I’m going to be honest with you: I hate unpacking right when I get home from an adventure.
And I would almost guarantee the pros do too! The last thing I want to do is unpack and wash everything after a long day’s drive back to my homebase. The only thing that makes me do it is knowing that it will increase the life and quality of every piece of gear I own.
The first thing I’ll do is unpack everything from the bag or bin they were stored in and see if there is any damage or something else that needs to be taken care of ASAP. Once that is taken care of, I’ll typically start the process with the largest item and work down from there.
There’s no specific reason for this, but it’s just what I do. I won’t get into too much detail about cleaning specific items; I’ll save that for another post or this one would be WAY too long!
No matter the tent you have, whether a $100 one from Walmart or a $1,000+ one for summiting Everest, you’re going to have to take the tent out of the bag it’s stuffed in. This short routine can add years to the life of your tent.
- Set it up: This allows you to clean it out maybe a little better than you did when you left your campsite. It also allows you to look for any damage that may have occurred or see any spots that need some love.
- Let it air out: You can always let the tent air out while it’s set up. But be careful with how long it’s in the sun, UV rays can damage some materials and reduce the life of the tent. Don’t forget to open up the zippers and vents!
- Storing it: Tents, like sleeping bags, shouldn’t be stored in their stuff sacks for weeks or months at a time. It can damage their seams and allows mildew to form easier if it happens to be wet when packed up or if it’s stored in a humid room/basement.
- We recommend letting it hang up somewhere in the shade, inside your house over some chairs, or in a dry and cool basement.
- The best thing to do is to let it hang and keep the poles/accessories nearby (if you have the room). Or, you could store it in a large mesh bag that allows the tent to be loose inside of it.
- If storing in a basement, use a dehumidifier if it’s too humid down there.
After a trip, they’re one of the easier items to take care of. These bags are what keep you warm at night! So why not take a little time and take care of them properly.
- Let it air out!: Unzip the bag completely and let it air out for 24 hours. Taking it out of the stuff sack where it’s tightly compressed is the most important thing you can do. This allows the bag to dry properly, reduces smells from the campground (mostly smokey smells), and also extends the life of the down feathers or synthetic fibers inside.
- You can hang it outside (in the shade) over a tree branch or some chairs.
- Don’t have much space outside your home? Hang it over an open door inside your home. We’ve done this plenty of times when living in an 800 sq.ft., second floor apartment.
- Clean it (if necessary): Sometimes you may not need to really clean your bag. Hanging it up and letting it air out might just be the thing it needs. But sooner or later you’ll need to clean it. I’ll write another blog on cleaning your sleeping bag and update here soon!
- Spot Clean – More often than not, this is the only type of cleaning you’ll need to do to your bag. Some warm water and a toothbrush can go a long way. For stubborn spots, use some Dawn on it. But never use regular detergent, that can destroy the bags lining and insulation.
- Machine Wash – If you’ve kept really good care of your bag, you may go years without having to have it washed completely. It is possible to wash it in a machine, but follow the manufacturer’s directions precisely!
- Storing it: Loosely storing your sleeping bag in a breathable bag is definitely the best thing you do to extend its life. Keeping it compressed in a stuff sack makes the bag lose its loftiness much faster which, in turn, means that you’ll lose warmth in the bag!
- Most sleeping bags come with a mesh sack that’s meant for this; but if it doesn’t come with one, you can always use a pillowcase.
Another very easy item to take care of. It’s worth it too, because a sleeping pad is really what keeps you warm at night by insulating you from the ground. You can get by without a sleeping bag, but without a pad you’ll freeze!
- Inflate it: The main reason to inflate it is to see if there are any holes that you didn’t catch while out on your trip. Leave it set up for a while and just see what happens. This also helps the pad dry out if it was a wet trip!
- If you made some field repairs while out on your adventure, you can make them more permanent now that you’re home.
- Clean it: While it’s inflated, it’s actually super easy to clean too! You can use a damp cloth to wipe it down and for stubborn spots, just use the same toothbrush you have out for your sleeping bag.
- Storing it: Loosely storing this too is best. It doesn’t have to be placed in a mesh sack, but hanging up serves the same purpose.
- You can fold it in half and hang it over a hanger.
- Storing it like this can take up room. So if you don’t have space for hanging it up, try rolling it differently each time it’s put back in its stuff sack. This saves it from wear and tear on the same spots.
Believe it or not, you do have to give these a little care too. A little bit of work now will pay off big time in terms of how long it will last.
- Unpack it: Search each and every pocket and inside every corner and crevice. Make sure everything is out, especially food items. If you’re like me, no matter how hard you try you’ll always end up leaving something inside. There are just so many pockets these days!
- Clean and repair it: Scrub the dirt and grime off with some warm soapy water. Then repair any holes you’ve found or buckles that may have broken off.
If you’ve done any sort of hiking on your trip, you’ll need to make sure your shoes are taken care of. Warning! – It may be smelly!
- Clean them: Scrub the muck off. If you need to hose them off that works too!
- If you need to scrub them, a toothbrush works great for this. Just be careful with any soaps/cleaners you use; some can damage shoes. Especially waterproof shoes. Read the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions.
- Let them air out: Take out inserts inside the shoes and let them air out/dry for 24 hours (or however long it takes if they’re wet). Removing the insert lets the shoe dry faster and helps prevent mildew from forming.
- Storing them: Pretty much the same deal as with everything else, make sure it’s a cool and dry place when storing them for long periods of time.
- I always recommend just storing your inserts outside of your shoes all of the time; whether you’re on a trip or not.
Storing Your Gear
A whole article could be dedicated to the different ways to store your gear. I’ll go over a few things here, but save a more in depth discussion for a later post.
- Find a cool and dry spot: You may have noticed a common theme while reading this! The best thing you can do for your gear is to keep it in a cool and dry place. If there is heat and/or moisture, it can damage some of the materials and grow mold or mildew.
- If you store your stuff in a basement, make sure that it’s dry down there. You can use a dehumidifier to help with this.
- Organize: Having your equipment easy to find is crucial to having a successful future adventure. You can put all the sleeping stuff in one area, climbing gear in another, kitchen equipment somewhere else, etc… You get the point; if it’s easy to find, it will reduce the chance of you forgetting something on your next trip.
- You can use storage bins that are labelled to store like items. We have boxes labelled for everything: Kitchen, Climbing, Sleeping, etc… This is great when we’re car camping, we just throw the boxes we need in the truck and we’re good to go!
- Make sure everything is dry before placing it in the box or you’ll have mildew in no time!
I hope you’ve made it this far and learned something new! Again, I intentionally avoided detailed directions about cleaning specific pieces of gear and instead directed you the manufacturer’s directions. I’ll write more about this at a later date!
See you out there!