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

IF YOU’VE been camping recently, spare a thought for the wear and tear your camping gear may have suffered while you were on holidays. During the trip you may have experienced rain or camped out under trees that left sap marks on the tent. If, when you packed up, the wind was blowing a force 10 gale, you may have just stuffed the tent into its bags for the time being.

Now is the time to unpack the tent and associated camping items and make sure they’re in good condition. Any moisture left on canvas will quickly turn to mould, and tent poles will rust and the guy ropes will also be affected.

If there’s enough space in your back yard, erect your tent and any other canvas or tarp-style structures to give them a good clean and airing out. Start by hosing out the tent, then give the floor a gentle wash with a mild detergent and rinse it out thoroughly. The outer walls and roof can also be given a gentle scrub, so long as you’re careful not to get too heavy-handed.

It’s a good idea to have someone inside the tent while you’re on the outside with the hose, as they’ll be able to tell if there are any small leaks. You can then decide whether it needs a small dab of seam sealer or more professional care.

Leave the tent erected for at least a day so it can dry out properly, and then test the zippers to see whether any have worn out or gotten stuck. 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 you don’t have to guess which is the front or back.

The same applies to the shower/toilet tent. 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 has completely dried, then roll and pack as usual.

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

If you have packed away guy ropes and springers in a hurry, repack them so they will be quick and easy to use next time.

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

Tables and chairs will need 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 repacked ready for your next adventure. We have a large plastic box which holds all our kitchen needs, and after we’ve returned from a week of camping I wash everything and repack it ready for next time.

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

1) 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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