Cleaning and Storing 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 such as a breathable stuff sack, a large cardboard box or hung. Compressing a sleeping bags crushes down feathers and breaks synthetic fibers, reducing the sleeping bag’s ability to trap air, maintain loft, and keep you warm. Keep compressed sleeping bags away from hot and/or humid spaces as compression combined with heat and humidity will reduce the lifespan of a bag even faster than each alone.

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.) Clean your hiking boots and let them dry completely before storing in a closet. Apply durable water repellant (DWR) treatments to waterproof apparel. DWR coatings naturally degrade in sunlight and after frequent use. Signs of reduced DWR performance include condensation build-up, reduced beading of water droplets, and fabric saturation after light rains.

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. 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. Wipe-down gas stoves to remove carbon deposits and food stains; carbon stains can eventually clog the fuel lines and burner pores, causing a stove to sputter.

Don’t leave old fuel in a stove you’re not using regularly. Store stove fuel and pressurized canisters in a garage, basement, or shed separate from the rest of you gear to reduce the risk of leakage, fire, and explosion.

Clean the hard-to-clean spaces of the water bladders and tubes. Uncap water bottles and hydration bladders to open them up to continuous air flow.

Store your battery-powered devices and extra batteries in cool, dry locations; avoid excessive heat which drains unused batteries.

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 backcountry trips next time out.

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See you next winter camping season !

While you are waiting for your next winter camping adventure take a look at our free Guide to Winter Camping in Adobe Acrobat or Kindle format.  Give us some feedback on improving it for next year.  You can email comments to WinterCampers ‘at’ WinterCampers (dot com).



Comparison of Heat Donation Through the Head or Torso on Mild Hypothermia Rewarming

Wilderness & Environmental Medicine, Volume 25, Issue 1 , Pages 4-13, March 2014 reported on techniques for warming hypodermic victims.

The purpose of the study was to compare the effectiveness of head vs torso warming in rewarming mildly hypothermic, vigorously shivering subjects using a similar source of heat donation.

Six subjects (1 female) were cooled on 3 occasions in 8ºC water for 60 minutes or to a core temperature of 35ºC. They were then dried, insulated, and rewarmed by

  1. shivering only;
  2. charcoal heater applied to the head; or
  3. charcoal heater applied to the torso.

The order of rewarming methods followed a balanced design. Esophageal temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, oxygen consumption, and heat flux were measured.

Results: There were no significant differences in rewarming rate among the 3 conditions. Torso warming increased skin temperature and inhibited shivering heat production, thus providing similar net heat gain (268 ± 66 W) as did shivering only (355 ± 105 W). Head warming did not inhibit average shivering heat production (290 ± 72 W); it thus provided a greater net heat gain during 35 to 60 minutes of rewarming than did shivering only.

Conclusions: Head warming is as effective as torso warming for rewarming mildly hypothermic victims. Head warming may be the preferred method of rewarming in the field management of hypothermic patients if:

  1. 1) extreme conditions in which removal of the insulation and exposure of the torso to the cold is contraindicated;
  2. 2) excessive movement is contraindicated (eg, potential spinal injury or severe hypothermia that has a risk of ventricular fibrillation); or
  3. 3) if emergency personnel are working on the torso.

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Columbia Kazoo Hat

The Columbia Kazoo Hat is one of my regular snowshoeing and coumbia-kazoo-hat_dicks.jpgwinter camping hat.  The fleece lined hat provides a baseball cap style brim with long ear flaps.  Since I routinely wear glasses the brim is useful not only for shade but also to help keep snow and moisture off my glasses.  It has to be a serious wind blast to make me employ the hook and loop closure. I usually wear the ear flaps loose as the hat fits securely.  The long ear flaps keep my ears and neck warm even in a strong wind.

The feature I like the most is the ability to temperature control.  Unlike a beanie or watch cap the hat can be adjusted to provide more ventilation.  As things warm up the ear flaps can be fastened across the back of the hat and gradually raised towards the top of the hat exposing my neck and head as the Kazoo morphs into a baseball cap.

The hat easily packs in a coat pocket, and it is surprisingly light weight for being so warm.  I got my hat at the local sporting goods store but a web search revealed a variety of sources including Campmor, Cabelas, Dicks Sporting Goods, Amazon with cost ranging from $12-15.  Worthwhile at the price.

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Seven First Aid Kit Options

A well-equipped first-aid kit is the foundation of any solid contingency plan. There are common elements found in each kit, but the contents should change to match where the kit will be stored and how it will be used. In order to figure out the essentials of the first-aid kit and which ones on the market are worth paying for, Popular Mechanics  spoke with Col. Ian Wedmore, the emergency medicine consultant to the surgeon general of the U.S. Army, and Myke Hawke, survival expert, author and founder of Specops, a survival training company made up of special operations veterans.

Their review describes seven options:

  • DIY Kit
  • Pocket-Size First Aid -
  • Off-the-Shelf and Disaster-Ready
  • Backpacking Kit
  • Automobile Kit
  • Boating First Aid
  • Non-Human First Aid

Read the entire article here.

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