There are plenty of ways to ruin your tent, and storing it wet is one of the worst.
“Tents will last many, many years unless you do stuff like that all the time,” said Matt Chmielarczyk, sales manager at Mountain Chalet outdoors stores in Colorado Springs, Colo. “Not only will it not last as long, but you won’t get anyone to go with you because your tent smells like a wet dog.”
It’s been a long time since most people packed away their summer gear for the winter. Now, as opposed to setting up camp five miles into the wilderness, is a good time to check your gear. After all, summer camping season is upon us.
It’s not just tents. Boots, sleeping bags and the rest of your gear needs to be checked and possibly repaired or replaced after a long winter. Here’s what you need to know to ensure your gear is as ready to go as you are:
Set up your tent in your yard and inspect it for holes from mice, moths or whatever else might live in your garage. Pay special attention to the floor, looking for light spots or holes, since many people forego ground cloths or tarps these days to save weight. Most holes can be fixed easily with nylon repair tape.
Make sure you still have the right number of stakes and poles, and that the poles don’t look bent. While poles were once universal, they’re now specialized for most tents, so you might have to order a new one from the manufacturer. If that’s not an option, duct tape makes a good Plan B.
Check the zippers, which can be the most frustrating part of a tent to fix and might also require shipping the tent to the manufacturer. You also can ship it to Rainy Pass Repair Inc. in Seattle, the largest outdoor equipment repair service in the country.
Older canvas tents can leak more than the Titanic, but experts say modern tents don’t need extra coating.
If you committed the cardinal sin of packing the tent wet, there’s only one thing to do: shop for a new tent.
“That mildew is like the cancer of tents,” Chmielarczyk said, “and there’s no known cure for it.”
The most important piece of hiking gear goes on your feet, so do your feet a favor and clean your boots. Use a soft brush to remove the dirt and sand, which can degrade the material and rot the leather. Clean with boot cleaner and a wet washcloth and then let dry.
It’s a good idea to waterproof boots periodically. For leather boots, apply conditioner to moisturize the material and then waterproofing treatment, which comes in a spray or wipe-on wax. Fabric boot owners can skip the conditioner.
Signs that your boots might have walked too many miles are cracks in the leather, loose stitching and worn-down tread.
If you decide to buy new boots, don’t go shopping the day before a long hike or backcountry trip. You’ll want to break in the boots by wearing them around the house and on shorter hikes. If your boots aren’t broken in, your first stop along the trail might be for mole skin.
Nobody wants to take a long pull on their CamelBak on a hot day only to see green slime in the tube. But if you didn’t drain the line and then let it sit for months, that might happen.
You can buy a special tool to clean the hose or simply buy a new hose. Soak the end attached to the reservoir in hot water to stretch the plastic enough to remove it.
Backpackers or rafters who filter drinking water should test their filter in the sink before using it. If you didn’t follow manufacturers’ instructions last year by pulling out the filter cartridge to let it dry, pump some bleach through to clean it.
SLEEPING BAG AND AIR MATTRESS
Make sure the zippers still work and there are no holes, which can be sealed quickly with nylon repair tape.
Keeping bags clean is crucial. Nobody wants to sleep in a dirty bag, and that smudge could be food that attracts bears, so spot clean with laundry detergent where needed. If it needs a total wash, hand wash and air dry because washing machines and driers kill sleeping bags.
Don’t fret if one or two plumes have worked their way out of a down sleeping bag as that can happen without an actual tear.
If you use an air mattress, blow it up and lie on it to ensure it is not leaking. Leaks can be found by submerging it in water and looking for the bubbles, and then sealed with the repair kit that came with the mattress.
The industry term for what keeps new jackets, boots and tents dry is “durable water repellent.”
Learn it. Know it. Live it.
It fades over time, and while washing the garments will extend water-repelling abilities, eventually you might feel like your jacket, pants or shirt that was supposed to be made of Gore-Tex is heavy and wet. Before replacing it, inspect for leaks, clean it and apply a waterproof spray or wax, which could save money and add years to its useful life.
Everyone has their own gear lists, but here are some good accessories to check:
• Make sure your head lamp or flashlight has fresh batteries.
• Check your cooking set to ensure some leftover food hasn’t grown into a science project over the winter.
• Test-start your cooking stove and check to see if any fuel canisters have leaked.
• If you carry a compass — and you should — check the declination, which changes over time.