Time for a good clean-out
  |  First Published: February 2004

WITH THE HOLIDAYS over, most of us campers have returned to the normal grind of earning a living. However, have you given a thought about the wear and tear the camping gear took while you were on holidays?

When it was time to return home, what was the weather like when you packed up?

During the holidays, depending on where you were, you experienced either bushfires or rain. You might even have been camped out under trees that left sap marks on the tent. If, when you packed up, the wind was blowing a force 10 gale, maybe the tent was just stuffed into its bags for the time being.

Now the time has come to unpack the tent and associated camping items and make sure that they are in good condition. Any moisture left on canvas will quickly turn to mould. Tent poles will rust and the guy ropes will also be affected.

Providing there is enough space in your back yard, then it is most advisable to erect your tent, and any other canvas or tarp-style structures, to give them a good clean and airing out.

This is when I usually give our tent a good hosing out. Once the tent is really wet, give the floor a gentle wash with a mild detergent and rinse out completely. The outer walls and roof can also be given a gentle scrub, but make sure that you don’t get too heavy-handed.

It’s not a bad idea to have someone inside the tent while you are on the outside with the hose. They will then be able to tell if there are any small leaks. Then you can decide whether it requires a small dab of seam sealer or if the defect is in need of more professional care.

Leave the tent erected for at least a day so that it has a good chance of drying out properly. Once this has been done, it is time to test all zippers. They do sometimes get stuck or wear out.

If sticking is the problem, a spray of Selleys Ezy Glide should free them up. This is a dry, non-oily lubricant which works exceptionally well on plastic and metal zippers. I use this product on all our zippers once a year and we rarely have problems.

When repacking your tent, always try to roll it the same way, either with the door opening to the front or rear. This way, when you get to your next campsite, the roll-out routine remains the same and there is no guesswork as to which is the front or back. The same applies to the shower/toilet tent but because of its size, I usually fill the laundry tub with a mild detergent-antiseptic solution and give it a really good, gentle scrub. This is one item that really should be cleaned properly. After the tent is thoroughly rinsed, erect it as normal outside until it too has completely dried, then roll and pack as usual.

It’s also good policy to check every pole and peg for signs of corrosion and weakness. Cadmium-plated poles tend to rust quite quickly in salt air and a light spray of Inox or the like, then a wipe down, will keep rust at bay. Check all grommet pins, joints and pole tips for signs of wear and replace if necessary.

You might also have packed away guy ropes and springers in a hurry – repack them so that they will be quick and easy to use next time.

Don’t forget to give the portaloo a good going over and dry it out. Wipe down the shower handpiece with a good cleaner and make sure that you get all the water from the hoses.

Tables and chairs will also need to be given a similar clean-up. When you have the table erected, check all the nuts and bolts and replace any that are beyond their use-by date. Sleeping bags and stretchers will need a good airing.

All the items that remain in the camp crates will also provide better service if they are cleaned thoroughly and then repacked ready for your next adventure. We have a large plastic box on wheels which holds all our kitchen needs. After we have been out camping for a week or more, when we get home I dismantle the entire box, wash everything and repack it ready for next time. Hot, soapy water is not always available when camping and plates and cutlery really could use a good scrub.

If you maintain all your camping gear and give it an annual once-over, it will serve you well for many trips to come.

After just two weeks of camping, the birds had decorated the shower tent, there was sap from the pines all over the tent and, because it had rained heavily, the blue tarps were covered in mud. If you have invested in good gear it is wise to maintain it.

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