Frequent trips to the backcountry can be demanding, on both your body and your gear. While outdoor products are created to hold up to more than standard wear and tear, misuse of gear can sometimes lead to stress, breaks, and tears. Your backpack is a crucial piece of gear on the trail and treating it well can extend its life when the outdoors make such a task difficult. Keep reading for a few tips on getting a few more miles out of your backpack.

The straps on a backpack are designed to fit around your shoulders, and shouldn’t be used to lift the pack from rest. Reduce the stress placed on strap stitching by making sure to pick up the pack by the center loop. If your pack is too heavy to get on by yourself, ask a friend for help or use a log or boulder to prop the backpack on.

If your backpack has buckles, be sure to close them during transport. Plastic fasteners can be broken if they’re caught in a baggage claim conveyor belt or slammed in a car door.

Be sure to remove any remaining food particles, such as crumbs or stains by using a plastic brush, warm water, and dish soap to clean your pack at least once every season, or as otherwise needed. This will reduce the risk of ants, mice, or any other creature making their way into your pack or gnawing through the material. If odor is an issue, use an odor eliminator to spray or rinse the pack. Extend the life of high abrasion areas by layering them with a thin coat of seam grip.

Try not to overstuff your pack’s pockets, as this stresses their seams, mesh lining, and the zippers. If you’re away from your pack, keep your food elsewhere, or if you have no other options, leave the packets unzipped so animals can investigate without chewing through the fabric. Better to go without that bag of almonds than to deal with a hole in your backpack’s pocket.

If you’re like me, then taking care of the expensive gear you buy is important. There are some who can afford a new backpack every season, but most of us can’t. Yes, the outdoors can be rough on your backpack, but by implementing the tips outlined above, you can protect your pack and get a few more years out of it. Be smart when packing, careful when storing, and considerate of usage when you’re on the trail, and there’s no reason your backpack can’t last a few years longer. 

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