We bring many things back from our adventures; the memories of the people we have met, the obstacles we overcame, the thrills of having been in the flow. No matter how unique our adventures were, the one thing we will all have in common is a bag of dirty laundry.
The source of my dirty laundry was the Bearbones 300, a 300km self-supported ride through mid-Wales.
To call it a ride wouldn't do justice to how much pushing was involved. There was wading through thigh-deep muddy pools, lugging a loaded bike over monstrous tussocks and crashing through overgrown paths. It was a physical affair, which after 36 hours, curiously left my hands smelling of feet.
After cleaning myself, it was time for the laundry. It was a mixed bag of technical outdoor clothing, including natural and artificial fibres: merino, polyester and nylon.
The easy option is to throw it in with the standard laundry on a 40C wash, which I admit, I have done many times. Thankfully, modern fabrics have been engineered to be pretty resilient and, most of the time, come out just fine.
But it is not without its risks. Standard laundry detergents break down the water-repellency of your garments, and there is the constant danger of shrinking delicates like Merino, even if they are a polyester blend.
There is a better way
We can do better, we should do better and it's actually not that difficult.
Why it is important to separate your wash
As we complete our transition away from PFAS (forever chemicals) our outdoor clothing needs a bit of extra help to maintain the performance edge they have over our regular clothing.
One day garment technology will catch up and deliver even better performance than these deprecated, harmful treatments achieved. Until then I, for one, am happy to roll up my sleeves and change my washing habits.
As Mary Berry says, get organised and do things ahead of time. When you are run off your feet, you will resort to the easiest option - and your prize merino ends up in with the baby's jumpsuit.
Specialist is not a bad word
Ignore your mates when they try to convince you Daz is fine (other brands are equally inappropriate). You can order better cleaning products online and get them delivered to your door with no effort. Here are our suggestions:
The simplest option is to just get yourself an Alpkit Apparel Wash and Reproofing Kit. Do this, and you will be doing more than most people. Your kit will be looking great, and you can move on to the next adventure. Award yourself a black belt in Laundry Skills.
The kit includes two bottles, an eco-friendly wash for cleaning and a reproofer for boosting the water-repellency of your garments. The two liquids are combined in the same wash cycle to save energy and water. What could be more convenient than that?
If you want to go deeper down this rabbit hole there is a world of specific cleaning products for outerlayers, baselayers, insulation, shoes, tents, rucksacks, merino, down and leathers.
Give your technical gear VIP status
Ideally, you will want to avoid washing garments one at a time, so start to get into the habit of separating your technical clothing from your civvies. For some of us, there may be no difference. That makes things easier!
Assign a day when you are going to do your special wash - it could be every Sunday night.
It's your night to shine
Your fancy cleaning product has pride of place on the shelf and the household has been briefed not to use it under any circumstances, especially not for washing the dishes.
It is your night in the laundry room. Everyone knows you are going to do your 'special' wash.
Wash the detergent drawer and run the machine through a rinse cycle to get rid of all the nasty detergents lingering around.
As well as treating your clothing to a performance boost your washing machine will run more efficiently and last longer.
We are not going to get into specific wash instructions here, this article is about changing our laundry habits, but generally, it is going to be a gentle 30C wash, possibly with a tumble dry - check your garment label for specifics.
And that's it. You can congratulate yourself for choosing an environmentally friendly product, safe in the knowledge that your kit has been optimised for your next adventure.
As an extra bonus, you can make a point of your mate's jacket wetting out in the mild drizzle, still muttering on about how he has always used Daz...
The following products got very dirty but were unharmed in this adventure: