The Gear Doctor – Fall 2015

Most often, when people return from an exhausting camping trip, the last thing they want
to do is clean all of the gear they took with them. Being out in the wilderness and lacking the effective cleaning supplies we are accustomed to seeing in the cupboard underneath our kitchen sinks, often only the “quick clean” of gear is done, and it tends to be left that way once we return home. But good enough doesn’t always cut it – think of the money you spent on your equipment and what it would cost to replace if not properly cared for. Check out our advice for how to best clean your gear and with what products to ensure it lasts as long as possible, continuing to assist you on adventurous camping tripdirty_bootss for years to come.

Boots
The best way you can guarantee your boots will be kept in great shape is to make sure you take 10-20 minutes cleaning them up after each trip. First, remove the laces and insoles, if they are removable. Start with warm water and a small brush (a firm-brush toothbrush will do) that is able to reach into the cracks and crevices of the boots, and start brushing. If a small brush is just not cutting it, browse more specialized tools meant for boot cleaning. When the obvious dirt has been removed, rinse the brush and go over the boots again, but this time with warm water and a boot cleaner. If none is available, a mild dish soap will do. Stay away from laundry detergent or bar soap, as they can damage the boots through residue. Allow the boots to dry in room temperature. Many people use the quick-dry method of drying their boots next to a fire or in the hot sun, but this can cause the leather to become brittle and the adhesive parts of the boot to wear out. The best way to dry them quickly is to place them in front of a fan. If you don’t have a fan, REI suggests using newspapers that are shoved in each boot, which work to absorb excess moisture. Place boots upside down during drying, as this speeds up the process. Once the boots are dry, make sure to use a conditioner coating if they are looking cracked. Also, waterproof boots after each use. Many people want to remove the smell from their boots, so place each in a large, sealed bag and keep them in the freezer for 48 hours, which will kill the bacteria causing the stink. Store boots in a spot where the temperature remains constant, keeping them in perfect condition until your next adventure.

Cooking Supplies
Cleaning your camping cookware is a little less time consuming that caring for your footwear, but still just as important when it comes to preserving your gear. We all do the quick clean on cookware during camping trips, but spending time actually getting rid of the bacteria and grime when you get home is crucial. Fill each pot and pan with hot water and add several drops of soap – use biodegradable if you’re out on the trail doing the once-over clean. Make sure to use any kind of soap, even if it is biodegradable, at least 200 feet away from water sources. Scrub the inside of each several times using a rough sponge or pot scrubber. Rinse the pots with clean water and put them aside to dry. In the case of cooking supplies, the at-home deep clean is pretty obvious, but as for on-the-trail advice, place your cookware in separate pockets of your pack or wrap them in bags to avoid the blackened bottom of pots and pans from staining other equipment.

Tent
Making sure your tent lasts a long life starts the first time you set it up at a campsite. Ensure there are no objects below the tent such as rough plants, rocks, or roots, because this is the number one way tents are destroyed. This isn’t to say you just tear any vegetation to make room for your tent, but rather find a space that has even, clean ground that is already in existence. Making sure the bottom of your tent is also protected on the inside is another thing to think about. Consider purchasing a footprint, which is a barrier between your feet and the bottom of the tent that covers the entire surface of the floor. In addition, make sure the tent is taught when securing it with stakes to prevent any area becoming a catch basic for water or other debris. Make a habit of not wearing shoes inside the tent, and that should help to keep dirt and debris outside, but still make sure to sweep or shake it out several times when you’re done. Another alternative is to use a PahaQue Tent Rug to help keep your tent clean. Something else people don’t consider as often when setting up camp is that most tents are made of nylon, which is worn away by the sun. Try to set up the tent in a shaded area to prolong its life. When packing the tent away at home, the most imperative factor of whether or not it will last is if it’s dry or not. Set up the tent when you get back home and use a non-abrasive sponge, cold water, and a non-detergent soap to clean the inside and outside. Any cleaning products with a perfume smell will attract bugs. Once it is fully dry, pack away in a room temperature, dry location.

The Gear Doctor for August 2014

Cleaning Your Gear the Right Way

After a few good uses, the faithful sleeping bag begins to get a little on the raunchy side and your trusty tent is showing signs of dirt, birds, and campfire smoke. Wash or don’t wash—-that is the question. Sure you can wash them.

The main thing to remember for washing a sleeping bag   is to use a NON-AGITATING machine. If you don’t have a front loader or newer non agitator type top loader, go to a Laundromat. Use the GENTLE cycle and a detergent with no perfumes or dyes. Make sure to use liquid and NOT powder. If the bag is synthetic, it will only take one dryer cycle. Don’t forget to use the LOW setting, as the bag could melt if on a higher setting. Down sleeping bags require a tad more care. You can opt for a down detergent or use Cheer Free liquid. The dryer will also be on LOW, but you’ll dry the down bag a lot longer, say 4 or 5 cycles. Throw three pairs of CLEAN balled up pairs of socks in the dryer along with the bag to beat the down feathers apart. Bag is dry when it comes out looking like the Michelin man! Camping clothing can be washed like regular clothing, but most are synthetic, so watch that dryer setting.

Tents (backpacking size, not family camping tents) can be washed on GENTLE and spun dry in the washer. They must be hung out on a line to dry; DO NOT place them in the dryer. The same goes for the rainfly. Good luck and Happy Laundry!!

The Gear Doctor

The Gear Doctor for July 2014

The old adage, “Take care of your equipment and it will take care of you” is an important truth to live by for campers, and one that is seldom more true than when it comes to your tent. At the end of a long day you’ll want your tent to be clean, comfortable and able to adequately protect you from the elements. Follow the suggestions below and you’ll have a tent that will take care of you and give you years of service.

When you get a new tent, always open it and set it up before you take it out in the wild. This allows you to practice setting up your tent and become familiar with the procedure before heading out into the wild.

Proper Storage – Let’s face it, unless you’re camping every weekend or hiking around the country, your tent will spend the majority of it’s life in storage. Proper storage will help extend the life of your tent.

1. Make sure it’s dry – nothing will start the downward trend of degradation in your tent like the mold and mildew caused by storing it when it’s not completely dry. If circumstances force you to break camp in the rain or when the tent is still damp, take it out and set it up to dry and air out as soon as you can.

2. Fold or roll it differently – folding your tent, or even rolling it, the same way every time you store it will cause creases to develop. Over time, those creases can and will result in damages to the material.

3. Store the poles and stakes in their own bags – every tent I’ve ever seen has a separate storage bag for the poles and stakes. Use them. Otherwise you could poke a hole or cause a rip in your tent.

At the Campsite – following a few simple guidelines will help prevent damage and extend the life of your tent.

1. Check your campsite before pitching your tent – make sure you’re not placing your tent on top of rocks, roots or uneven ground that can cause damage to your tent and an uncomfortable night for you, and that the nice, flat, smooth area you find is not the lowest point on the campsite. Otherwise you could be flooded out in a storm when all the water runs downhill into your tent.

2. Use a custom footprint – this helps protect the exterior floor of the tent as well helping to prevent water from gathering under the floor.

3. Keep it clean – Inside. Remove your footwear at the door to avoid tracking dirt and water inside the tent. The new PahaQue TentRugs add a layer of protection, comfort and warmth to your tent floor, and make cleaning out your tent super easy!

4. Keep it clean – Outside. There is almost no way to avoid getting dirt, stains, bird droppings, tree sap droppings and lots of other various things on the exterior of your tent. Always use clean water and a soft rag or sponge to clean up those stains or dirt as soon as possible.  Mild detergents are okay but be careful not to damage the tent fabric coatings.

5. Make repairs as soon as you see the problem – keep a tent repair kit on hand which contains at least a tube of seam-sealer, fabric repair tape,

Your tent is your shelter in bad weather and your protection from the elements in the great outdoors. With proper care, a quality tent can last many years and provide you with many days and nights of clean, warm, comfortable shelter

 

Twenty Five Years Too Late

Gila Trail Stage Stop ca. 1880's

It was sometime during the summer of 1986 that the idea of exploring old west ghost towns first entered my mind.  I was visiting the store of a friend who sold old west and other historical memorabilia.  It was like a museum with everything for sale, although I never could afford to buy the kind of things he sold in those days. 

As we were talking about our common interests in history and the outdoors, he mentioned that occasionally he would take a trip over to Arizona or Nevada to explore and photograph ghost towns.  I was instantly intrigued, it had never really occurred to me that there may still be old, abandoned towns that hark back to the pioneer days.  How fascinating, I thought.  He showed me a photo album full of images of various abandoned towns and I knew I was going ghost town hunting.

Jump forward to 1990.  After a few years of locating, exploring and camping in some of the more accessible ghost towns, a friend and I are starting to search a little deeper into the backcountry for the more hidden, and less vandalized sites.  There really are some amazing sites out there if you are willing to push your skills, and your vehicle beyond your comfort zone.  I’ve repaired many flat tires, and hiked out for assistance on more than one occasion.  For me that is half the fun.  I enjoy the challenge and the risk.  As with most things, being prepared is the key.

While passing through the remote mountain town of Crown King, AZ., nestled atop the Bradshaw Mountains west of the Verde River, we stopped to talk with a Forest Ranger who was parked next to the General Store.  He looked like a veteran, someone who might know this range and some of its history.  We talked about mining, railroads, ghost towns and history.  He had been a ranger in the Crown King district for over 40 years.  I think he could tell we were genuinely interested in the history of these sites, and not just artifact collectors or worse, vandals.

After awhile he just kinda shook his head and said “sorry fellas, but I think you’re 25 years too late to find what you’re looking for.”  He then proceeded to tell us a story about how in 1976 they caught two vandals using their truck winch to pull down the top story of the old hotel in the ghost town of Oro Belle, just to see how strong their winch was.  At that time there were no laws against such actions, and so there was nothing they could do.

So what time and weather hadn’t destroyed. people had.  But still I thought, there had to be something left to show what had happened in these pioneer boom towns.  So we persisted in looking anyhow, and oftentimes were rewarded with more than we expected.

Most of whats left are the scars on the land from the mining and railroads that brought these towns into existence in the first place.  Usually some “jackass” prospector (miners who carried their gear on a donkey and walked the hills in search of gold) would locate a placer deposit or a vein of gold, silver, lead, copper or a combination thereof.  If the claim proved valuable, it didn’t talk long before the rush was on.  Soon the hills were crawling with prospectors.  Next came the promoters, hopefully the investors, and before anyone knew it they had a booming town growing up around the mines.  When the mine deliveries became large enough, some enterprising railroad promoter would build a line to the mines or mill, and then the boom was really on.

But as often was the case, as soon as the veins pinched out, or the mines flooded, or the value of gold or silver dropped, the mines shut down, and the town slowly died.  Oftentimes in the desert, where milled wood was scarce, buildings would be dismantled, and re-built in the next boom town.  Once the buildings were gone, all that was left were the glory holes, railroad grades, and eroding adobe buildings and foundations.  But there is more.  Find the old trash dumps, and you can find wonderful old lead-glass bottles that have turned aqua or blue over the years.  Broken tools, dishes, even old boots.  All garbage to be sure, but an interesting glimpse at the life and times of that area.   Find the old cemetery – every old town had one, oftentimes referred to Boot Hill – and you find a very human connection to the struggles of life on the frontier. 

Nevada Pioneer Grave

When you see the grave of a little girl who only lived for 1 month, you realize how difficult life really was back then, in that very spot.

Arizona Infant Grave

Nowadays there isn’t much left to see of the really old pioneer towns.  But they are still there, or at least the scars still are.  And when you do stumble across some reminder of the old days, the pioneer days, and if you can imagine in your minds-eye the events that may have occurred there, you can, for a moment, leave the modern world behind and feel the silence telling a story of a time gone by.

In Need of Camping

We are excited about our upcoming guided trip to Arizona at the end of March, so far we have over 30 folks registered and are sure to have more before we depart. But lately its been nose-to-the-grindstone getting through the slow season, and ramping up for spring.

So far the winter has been pretty mild here in San Diego, so theres no need to wait another 5 weeks to get out and camp. So its gonna be one of those spur of the moment things, throw the gear in the truck and head out to a favorite backcountry spot were there is no noise and no people.

Its the only way we know to develop new and useful gear. Designing camping gear in the boardroom just doesnt cut it. And besides, every trip is a gear testing trip, which sure keeps the ideas coming.   And it gives us a great excuse to camp as often as possible!

What’s yours?

Hope everyone has a good, outdoors weekend!

Camping Experts

Welcome everyone to the CampingExperts blog, brought to you by the folks at Paha Que’ Wilderness, Inc, manufacturers of high-quality camping equipment for 15 years!
What makes us the CampingExperts you ask? Good question. Seems that everyone is an expert when it comes to camping, camping gear, and camping techniques. And I guess we’re no different than anyone else.
But what we can and do bring to the party is a combined 80 years of camping experience, along with over 15 years of intensive product design and testing.  And most importantly – listening to our customers insights, complaints and compliments.
In our never-ending quest to design better gear, we’ve seen just about every piece of camping gear ever invented. We think we know what works and what doesn’t. We personally test our gear in the most rugged backcountry and weather conditions.
In our blog we will be sharing input on equipment, remote camping spots, and camp stories and more. We hope you will participate and contribute your insights as we all search for the perfect camping experience!