Posts Tagged With: gear

Winterizing, or the End of the Season

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!

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Essential Gear

No matter what kind of adventure you and your family plan on having, there are always a few pieces of essential gear. If you’re camping, you must have some kind of cover over your head. If you’re kayaking, you must have some kind of float under your butt. Hiking? You’ll need shoes. Spelunking? You’ll need a light source. Snorkeling? An air tube of some kind. Geocaching? Some kind of GPS.

One thing you’ll discover after doing enough fun activities is that there’s also gear you’ll need any time you’re headed outdoors. These few items will become the basis of your gear kit no matter what you’ll be doing. Take a look at the photos below and see if you can spot the essential item that comes with us, no matter what we’re doing.





Okay, that last one was a gimme. Yes, no matter where we’re going or what we’ll be doing, we have a cooler with us. This one, made by Stanley, carries drinks, of course, but also carries ice packs for injuries, stores meat if we’re going to be camping, and more. This particular cooler has been thrown overboard to someone who’d fallen off a boat (seriously!) and has bailed out more than one leaky kayak. It’s bounced off the back of a truck and kept all our food safe inside, it’s been used as a chair by more than one person, and it even pulled double-duty as a step stool to hang our food bag from a tree branch overnight.

It does it all.

When it comes to selecting gear, though, you have to make a crucial decision. Do I buy one expensive item that might last for a long time and do a great job, or do I buy a cheapo version and not be upset when something happens to it? That is a tough call. You have to decide on the likelihood of the item getting lost, broken, or otherwise made unusable (and there I’m referring to the flashlight that one of my kids dropped while peeing, and yes, peed on it…it was cheap, and it went in the trash because it’s not possible to wash that kind of flashlight well enough to make it hygienic again!).

Flashlights are a prime example. I have a handful of really expensive but really awesome rechargeable LED lanterns, and now that my kids are older, they’re actually allowed to touch them. The funny thing is they usually won’t touch them until Mom says to, all because of the years of training that was threatened into them regarding children and expensive lighting. They knew the Walmart flashlights with their names on them were theirs, and the fancy (re: heavy) lights belonged to Mom. But until my kids got to be a certain age, even I didn’t have expensive lights because there was no point. They were going to get lost, dropped, used to retrieve a Lego from behind the bookshelf and never put back, and more.

This rule could apply to just about any gear you’ve got, depending on the type of adventure you’re going on. If you’re car camping, do you really need a $500 sleeping bag? Hint: no, you don’t. If you get that cold, get in the car and drive away with the heat on. Now, if you’re backpacking through Nepal for three months, yeah…there’s an excellent chance that sleeping bag will save your life and that a cheap discount store sleeping bag will kill you.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is planning their first camping trip and running to Walmart to outfit themselves. The second biggest mistake is planning your first camping trip and running to an expensive outfitter to buy everything. Both of those are a great way to end up with a closet full of stuff you’re not going to use. If you’re new to any kind of great outdoors lifestyle, don’t decide on anything just yet. Get the cheapest stuff you can get away with (borrowed is even better) and then decide what you really need to make it work after you know what gear you’ll really use. I happily loan out my stuff, and you probably have other friends with top-notch gear stowed in a closet somewhere. Just don’t ask to borrow my lanterns.

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