One of the least enjoyable, but most important part of the camping experience is preparing for and storing your gear after you break camp. Whether you keep it in your garage, attic, basement or offsite facility, it’s vital to store it properly. We turned to some veteran campers for tips on how to prepare and store your camping gear so that it’s ready to go when you next have the opportunity to camp out.
In the chaos of packing for a camping trip, it can be easy to forget something essential, whether it’s your lantern or a metal coffee cup. By keeping one or more bins dedicated specifically to camping items, you ensure you won’t be wracking your brain trying to remember what you need as you’re packing up next time.
Immediately upon return is the best time to note any gear that needs to be upgraded or fixed; for example a faulty zipper or a stove that’s low on fuel, advises Peter Davis, a veteran camper from Issaquah, WA. Now is the time to hit closeout sales for the best deal on equipment that needs replacing. “Upgrade at least one piece of gear per year, especially if you find yourself saying, ‘I hope this will last one more year,’ after every trip,” said Davis.
Double check to make sure your consumables, such as your stock of paper towels, oil, seasonings, foil and soap are ready to go. Davis recommends replacing spices every two to three years to keep them fresh, even if the containers are full. Now is also the perfect time to sharpen knives, change batteries and perform any other needed maintenance.
Even though you probably sudsed up your dishes and pans in camp, Janet Groene, camping expert and author of numerous camping books, recommends periodically unpacking all your camp dishes and running them through the dishwasher. One exception is cast iron, which should always be hand washed and then slipped into an old pillow case or other fabric case. That prevents rust stains from migrating to other camping gear if they develop in storage.
Unroll sleeping bags.
Most people don’t realize that it’s best to keep your sleeping bag unrolled for storage. “When you compress a sleeping bag, it loses loft and the ability to keep you warm. Storing it flat takes up more space, but it greatly extends the life of the bag,” said Steve Silberberg, owner of Fitpacking, a backpacking vacation company in Hull, MA.
Groene keeps a special stash of camping clothes, and stores them when they are bone dry and still warm from the dryer. Even if you used a laundromat on the road, give fabrics a fresh water rinse at home if you’ve been in a salt atmosphere or in places where laundry water has a high salt content. “When salt crystals are left behind, they draw moisture from the air, creating dampness and bad smells,” she said.
Ensure tents are dry.
Canvas items like tents can develop mold spots if you put them away even slightly damp. That means that if you packed up camp during a rain shower or in the morning while dew was present, you need to unfold your tents and tarps and allow them to dry completely. Groene also recommends consulting the manufacturer’s directions to protect any proprietary treatments in the fabric.
Even if you intend to free up storage space in your home by moving the bulk of your gear to offsite storage, you’ll want to keep one bin handy to use in case of a power outage or natural disaster. The American Red Cross advocates setting aside ample food and water for your family, along with medications and important paperwork. Then include camping items like flashlights, extra batteries, lanterns, your camp stove and fuel. You may even decide to purchase duplicate items so that you have some just for camping and others to remain in your emergency stash.
Once your gear is properly cleaned, dried, replenished and stored, there’s one more item to add to your to-do list. Put a reminder in your calendar to book your favorite campground the day they open for annual reservations to ensure you get the best site.
For options to store camping gear outside of your home, search SelfStorage.com for facilities near you.