How to Take Care of Your Gear: Stop Replacing, Start Using

Most camping purchases are not impulsive. Rather, 58 percent of camping gear bought each year is to replace something already owned, according to the 2013 American Camper Report  by the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA).

Rather than dishing out more money each season, start taking better care of your gear to ensure many years of adventures minus the expensive replacements.

More: How to Choose Camping Gear for Your Family

These simple rules apply to care for almost all gear

  • Follow manufacturer instructions for washing
  • Never dry in direct sunlight, the UV rays can damage the materials
  • Store in a cool, dry place, like a closet—not your attic or garage

Many items, however, have specific maintenance instructions. Follow these directions to care for all of your important gear.

Sleeping Bag

This essential item keeps the cold out, and 65 percent of those surveyed by OIA said it's their most essential camping item—just ahead of tents at 62 percent.

During the season, aim to keep your sleeping bag dry, and always use a sleeping bag liner—this adds an extra layer of warmth and is easier to wash than the bag itself.

If your bag gets wet, completely dry it in a shaded area before packing up and always follow the manufacturer directions for cleaning. Note that most sleeping bags are not washable in a top-loading machine, and the type of detergent you can use depends on whether the bag is down or synthetic. Try Nixwax, which has specific washes for all types of outdoor gear.

When you're not camping, store your sleeping bag in its larger stuff sack, rather than the one that packs it down to fit into your backpacking pack. This helps the bag keep its loft, ensuring that you stay warm when using it. If storing your bag for the season or an extended period of time, lay it flat (under a bed) or hang it on a hanger in the closet.

More: The Ultimate Campsite Sleeping Guide

Tent

It's your main shelter from the elements and one of the most expensive pieces of gear to acquire. Not taking proper care of your tent is a pricey mistake.

At the campsite, check that no sharp rocks, objects or branches can pierce through the material, both below and around the tent. Most tents come with a footprint to protect the base and using this is highly recommended. Otherwise you can use a basic tarp.

Make sure the tent ropes are taught enough to keep water or debris from collecting anywhere and institute a no-shoe rule for inside the tent.
                       
Dry your tent completely before packing it up—moisture will create mold and mildew. Shake and/or clean everything out, including the stakes and poles. If wet, let the tent air dry outside in a shaded area over a clothesline or railing. Always pack it away with all the proper accessories in the provided sack to avoid losing anything.

More:15 Ways to Use a Tarp at the Campsite

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About the Author

Mattie Schuler

Mattie Schuler is a journalist who writes, edits and reports for magazines and websites. She currently focuses on topics that include the outdoor industry, outdoor recreation and gear, adventure sports, health and fitness, yoga, parenting and travel. In her free time, Mattie enjoys snowboarding, hiking and backpacking, yoga, cooking and reading lots of books and magazines.

Mattie Schuler is a journalist who writes, edits and reports for magazines and websites. She currently focuses on topics that include the outdoor industry, outdoor recreation and gear, adventure sports, health and fitness, yoga, parenting and travel. In her free time, Mattie enjoys snowboarding, hiking and backpacking, yoga, cooking and reading lots of books and magazines.

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