I want to give it to them fully cleaned!

The Deep Clean

You should look up the care instructions for your specific make of pack. This is a combination of suggestions from Kelty and REI on how to deep clean packs.

  1. Empty your pack
  2. Gently vacuum pockets, seams, crevices, and way down inside the main body of the pack to remove any crumbs, sand or loose dirt
  3. If your pack allows, you should remove the hip-belt and shoulder straps and wash them separately with a sponge and gentle soap. Rinse well under running water.
  4. If your pack has a removable metal frame, take that out and set aside.
  5. Fill a bathtub or large sink with about 6 inches of cold - lukewarm water and gentle, non-detergent soap. I used Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds Biodegradable Cleaner. Submerge and swish your pack in the water, use a rag to gently scrub the interior and exterior. Pay attention to any places that come in contact with skin like straps. Be gentle with mesh pockets.
  6. Drain. Fill with 6 inches of clean cool water, rinse well. Rinse twice if necessary to remove all soap residue. I also let a cool shower run over mine for a few minutes.
  7. Allow to dry overnight. I just left mine in the tub since we didn't need to shower that night, and the following morning it was dry, and so clean! I was incredibly happy with how the pack turned out. You almost wouldn't know it got it used!