Fall is in the air and starting to be seen in the trees! Cooler nights and mornings, the changing of colors, school is back in session, and the holidays lingering in the future, once again in nature, and in our lives, it is transition time.
The harshness of summer heat and winter cold are offset by the transition seasons of spring and fall. In northeastern Nevada, it is certainly a time for layers and being prepared for the change in temperatures throughout the day. These times of transition are also a great for cleaning, checking, and restocking gear and supplies. Removing dirt and grim and putting away clean equipment not only extends the life of the equipment, but may also reveal any damage.
For camping equipment, washing your sleeping bags at the end of the season is usually a good idea. Beware and follow washing instructions for your bag, but generally, a mild detergent in a washing machine works well. In Nevada, we are fortunate that our low humidity minimizes the likelihood of mold or mildew, but nonetheless, be sure to completely hang dry the bag before storing for the winter. Generally speaking, for many bags, storing the sleeping bag in a mesh bag that is larger than the usual stuff-sack helps maintain the fluffiness of the bag, which is what provides insulation. For tents, a good shake out and wipe-down with a mild detergent helps to extend the life of the tent. Cleaning the poles and removing any dirt from the pole-ends is a good idea, too. Once again, be sure the tent is dry before storage. As Nevada Outdoor School staffers have mentioned before, caring for that uber-important sleeping pad is also critical. Like the sleeping bags and tent, a good cleaning is called for by the end of the season. Use a gentle detergent and some elbow-grease, as needed. For self-inflatable or foam pads it is best to store them flat if possible, with valves open, to help prevent the breakdown under constant compression. Under a couch or bed is a good place to hide these gems until camping season arrives again.
Like camping gear, hiking boots and backpacks also need to be cleaned and dried before storage. Pull out those boot insoles and give them a good rinse or wash. If you need new shoestrings, now is a good time to get those installed. For your backpack, get all the crumbs out and store flat. Hanging backpacks is generally frowned upon because hanging may cause the straps or material to stretch over time. Better to store in a bin or shelf.
Water reservoirs is a great place for mold and bacteria to flourish during the off season. A good rule for bladders is to only put water in them, this minimizes the likelihood that some of that sugary-awesomeness will be in a crack or cranny and feed a colony of microorganisms. Plus, the water-only rule minimizes staining of the bag and decreases the amount of cleaning required. Using commercially available tablets is a good way to keep your bladder hike-ready. You can also research and use bleach, baking soda, or lemon juice to keep your bladder clean.
Other gear, like fishing, biking, or climbing should also be cleaned, inspected and stored properly. Using storage bins that are clear and clearly marked may help reduce frustration when we cycle back around to spring and summer again. Taking good care of your gear is part of the Leave No Trace Principal, Plan Ahead and Be Prepared. 35-miles into the wilderness is no time to figure out that your tent is torn or your bladder housed disease-causing organisms. Gearing up and transitioning into winter activities is an exciting time, but don’t neglect to care for your summer gear first. Get outside and explore, it’s good for humans everywhere.