Maintaining, Repairing and Replacing Camping Gear

The Spring camping season is upon us. Starting now and going forward we will be hauling out our gear, assessing what is still in good shape, performing maintenance on the gear that needs attention, and perhaps making a list of gear we might need or want. Hopefully, we stored things away in a fashion where loss or major repairs are not necessary. However, due to oversight or maybe just getting in a hurry, we may need to address some problems with our gear. We may also need to shop for gear that is not salvageable or to fill needs that we we now have.One of the most common issues we must deal with is mold or mildew on tent fabric, sleeping bags, etc. Can these problems be addressed? The answer is sometimes. First lets deal with cleaning a tent.First of all, avoid using detergents and/or bleach. Yes, these will likely remove the mold, but will likely leave damage that may be worse than what you started with. The damage from bleach is fairly obvious. The damage from detergents is that they often leave a residue that cannot be removed and over time deteriorate the ability of the fabric to be water repellent. One product that is unlikely to damage the material is Nikwax Tech Wash. It’s a bit pricey at $26 for a liter (recent price through REI), but much less than replacing your tent. It is advertised as a non-detergent soap that protects waterproof fabrics like gore-tex and those in tents. Set up your tent in a shady location on a warm day. Add the soap to lukewarm water and go at the tent with a cloth or sponge. Pay special attention to areas around seams and zippers. Rinse very thoroughly with a hose. This probably goes without saying, but this time make certain the tent is thoroughly dry before storage.

For sleeping bags, the job is a bit easier in most cases. This is because you are rarely dealing with also trying to preserve waterproofing in the material. First, READ THE CARE INSTRUCTIONS on the sleeping bag’s label! Wash the bag with all zippers closed so they do not snag and tear. It is strongly suggested that you take your bag to a front-load washer if you do not have one so the agitator does not rip up your bag’s fabric. For down, use Woolite for the detergent. For synthetic bags, use a mild detergent. In all cases, use the minimum detergent required. Wash on the machine’s gentle cycle. Carefully remove the bag after washing, supporting the water-soaked bag, again to prevent damage. Use a large commercial dryer on its lowest setting. Pull the bag out intermittently and check for dryness and clumping. You can reposition the fill in the bag if it is clumping up. Dry for the minimum necessary time.One issue we see on occasion is damage to small electrical devices because they were stored with batteries not removed. Here are a couple of things to remember. One thing you might consider is contacting the battery manufacturer if the device is ruined. A few offer guarantees against damage from leaking batteries. When cleaning, use safety glasses and rubber gloves. Mix a small amount of solution and baking soda. Use a Q-Tip and gently remove corrosion from the battery compartment being as careful as possible not to slop water into the device. After removing corrosion, repeat procedure with clean water. Finally, use a dry Q-tip and dry the device compartment out as much as possible. Finally, let the device air dry until thoroughly dry. The device will likely work just fine.

When you get ready to put together your list of needs and/or wants for the coming year, here is some advice. First, think carefully about the trips you are planning. How can you minimize the gear requirements needed for all the trips you plan. Perhaps a small compromise on the gear you want/need for one trip might allow an item to fill a need on another trip. Often, taking a comprehensive list of camping gear, crossing off as much as you feel you can, and then analyzing carefully what is left, is a good strategy.