Howdy campers. Well, the camping season is officially here! If you haven’t been fortunate enough to hit the trail just yet, you might want to give your gear a good looking over before you head out. Some very simple precautionary measures taken now can save you some headaches while on the trail. Let’s go over a few of the big ones.
Your tent: If you're not entirely certain that your tent was dry when you last rolled it up, pitch it in the garage or under a patio for a few days. The main thing we’re looking for here is mold. It smells bad, but in more extreme cases it can actually be very unhealthy and even potentially harmful. After pitching the tent for a few days to allow it to fully dry, lay your rain fly out and examine it closely, on both sides, particularly under any un-taped/un-sealed seams. If you do happen to find any mildew, a solution of one part chlorine bleach, to six to ten parts water, should be used to thoroughly clean the area.
This also indicates a need to re-waterproof your tent or rain-fly. The fastest and best way to do this is by using Gear Aid’s ReviveX or NikWax (not quite as good) to re-waterproof.
Your sleeping bag: Think back to last year. Do memories of splashing on loads of DEET to keep the skeeters from eating you alive sound familiar? If you aren’t using a bag liner yet (you should be!), it’s time to wash your bag. DEET most likely transferred from your skin to the bag while you were sleeping. The DEET will then work its way into the loft of your bag and act like glue reducing the warmth by clumping your loft material together. Again, Gear Aid comes to the rescue. Use the ReviveX Down or Synthetic wash to restore the loft, and please grab yourself a cheap light bag liner for the future.
Zippers: How many nights have you woken up half frozen because your sleeping bag zipper “derailed itself” when you went to zip in for the night? Take a close look at any major zippers on your pack, tent or hammock, and sleeping bag. First, if you see dirt or sand, don’t move the zipper! Take a small paint brush or vacuum attachment and remove the offending grunge first. This is the most common reason for zipper failure, we just don’t look closely till after we’ve tried to yank it free and wonder why we now have a bag that won’t close....curious isn’t it? Once the dirt is clear, slowly run the zipper all the way up and all the way back down its track. If you meet resistance don’t force it. back the zipper off a bit and examine the problem. Is it bent teeth? A little handy work with some needle nose pliers and some Zip Care, will get you back on track. if everything runs smoothly, then apply some Zip Care as a preventative measure. It cleans and lubes the zipper without any sticky residue, like oil and WD-40 will, helping the track stay dirt free.
These few steps can really help you avoid some unpleasant camp sight (typically middle of the night) problems, so you can spend more time enjoying yourself. I’ll write more about this in weeks to come, but these are the big three items. Start here and you may be very glad you did.
Until next time, I’ll see you on the trails.
Quick Tip: In bear country it’s never advisable to sleep in or even near the same set of clothes you cooked dinner in. A bear’s smell is roughly six times better than a dog, which means they can smell your dinner from up to a mile downwind of where you’re at. Toss your cooking clothes in your bear bag at night and make sure it, and all foods, are at least 100 yards from camp.