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Caring For Your Outdoor Gear

Updated: Apr 19

Outdoor people often invest a lot of money acquiring gear. If you spend a little extra time on the back end of a trip washing, drying, replenishing and repairing you will save time, money, and prolong the life of your gear.  You know the scene, you get home, you’re tired, want a shower, and a cold beverage. In a rush you throw your gear in the garage telling yourself you’ll get to it later. Next thing you know it’s time for your next adventure.  Your gear, which is still where you dropped it, smells musty, has a broken buckle that needs fixing, your MSR Whisperlight stove needs cleaning, and the foot-pegs on your kayak jammed on your last trip.  Now what?  You will need to spend time fixing and cleaning stinky, sometime moldy, gear or purchase something new.

Keeping your gear clean, dry, and in working order will save you time and money. You will not regret the effort and time it takes.

In the ocean environment salt water is your biggest nemesis. If you paddle often and don’t rinse your gear you may be looking at replacing rudders, skegs, footpegs, and paddles that corrode at the ferrule and will never come apart.

On a backpacking or hiking trip, sweat will effect the integrity of the material and it will degrade much faster.

Sea Kayaking Gear

  1. Sea Kayaks – Rinse thoroughly inside and out after each use.  Pay special attention to foot pegs, seats, rudders and skegs. Sand and salt can corrode and jam up the mechanisms. You don’t want to be in the middle of a windy bay and have your skeg jam or your foot braces break. I also spray my plastic boats a couple times a season with 303 UV protectant.

  2. Life Jackets (PFD”S) – Rinse thoroughly after each use to remove salt, sand and sweat. I also treat my life jackets yearly with 303 protectant made specifically for material. It prolongs the life of the material and protects the zipper.

  3. Dry Bags – Rinse and hand upside down to dry.

  4. Paddles – Take apart after every use and wash thoroughly. The ferrule (the place where you connect pull-a-part blades) will corrode and jam, never to be taken apart, unless you have superhero strength.

  5. Spray Skirts – Rinse off the salt water and hang to dry.

  6. Stoves – I rinse my stoves after a camping trip. They will corrode with prolonged use in salt water.

  7. Radios – Rinse.

  8. I have a waterproof camera for the ocean that I rinse in fresh water when I get home.

Backpacking/ Hiking Gear

  1. Backpacks – Rinse thoroughly, especially if any food spilled inside or you put your apple core in the pocket. Leftover food will attract small critters that will gnaw a hole through your pack. Leftover food will also mold…yuck! Who has ever put their hand in one of their backpack pockets and found an old moldy apple core???

  2. Tents – Even if you dried it in camp take out your tent at home and air it out. Take it out and set it up in your backyard or on your patio. I made the mistake of not airing out a tent once. It became covered in black mold and I couldn’t get it clean.

  3. Kitchen gear – I put all of it in my dishwasher. If you don’t have a dishwasher a good hand washing and drying is in order.

  4. Water bladders – Open, drain, and hang to dry.

  5. Sleeping bags – Make sure you take sleeping bags out of their stuff sack. Let them dry and store them open. Do not put them back in the stuff sack. It can damage the fill and will lessen their insulating value.  Sleeping bags should be washed at the end of the season to get off the accumulated sweat and dirt. Follow the manufacturers directions for proper care.

  6. Sleeping pads – Open the valves on your pads and keep them open, check for leaks and fix them.

  7. Boots- open and dry them out. Re-waterproof if necessary so they are ready for your next trip.

Bicycling Gear

  1. Helmets – On a particularly sweaty day rinse the sweat out. At a minimum air it out.

  2. Clothes – I don’t always wash my bike shorts after each ride. But, if I am very sweaty I rinse them to protect the chamois from the damaging effect of sweat!

  3. Bicycles – If it was a muddy ride, wash the mud off and put a little chain oil on if necessary.

First Aid & Repair Kits

  1. Inventory and replace what you used.

Once your gear is clean and dry you will want to store it properly. A clean, dark (away from damaging UV light) and dry environment is the best. I store my gear in cabinets in the garage. It is a dark, clean, and dry space and ready to go when my next adventure beckons.

Now get outside and enjoy your next adventure!


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