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As we move through Autumn and start thinking about Winter adventures, many of us are transitioning our summer outdoor gear out and putting it into storage. While it is easy to toss your pack and tent into a closet and forget about them until you need them again next year, one way to help keep your gear in good condition is to store it properly.
Clean and Repair Equipment
Before you even start packing things away for the winter, it is always a good idea to ensure everything is clean and organized. Deep cleaning equipment once a year is helpful but not always necessary. Look over everything and see if anything should be washed or repaired.
Simple repairs can be done at home, but if you’ve been putting off something like a backpack or sleeping bag repair, now is the best time to send it to the manufacturer or go to the local gear repair shop. Always read through company repair and replacement policies, and if you have questions, contact them.
If no immediate repairs are needed on anything, move on to what should be cleaned. Although you can save the cleaning until the Spring, getting rid of excess dirt and grime, especially on textiles, preserves the integrity of the materials, helping them last longer. Plus, if all of your gear is clean and repaired, your gear is ready for the first adventure next Spring.
So, for items like tents, sleeping bags, camp chairs, blankets, etc., washing them before storing is recommended. Not all outdoor gear can be washed in a washing machine, and most should not be washed using a standard detergent. Read through basic care instructions for each item before washing.
Other items like what’s found in the camp kitchen and water filters should also be addressed. Water filters can be backflushed, and the camp kitchen items can be washed and organized. These little things can go a long way in extending the lifespan of your gear.
Now is an excellent time to rehome or repurpose old items so you know what to ask for as gifts or invest in yourself. If you are getting rid of old items, consider consigning them with a local gear shop or donating them to someone in need. For items like propane canisters, dispose of them properly and recycle them when possible.
Find an Appropriate Place to Store Gear
Not all gear should be stored the same way, and looking at individual item care instructions should direct you to the best way to store gear. There are a few general guidelines for proper gear storage, though.
Most gear should be stored in a dark, dry place. A climate-controlled environment is ideal, but at the very least, store gear out of sunlight and away from moisture. Moisture and sunlight can foster the growth of mold and mildew and cause materials to break down much faster.
Another common concern for gear storage is damage from rodents and bugs. Storing gear off the ground and in sealed containers can prevent this. Natural repellents like lavender and cedar can ward off moths, but the best prevention is to have clothing stored in sealed containers or bags.
Sleeping bags are an excellent example of knowing gear-specific storage. Although some synthetic bags can be stored in their compression sack, most manufacturers do not advise it. Down sleeping bags and most synthetic sleeping bags should always be lofted to prevent the insulation from bunching up and creating cold spots.
If you have questions about gear storage, always reach out to the company or reference the materials they have to gear care on their website.
Q: Can you store camping gear outside?
It is best to store camping gear in a well-ventilated, temperature-controlled environment that is out of sunlight. Since most outdoor storage does not have temperature or moisture control, we do not advise storing gear outside.
Q: Is it okay to store camping gear in an outdoor shed?
This may work if the outdoor shed is sealed and has some form of temperature control. Gear should still be stored in containers to prevent damage from rodents and bugs. Although it is not ideal, it can be done, but we do not advise it. For best results, store gear in a well-ventilated, temperature-controlled environment that is out of sunlight.
Q: How should I store my tent?
First, make sure your tent is clean and dry. Give it ample time to dry if you have just washed it or you run the risk of it growing mold or mildew in storage. Then, loosely store it in a bag or container. While it is tempting to roll up and stuff all gear as tightly as possible to save space, this can damage the materials, create creases in fabric, and create weak spots. Then, like all your other gear, store it in a cool, dry place away from sunlight.
Q: How do you prevent a tent from getting moldy in storage?
Proper cleaning and storage is the best way to prevent a tent from molding. Wash the tent when it is dirty and allow it to dry fully before storing. If you just packed out from a trip and packed a damp tent, unpack the tent immediately upon your return to give it time to air out and dry thoroughly. Storing the tent loosely and away from moisture will also help.
Q: Can you clean mold off of a tent?
Yes, you can clean mold off of a tent. The easiest way to do this is to spray the moldy area with distilled white vinegar and let it dry. Then, lightly scrub with a soft brush with a mixture of salt, lemon juice, and hot water. Do not use detergent, soaps, or bleach. For more information on how to clean a tent, refer to other Gear Rx columns.