How To Clean And Maintain A Running Backpack?



As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

how to clean and maintain a running backpack

So you’ve invested in a high-quality running backpack from one of the top brands in the industry like Salomon, CamelBak, or Osprey. These backpacks are specially designed to cater to the unique needs of runners, offering various options like hydration packs, race vests, and ultralight backpacks.

But once you’ve put it through its paces on the trails, how do you ensure that your running backpack stays clean and in good condition? In this article, we’ll walk you through some simple yet effective tips on how to clean and maintain your running backpack, so it can keep up with you on all your future adventures.

Why is Cleaning and Maintaining a Running Backpack Important?

As a runner, your backpack is an integral part of your gear. It carries your essentials, keeps you hydrated, and ensures you have a comfortable run. However, over time, your running backpack can accumulate dirt, sweat, and bacteria, leading to unpleasant odors and potential health risks. Cleaning and maintaining your running backpack is not only important for hygiene but also for prolonging its lifespan and ensuring maximum functionality and comfort during your runs.

Preventing Odor and Bacteria Buildup

One of the most significant reasons to clean your running backpack regularly is to prevent odor and bacteria buildup. When you run, you naturally sweat, and this sweat can seep into the fabric of your backpack. Over time, the moisture can create a breeding ground for bacteria, leading to stubborn odors that are hard to get rid of. By cleaning your backpack, you remove the sweat and bacteria, ensuring a fresh and odor-free pack for your next run.

Prolonging the Lifespan of the Backpack

Proper cleaning and maintenance also play a crucial role in prolonging the lifespan of your running backpack. Regularly removing dirt, dust, and debris prevents them from wearing out the fabric and zippers. Additionally, cleaning your backpack allows you to inspect it for any signs of wear and tear, such as frayed straps or loose threads. By addressing these issues promptly, you can prevent further damage and ensure your backpack lasts for many runs to come.

Ensuring Functionality and Comfort during Runs

A clean backpack is a functional backpack. Dirt and grime can accumulate in the compartments and pockets, making it difficult to access your items during a run. By cleaning the interior and exterior of your backpack, you ensure that everything is easily accessible and organized when you need it. Moreover, cleaning your hydration system, if applicable, ensures that you have clean and refreshing water throughout your runs, enhancing your comfort and hydration experience.

Materials and Equipment Needed

Before diving into the cleaning process, gather the necessary materials and equipment to ensure an effective and thorough cleaning of your running backpack. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Mild detergent or soap: Choose a gentle detergent or soap that is suitable for the materials of your backpack.
  • Soft-bristle brush or sponge: A soft-bristle brush or sponge will help you scrub away dirt and stains without damaging the fabric.
  • Clean water: Having access to clean water is essential for rinsing off any detergent or soap residue.
  • Microfiber cloth or towel: A microfiber cloth or towel is perfect for absorbing moisture and helping with the drying process.
  • Air dry rack or hanger: An air dry rack or hanger will allow your backpack to air dry thoroughly and maintain its shape.

Cleaning the Exterior of the Running Backpack

Start by focusing on the exterior of your running backpack. Follow these steps to ensure a thorough cleaning:

  1. Emptying and shaking out the backpack: Remove all items from your backpack and give it a good shake to remove loose dirt and debris.
  2. Spot cleaning stains or dirt patches: If you notice any specific stains or dirt patches, spot clean them using a mild detergent or soap diluted with water. Apply the solution to the stain and gently scrub with a soft-bristle brush or sponge.
  3. Using a detergent solution for more thorough cleaning: For a more comprehensive cleaning, prepare a solution of mild detergent or soap mixed with water. Dip your soft-bristle brush or sponge into the solution and gently scrub the entire exterior of the backpack, paying extra attention to areas that are visibly dirty or stained.
  4. Gently scrubbing with a soft-bristle brush or sponge: Use circular motions to scrub the fabric, zippers, and straps. Be careful not to scrub too vigorously, as this can damage the material.
  5. Rinsing thoroughly with clean water: After scrubbing, rinse the backpack thoroughly with clean water to remove any residual detergent or soap. Make sure to rinse out all soap suds until the water runs clear.

Cleaning the Interior of the Running Backpack

Next, it’s time to clean the interior of your running backpack. Follow these steps to ensure a thorough cleaning:

  1. Removing all contents and pockets: Empty all the compartments and pockets of your backpack and remove any loose items.
  2. Vacuuming or shaking out loose debris: Use a vacuum cleaner or simply shake out your backpack to remove any loose debris, crumbs, or dust.
  3. Washing the interior with mild detergent solution: Prepare another solution of mild detergent or soap mixed with water. Use a clean sponge or cloth to apply the solution to the interior of the backpack. Pay close attention to areas that come into direct contact with your body, such as the back panel or straps.
  4. Scrubbing any stubborn stains gently: If there are any stubborn stains or odors, gently scrub them with the soft-bristle brush or sponge. Avoid using excessive force, as it may damage the interior lining.
  5. Rinsing thoroughly with clean water: After scrubbing, rinse the interior of the backpack thoroughly with clean water to remove any residual detergent or soap. Make sure to rinse out all soap suds until the water runs clear.

Cleaning the Hydration System (if applicable)

If your running backpack has a built-in hydration system, it’s important to clean it separately. Follow these steps for a thorough cleaning:

  1. Emptying and disassembling the hydration bladder: Remove the hydration bladder from the backpack and empty it completely. Disassemble any detachable parts, such as the mouthpiece or tube.
  2. Using a cleaning kit or mild detergent to clean the bladder: If you have a cleaning kit specifically designed for hydration bladders, follow the instructions provided. Otherwise, use a mixture of mild detergent and water to clean the bladder. You can also use a brush or sponge to gently scrub the interior of the bladder.
  3. Rinsing thoroughly with clean water: Rinse the bladder with clean water until all detergent or soap residue is gone. Ensure that the water runs clear through the mouthpiece and tube as well.
  4. Air drying completely before reassembling: After rinsing, allow the hydration bladder to air dry completely before reassembling it. Ensure that all parts are dry to prevent the growth of mold or mildew.

Drying the Running Backpack

Proper drying is crucial to prevent moisture buildup and ensure the longevity of your running backpack. Follow these steps to effectively dry your backpack:

  1. Gently squeezing out excess water: After rinsing, gently squeeze out any excess water from the exterior and interior of your backpack. Be careful not to wring or twist the fabric, as it may damage it.
  2. Using a microfiber cloth or towel to absorb moisture: Use a clean microfiber cloth or towel to absorb any remaining moisture. Pat dry the entire backpack, focusing on areas that tend to retain water, such as the shoulder straps and back panel.
  3. Opening all compartments and pockets to air dry: Open all compartments, pockets, and zippers to allow air to circulate freely inside the backpack. This will aid in the drying process and prevent any trapped moisture.
  4. Avoiding direct sunlight or heat sources: While it may be tempting to speed up the drying process by exposing your backpack to direct sunlight or heat sources, it’s best to avoid them. Direct sunlight can fade the colors and damage the fabric, while heat sources can cause shrinkage or warping.
  5. Using an air dry rack or hanger to maintain shape: To maintain the shape of your backpack during the drying process, hang it on an air dry rack or hanger. This will help prevent any sagging or misshaping.

Maintaining the Running Backpack

Regular maintenance is key to keeping your running backpack in optimal condition. Here are some essential steps to maintain your backpack:

  1. Regularly inspecting zippers, straps, and buckles for any damage: Take the time to inspect the zippers, straps, buckles, and other components of your backpack. Look for any signs of wear and tear, such as fraying, broken stitches, or loose buckles. Address any issues promptly to prevent further damage or potential accidents during your runs.
  2. Repairing or replacing any worn-out or broken components: If you notice any worn-out or broken components, such as a loose strap or buckle, repair or replace them as necessary. Most running backpack brands offer replacement parts or repair services, so check with the manufacturer or retailer for options.
  3. Applying waterproof spray or fabric protector: To enhance the water resistance of your backpack, consider applying a waterproof spray or fabric protector. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer to ensure proper application and effectiveness.
  4. Storing the backpack in a dry and clean area: When you’re not using your backpack, store it in a dry and clean area. Avoid leaving it in a damp or humid environment, as this can promote mold or mildew growth. Proper storage will help maintain the overall condition of your backpack.
  5. Avoiding overstuffing the backpack to prevent strain: While it may be tempting to carry more than necessary, avoid overstuffing your backpack. Overloading can strain the seams, straps, and zippers, leading to premature wear and tear. Pack only what you need for your runs to ensure the longevity of your backpack.

Tips for Specific Running Backpack Brands

Different running backpack brands may have specific care instructions or recommendations for cleaning and maintenance. Here are some tips for popular running backpack brands:

Salomon: Check the specific cleaning instructions provided by Salomon for their backpacks.

Nathan Sports: Follow the care and maintenance tips recommended by Nathan Sports.

CamelBak: Refer to CamelBak’s website for detailed cleaning guides for their hydration packs.

Osprey: Utilize the cleaning and care instructions specified by Osprey.

Ultimate Direction: Consult Ultimate Direction’s website for brand-specific care instructions.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about cleaning and maintaining a running backpack:

Can I wash my running backpack in a washing machine?

While some running backpacks may be labeled as machine washable, it’s generally not recommended. Machine washing can put excessive stress on the fabric and components, leading to potential damage. Handwashing is the preferred method for most running backpacks.

How often should I clean my running backpack?

The frequency of cleaning depends on your usage and personal preference. As a general guideline, it’s recommended to clean your running backpack after several uses or whenever it becomes visibly dirty or starts to develop odor.

What should I do if my running backpack has a foul odor?

If your running backpack has a foul odor, start by thoroughly cleaning the exterior and interior using the steps outlined earlier. You can also try using odor-absorbing products, such as baking soda or activated charcoal, to help eliminate any lingering odors.

Can I use bleach or harsh chemicals to clean my running backpack?

It’s best to avoid using bleach or harsh chemicals on your running backpack, as they can damage the fabric and components. Stick to mild detergents or soaps specifically designed for delicate fabrics and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Is it necessary to clean the hydration bladder after every use?

Cleaning the hydration bladder after every use is highly recommended to prevent bacteria growth and maintain its functionality. A dirty hydration bladder can lead to foul-tasting water and potential health risks. Follow the cleaning steps mentioned earlier for proper maintenance of your hydration system.


Regularly cleaning and maintaining your running backpack is essential for ensuring its longevity, functionality, and your comfort during runs. By preventing odor and bacteria buildup, prolonging the lifespan of the backpack, and ensuring functionality, you can continue to enjoy comfortable and hassle-free runs. Remember to follow specific care instructions from your backpack brand, as each brand may have unique recommendations for cleaning and maintenance. Take care of your running backpack, and it will take care of you throughout your running journey.

Latest Posts