We managed to sneak in one more camping trip to the beach a few weeks ago, complete with our favorite activity, taking a boat out for the day. We saw an eel… it was really cool.
We also had a more recent trip involving our outdoors skills and gear, but with a different purpose. This trip was last week, and we spent the night in the woods in the middle of nowhere… no electricity, no heat, no lights, just what we could bring with us. It was to provide the support for an aide station for a 100-mile run, and this particular aide station requires someone who’s comfortable in the dark, alone in the woods, with nothing but the coyotes to keep you company (hopefully nothing but coyotes!). It was actually really cool, and something we’re physically and mentally prepared for.
But now the sadness sets in… it’s time to put up our gear for another season, and that means winterizing your stuff.
When you winterize your home, you protect it from the elements, and the same is basically true for your camping and outdoors gear:
Kayaks – while they’re designed to get wet, they’re not designed to have water get inside of them, freeze, expand, and cause your seams to crack. Your other accessories (like paddles and life jackets) have to be protected from the cold extremes and from mold, too.
Tents – It’s a good idea to grab one more seasonable day to put up your tent, wash away any dirt or mud, check your poles for any signs of weakness, and give the whole thing a thorough cleaning. Once you’re certain it’s dry, then a really good, focused fold up is in order, as opposed to the foldup where you stow it quickly at your camp site since you’re trying to get out of there.
Sleeping bags – I know, there are people who’d think I’m taking the easy way out, but remember the purpose of this blog: it’s to help anyone do this. I take our sleeping bags for a once-a-year washing at the laundromat. I even splurge on the drop-off service. Basically, sleeping bags are one of those items that you probably COULD wash in your household machine, but a) you risk tearing them by putting them through the agitator, and b) your dryer will never get them dry enough. Even from the laundromat, I take the sleeping bags home and open them up to dry fora few days in the garage before I stow them for the season. Be sure to pack a couple of dryer sheets inside each one before you fold to keep down on pests and mold.
Cooking essentials – No one wants to get their gear out in the spring and find out they have a mold problem in their camp kitchen from a few leftover crumbs. I take apart our entire kit and wash everything in the dishwasher, then let it all air dry for a day on the racks before putting it all away.
Here’s the important thing about your gear: don’t put it out of reach. Sure, the attic is fine, or a shelf in the garage. But remember that your gear can still serve purposes all during the winter. It’s a good idea to keep one of your sleeping bags in the car in case you get stranded in bad weather, and throwing a small cook stove in there can’t hurt if you’ve got the space for it. If you invested in a tent heater, keep that thing within household reach in case a storm takes out the power; ditto for your propane stove if you have one. Keeping a couple small propane cylinders is a good idea, too, if you can store them safely.
Of course, the item we love to keep out of the gear is the marshmallow sticks! They’re perfect for roasting marshmallows in the fireplace.
The best thing you can do this winter is sit down and plan out the next round of fun you’re going to have with your family when the weather warms up. It makes the cold days go by a little faster, and it gives you an organized plan for your next outdoors adventure!