Tips for Storing Camping Gear
Camping, whether in a tent or RV, provides an enjoyable diversion from modern city life. If you’re serious about it, you probably even put away your laptop, tablet, and phone for a good part of the day while you’re enjoying hiking trails, fishing, or sitting around a campfire.
Of course, camping requires the right gear, like cooking equipment, sleeping bags, tents, and flashlights. It’s important to clean and store them properly after your trip. We mean it. Don’t set aside these steps for longer than a day, or your gear may begin to grow mold, attract pests, and smell bad. Get them ready for storage, and put them in your storage unit.
Cleaning and Storage
Always clean your camping gear before storing it. In fact, we recommend making sure that anything you store is clean before you put it away. Dirt, water, food particles, and more can attract pests, cause mold or mildew to grow, and are breeding grounds for various bacteria.
Once an item is clean and dry, you can safely store it. Now, we’ll cover some specifics for various types of camping gear.
Unless you’re traveling in an RV, you’re probably sleeping in a tent. Trust us, the plastic smell of a tent is preferable to the smell of mold.
To clean a tent, whether large or small, put some detergent-free soap in a clean bucket, then add cold water from your tub or hose. Scrub the dirt and mud off the tent with a sponge.
Do not use perfumed soaps, as these can attract pets. Once the tent is completely dry, fold it or roll it up accourding to the instructions for your specific tent, then put it in a large plastic bin or a cotton bag. To make sure it’s able to keep it’s shape when you retrieve it, avoiding compressing it. If you choose to store it in a plastic bin, we recommend adding two or three small desiccant packs to ensure it stays dry. You can purchase these on Amazon or elsewhere.
Before you wash your sleeping bag, check the manufacturer’s instructions. Some are not made to be machine washed, so only put them in the washing machine and dryer if the instructions say that you can. Keep in mind that if you can’t find the manual it came with, these are usually available online. The manual should also cover how to clean it.
You should know whether your sleeping bag is filled with synthetic filling or down, and you’ll need to get a cleaner that’s formulated for that type of filling. If your sleeping bag is machine washable, put one in the washer with the correct type of cleaning solution and run it on the gentle cycle. Then, run it through an extra rinse cycle to remove excess soap. Then, remove the bag and gently squeeze out most of the water.
On low heat, dry a synthetic bag in a commercial dryer for an hour or so, and a down bag for several hours. You can keep your down sleeping bag fluffy by putting two clean tennis balls in the dryer, too. Again, make sure they are completely dry before putting them in storage.
You may be tempted to store your sleeping bag in the sack that came with it. Avoid this. The sack is meant for transporting the bag to and from your camping sites, but if you use it for long-term storage, it can damage the fluff. Instead, put each bag in its own cotton or large mesh sack. In your storage unit, put these on top of boxes or bins.
Pots, Pans, Plates, and Cooking Gear
Luckily, cooking your cooking gear is as easy as cooking dishes at home. Just wash them as thoroughly as you would any of your other dishes in the sink or dishwasher. Once they are thoroughly dry, you can put them in a plastic bin for storage.
Keep in mind that cleaning a cast iron skillet, if you use one, requires a special process. First, warm it up on your stovetop. You want it warm, not hot. Then, fill your sink with lukewarm water and put the skillet in the water.
Mix kosher salt with a little water. You really want a lot of salt, here, and little water, so that you get a thick mixture. After about ten minutes, take the skillet out of the water and pour excess water out, then pour the kosher salt mix into the skillet. Rub the salt thoroughly all over the pan, which will help remove the stuck-on food. You can use your fingers or a cloth for this. Scrub off any really stuck-on food with a cleaning brush or a soft sponge.
Use a clean cloth or paper towel to dry the skillet thoroughly. Finally, pour a few tablespoons of vegetable oil, canola oil, or lard oil into the pan. Do not use olive oil, which has a low smoking point and is best used as a condiment. Spread the oil over all cast iron surfaces of the skillet, including the sides and bottom, then wipe the excess oil off with a paper towel. Once it’s dry, store it in a plastic bin.
Other Camping Gear
Flashlights and other items that need batteries must be cleaned and stored correctly, too. It’s critical to remove the batteries to avoid leakage. Put the batteries in a plastic bag. Clean the exterior parts of electrical camping equipment with water, a gentle soap, and a soft sponge, and dry it thoroughly with a fluffy towel. Then, store the batteries and equipment in a plastic bin, together. You’ll be able to find the batteries and test them the next time you’re ready to camp.
Depending on where you live, there’s a good chance you should rent a unit with climate control. Dry and cold winter air, or the heat and humidity that comes with summer, can reverse a lot of that work you did ensuring your camping gear is clean and dry.
Facilities keep the temperature between about 50 and 80 degrees, and the humidity between 30% and 50% in climate-controlled units. These are excellent conditions for most things we own, and will help ensure your camping gear stays in great shape between trips.