Picture yourself roasting marshmallows under the stars at the edge of a mountain lake, surrounded by trees and loved ones. You’re in a circle of folding chairs not too far from your tents, which you’ve prepared just in time for camping season.
Summer is just peeking over the horizon – we can almost feel it – and nature-lovers have already started hitting the campground. When you get ‘the call of the wild’ from your friends or relatives, will you be able to find your gear? When you’re ready to rough it, will your tent be ready to go? Here’s a quick guide to getting your camping stuff primed for summer:
Do you know where your gear is? It’s time to wake your tent, tarps, bungee cords, coolers, backpacks, chairs, sleeping pad and sleeping bag from their deep hibernation. Hopefully you planned ahead last year (and kept everything together) when you packed it into the basement, attic, garage, closet, or an offsite storage locker (psst: a 5×5 unit is the perfect size for camping gear). Put it all in one place so it’s easy to move on to the next step: a refreshing clean.
Depending on how you stored your gear, it may or may not need some TLC. Take your sleeping bag to the dry cleaner if it has a musty smell or was stored in a place where dampness may have snuck in. If your tent, tarps, and camping chairs need a good wipe, it’s worth taking the time to do it right.
Your best bet for most items is gentle soap and water. If it has metal components (chairs, coolers), be sure to dry it thoroughly with a rag so it doesn’t rust or attract mold. For the tent and fly, use a non-detergent soap, cold water and a soft sponge so you don’t accidentally ruin the material or coating.
Tents and flies come with a water repellent coating, but it tends to wear off with time. You should coat yours with a waterproof tent spray at least once a year, especially if you plan to go camping often.
If you notice the seam tape is peeling off or coming up, you can buy a special product to reseal the seams (ask your local outdoor shop for the best formula for your tent fabric). If you can help it, don’t wait until the night before a trip to start waterproofing; some products need at least 24 hours to dry.
Don’t forget to book it!
Try to book your site in advance, especially if you’re planning to go camping during a long weekend. Some popular camping areas show site availability online, where you can choose your ideal setup location. If it’s a less-trafficked, secluded site and you can’t book in advance, take Friday off so you can stake your claim by noon. If it’ll take you more than a few hours to travel from Point A to Point B, well–give yourself as much time as you need.