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How to Clean Your Bikepacking Bags

From single-day rides to rides that take months, bikepacking bags can come really in handy… the only problem? Anyone who has ever been on an extended ride knows how these bags full of all your stuff – from food to your underwear – they can get extremely dirty and smelly. No bike comes home clean after a ride – especially in winter when you have to deal with mud, snow, and dirt. You carry those bags around for several days or even weeks so, sooner or later, you are going to need to clean them.

So, how do you best clean your bikepacking bags?

clean bikepacking bags

Soft Cleaning     

Sometimes you don’t need to completely wash your bags. Actually, the more you take care of your bikepacking bags with “soft cleaning” the more sporadically you’ll need to completely wash them with soap and water.

Anytime your bags get dirty with mud, you want to shake them out and brush off the dirt. A dry and soft bristle brush can help you remove the tougher dirt as long as it’s dry. Such as this one here.

Sometimes brushing off dry dirt isn’t enough. In this case, you need some soap and water. I recommend using Dr. Bronners, its biodegradable and doesn’t harm your skin. Solvent, alcohol, or acid-based cleaners are not recommended: they could damage the fabric and other materials. 

Hard Cleaning

We call “Hard Cleaning” the procedure of entirely washing your bags after a trip (or in the event they get very dirty during your journey). In this case, you want to completely empty your bags. If your bags have metal parts, check to see if you can remove them. If you can, remove the metal parts before washing the bags to protect them from corrosion. There is usually no need to protect zippers, but if you are particularly picky, you can protect them with some silicone.

I recommend washing your bags with warm water and Dr. Bronners soap. Use a sponge or a soft brush to remove dirt more efficiently and rinse thoroughly. Open your bag and let it air dry. Avoid using heat sources like dryers to accelerate the drying process, since synthetic materials could be damaged.

Once they are dry, your bikepacking bags will be ready for the next trip to get dirty again!

Can I wash my bikepacking bags in the washing machine?

If you are considering washing your bikepacking bags in your washing machine, check with the manufacturer. If they say you can wash the bag in the washing machine, go with it. But if they say not to, do not attempt it and avoid the washing machine: you’d almost certainly ruin your bags irreversibly.

I’ve actually taken mine into the shower with me and cleaned them in there while recuperating after a long week of being in the Santa Fe National Forest.

Now that you know everything you need on how to clean your bikepacking bags, you and your bike are ready for your next ride!