How to look after your outdoor clothing


From caring for waterproof jackets to shoes and base layers, we’ve got everything you need to know about how to keep your outdoor clothing in top shape.

Having the right outdoor clothing can make or break any adventure. And to ensure your gear performs at its peak season after season, the right care is key.

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about maintaining your outdoor clothing. From washing to storage and more, here’s our guidebook on keeping every item in great condition.

Outdoor clothing fabrics

Outdoor gear is typically designed with durable fabrics that can resist a variety of weather conditions and rugged use. However, different materials still have their own unique care requirements.

  • Nylon & polyester: These are some of the best outdoor fabrics, as they are both resilient and quick-drying. They can withstand regular washing, but avoid high-heat drying to prevent shrinkage and weakening of the fibres.

  • GORE-TEX®: This durable, waterproof material can endure tough conditions. Wash this fabric occasionally, using a mild detergent and tumble drying on low to rejuvenate its waterproof characteristics.

  • Down: Down outdoor clothing is lightweight and insulating but requires special care. Only wash down items when absolutely necessary and use a specific down-safe cleaner. Always tumble dry on low with clean tennis balls to restore loft.

General care and washing tips

No matter the kind of garment, or the material it’s made of, there are a few key tips to bear in mind when it comes to care and maintenance.

  • Pre-wash: Brush off any loose dirt before washing and close any zips and Velcro fastenings. Always make sure to follow the garment's care label instructions.

  • Drying: Avoid high heat when drying any outdoor gear as it can harm the fabric. Air drying is best, but if using a dryer, select a low-heat setting.

How often should you wash your gear?

Here’s a brief guide to how often you should wash your clothing including waterproof jackets, fleeces and more.

  • Waterproof jackets and pants: After approximately 20-30 days of use. Sooner if they start to retain odour or lose their water-repelling properties.

  • Base layers (e.g., thermal tops and bottoms): After each use.

  • Hiking socks: After every use.

  • Fleece jackets and vests: Every 6-7 wears, unless they become visibly dirty.

  • Hiking pants/shorts: After 3-4 uses.

  • Outdoor shirts: Depending on the material, after 1-2 uses. 

  • Hiking boots: While not washed in the traditional sense, you should clean your boots after each use to remove dirt and dust. Do any regular maintenance like waterproofing or conditioning (for leather boots) as needed.

Long hikes and treks: Caring for outdoor gear on the go

When you're out on a trail, the luxury of washing machines and tumble dryers isn't an option. Here are some tips on how to wash and maintain outdoor clothes on the move.

  • Spot cleaning: Carrying a small, travel-friendly detergent can help spot clean stains or dirt. Rinse with clean water and let the item air dry.

  • Drying: Hang your clothing to dry naturally. Avoid leaving them in direct sunlight for long periods as UV rays can degrade the fabric over time.

Odour management: To deal with odours, turn your gear inside out and let it air overnight. Airing helps eliminate odours, keeping your gear fresh longer.


Caring for other essential outdoor gear

In addition to your clothing, other pieces of outdoor gear like footwear and accessories also require proper care. Here are some tips on maintaining these items.

Outdoor footwear

Whether you’re wearing hiking boots, trail running shoes or casual outdoor footwear, proper care can significantly extend their lifespan.

  • Cleaning: Use a soft brush to remove dirt after each use. For stubborn stains, use mild soap and warm water, but avoid soaking the shoes entirely.

  • Drying: Never dry your shoes near direct heat or in the sun. Intense heat can warp the shoe and degrade the material. Instead, remove insoles and let them air dry naturally.

  • Waterproofing: If your shoes are made of leather, use a waterproofing treatment after each cleaning. For synthetic shoes, a spray-on waterproofing agent works well.

Outdoor Accessories

Items such as your backpack, gloves, gaiters, and hats also need correct care. Here's how to look after them:

  • Backpacks: Empty the bag and shake out any dirt. Use a mild soap to spot clean any stains, and then rinse with cool water. Always air dry, never machine dry.

  • Scarves, gloves & hats: Check the care label. Most can be hand washed with a mild detergent and air-dried. Avoid wringing out these items, as it can damage the insulating materials.

  • Gaiters: Gaiters protect your boots and lower legs, often getting very dirty. Brush off dried mud and hand wash in warm soapy water. Rinse thoroughly and air dry.

Correct storage is key

In addition to washing and drying, how you store your outdoor clothing and gear can significantly impact its durability. Here are some storage tips:

  • Never store wet or dirty gear: Always clean and properly dry your outdoor gear before storing it. Storing wet or dirty gear can lead to the growth of mildew and other damaging bacteria.

  • Loose storage: Compressing your outdoor clothing and gear for an extended period can damage the insulation and shape. When storing, try to keep items loose and uncompressed.

  • Cool, dry storage area: Heat and humidity can damage your gear. Store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.


Regular inspection and repair

Regularly checking your outdoor gear for any wear and tear can prevent small issues from becoming significant problems.

  • Check for damage: Look for any tears, loose stitching, or broken zippers. Prompt repair can prevent further damage.

  • Repair kits: For extended trips, carry a basic repair kit that includes items like a needle and thread, duct tape, and seam sealer. This will allow you to make immediate repairs when needed.

Refreshing water repellency

Over time, the durable water repellent coating on your waterproof outdoor gear may start to wear off. Maintaining it can significantly enhance the longevity of your outdoor clothing.

  • Reproof when necessary: If water no longer beads up on the surface of your water repellant gear, it might be time to reproof. Use a spray-on or wash-in product following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Keep your gear in top shape

Your outdoor clothing and other gear supports all your adventures. This is why investing time in care and maintenance is always worthwhile.

At The North Face, we stock a wide range of quality men’s and women’s outdoor clothing, shoes, and accessories. So you can stay adventurous and never stop exploring.