Backpacking gear care is an often-neglected but essential part of any trip. It is particularly important if you have borrowed or rented some of your equipment. You will lose friends if you return their gear muddy or moldy. I have included a PDF, Proper-Care-Backpacking-Gear, that you can download and print to hand out to your children or scouts. In case I forget to mention it again: EVERYTHING MUST BE COMPLETELY DRY BEFORE STORAGE!
All these steps should be done immediately after returning from a trip in order to prevent mildew or permanent stains. Some things may need to be turned inside out to dry completely. Check everything for signs of damage or missing parts.
Backpacks. All backpacks must be completely emptied as soon as you return from the trip. This is critical in case anything has gotten wet, which can happen even if it did not rain. Open up all the zippers and leave all the pockets open to air out. Let it dry completely. Any mud or dirt should then be brushed off. If it won’t come off, use a damp cloth to wipe it off. Let it dry completely. Check the belts and buckles to make sure there has been no damage. If it came with a removable rain cover, clean and dry that separately. Fold it and put it back inside a zippered pocket to prevent loss.
Sleeping bags. Take the bag out of its cover, unzip it entirely, and let it air out at least overnight. Make sure you have it opened so that the inside airs out. Brush off any dirt, using a damp cloth if necessary. Dryer sheets can be used to remove any smells. Just spread them over the bag and leave them awhile. Make sure the cover or compression bag is dry and clean as well. Once everything is completely dry and aired out, return the bag to its cover.
Sleeping pads. Unroll the pad and let it air out at least overnight. Brush off any dirt or use a damp cloth if necessary. Once it is completely dry, it can be rolled up again. If it has a cover, clean & dry that separately before storing.
Tents. Unpack the tent and pitch it somewhere inside or on a dry patio. You don’t need to use the stakes. Make sure all the flaps are open so that it dries completely inside and out. Often there is a rain cover that goes on top. Lay that out to dry separately. Use a broom to sweep out the inside or brush dirt off the tent. You can use a damp cloth if necessary. Check the bottom of the tent for mud and get rid of it. Check the poles to make sure mud hasn’t gotten stuck in them. Take the stakes out of their bag, knock any mud off, and let them dry completely. Lay the plastic ground cloth out separately to dry off. Sweep it off and fold it back up. Get all the different parts clean and dry. Do an inventory to make sure that you still have all the pieces! Only return them to their bags when they are clean and dry. Tents should be left out to dry at least overnight.
Cooking stoves. Open up the stove and lay all the pieces out to dry. Clean off any dirt or soot. Do an inventory to make sure you have all the parts. Check to see if you need to buy more fuel or replace used matches. Once it is clean, dry and replenished, it is ready for storage.
Cooking gear. Open up your pocket knife to make sure it is clean and dry. Undo your mess kit and wash everything, even if you didn’t use it. If you had any other pots, clean and dry them. Empty and clean your water bottles. Only put away when dry.
Other gear. If you used it, open up your rain poncho to dry before folding it again for storage. Clean off your hand trowel and let it dry completely. Check your first aid kit and replenish it if needed. Take the batteries out of your flashlight for storage. You may need to get fresh batteries. Wash your clothes and put the rest of your stuff away.
Did I mention that everything must be completely dry before storage?
If you live in an area where things tend to mildew when they are stored, it helps if you do not pack things too tightly. Air flow helps prevent mildew on gear that isn’t used very often. Alternatively, sealing smaller items in plastic also works.
Above all, do not neglect your backpacking gear care!
© 2014, Margaret. All rights reserved.