Camping can be one the most moving and enlightening experiences a person can have in their lifetime; getting in touch with nature and bonding with friends and family combine to make memories that endure throughout the years. Unfortunately, an unpleasant camping trip can leave memories that are just as indelible and may even dissuade individuals from camping again.
Of all the reasons a camping trip can go wrong, improper maintenance, storage, and cleaning practices concerning camping equipment are by far the largest contributors. Failing or malfunctioning equipment, however small, can turn any trip into an unpleasant one. Leaking or broken tents, mold and mildew, missing components, pests, rodents, and more can all be easily avoided by correctly cleaning and storing your camping gear.
Tents are one of staples of any camping trip and are also the most likely to be overlooked when the trip is over. Tents need to be cleaned and dried thoroughly on the inside as well as the outside after each and every use. Moisture and foreign debris can turn your tent into a breeding ground for mold, mildew, and bacteria, as well as compromising the tent material itself. Bedding, linens, and sleeping bags are also susceptible to these conditions. The cleaning process is also the best time to perform a visual inspection of the tent for any tears or problems; fixing a leaking tent ahead of time is much easier than attempting it in a rain storm in the woods.
Organic fiber tents like canvass are particularly prone to weakening and even rotting from moisture, if they are left untreated. The modern synthetic materials used today are incredibly resistant to decomposition but they also need proper cleaning and drying. Both synthetic fibers and organic fibers can harbor mold spores and bacteria that may later become an actual health hazard on top of being an inconvenience, particularly in the confined quarters of a tent. There are several reliable products on the market you can use to treat and even help water proof your tent once it has been cleaned.
Tents also need to be stored properly, not just rolled up and tossed aside. Your tent should be returned the original case it was purchased in, and always make sure you store all of the steaks, poles, and components that go with the tent in the case as well. Doing so will make your next camping trip a smoother and more enjoyable experience. One common mistake campers make is not properly stowing their tent when leaving a campsite; many campers will simply bunch up their tent and its components in the back of the vehicle and drive home or to another campsite. This can easily cause you to lose components, damage equipment, or damage the vehicle. Always clean, dry, and store your gear, even if your just moving to another site.
Another troublesome group of camping equipment is the cooking gear; it is very tempting to just dump food out and store the gear for a later date, but this can pose real health and safety risks. You run the risk of sickness and disease with unsanitary cooking tools, but you also invite pests, rodents, and even larger wildlife to your campsite or storage facility. You also run the risk of transporting pests to and from your storage facility to campsites, or possibly transporting invasive species to other locations. All pots, pans, utensils, and coolers must be cleaned, preferably with bleach, and dried completely before storage. Storing these items in trash bags during the off-season can help reduce the chance of pests and rodents finding them.
All metal components, including cooking gear, should be inspected and oiled or greased as needed to prevent rust and corrosion. Cast iron and non-galvanized steel are especially vulnerable if not oiled and stored correctly. Rust can pollute food and water and undermine the integrity of the gear to the point of making it useless or even unsafe.
Taking the time to clean, dry, and store your camping equipment can ensure each and every trip you take is fun and exciting and not a disaster waiting to happen. Improper cleaning and storage of camping equipment is far more damaging than the actual use of the equipment, and following a few simple steps each time you use your gear can make the difference between having the equipment for one year or many.