Q. How do I properly store and care for my camping equipment?
— Careful Zachary, Quitman, Ga.
A. Well, Zach, if you’re like most guys I know, I’m sure the last thing you want to do when you get back from an outing is worry about cleaning and storing your gear. But if you don’t take care of your stuff, it won’t work properly later and could easily get ruined.
First off, never put your gear away when it’s dirty or wet. Clean the mud, dirt, sand, etc. off and, even more important, let it have enough to time to dry and air out before you pack it away. Organize your gear in sealable plastic tubs or cardboard boxes and keep it all in a cool, dry place. I keep my stuff in a shed with a dehumidifier constantly running to keep the wetness away.
A few specifics:
- Tent: Set it up in the backyard when you get home. Make sure everything is dry, because a tent packed away wet can quickly mold, mildew and rot. Clean the dirt or sand off tent stakes and poles.
- Sleeping bag: Air it out and then hang it up on a hanger in a closet or lay it out flat under the bed. Don’t store a sleeping bag long term inside its stuff sack because that can screw up the insulation inside.
- Electronics: For long-term storage of flashlights, headlamps, GPS, etc., always remove the batteries to prevent corrosion or leakage. Then store your batteries in a sealed plastic bag nearby.
- Cooking gear: Make sure your pots, pans, utensils and stove are all clean. Stray food drippings and crumbs will eventually attract insects and rodents.