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By:    On: 2011-09-19

 September 23rd marks the first day of Autumn in the United States.  If you’re like my family, you might have one more camping trip in the month of October and then you’re done for the season (much to my husband’s disappointment I am not a cold weather camper.  Well, not unless I’m camping in a hot springs spa anyway.).

What will you do with all your camping gear over the winter?  I hope you’re not planning to just toss it into a corner of your basement, ignoring it until next Spring!  If you want to be able to use your gear next year, there are some steps you should take now to prevent the need to buy new stuff next year.


You likely invested a pretty penny into your tents so it just makes sense to protect that investment.  Using a sponge or washcloth (we use the car wash towels you can find at automotive stores) and soapy water, clean all the sand, dirt, dead bugs, whatever is on your tents and then hang them to dry.  Do the same with the fly, if there is one.

While they’re drying, check out all the poles and zippers for your tents.  Is anything broken?  PLEASE don’t duct tape the poles!  Go to a camping store like Cabellas or Bass Pro and replace them.  You’ll want to do the same for zippers, too.

When your tents are dry, waterproof them and seal the seams.  There are kits for this in camping supply stores and they usually cost about $20.  Compare that to buying another $300-400 tent and it won’t seem so expensive.

After you have prepared the tents for storage, take the time to roll them properly and put them in their cases/bags.  Don’t have the case anymore?  No problem: roll the tent, tie it closed with sturdy rope or paracord, and seal it in a mattress bag.  Seal the bag, too, to prevent creepy crawlies from nesting for the winter.   

Sleeping Bags/Pads & Air Mattresses:

Most sleeping bags can be washed in a machine and hung to dry.  Check the tag to be sure before you toss it in.  When they’re completely dry, fold them loosely and store them on a shelf in a mattress bag.  If you keep them rolled all season they can lose their insulating fluff.  If you don’t have a lot of shelf space, get some SpaceBags that work with a vacuum; the sleeping bags bounce back year after year. 

Sleeping pads and air mattresses should be cared for much the same way tents are washed:  warm, soapy water and hang dry.  Check your mats for tears and your air mattresses for rips/holes.  Roll and store.

Kitchen Gear:

Clean your stove thoroughly with a degreasing soap such as Dawn.  Put your pots and pans (not the cast iron; see my blog on cast iron and Dutch ovens), utensils and cutlery through a cycle in the dishwasher (or wash by hand – doesn’t really make a difference) and dry thoroughly before storing.  Now is also a good time to reseason any cast iron, if you have it.  Check your gear for any damage and remove anything that needs to be replaced.

When everything is clean and dry, store it neatly in your chuck box or RubberMaid totes.  I like to make a list of every item I put away.  I keep one copy of the list in a plastic sleeve that I tape to the box and one copy in my family camping notebook.  My list also has space for any items I will need to replace the following season. 

Flashlights, Propane, Radios, etc.:

Check all of these for cracks, missing lanterns (for propane lanterns), dead bulbs, etc. 

Check for empty propane cans; if you have any empties, they can be recycled at steel recycling plants.  Call your local recycling center to find out what your county’s disposal rules are.

Check all the batteries in your gadgets.  Remove the dead ones and put them into a bag; they also might be recyclable.  Remove the good batteries, place them in a ziplock bag, and label them with something like “AA – good – flashlights”.  Store them in the bag with your gear or, better yet, use them in household flashlights, remote controls, etc.  Batteries can leak and corrode if left in gadgets too long.  Better to replace the battery than replace the gadget!


I know it seems like a chore to have to do all this cleaning but in the end it really is worth it.  And just think – with all the money you are saving on not replacing big-ticket gear, you can afford to pick up that outdoor kitchen you’ve had on your wishlist forever (hint, hint to my family…)!

What tips/tricks do you have for storing your gear?  Leave me a comment – I love hearing from you!

Happy camping,


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