How to pack away your camping gear for winter
The end of the camping season, when you have to pack away your tent and equipment, is always a sad moment.
You could, of course, avoid it completely by choosing not to pack your gear away at all but keep getting out there all through the winter. But as most people prefer to camp in milder weather with longer hours of daylight, you’ll need to make sure your gear stays in top condition during its winter hibernation.
Tempting as it might be to shove all your gear in the garage or loft and forget about it until spring, there are some essentials you need to do to make sure you don’t get any nasty surprises when you get ready for the first trip of the new year.
DRY YOUR TENT
The biggest issue you’ll face is mould and mildew, which will make the tent smell bad and eventually can cause the fabric to rot away, leaving it only fit for the bin. Your battle against mildew starts before you even leave the campsite.
Try to take your tent down when it is as dry as possible. If it is wet at packing up time, shake off as much water as possible and wipe more off with a clean, dry cloth or a towel.
If the tent is still damp and you have room in the car, drape it loose over the luggage in the boot rather than putting it in the bag.
Either way, when you get home, unpack it and leave it out to dry as soon as possible. If the weather makes this difficult, even spreading it out in a garage or shed is better than leaving it in the bag while wet. Just waiting a few days can cause the fabric irreparable damage.
REPAIR ANY DAMAGE
Before forgetting about camping gear until spring, pull it all out in the garage or living room and check carefully for holes, tears, seam strains or any other signs of wear. Those repair kits that came with the tent and airbeds may now come into their own. Even better, it is probably a slack time at camping shops so nip along and see what bargains are begging to be bought.
In particular, look out for and replace broken poles, damaged zips and worn guylines. Also check for tears in the groundsheet and flysheet. Some rips can be simply sewn back together, either by hand or with a sewing machine, then coated on both sides with seam sealant. For ragged tears and seams it makes sense to add a patch.
PROOF YOUR TENT
You’ll know your tent needs waterproofing if the rain starts to darken the flysheet. Cleaning and reproofing materials from brands like Storm, Nikwax and Grangers Fabsil can be found at most camping shops.
Thoroughly clean the tent fabric before applying the proofer. Large tents will have to be pitched and brush-washed by hand but smaller tents should fit into domestic washing machines.
There are two main types of proofer: water-based and solvent-based. Solvent products dry quicker – from just a few minutes for a fluoropolymer product such as Storm brush-on proofer to a couple of hours for a silicone product.
Spray-on applications are convenient and easy to use – especially on smaller tents. Treatments vary in application to wet or dry fabric – you’ll find advice and instructions on the container and on the manufacturers’ websites.
CLEAN YOUR GEAR
Wipe down tent furniture like wardrobes, kitchens, tables and chairs and check for any damage. All sorts of crumbs plus other food stains and remains might fester through the winter so give fabric, shelves and structures a good wash.
Washing surfaces, fabrics and structures with a mild solution of bleach helps with hygiene and prevents the spread of mildew. Clean out coolboxes and food storage containers thoroughly.
Camping stoves can easily get dirty through general use and you should wipe down the outside regularly during camping trips to prevent a build-up of grime. Annual cleanings are recommended before storing your stove at the end of camping season – give the burners a clean with warm, soapy water and a cloth.
If the gas jets get clogged, unscrew the burner from the stove, lift off the rings and use a small needle to clear any waste, then clean it with soap and warm water before rinsing and reassembling. Make sure it’s completely dry before packing away. Pots and pans will also benefit from a good scrub, as well as the stove storage bag.
- Wipe down furniture
- Clean camping cookers
- Wash out coolboxes
- Empty food containers
- Air sleeping bags
- Replace damaged pegs
- Check your first aid kit
- Pack tents loosely
HOW TO STORE YOUR GEAR
Make a to-do list and check your camping gear as you store it, looking out for anything that is missing, broken or damaged:
- Pack the tent loosely and store it somewhere dry and cool, like a loft, garage or shed, and out of direct sunlight.
- Storing gear high up helps keep it away from rodents and insects but remember tents can be very heavy, so be careful not to put it somewhere that it could fall on you!
- Air off sleeping bags for a couple of days and store them in large mesh bags or folded neatly in a wardrobe or airing cupboard. Take a close look at drawcords, zips and seams, repairing damage where you can. It might be time to wash the bags (many can be machine washed these days); follow the manufacturer’s advice.
- Remove the batteries from any gadgets and lanterns and store them separately. This will stop the batteries running out and will avoid the danger of corrosion damage.
- Food smells attract rodents and they will cause irreparable damage to gear by chewing through it on the hunt for something tasty to eat. Make sure you air out or wash all gear that smells of food and sweep out any crumbs before packing.
- One of the most often overlooked items that needs a regular overhaul is the first aid kit. Check the dates and condition of creams, salves, drops, tablets and so on, binning and replacing as required.
- Pegs may be straightened or replaced as appropriate to avoid rediscovering problems on the first trip next year.