by Jemima Headlam & Dan Slater
Well, Easter holidays are over for another year, and most of us are no doubt mildly depressed about the looming winter, shorter days and chilly weather. We’re all getting back to work after arguably one of the best weather Easter holidays we’ve had in a long time.
The scene: the commute back into the city from your favourite hiking/camping spot has been a nightmare, bumper to bumper. You're exhausted as you finally pull into the driveway late at night and it's time to unpack the car and shove everything into a cupboard or the garage until the faraway Christmas hols. You packed everything perfectly when you rushed out of the damp campsite earlier this morning, right? Wrong.
Let us tell you the biggest not-so-secret secret about gear storage and care: your gear will last longer the better you take care of it! And so, Trek & Travel has compiled a list of all-too-common faux pas that outdoor enthusiasts make in shortening the life of their gear.
The Outdoor Gear Seven Deadly Storage Sins
PROBLEM: "My head torch won't switch on, and the battery case is stained with a weird blue-white powder."
DIAGNOSIS: Batteries, especially cheap ones, can leak in situ and corrode the contacts, rendering the lamp useless - a criminal waste of good gear.
SOLUTION: in this case the problem is easily avoided by removing the batteries after every trip. And springing for some Lithium batteries will give your electronics a greater chance of survival if you forget.
PROBLEM “My tent flysheet has gone all flaky and the seam tape has come off.”
DIAGNOSIS: Due to the materials used in their construction, modern lightweight flysheets can suffer delamination, a deterioration of the silicone inner coating and/or seam sealing tape, if stored in a moist or mouldy environment. The fly will become super sticky and adhere to itself, and white flakes will snow down on you next time you try to use it.
SOLUTION: Stop what you’re doing right now and get that wet tent OUT of its plastic bag in the corner or wherever you’ve shoved it. Let that thing breathe!
Firstly, give it a good old-fashioned wipe down. I like to set mine up in the kitchen and, with water and a sponge only, I’ll wipe off all the dirt, mud, grass, leaves and, oh, hello there stowaway spider! Once the inner of your tent is dry and free from guests you can pack it away.
The fly can be a little trickier, particularly if you live in a humid area. Again, the trick here is make sure its clean and DRY (and by dry I mean thoroughly dried once you’re back home. Don’t assume that it was dry the morning you packed up, because unless you were in the desert it almost certainly wasn't. Once dry, I like to lay my tent fly down, place an unused sheet over the top and fold it up loosely (with the sheet) into a 50 litre plastic storage tub. Throw in a few of those sachets of anti-moisture silica gel while you're there.
PROBLEM: "I got my boots out of storage the other day and went for a hike, and the soles fell off! I've only worn them a couple of times!"
DIAGNOSIS: The adhesive that is used to attach the rubber sole to the boot's upper will start to disintegrate without frequent use. You may have only hiked twice in the last five years but that is precisely the problem - lack of use is what has destroyed your boots.
SOLE-UTION: Use your boots! Take them out for a spin every few months. I love wearing my boots on those crazy rainy days we get sometimes on my morning/evening commute. Gets the boots in use and the glue stays strong AND I can keep an eye on their weatherproofness. Always better to find out your boots are no longer waterproof on the way to the office rather than 5 days deep in the Tassie rainforest.[While we’re on the topic of boots. Before you put them in the cupboard, give them a good clean and reproof with either a Nikwax Proofer or for Snow Seal beeswax treatment for full grain leather.]
PROBLEM: “My jacket isn't waterproof anymore” or “My jacket is falling apart! Look at these seams!”
DIAGNOSIS: Just like other clothing, waterproofs need to be washed from time to time to keep them clean. Oils from the wearer's skin can build up on the sensitive breathable membrane on the inside of the jacket, particularly around the neck area, and degrade it
Also, dirt on both the inside and outside, visible or not, will diminish the breathability of the membrane. This means that the wearer will sweat inside more readily, and feel wet from it. It is common for the wearer to then assume the jacket is letting in rain, whereas that is not usually the case.
SOLUTION: Wash your waterproofs! But not with regular detergent as that will strip the DWR coating from the outside. Use Nikwax Tech Wash or something similar after a particularly traumatic hike, or at least once at the end of each season. Follow up with a fresh DWR treatment to give it back that gorgeous beading effect. Nixwax TX Direct is a good choice.
PROBLEM: "My Sleeping bag is clumpy in some places, thin in others and doesn’t keep me warm like it used to."
DIAGNOSIS: The fill has spent too long compressed and is now struggling to loft back to its original quality. Down and especially synthetic fill sleeping bags don't like to be compressed for long periods. In theory, down will always eventually re-loft completely, but this may take quite a long time depending on how long it has been compressed. Man-made fills, designed to mimic down, are worse. Their plastic heritage struggles to unbend after compression trauma and they may never completely re-loft. This means they won't trap as much air and won't be as warm as before.
SOLUTION: Never store your bag in its compression sack, even though this takes up the least space in your closet. If the bag comes with a storage sack or cell - use it! If not, use another of those 50 litre tubs, or hang it over the rail in a spare wardrobe. I use the XL Exped Mesh Organiser UL - a large mesh cube great for storing my 9 year old down sleeping bag.
PROBLEM:"My trekking poles won't extend/collapse! They are jammed closed/open!"
DIAGNOSIS: Telescopic walking poles can get a lot of grit and grime caught between the sections of the shaft. If left in storage they will inevitably jam and become much harder to extend.
SOLUTION: Extend all sections and, where possible, take them apart. Wipe them down with a damp cloth and allow them to dry completely before storing.
PROBLEM:"There's a bunch of grotty mould in my Camelbak Tube. I'm not drinking out of that!"
DIAGNOSIS: Even though Camelbak and most other reputable reservoirs have some sort of anti-microbial coating on the inside, Slimeguard or Hydroguard or some-such to inhibit the growth of bacteria, they aren't a magical elixir to scrub the internal surfaces of any old gunk you leave in there over winter. Electrolytes, Tang, banana smoothie - whatever you use to hike, even water, surprisingly, will leave some residue. And you don't want to be drinking that stuff six months down the line.
SOLUTION: Soap and water is a good start, certainly if you're not planning to use your tube for a while, but probably after every use as well. If that doesn't do the trick, try Camelbak's Cleaning Tablets or similar, and most brands also have a Cleaning kit with special brushes for tackling for stubborn stains. A bit of elbow grease should get it clean. Make sure you dry it thoroughly as well, although that's easier said than done. Again, Camelbak sells the Reservoir Dryer to help with this; slide-top bladders are easier to wedge over something to dry.