Spring arrived this week and we are pretty excited! One of the things we love about living in Michigan is the very distinctive seasons that we experience. Winter was great (I hear that grumbling!), but spring is a welcome sight as temperatures have already started to warm, at least in West Michigan.
Spring also reminds us that while some of you do love winter camping, most still have their camping gear packed away. We always like to go through our hiking and camping gear to make sure everything is in tip top shape to be able to hit the trail at a moment’s notice.
Tent – Our tent is the first item pulled out of storage. Even if you are a winter camper you probably have a different tent for the colder months and your warmer weather tent is still packed away. We like to set everything up like we are camping in our backyard. If you don’t have a backyard, your driveway or even living room might be the perfect place to do this. We like the backyard because we can leave it set-up for a couple of days. If it rains, it’s a good test to make sure there are no leaks or water proofing that may have become a little less effective while in storage. If it doesn’t rain, you may want to turn the hose on and test it out that way. The last thing you want is to find out on your first trip of the season that your tent is no longer waterproof. If you do find leaks, you may want to reseal your tent seams and use a spray to help with over all water repellent. Check your local outdoor store to see what they recommend or if they have any tips for your specific tent. And if you have a serious repair here are some tips from the experts: REI Expert Advice
Back Pack – Next, I always like to take out my backpacks and make sure all the pieces and parts are in working order. If you are like me and sometimes put your backpack away without wiping it down or leaving items in it, this would be the time to make sure all of the pockets of your pack are empty and cleaned out. Make sure the straps are all in working order and if you have a rain cover for your pack, be sure to have that ready. Over time, especially with older packs the straps can start to become more fragile and less flexible. I always make sure to flex all the straps and throw it on to go for a short local hike with it and see if I notice any issues.
Shoes – The third item I always break out are spring/summer hiking shoes. I have different boots for the winter vs summer hiking terrain. Depending on where you live, you need different boots for the different seasons. This isn’t a fashion thing (if you know me you would know how funny that sounds as I type it), it is a practical terrain issue. What winter boots may offer you in warmth you won’t need in the summer. There are things you do need in any hiking boot and if you know of a good all-seasons boot, let me know! When I pull my summer hiking boots out I tend to first wipe the outsides down with a wash cloth. Making sure any mildew or mold that may have grown on them over the winter doesn’t affect them throughout the year. Like my backpack I also throw my boots on and take a short hike to work them back into shape and also to get a feel for how these play on your feet. My winter boots are completely different than my summer ones as far as how they hike and how they feel.
Lastly, we recommend to test any equipment you will be using for the year. Backpacking stove, cooking items (make sure they are washed and wiped down), even things like your compass. A few years back on my first spring hike, I broke out my compass that was perfectly fine the last time I had used it and the entire thing came apart in my hand. Needless to say there weren’t any stores close to the trail head. We trudged on and even tried to tape the pieces back together, but I spent more time worrying about where the trail was then actually getting off the trail and exploring the area. That won’t happen again! At least not due to a broken compass.
I have been there. The urge to put things away dirty and not worry about them until you need to use it again (I have things to do and trails to conquer!), but I’ve realized over the years that if you want your gear to last (and a lot of outdoor gear isn’t cheap) make sure to take care of it. You don’t have to spend hours taking care of your gear, but 15-30 minutes goes a long way to keeping it in working condition and can save you a lot of money in the future.