How To Pack Your Tent And Camping Gear Away For Winter
Keeping your tent and camping gear in good nick when it’s going to be stored away for some time is important.
Before packing up until spring, it pays to unpack it all and check carefully for wear, damage, holes, tears, damp, mould, mildew or any other signs of wear.
Mould and mildew will make the tent smell bad and eventually it can make the fabric rot away, leaving it only fit for the bin. If your tent 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. 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. Even waiting a few days can cause damage and definitely don’t store away for the winter until the fabric is dry.
CHECK FOR DAMAGE
Pitch your tent in the garden if you can or, at least, spread it out so you can check it thoroughly. Look out for and replace broken poles, damaged zips and worn guylines. Also check for tears in the groundsheet and flysheet. Some rips in the waterproof flysheet 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. Glueing as well as sewing the patch on will make the repair more durable, and again, you should apply a seam sealant. Depending on the problem, sometimes simply taping up a hole or tear may well suffice for years and there’s no need to go overboard before storage.
Check the overall state of the outer fabric as, if the damage is down to age, use and the effects of bright sun, then a temporary fix might be a waste of time and a new tent needs to be added to the Christmas list.
As inner tents are not meant to be waterproof, fabric can be stitched up fairly easily even when torn in a ragged pattern.
Sewn-in groundsheets can easily be damaged by stones on your pitch. A tear or hole can be fixed with a patch but if there is a lot of damage then it’s impossible to fix. The problem then is if you have a sewn in groundsheet, your entire tent is rendered useless. The best way to avoid this is to use a groundsheet footprint from the start. This protects the groundsheet from any sharp objects on the pitch and is much easier to clean when you get home.
If you have struggled with the bag your tent came with, think about replacing it with a more user-friendly option. If your loft is dry and airy, then hanging it up in the space might be a good option.
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 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.
Pack the tent loosely and store it somewhere dry and cool, like a loft, garage or shed, and out of direct sunlight (as long as it doesn’t get too hot).
Storing gear high helps keep it away from rodents and insects but remember tents can be very heavy, so be very careful not to put it somewhere that it could fall on your head!
CHECK YOUR GEAR
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) so do follow the manufacturer’s instructions and advice.
Unpack your stove, remove gas cannisters, check the burners and give it a good clean. Check the burners to make sure they are undamaged and ensure all the fittings are tight. Tighten the jubilee clips on the gas hose and regulator.
Remove the batteries from lanterns, torches and any other gadgets and store them separately. This will stop the batteries running out and will avoid the danger of corrosion damage.
Wipe down tent furniture like wardrobes, kitchens, tables and chairs and check for any damage. Clean out food storage containers thoroughly. Washing surfaces, fabrics and structures with a mild solution of bleach helps with hygiene and inhibits mildew. Similarly, washing coolboxes and other food storage containers makes sure that no missed food residue grows to nightmare proportions.
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.
Finally, 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, disposing of or replacing as required.