The days are getting longer and the temperatures are getting warmer. Spring is just around the corner and that means it’s time to dust off all the camping gear that’s been collecting dust in the garage all winter. The time to checkout your gear is not the first time you try to use it, this year.
Fortunately, checking out all the gear can easily be done over a weekend and you can actually have some fun with it. If your kids are old enough, they can have their own little campout in the backyard and, if they’re not, you can join them and make it a family affair.
When it comes to checking out your camping gear, there is just no substitute for setting it all up and putting it through its paces. You can polish-up the burners on that camp stove, blow-out the gas pipe and test the igniter, but until you actually cook a meal on it you can’t be sure it’s going to work properly. The place to find out for sure is in your backyard, not in the backcountry.
This is doubly true for air mattresses, which can somehow magically grow small pinholes that let the air out so slowly you’d swear they’re just fine, until you wake up on the hard ground in the middle of the night after all the air has seeped-out of the air mattress. This is definitely not something that you want to discover in the backcountry, on the Friday night of a three-day weekend of camping!
Gas lanterns are giving-way to battery power, but batteries can present their own set of issues if they’ve been left in the device all winter. If this is the case (and we’re all guilty of this!), it’s important to remove the batteries and check for corrosion. If there is corrosion or discoloration on the contacts, use some electrical contact cleaner and polish them up with a toothbrush, or some emery cloth.
The most tedious springtime maintenance is inspecting the zippers on all of your gear. Zippers have a nasty habit of corroding, or just getting gummed-up from an accumulation of dirt. You can use a toothbrush and a mild soap solution to clean the zipper and, if it is still sticky, use a bar of soap to lubricate the sticky area, a bit. There is no reason to coat a zipper with lubricant, as it will just collect dirt and get sticky again.
The weather can be unpredictable in the Spring, so gear maintenance weekend is a great time to test your tent out with a garden hose and make sure it’s still shedding water, and the seems aren’t leaking. Do this early enough in the weekend that if you do find a problem, you’ll have plenty of time to let the sealer cure (time varies by product).
Once your gear is checked-out you can be confident that the first time you hit the backcountry this year, the only thing that you’ll have to worry about is finding that perfect marshmallow stick!