By: Nick Tortajada
The warm weather is winding down, and with it comes the end of camping season in most places. It’s that time to swap out the flip-flops for warm boots and break out the winter gear. But wait! You spent good money on adventure gear that you love, and in turn, it takes care of you in the backcountry. Your gear can only perform at its best if it is maintained correctly, so let’s chat about how to properly store your gear away for the winter. These storage tips will help you get a few extra seasons in the great outdoors with your camping gear.
Where to Store Your Gear
Choosing a storage location is the first step in preparing your equipment for the winter. The basement, under the bed, and available closet space are pretty good spots. Just keep in mind that mice and bugs may find these spots to be good hangouts for the winter, so pack things away appropriately. If possible, stay away from keeping your equipment in outdoor storage sheds or attics. These areas are susceptible to moisture and temperature issues that could seriously compromise the durability of your gear.
Your garage is a great spot for storing gear. It doesn’t take up valuable living space, it stays dry, and doesn’t endure the extreme temperature changes that outdoor storage may. Using a heavy-duty wall storage unit or overhead storage fixtures can help you stay organized and keep things out of the way.
How to Store Your Insulated Gear
Your insulated clothes, coats, tents, sleeping bags, and pads will last for years of outdoor adventures as long as they are properly cared for. Let them breathe! Despite the fact that many bags come packaged in “stuff sacks,” it’s crucial to avoid keeping them bunched up for extended periods of time. Not only would this harm the insulation of the bag, but if the equipment wasn’t well cleaned before storage, it will also raise the risk of mold, mildew, and even rot.
Your sleeping bags should be thoroughly cleaned and dried before being stored away for the winter. While down sleeping bags are best hand-washed in the bathtub, synthetic-filled sleeping bags can be put through your washer’s gentle cycle. Rinse well and allow to completely dry. Putting dryer sheets inside a storage bag will help keep it smelling fresh. You can keep the bugs away with cedar chips or by throwing a lavender pouch in with your gear. Most sleeping bags come with a loose storage sack which can be hung in a closet.
Always hang down jackets instead of cramming them into their stuff sacks. Down feathers are easily damaged when compressed for extended periods of time. This will have a huge impact on the performance of their insulating properties.
How to Store Yout Tent for Winter
Before putting your tents away for the winter, make sure they are cleaned, vacuumed, and dry. If there is any moisture, mold or mildew will find its way into your home away from home. Try to store the tent by hanging it or loosely packing it, much like you would your sleeping bags. You want to avoid hard creases or folds when packing your tent away. These could damage the material and shorten its lifespan.
How to Store Other Equipment
Your non-insulated camping gear such as backpacks, cooking gear, and tools needs to be properly stored as well. These items are usually a bit more resilient, but still, need to be packed away correctly in order to make them last for many years.
I know. I sound like I’m on repeat, but before packing your backpack away, make sure it is empty, cleaned, and completely dry. It’s a great idea to soak your pack in a tub of soapy water, get that grime washed off, rinse, and dry thoroughly. Find a good spot to hang it for the season. Hang your backpacks like you would a t-shirt, with the straps over the large arms and the hanging loop through the top of the pack.
Start by doing a thorough cleaning of the bladder. Use some mild dish soap and a brush to get into all of the nooks and crannies. I like to fill my bladder up halfway with hot water, drop in a ¼ cup of baking soda, and shake it vigorously. Rinse it out really well and hang to dry. Once it is dry, I find a spot in the freezer to store it so there is no chance for mold or mildew to develop.
Clean and dry your boots. Avoid placing them outside where the cold and lack of circulation could cause damage to the materials such as leather that may crack. Instead, keep them in an area that is airy and the temperature is mild. It’s a good idea to remove the inner sole and store it outside of the boot. You can sprinkle baking soda or anti-fungal powder inside for added freshness.
Tools, Cooking Supplies, and More
These items can be kept in hard storage bins or containers. This helps to keep them out of the elements and neatly organized, making it easy to find exactly what you’re looking for when the time comes to break them out again. You may even go one step further and throw a label on the outside of these bins. Bins are also stackable making organizing our space nice a clean. For your electronics such as headlamps, or GPS units, remove the batteries before storing to ensure you don’t damage the lifespan.
See You Next Year, Gear
Take this opportunity to go through your inventory. Donate any items that you haven’t used in a while or that you would like to upgrade. Take advantage of holiday sales to replenish your stock and keep stacking that gear!