How To Store And Maintain Your Gear

Gear is an investment, and especially because with outdoors gear you may not use it very often, you need to take even greater care in proper storage & maintenance. Otherwise you may use it two times, and then find that by the third time (potentially some several years down the line) it's already noticeably under-performing or completely unusable! And that, certainly would not be getting your money's worth!

Clean, Dry, Loose, Dark

Those 4 words represent an essential gear storage & maintenance philosophy. Gear not in use should be cleaned & dried and then stored loose & in a dark environment. The below information is the most widely applicable, for specific gear items, check our individual gear pages to learn more.

Clean

<p>It's important to store gear after it's clean, to avoid attracting pests, or letting stains set and become permanent. However, machine washing can often damage gear either mechanically (e.g., gear has parts that get snagged and lead to rips or tears) or chemically (e.g., traditional detergents break down the water repellancy of the fabrics used in gear). Please be careful with cleaning, follow our tips below, and consult manufacturer's guidelines. Note: if wet gear has picked up lots of dirty, twigs, etc., you can easily wait for it to dry then shake it clean, nothing else needed.</p><p>Generally for stains, you want to spot treat (it's gentler, especially important if your gear has a waterproofing treatment), try:</p><ul><li>Just water, but with scrubbing action</li><li>A mild, diluted Castille soap</li><li>Alcohol for sticky sap</li></ul><p>Even if washed in the most delicate way possible, the reality is that with each washing, technical fabrics can lose some performance (e.g., waterproofing or insulation). That's why we recommend spot cleaning as above as much as possible. That said, every once in awhile we understand you just need to wash the entire thing. First, pre-treat heavy stains with detergent. Since gear is more delicate, you should wash it with cold water, on the gentlest setting, using gear-specific <a href='/protips/gear-repair-kit' class='link' target='_blank'>detergent</a> (which won't remove & can actually reinforce waterproofing treatments).When drying, a few things to consider:</p><ul><li>If you used gear-specific detergent, follow its instructions (re-waterproofing detergents often need heat to set)</li><li>Gear with insulation filler (e.g., sleeping bags) should be tumble-dried with tennis balls to help 're-fluff'</li><li>Aside from the instances above, generally gear is susceptible to excessive heat (which can melt some synthetic parts) or tumbling (straps or zippers can catch, causing damage), air-drying away from direct sun (UV rays damage waterproofing & UV-repellant treatments) is generally a good strategy</li></ul><p>If you have super nice gear that you'd rather not risk laundering yourself (think a very nice down sleeping bag or jacket) <a href='http://rainypass.com' class='link' target='_blank'>Rainy Pass Repair</a> can wash it for you, and it may cost $50-100.</p>

Dry

Of course outdoor gear is designed to stand up to rain, but before you store it, it neeeds to be completely dry (have you heard the term 'bone dry'? yup!). Any bit of moisture can promote mold or mildew growth, which not only smells terrible but can lead to health hazards. In storage, gear should also be kept in a dry environment (not something humid like a bathroom).

<p>Technical fabrics (e.g., used in tent-like structures) are difficult to dry because:</p><ul><li>Fabric should be fully spread out (folds may just hold water), which can require a lot of space</li><li>Air-drying is best (the sun's UV rays damage waterproofing & UV-repellant treatments)</li><li>Towels may just spread water around</li></ul><p>For tent-like structures, the best approach is to keep it pitched until it air-dries, which can take several hours, because you may have to first dry the rainfly, then remove it, dry the body. And then sometimes you may need to dry the bottom by flipping the structure on its side. In these efforts, it's best to find dry ground, otherwise one side may be perpetually wet!</p><p>This is also why for our rental customers, we offer the convenience of Water Guard, where you pay a small amount upfront, and we will dry it for you (only for tent structures).</p>

Loose

When it's not working for you, your gear needs to 'rest' and recuperate its performance. This means you generally want to store things loosely, rather than compact (which unfortunately means a greater space requirement than you may otherwise believe). It's hard to apply this generally to gear, so we'd like to review what this means for the 3 main camping essentials

Specifically for tent-like structures: For at-home storage, loosen the stuff sack a bit & don't keep the tent super compressed. Another note, don't keep creasing the tent along the same lines or the waterproof coating may wear out faster at the crease (this is probably the easiest to do because most people do not fold a tent up exactly the same way each time).

Specifically for sleeping bags: Sleeping bags are generally sold with 2 stuff sacks: 1) small & compact, 2) larger mesh one (like a big laundry bag). The insulation material, especially down, relies on loft, or building up space that traps air. If the material is continually compressed, it loses its ability to loft & thus its ability to keep you warm. Of course if you're backpacking or bringing stuff to camp, you need to keep it small, so you have a compact stuff sack (this does mean that it's best to let your bag re-loft a bit before sleeping in it, by unrolling it and shaking or beating it, much like fluffing a pillow). At home, however, you should store it as un-stuffed as possible. Ideally, you would hang-it full length (what we do at Last Minute Gear). Many people can't do this, so you can keep it in the large mesh bag.

Specifically for sleeping pads: If your sleeping pad is partially self-inflating or made with open-cell foam which holds air, keeping it compressed strains these cells and reduces the inflatability of the pad. Therefore, at home, you should ideally keep these unrolled with the air valve open.

Dark

Or... out of direct sunlight. UV-rays break down the waterproof treatments that most gear undergoes. Did you know, you should even set up tents in the shade?? This is why in the section on drying above, we specifically mention air-drying not sun-drying. And, while this rarely happens outside, extreme heat, which can be caused by direct sunlight, can damage gear as well, so you may want to avoid long term storage in a car!


If you follow our advice, your gear will last for much longer, giving you the chance to actually get your money's worth! Of course if the maintenance & storage looks too troublesome, well that's why we rent everything mentioned above (and care for it well, so you don't have to)!

Happy trails!


Thoughts, ideas, questions? Let us know in the comments below, or contact us for immediate help with trip planning, gear, or anything else we can do to get you outdoors. We're Last Minute Gear, the only outdoor gear shop where you can buy, rent, or borrow gear!