I don’t know about you, but when I pack up my outdoor gear at the end of the fall season it’s, ehh, not the cleanest should we say. Maybe I’m lazy, but usually at that point it just doesn’t seem so important to me that everything is nice and clean. What’s important is that it’s put away and I’ve moved on to the next thing in life. Hopefully I’m not the only one that thinks this way, and either I’m not lazy or we’re all lazy. Whatever works.
The thing is, almost every year on the last few trips things are just muddy and wet. Naturally everything picks up a ton of dirt. Are you really going to hose and brush everything down? How are you going to get it dry without bringing all of that into your house when it’s cold and wet outside? Maybe someone else out there has a practical solution, but I just pack everything up and wait to deal with it when the sun and the warm weather are back.
Well, spring has certainly sprung, and with it has come the sunshine, warm weather, and drier conditions that allow me to once again bust out my dirty outdoor gear and get it clean for the upcoming season. Here are a few things I do to get myself ready:
Clean Off and Out The Boots
At the end of a busy outdoors season my super high quality pair of boots often look like they’re destined for the trash can. They’re covered in leaves and pine needles, caked on with layers of dirt and soaked through with muddy water from the many puddles I had the misfortune of stepping in. I know what’s underneath though, and that’s my good old trusty pair of boots. I just have to bring them back to life.
So, first things first I’ll smack the living crap out of the to knock off as much of the dried and crusty debris as I can. You might want to cover your face when you do this, because so much dust and dirt flies up in the air you’ll be wondering if there’s a sandstorm. Then I’ll take a firm brush and while the soles are still dry I’ll continue knocking debris out of the tread. Once that’s all said and done it’s time for the garden hose, and I’ll hose those suckers down until the water starts to run clean. Then I’ll hang them out in the sun until they’re as good as new.
Getting The Tent Ready
On any given year my tent has likely seen some serious action. The first thing I’ll do is find a dry patch of land and get it set up so that I can do a basic damage assessment. While the tent is relatively dry – albeit awful musty – I’ll remove any leftover goods (train tickets, napkins, receipts, etc.) and take the opportunity to vacuum out all of the debris that had accumulated over the year of use.
Once the tent is clean on a dry basis, it’s time to actually get the material back in top shape. Usually my neglect has led to some mold forming on the outer and potentially inner walls, and once again there’s usually mud everywhere. I usually find a pressure washer works best for getting rid of both of these, as a gentle stream of high-pressure water loaded with detergent seems to be quite effective. If you don’t have one already, I’d recommend reading through some electric power washer reviews. They are quite affordable and even more useful.
Once I’m done washing I’ll give the tent a chance to dry, then I’ll treat all of the outer surfaces with a good water repellent to keep the coating in good shape to hold up through the upcoming season.
Tending To The Rain Gear
No, not reign deer. Rain gear. You know, like my rain jacket and rain paints. Duh.
I treat my rain gear very similarly as I do to the tent, with the exception of the fact that it is not resilient enough to stand up to the high pressure stream from a pressure washer. Instead I’ll hang them all on hangers, empty and invert the pockets, and wipe away any debris. Many people will put their rain gear in the washing machine but I find that this seems to have a hugely negative impact on the fabrics, seriously reducing their usable life. Instead what I’ll do is hose them down and use a sponge to gently lift any dirt and grime that has built up on them. Then I’ll let them air dry in the sun thoroughly.
Again, once they are dry I’ll use waterproofing spray to preserve the resistant properties of the Gortex. This will help them stay in good shape for years to come. If necessary, I’ll mend any minor tears or split seams with a needle thread, and I’ll put extra sealant on any of those repairs because I know from experience that my craftsmanship is a bit lacking and they’re prone to leakage.
With all of that behind me, I’m ready for the next outdoor season. This year I’m going to try to do quite a bit more hiking, as I feel I was spending a lot of time on flat ground last year. It was great fun, but you have to change it up from time to time.