The gear we sell at Great Outdoor Provision Co. is made to last many years of hard wilderness use. While outdoor gear has to take all sorts of knocks, abrasion, dirt, sweat, water/sun, and then be put up dirty and wet for another day in a backpack, all gear needs care between trips to maximize product life. The following are suggestions for various gear:

Tents should be stored clean and dry in an area of the house with moderate temperature swings and low humidity; the living space is best, while attached garages, HVAC served basements are next best. Avoid attics and un-dehumidified cellars.

After each trip, tents should be dried away from the sun (uv weakens nylon), debris removed, tears repaired and abrasions covered with nylon tape. Areas of heavy handling and flesh contact such as door openings and the floor at the head of the tent, should be sponged with a mild antibacterial soap and thoroughly rinsed to remove human oils that provide fertile ground for mould and mildew. Aluminum poles should be wiped down and joints lightly lubricated with silicone spray.

Although the stuff sack in which the tent is packed for outings is ok for storage, it is better to loosely stuff the tent in a brown paper grocery bag which will allow air flow thus discouraging the growth of mould and mildew. Every four or five trips it is good to hose the tent down with regular, chlorinated city water and dry thoroughly, and lightly lubricate zippers with silicone.

Backpacks should be cared for in much the same manner as tents. The biggest difference is the amount of cleaning that packs require. Heavy sweat from hiking and food smeared on the pack fabric (directly or from greasy fingers) requires much more thorough cleaning. A mild antibacterial soap, thoroughly rinsed after cleaning, should do the job. We use Dow “scrubbing bubbles” on the straps, back pad and hip belt, let sit ten minutes and hose off until the water runs clear. Then dry. Keep zippers clean and periodically lubricate with silicone.

Sleeping Bags: Again, clean and dry. First, when one leaves his sleeping bag in the morning, the bag should be vigorously shaken and fluffed to remove the warm, moist air trapped in the insulation. This helps insure a lofty, dry bag the next night. After a trip where the bag has not been totally soaked, the only thing one needs to do when back home is to sponge off, with mild antibacterial soap, the opening where the face oils, spittle and food residue might have built up. Then put the bag in a dryer on “synthetic” or “low heat” setting for fifteen minutes. Then, put in the storage bag, a pillow case or hang in a closet for storage. If the bag comes home seriously wet, roll the bag up tightly with towels to absorb as much moisture as possible, then put in dryer on “synthetic” or “low heat”. If the bag is synthetic fill, thirty to forty five minutes is usually sufficient. If the bag is down filled, a few tennis balls or small running shoes without metal eyelets should be added to the dryer, to break up down clumps, when the bag is almost completely dry. Down bags usually take two to three times the time to dry as synthetic bags. Please keep in mind that dryer temperatures over about 125 degrees F will relax the loft generating “crimps” in the polyester fill, thereby reducing loft and the insulating value of the bag. Such high heat also makes the down pods brittle, similarly ruining insulation value. A long dry cycle at low heat is always better than a short one at high heat.

Significant loss of loft or objectionable odors are signs that the bag needs laundering. Modern synthetic and down bags are quite robust, but one should still avoid top loading “agitator” type washing machines. Front loaders are best, and check the interior for sharp edges that can pick or tear the fabric. Use a special “gear soap” like the one from Nik Wax, or a down soap as appropriate. Harsh detergents will strip the oils out of down, and remove the slick silicone coating on synthetic fibers, thus reducing loft and insulation value. (By the way, Woolite is very harsh) Wash, rinse “warm” and run again without soap to insure total rinse. Roll in towels, and dry in low heat dryer as above.

Boots should be stored clean, dry and properly dressed. Our red mud, and especially the acidic soils of the southern Appalacians, can rot leather footwear and should be removed upon return from a trip. Running water and a stiff brush is sufficient. Sweat and salts should be rinsed from the interior as well (remove insoles and wash separately) Stuff shoes with newspaper, replacing as it becomes damp to the touch, and reshape the wet shoes to normal shape. Air dry, never in the sun, and never, never, never over a heat source like a fire or heating vent.

If your choice of boot dressing is old fashioned petroleum or animal based grease (SnoSeal, SnowPruf, Peccard’s or Mink Oil), be sure the boot is totally dry before dressing. NOTE: Some manufacturers refuse to warrant boots treated with such greases as they tend to denigrate the bonds between layers of leather and will make re-gluing those layers impossible.

If using a modern water based dressing like NikWax, the dressing will “follow” the wet parts of the boot like creases to put more dressing where it is needed. Any of these dressings will help protect the uppers of your boots. Keep in mind that it is impossible to “waterproof” leather boots; “waterproof leather boots” are silicone impregnated, painted with latex on the inner surface, or incorporates a waterproof bootie between the leather and the lining. None of these are “breatheable” unless the liner is Gore-tex. It is still necessary to dress Gore-tex lined leather and fabric/leather boots to keep the upper materials from rotting.