The Gear Doctor for October 2014

Your summer camping trips are over, and you’re left with nothing but photos, memories, and stinky, dirty, disorganized camp gear. You may have some fall camping plans, but at some point we all need to make a decision – wait until spring to check, clean and update our gear, or properly store it all now so that come springtime, our gear is ready to go!

Unless you possess remarkable memory skills, and can remember 5 months from now which flashlight needs new batteries, if your tent was missing some ground stakes, and your are low on salt in your mess kit, checking and storing your gear now not only ensures a longer useful life, it will also make life easier when next spring arrives.

Here are 10 useful tips for storing your gear for the fall and winter.

1. Keep a camping gear checklist handy, both for packing and putting away. Store with the gear in a clear plastic sleeve.
2. To avoid mildew, wash your tent and hang to dry completely before putting away. Check gear for wear and/or damage. Repair before putting away to prevent unpleasant surprises on the next trip.
3. Before putting away flashlights, kerosene lamps, and stoves, start a checklist of any necessary replacements, like new batteries or Sterno.
4. As you put other items or groups of items away, like first-aid kits, kitchen materials, etc., continue marking your checklist for necessary purchases.
5. Store (and transport) camping materials in clear, plastic bins, being sure to select bins that will actually fit in your vehicle. With snug, secure lids, your gear remains pest and dust free.
6. Store fuels and flammables, like Sterno, kerosene, propane, etc. away from the house, preferably in an outdoor shed. (Keep a fire extinguisher handy, just in case!) If you don’t have a separate garage or shed, consider purchasing a small safety cabinet, designed for storing flammable materials. Check your local hardware or home maintenance store.
7. Thoroughly brush hiking books of dirt and mud, and remove insoles to allow boots to dry thoroughly. Apply weatherproofing treatment before storing boots away at least once or twice a year, and install a wire shoe shelf to keep everything neatly off the floor.
8. Sleeping bags should be turned inside out and hung. Don’t store sleeping bags in small compression bags. Instead, after completely drying, fluff your bag and let it hang in a closet, or store in a large, breathable cotton bag. offers great tips on how to wash a sleeping bag.
9. Cleanliness is key! Small food particles in a tent or sleeping bag can become major pest magnets or science experiments over time. Dirt and moisture can cause damaging molds and mildews.
10. Keep everything neatly tucked away on shelving

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