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Gear Guy

Q:

How do I safely clean my boots and backpack?

I need gear-cleaning advice. My Vasque Breeze XCR light hikers are caked in mud, and my North Face Fusion backpack has a moldy odor. How do I clean these items without ruining them? Lilly New Haven, Connecticut

I need gear-cleaning advice. My Vasque Breeze XCR light hikers are caked in mud, and my North Face Fusion backpack has a moldy odor. How do I clean these items without ruining them? Lilly New Haven, Connecticut

A:

Part one is pretty easy. Simply wash off the boots with warm water and a soft brush. Scrub them lightly to get grit and sand out of the seams or other places where embedded dirt could grind away at the boots. Rinse the interiors to remove sweat, which has an acidic component that can damage the boot lining.

Granger’s G-Wax

G-Wax

After the boots are clean, allow them to dry thoroughly at room temperature. It’s best not to put them in the hot sun or near a heater, as that may dry out the nubuck leather patches on the boot. Once the boots are dry, you can give them a treatment such as Granger’s G-Wax ($8.50; www.grangersusa.com) to add some water-repellency to the outers while also conditioning the leather patches.

Cleaning The North Face’s Fusion pack—a model no longer made—is a little more difficult. It sounds like it got put away damp and maybe a little dirty, and now you have mildew. Start by half-filling a bathtub or large plastic muck bucket with warm water, then add a few squirts of Dawn detergent and a cup or two of Simple Green cleaner (www.simplegreen.com). Dunk the pack in that solution and agitate it thoroughly for three or four minutes. Then rinse it out well, shake it off, and put it in a warm, dry place so it can thoroughly dry.

That ought to kill the mildew and deodorize the pack. But, mildew is very hard on the packcloth, so I won’t guarantee there isn’t some actual damage to the pack. It should, however, be good for a few more years.

Check out this year’s more than 400 must-have gear items, including a comprehensive backpacks section, in the 2006 Buyer’s Guide.

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