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Two tourists on a street with two suitcases
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5 Tricks for Making Your Travel Gear Last Longer

SmarterTravel

Treat your travel gear right and it will last you through millions of miles—leaving you more money to spend on vacations. Here are our top tips for making your suitcases, bags, and other travel gear last longer.

Deep Clean

Person wearing gloves cleaning a green suitcase with a towel and spray cleaner
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“Dirt, sweat, campfire smoke, detergents and body oils can compromise the performance of your gear,” warns Heidi Dale Allen, VP Marketing, Nikwax. Giving your backpacks, luggage, and other travel gear a deep clean after a trip can help prolong their life. 

Dale Allen recommends following these steps for a deep clean:

  • Empty all pockets
  • Vacuum the inside of your bags to get rid of dirt/sand/crumbs
  • Wet the item by spraying it down or wiping with a wet cloth 
  • Spray with Tent & Gear SolarWash and scrub thoroughly to clean and add UV protection and water-repellency
  • Rinse
  • Air dry completely before putting away

Dry Your Boots and Shoes the Right Way

If you’ve ever had to pack wet boots or shoes for your trip home, you’ve probably learned this lesson the hard way. Gear can mold and mildew (and cause odors) extremely quickly when put away wet or even damp. 

If you don’t have time for your stuff to dry before you have to head home, make sure you clean it thoroughly once you’ve arrived back home. Make sure the item is completely dry before you store it away.

However, don’t dry leather travel gear (like hiking boots) using direct heat, such as a hair dryer. This can “Dry out the leather, which can cause it to crack. It can also damage the glues, causing your shoes to fall apart faster,” advises Dale Allen. Instead, she recommends removing the insoles and stuffing with newspaper or paper towels to help dry the insides of shoes and boots.

Add a Water-Repellent

Person hiking in the mountains wearing a waterproof rain coat and a large, tarp-covered backpack
vitaliymateha | Adobe Stock

Did you know that you should re-waterproof your waterproof gear every year? If you’re sheepishly glancing over at your neglected raincoat, tent, and boots, you’re not alone, as this fact isn’t usually advertised when you buy waterproof gear. Most waterproof items are pretreated with a durable water repellent finish (DWR), which makes it breathable and waterproof. However, it doesn’t last forever, and can wear off fairly quickly with frequent use.

Not sure if your gear is still waterproof? Dale Allen recommends using a spray bottle to spray some water on your gear. “If the water beads up, your DWR is still intact”, says Dale Allen. “If the water soaks into the fabric, it’s time to add some DWR.”

Before adding DWR, make sure you wash or clean the item first (to help the waterproofing adhere). Then use a water-repellent spray like Nikwax TX Direct Spray-On to revive the waterproofing.

DWR sprays can even add water-repellency to items that didn’t originally come with it—however, know that it won’t make a non-waterproof item waterproof, especially if it has zippers or seams where water can leak in, warns Dale Allen.

Don’t Over-Pack

If your luggage is regularly straining at the seams and subjected to you kneeling on it to make it close, don’t be surprised when the zipper eventually fails. Overpacking can stress the zippers on your bags to failure, and also cause damage to the seams or even distort the shape of your luggage. 

If your bag won’t close easily, you’ll need to reevaluate your packing strategy (or upgrade to an expandable suitcase.)

Store Your Gear Properly

When you’re storing your travel gear, you want to keep it away from light, moisture, extreme temperatures, dust, and bugs. 

If you still have the dustbag your suitcase came in, that’s great for storage. If not, a trash bag works just as well to keep out dust and bugs. Try to keep your bags away from direct sunlight (which can cause fading over time), and in a cool, dry area. 

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