Cleaning Your Winter Camping Gear

Before storing your winter sleeping bag away for 6 months give it an inspection, fluff it up and make sure it is dry. If you need to clean your sleeping bag read the manufacturer’s directions. There is variability between outdoor gear materials and their proper maintenance and repair.  If you didn’t hang on to the care instructions that came with your gear (likely) you can check the manufacturer’s website as many manufacturer’s list care instructions online.  To wash use only mild soap and wash in a front-loading or commercial machine or by hand (NOT in an top-loading agitator machine or by dry cleaning).  Rinse very well and be very careful lifting up a wet sleeping bag; support all of its weight. Tumble dry on low heat (throw in some tennis balls with a down bag). Store your winter sleeping bag loose, not stuffed, in as large a space as possible.

Wash, clean, and treat any clothing, outerwear, and footwear that you’re putting into storage. There are numerous products made to clean and treat specific materials: soft shells, down, wool, hard shells, full-grain leather boots.  (Grangers, McNett, and Nikwax, among others all sell cleaning, repair, and treatments products and kits for outdoor gear, with detailed instructions.)

  • Set up your winter camping tent and clean off excess dirt and debris. Re-apply seam sealer, if necessary.  Make sure your tent is fully dry before storing it away.
  • Make sure your stove is clean and ready to go. This is another case where you want to read the manufacturer’s instructions closely. Many stove manufacturers sell repair and maintenance kits for specific stove models. Stoves with pumps may need the pump oiled. Don’t leave old fuel in a stove you’re not using regularly.
  • Once it is clean and dry store your gear in its proper place with all of its parts. Same for any insulated garments.
  • Review your supplies. Check first aid kids for outdated medicine and prescriptions, then restock. Restock or replace any gear repair and maintenance kits and survival gear you carry. Check batteries and replace spares.
  • Make a list to buy supplies like stove fuel, trail maps and guidebooks, favorite meals and snacks now, so you won’t waste time looking for them on your way to the trailhead.

Get organized. Once your gear and supplies are ready for the trail, organize and label the bins in your gear closet/room/storage space, so you can find exactly the gear you need when you need it.  That way, you can get out the door quickly, without leaving something essential behind. Update and print out your gear checklists (if you’ve got a laminator, put it to use). Taking the time to clean and organize your gear now can mean better a trip the next time out.

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