Have you ever unpacked your camping gear at the start of the season only to find that you have mould or mildew on some of your camping kit? You will not be alone as I’m sure this has happened to many of us over the years and 9 times out of 10 this can be prevented by ensuring we store our kit properly while not in use, especially over the winter months when many people don’t use their camping gear.
If you are like many other campers out there your camping season will be drawing to an end as the October holidays are over for many, especially in the UK.
For the rest of you hardcore All-Year campers, this could also be of interest as storing your equipment between trips in winter is very important if you want to keep your equipment in tip-top condition and ready to go whenever you want.
Not all of us can rough it in the cold camping over the winter months and have a few months away from camping where we will pack all our kit away.
But, you need to do this in a way that will preserve your kit and keep it in tip-top condition and ready for next season. For this reason, I have written the following tips and advice. If you have any top tips of your own, please feel free to share them in the comments section at the end.
Making Use of Equipment During Winter Months
As you go through your kit think about what may come in useful around the home over the winter months. These can be kept out rather than having to rummage for them at a later date or when the time comes when you need them. Some of the following are things you should think about.
If you will be having guests over the holiday period it may be worthwhile keeping out beds and sleeping bags. See further down the page about storing sleeping bags to ensure they will always be fresh for any guests. Beds may be stored under beds in rooms or in cupboards if they fold away. If you are storing airbeds or mattresses ensure they are placed in an area where they will not be damaged or in a box to save any punctures.
Torches, lights and headlamps may also be useful items to keep handy in case of power cuts. Put this somewhere that is easily accessible and ensure everyone in the household knows where to find them. Check on them regularly if you are leaving batteries in them. where possible remove batteries and store them in a separate box beside your equipment. This prevents battery leaks damaging your equipment and battery poles from eroding.
Are you ever without a cooker during power cuts? Camping stoves are ideal for getting something warm to eat or drink or even filling hot water bottles for everyone. Store your stove and gas separately if you may need it and again ensure everyone knows where this is should they need to use it in emergencies.
Storing unused Gas Bottles or Cannisters
If you are keeping gas bottles or canisters please try to keep them outside away from the house, a garden shed or outbuilding is ideal. It is also worth fitting the storage area with a carbon monoxide detector just in case of any leaks. All gas bottles should be stored upright and off the ground, a low shelf is ideal. Ensure gas bottles are fully turned off, that all coverings or lids are in place to avoid dust and dirt from being able to enter the valve areas. Then cover, loosely with some tarpaulin to help keep out moisture and prevent anything from being able to drip onto them.
Your entire kit needs to be thoroughly cleaned and checked for damage. If you find any of your kit to be damaged this is a great time to get repairs done or even replace them. Often the end of season sales are on and you may be able to grab yourself a bargain compared to waiting till the new season starts the following year.
Anything that is washed must be thoroughly dried before packing away. To ensure items are fully dry, dry them the best that you can and then leave them sitting for a couple of hours before packing away.
Remove any batteries from lights, radios and any other gadgets that consume them. Batteries can leak and can cause irreparable damage to items and at best corrode any metal that it will come into contact with.
Tents, Awnings and Canopies
For these items, it is best to pitch them one last time to clean and check for damage. Sweep out tent floors and give them a clean too. Depending on where you are able to keep your tent this is a must as small critters will find any crumb you leave behind.
Clean any tree sap, bird droppings and dirt off the material using a clean non-abrasive sponge or cloth and some tech wash. We love Nikwax Tech Wash as it comes in many sizes. You can also use this in your washing machine or bath (always follow instructions on packaging) to thoroughly clean larger items and waterproof clothing. This will not damage waterproof coatings as the aim is to revitalise and restore breathability. Where possible try not to use detergents as this will damage the waterproofing.
Re-proof if needed, from both water and UV rays. Follow manufacturers guidelines on when this should be done.
If at all possible try to keep your tent inside and loosely folded. So, out of the storage bag is best. If you do have to keep it outside in a garage or shed, you will need to check on it regularly to ensure that no critters have started to gnaw their way through the bag to make a bed in your beloved tent, stored awning or canopies. It is cold outside, and they will look for anywhere warm to sleep and breed. If you can find a plastic storage box big enough store your tent in this and keep it tightly sealed. Place other items you are storing on top to ensure nothing can get into damage your tent, tarps or awnings.
Remember as temperatures rise and fall over the winter that it can lead to condensation among all your equipment, but this is especially damaging for materials as it can cause mould and mildew and will also cause nasty smells that can be hard to get rid of. This is why it is best to keep these items indoors where temperatures don’t fluctuate so drastically.
I often save the little silica bags you get with new products and put a few of these in with tent to help keep it fresher and draw moisture away from it. You can also buy dehumidifiers that will help trap any moisture that remains and keep it away from the material but please check on this often as it should be removed once it gathers moisture to ensure no leakage and prevent damage.
Many people just forget about these and they need a little TLC too. After all, they are what keeps your tent pitched and standing tall while you are camping. Again it is worth washing and sorting through all your pegs. Discard any damaged pegs and take note of any you may need to replace. Ensure all are dry before putting away. If you store your pegs in a bag (we use an old stuff sack) it is worth washing and drying this too. Again we would recommend washing with NIKWAX Tech Wash to ensure waterproofing. This will help to keep your pegs in tip-top shape and prevent any metal pegs from rust.
Sleeping Bags and Beds
These are also best kept indoors and stored loose. If you can pop the sleeping bags under beds or in cupboards, lightly folded. If you have the room single bags can be halved lengthways and put over a hanger to store. If you are able to do this, it is also a good idea to tie the storage bag for the sleeping bag around the hanger. Having them hung loosely will allow air to circulate and prevent any nasty odours from building up. It will also reduce the risk of damage.
If you must store these away in a loft or outhouse the best thing to use are these vacuum storage bags. These are great at keeping things fresh and dry as well as compacting the size of space you use for storage. Again, please check on them at regular intervals just in case something decides to have a nibble or the bag opens and lets in air or moisture.
Again, thorough cleaning of all equipment to make sure all traces of food are removed. This includes plates, pots, utensils, chopping boards and cutlery. Ensure everything has a good wash at high temperatures and then fully dried before putting away to store. As before it is worth drying thoroughly by hand and leaving a few hours so any unreachable places have time to dry out before storing.
If you have separate dry foods or condiments for camping it is best if they can be kept indoors too. Check that the dates are ok and discard or use if the dates are not going to last until you next go camping. If storing, these should be placed in a sealed container where possible. This saves them from drawing moisture from the air and spoiling.
Remove gas canisters from cookers and stoves and store as recommended above. In an outbuilding, upright, off the floor and covered.
Fire Pits & BBQ’s
Like your kitchen equipment, you want to thoroughly clean your fire pits and BBQ’s that you use for camping before storing for the winter. These are prone to rust if not cleaned and stored correctly during winter. It is best to clean these items outside due to how dirty they become. Brush off any soot or charcoal that remains from their last use and thoroughly wash with hot soapy water and rinse. Again, ensure these are fully dry before packing away to store for the winter.
It may seem like a lot of work, cleaning everything and storing items correctly, but, it will save both time and money in the long run. If you take care of your kit it, in turn, will take care of you when out on your adventures.
If you are storing your camping gear and kit in any outbuildings please ensure that you are covered should fire, flooding or theft occur. You can check this by contacting your home insurance providers and if it is not covered it may be worth adding this to your cover or taking out separate camping and camping gear cover.
We hope this helps you to get the most out of your equipment and gear year after year and saves you a few pounds in the long run (all the more to spend on camping trips).
Once you have cleaned and taken care of storage for all your kit then you will have little to worry about over the winter and can get on with planning your following years trips over the winter months.