Spring has sprung! Time to get out the tents, sleeping bags, stoves, lanterns and sleeping pads and check them after their seasons in storage.
Set up your tent and inspect for tears, mildew and zipper pull function. If tent is torn, you can try stitching the tear yourself with nylon thread. If it has a small hole, you can use “K-Tape”, readily available at the local REI store or on Amazon. REI also has a repair service for rips and tears, but the turnaround time can be as long as 6 weeks. Give yourself plenty of time for the repair to be finished in time for your trip. If tent has mildew or mold, take a cup of Borax and add to a 5 gallon bucket of water. Set up the tent and wipe it completely down with a washcloth soaked in the Borax/water solution and rinse thoroughly. Allow to dry standing up. Vinegar works better, but can leave a residual smell, so use what you prefer. Check all zippers to see that they function properly. Zipper tape can be lubed with dry graphite or Tri-Flo lube, found in bicycle shops. Lube inside each zipper pull for easy sliding.
Take out of storage bag and lay flat overnight. Check for tears and smells. If you notice holes or tears, you can use K-Tape to stick over either one. If sleeping bag smells, wash in a front loader or top loader with no agitator, using a mild detergent on LOW cycle. Tumble dry on LOW in dryer. For synthetic bags, one cycle should be sufficient. For down bags, you’ll want to place 3 sets of balled up socks inside the dryer with the bag, and fluff the bag after each cycle has finished. Place back inside the dryer for further cycles until down has lofted, and bag is completely dry.
Check O-rings on gas valves, and lube with suitable grease, such as silicone. Attach a fuel bottle and test the flame starter. If there is a clog in the line, you may need to replace the tube or valve. Replace mantles on lanterns and burn them according to directions, so the lantern is ready for use upon arrival at your campsite.
Check for leaks/holes and patch any with appropriate patches and Seam-Seal. Allow patches to cure and dry for 24 hrs before rolling up and storing in sack. If there is evidence of mildew, follow directions with Borax as per tent cleaning.
Starting your trip with repaired/checked gear will ensure a positive, memorable experience! There’s nothing worse than getting to your campsite with gear that doesn’t function. And there’s nothing better than being outdoors in a clean, dry tent and getting a good night’s sleep in a clean sleeping bag.
—the Gear Doctor
We are very pleased to have Anita Hudson Easton back on our writing staff as author of our monthly Gear Doctor. Anita is a 30 year veteran of the Outdoor Industry and is an expert in the design, manufacturing, care and maintenance of outdoor gear!