Maintaining your equipment is important to keep it working correctly and to serve you for many years. It’s something that should be done at least once a year, as well as when you are using the equipment to stay on top of potential issues. Some things can be done easily each time you go camping, and others can be done once a year or on an as-needed basis.
Preventative maintenance is pretty easy with any of your equipment. Basically, these are things that, if not done, will shorten the life of the equipment, forcing you to spend money sooner than you would otherwise need to. Some of these I’ve mentioned previously, but all are important to consider. Tent For your tent, I recommend getting some sort of cloth or tarp for underneath the tent. This will help to keep the tent floor from rubbing on rocks, sticks, and roots, and will also help to cushion your sleeping area for a better night’s sleep.
After each use, before you pack your tarp away, sweep it off from dirt and bugs so that it’s ready to go for your next outing. Additionally, I recommend getting a handheld dustpan and broom/whisk to sweep out your tent, both when you are setting it up at the start of your camping trip, as well as at the end when you are packing up to head for home. This will prevent you from grinding sand particles against the floor, extending the life of your tent.
If you use mats of any kind, make sure to brush off any dirt from them before you roll them up. If you are using an air mattress, you should make a note if it has a slow leak; you’ll want to patch that up before you go out again. Also, brush off any dirt from the underside of the air mattress before you roll it up.
Each time after you use your lantern, whether white gas or propane, you should take it apart and clean out the bugs that will inevitably be there. At night, your lantern will attract all kinds of flying insects, some of whom will make it inside and die. Before you use it again, blow out all of these dead bugs and swap out the mantel(s) if needed (due to tearing, etc.). Keep it clean for each use, and during the daylight refill the fuel if your lantern uses white gas. Stove When you are using your stove, it’s possible that you might spill something on it. Keep these spills cleaned up so they don’t get cooked onto the stove and become impossible to get off. You may need to wait until the stove cools before you clean it, but keeping it clean can prevent bad things from happening, including grease from catching fire accidentally below the burners. A clean stove is a safe stove. Lastly, if your stove uses white gas, refill the fuel during the daylight hours.
It seems odd to include this here, but it’s important to keep your kitchen equipment cleaned. Yes, that meal was great, and you want to sit by the fire and digest it for a bit. No problem, just have a plan to clean up everything with soap and water as soon as you can. It’s no fun to clean up pots that have crusted on food, and it could ruin the item if left too long. Besides, you’ll be needing those things for an upcoming meal, and you don’t want to cook or eat from a dirty item.
Tent One thing to do with your tent once it’s seen at least a year’s worth of activity is to clean it with non-detergent soap and water. You will remove the dirt and grime from being out in the wilderness, which will help to extend the life of your tent and rain fly. Do not use a washing machine to do this, as you could ruin the tent; always do this by hand. Allow the tent and rainfly to dry completely before packing it back up.
Additionally, you should do an inspection of the tent poles to make sure that they aren’t fraying or have cracks in them. As most 3-season tents have fiberglass poles, you can actually repair these poles with fiberglass repair kits. While you may check out your poles each time you use it, it’s a good idea to give it a really good inspection under bright light once a year to help spot problem areas. 4season tents often have aluminum poles, so if you see these getting badly bent, it’s best to replace them rather than bending them back.
You run the risk of kinking the metal, which erases it’s integrity and will cause your tent to fail just when you need it most.
Finally, you should inspect all of the no–see–um netting on your tent, as well as the fabric that makes up the rest of the tent. Any rips/tears in the netting should be addressed with a repair kit. The other materials should be addressed in the same manner. If not addressed early, these could become much larger things to deal with, which compromises the integrity of the tent that much more, leading to a shortening of the life of the tent.
Sleeping bags don’t have to be washed often unless you get them dirty. Even if you spill something or have a spot, you should just treat that spot versus washing the entire bag. The reason is that the contents of the bag must dry thoroughly, and the warmth properties of your bag could be compromised if you wash it too often or don’t allow it to dry enough. Since they aren’t used as often as regular bedding, you can get away with not washing it as often. Before you wash them, be sure to look them over for any tears in the material, or the zipper separating from the bag itself.
Get these repaired first, then launder the sleeping bags. Be sure to follow the washing instructions on the label. If you have sacks for your sleeping bags, wash these as well. Finally, you can consider using a bag liner in your sleeping bag. These liners are meant to be washed frequently and help protect your bag from the oils and dirt that you will carry with you into your bag.
Lantern & Camp Stove
Annually for your lantern, you may want to take a damp rage and really clean your lantern well. The glass globe can be hand washed in your sink.
This is a great end-of-season activity so that you store it away nice and clean, and it’s ready to go for your next camping season. For your camp stove, at least once a year, it’s worthwhile to clean out your camp stove with soap and water. This is probably best done at the end of your camping season so that it’s ready to go right away for your next camping season.
For those that use white gas, before you put these items away for the season, be sure to empty out any remaining fuel that might be in the tanks. Over the offseason, water could condense in the fuel making it rust out components prematurely.
While you are doing your annual cleaning and inspection of your gear, you should also do a review of your gear to see what you use and what you don’t use, along with things that you wish you had based on your style of camping.
Early on in your camping career, you may decide to start looking and upgrading your gear after each camping session. Later on, however, your gear will be pretty well set based on how you camp, but you should still review your gear to see what you might want to get rid of, swap out, or acquire.
This is also the perfect time to check over your gear for things that are broken, chipped, cracked, etc. Those should be replaced, as they will end up failing on you at the worst possible time. If you know other people who camp, whether tent camping or not, you should check with them to see if any of the items you are looking to get rid of are things they could use. Better to pass things off to others who will use it versus trashing them.
Last resort, if things aren’t broken, would be to donate them to Goodwill or other second-hand stores, or have your own garage sale and help equip a new group of tent campers.