Gear Check: Prep your Camping Gear for Summer

Camping gear on wooden background, including Marmot tent, Kelty cooler and sleeping bag, Gregory pack, Helinox chair and Sea to Summit dish.

In springtime, the cold winds and snow of winter recede into memory as the days lengthen, drawing us out to camp and hike, run and roam.

Maybe you hibernated all winter or perhaps it’s been a few years since you’ve taken the family camping. Your summer gear has lain dormant for the winter, out of sight and out of mind in a basement, closet or attic.

Despite the best of gear organization schemes, things have a way of happening. Tent stakes go AWOL, ratchet straps retreat under car seats, and paddles migrate out of the shed.

Take a few minutes to check your gear. Your regimen will depend on your collection of gear but we suggest:


Depending on where your stuff is stored, you’ll want to give it a good shake to dislodge any spiders, moths or scorpions (yes, I once found a Texas scorpion squatting in my stored tent).


The seams of tents and rainwear are often sealed with special waterproof tape. This tape can be damaged by improper storage. The high heat and humidity of storage sheds or attics can cause delamination, which is a fancy way of saying that the tape peels off.

In addition to seam tape, manufacturers coat their products with chemical weatherproof treatments such as polyurethane. These coatings are damaged by improper storage as well.


Warm layers, like your down jacket, saw a lot of use over the long winter. Clean and mend them properly so they’ll be ready on cool summer nights.

Examine your stove as well. Depending on what kind of fuel you use, stoves may need periodic cleaning and maintenance.


Unlike liquid fuel, it’s not possible to visually determine how much fuel is left in a butane-gas canister. Make sure that you’ve got enough fuel for the trip before you head out into the backcountry.


Batteries figure more heavily into our backcountry experience than ever before. Many devices use rechargeable batteries, which do not hold a charge over long periods of storage. Charge your:

safety and survival gear

These items can easily get buried in the bottom of your pack. They are (hopefully) not used very often so they can go unexamined for long periods.

In addition to checking the seams of your bivy sack, you’ll want to look at the fuel level in your lighter and make sure that your waterproof match container is full. Sharpen your knives and practice your knots.

cooking supplies

A quick inventory of your kit will ensure that you don’t find yourself trying to eat soup without a spoon after a long day of hiking.

With a good knife and a little patience, you can carve a serviceable spoon. But no matter how sharp your knife is, you can’t make a bottle of Tabasco sauce.

Carved wooden spoon and tiny bottle of Tabasco sauce

tent poles and stakes

If tent poles or stakes get separated from the tent for cleaning or repair, make sure that they return from the workbench to the stuff sack.

cargo straps

Few accessories have more potential to create an awkward and strenuous predicament than discovering you’re missing a cargo strap while three friends balance a canoe on top of your car.

Check the straps for jammed rachets, broken buckles, or torn webbing. Take a tip from professional truckers and resist the urge to recycle old, fraying cargo straps – invest in new ones.

trailer and hitch pins

Hitch and trailer pins must have a thriving black market, given how frequently these simple but important devices disappear. Keeping a spare or two on hand is a good idea.

the takeaway

Knowing your gear is in good shape will allow you to head out with confidence whether you run, camp, hike or just plain wander.

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