Upon returning home from a big Colorado outdoor adventure or just a weekend backpacking or biking trip, it might be tempting to plop your pack on the floor and not deal with storing your camping gear for a while. However, leaving your camping gear crammed in your pack for more than a day may not be a good idea.
By taking the time to unpack, dry, and store camping gear properly, you’ll help ensure getting years of good service out of your equipment. Store camping gear in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. Avoid damp basements and unheated (and uncooled) spaces like your attic, garage, or car trunk. And follow the below tips for storing these camping gear items.
Store Camping Gear: Tents
Before being put away, tents should be dried completely and not stored in their stuff sacks. Tent fabrics need to relax and breathe, so roll your tent up loosely and place it inside a large pillowcase or mesh bag.
The best way to dry your tent out is to pitch it outdoors in a shady spot. Leaving your tent in direct sunlight for too long can degrade your tent’s fabric and urethane coating, and with Colorado having more sunny days throughout the year than most states, you’ll want to find shade. If you have no outdoor space, hang or drape your tent until it is completely dry. A pole over a bathtub works well.
- Cleaning a Dirty Tent- Use a mild (non-detergent) soap and cold water to spot clean dirty tent fabric. To remove sap, make sure the sap is dry and clean gently. Campers swear by various removal methods – mayonnaise, butter, baking soda, hand sanitizer, or OFF. Rinse thoroughly with cold water after treatment.
- Tent Poles – The best way to treat your poles is to store them partially assembled to take tension off the cord. If you don’t have enough space, collapse the poles by starting in the middle and working toward the ends to evenly distribute stress along the cord.
If you’ve invested in a down or similar high-quality fill sleeping bag, it’s not a good idea to store your sleeping bag in a stuff sack because its long-term lofting ability will be compromised. This applies to down or synthetic (synthetics tend to do worse in this regard) bags.
Ideally, hang your sleeping bag up in a dry closet. If your closet has no space, pack your dry sleeping bag loosely in a large breathable bag and store in a cool, dry place. (Many brand name sleeping bags are sold with jumbo-sized cotton storage bags). A mesh bag such as a laundry bag will also work (90L is a good size). Try to find a place of honor for your stored bag in one corner of that crowded closet.
Store Camping Gear – Other Items
- Inflatable Sleeping Pads – Wipe your pad down with a damp cloth to remove any dirt. A foam, self-inflating sleeping pad should ideally be stored unrolled and flat in a cool dark place, with the air valve open. If you don’t have enough space, under the bed is a good spot (unless you have a cat!) or standing up at the back of a large closet. The very popular NeoAir pads can be stored rolled up with the valve open.
- Head Lamps (and Anything Else Running on AAA or AA batteries) – These batteries tend to corrode at the contact points over time, so remember to remove the batteries between trips.
- Water Bladders – Especially if you put electrolytes in your drinking water, disassemble your drinking tube components and run a little bleach through your water container and drinking tube. Just make sure to rinse them thoroughly after.
Final Camping Gear Storage Thoughts
Storing your outdoor equipment so that it’s readily handy and in good condition the next time you’re packing for a trip requires some time and organization, but that is time well spent. If you find yourself extremely tight on space, consider parting with used outdoor gear that you have duplicates of.
Think about sending your spare camping gear to Mountain Equip Recyclers (merecyclers); we’re a non-profit consignment store in Colorado Springs that donates a portion of our sales to charities. Check us out!