I carried all the major apparel brands when I owned the shop. A question that came up frequently was clothing storage, so I will take a minute to dive into my routine here. While everyone has different methods, this is what has worked for me.
Storage during the season:
My dad always told me, “take care of your gear, and your gear will take care of you.” How we store our camo is an essential part of the preparation and can have a direct correlation to success in the field. I am a bit OCD with scent control, but I think that odor management is extremely important. As you all know, when it comes to whitetails, the one sense that you cannot beat is their sense of smell.
Wash: Unless you have a separate washing machine dedicated to using non-scent and no UV detergent, it may be necessary to run a load of street wear through the machine with your chosen hunting detergent brand before washing your hunting clothing. I recommend washing your street wear that will be worn on the drive or before the hunt is this load. I have found that many machines leave residue from prior wash cycles and smelling like fresh lavender infused linen can be a real bummer. Also, if you have the option on your washer, select a double rinse and gentle cycle. When it comes to detergent, I prefer non-scent and no UV.
Post wash: I prefer to line dry almost everything. Again, dryers can retain scent and transfer it to apparel. Line drying is also a lot safer on natural materials and will lessen the effect of UV. When time is of the essence, and I am in a jam, I will toss my gear in the dryer, but it is not my preferred method.
Post dry: Once all the gear is dry on the line, I spray it down with a light coat of no-scent spray to attack any remaining bacteria, and then I toss it into a plastic sealed container. When it comes to containers, don’t buy the cheapest option. You will be tossing these in and out of trucks for a few years, and the thin plastic models will crack easily.
I know a lot of good hunters that use ozone to eliminate odors in apparel, but I have mixed feelings about the effect of ozone. I found that the small ozone device that I dropped into my storage bin left my clothing with a “sweet” smell that was very hard to to get rid of. My thoughts are that if it is unnatural and I can smell it, a whitetail can smell it tenfold. Granted, my experience with utilizing the effects of ozone was over five years ago, and the advances in ozone technology have probably increased dramatically over that time. There are storage units with built in ozone machines on the market now, but I have not had the chance to use one.
I am a big fan of cover-scents but not store bought. If I can find a walnut tree that is dropping fresh walnuts, that is a gold mine. Toss a dozen of them into your storage bin and seal it up but be sure not to leave them for more than a week. As the husks start to rot, they soften and smell a bit stale. The decaying husk is a natural odor in the wild, but it is not as appealing to the human nose. It is best to pick the walnuts directly off the tree or get them right when they hit the ground and are still green. I also like to use fresh cut pine and spruce bows. They have a powerful aroma that will soak into your apparel if left closed in a bin for a few nights. Again, the same goes for the pine/spruce method. As the branch dies the needles begin to fall off and they can leave a less than flattering surprise when they attach to the inside of your apparel.The plants/vegetation that you use will differ by region, but those two have worked very well for me in the midwest.
Black Walnut can be a great cover scent
Like I mentioned before, I am OCD when it comes to apparel washing…my wife would vouch for this. I will not wash after a morning sit, but If I hunt the equivalency of two sits (morning/evening, two consecutive mornings, full day), I will toss it all in the wash. Time of year also has an impact on my wash frequency. For summer scouting and early season hunts, my gear is cleaned after each time in the field.
After the season is over is a great time to get reorganized. In my case, I usually have gear scattered over a few counties at this point and getting everything centralized and washed eases my mind. If you have a buddy who loves to hi-jack your gear, grab it now. I go through the same wash/storage regimen as above but do not add any natural fauna (walnuts and spruce). I then categorize each bin by layer type. It is beneficial for me to separate outerwear from base layers and accessories for off season storage. That way, I know right where everything is when it is time to hit the timber again. Lastly, put the bins in a dry room out of the way. Another great option is vacuum storage if you have the machine to do it.
Storage bin for hunting gear
Another topic I will briefly touch on it what materials require more attention. Merinos and natural fibers do not hold odor to the extent that polyester and nylon does. With that being said, if you do not sweat profusely, your base layers do not need to be washed after each sit. This will also increase the life of natural fiber knit garments as they are not as durable as woven polyester or nylon. When it comes to insulation wear, I do not wash my Tailwind Puffy all that often. I always have it in my pack but usually do not wear it until on stand. I have found that wearing it while on the move can cause me to overheat. Therefore, I tend to run it through the wash only 2 to 3 times per season.
When it comes to washing and storage, simple is best. The less machine time and synthetic cover spray you add, the better. Keep it as natural as possible for the best results. The offseason is a great time to get organized after the chaos of the season has ended.