Offseason gear care
At the time of writing this, the main current event is COVID-19. I would like to say to all who are reading this that I hope you are staying and/or stayed safe during these hectic times. On a more positive note, it's a good time to take advantage of the time spent at home to do some upkeep on your outdoor products that could use some love, such as down products, boots and shelters.
Washing your down products properly to the manufacturer's specifications is key here. Yes, I know that seems really obvious, but you may be surprised how many people have told me that they wash these items like a normal sweatshirt or blanket only to end up with a clumpy down mess in the baffles and have to resort to beating it with a broom to get it back to normal. Also, look for items that can help clean your down such as Grangers Down Wash and Performance & Clothing Repel Combo Pack. Down-safe products will not only help remove dirt and oils from the face fabric, but also clean the down inside the garment or sleeping bag. This will help bring back the life of a seasoned jacket or sleeping bag, keeping you warm for future hunts and prolonging the life of the item. If you choose to use a dryer to wash your down make sure that you use the lowest temperature setting and toss in some tennis balls to aid in de-clumping the down. Grangers makes a great Down Wash Kit that'll get the job done. Too high of a temperature can singe your lightweight face fabrics. Here’s a tip from NEMO Equipment: "Be sure to use a machine that doesn't have a center agitator, top loading machines typically have an agitator and it can tear the lightweight shell of your bag or jacket."
Rain gear and shelters
After a couple of seasons or, even, after one hard season of abuse, your shelters and rain gear could probably use some attention. Before your next use, wash your rain gear to clean off dirt, debris and remove smells like woodsmoke. Also, take a few minutes to inspect the seams of both your rain gear and shelters whether they are tents or tipis. If you don’t want to get the sealant on your hands, use a pair of nitrile gloves, small paintbrush and a shop rag to wipe excess sealant. To seal, simply turn your rain gear inside out and inspect the seams, looking for any missing or degraded seam tape. If there are areas in the tape that need repair, I will smear some Gear Aid Seam Grip over the area. Or if you have punctured your jacket/pants, you may require a patch. Smaller rips or punctures can be fixed with some Gear Aid Tenacious Tape along with a small amount of the liquid sealer. Larger rips may require sewing followed by sealant or a patch. For shelters, I use a similar process.
You can fill a large plastic container with water and wash the shelter with some Tent & Gear Solar Wash. Once dry, I pitch it like normal and apply a coat of the applicable DWR for the fabric. Then, I will pitch it inside out, inspecting the seams where the stitching comes through. I put an emphasis on the zipper and stove jack (if applicable) since that’s where I can see if I've missed a spot of sealant in outings throughout the year. I will, once again, smear some sealant on the deficient areas using the GearAid Silnet Sealer. I like to use the correct sealer for the material needing to be repaired.
Bonus Tip: Make a small tear/puncture repair kit for taking into the field. Tenacious tape and a small tube of sealer weighs almost nothing and can come in handy when damage happens to your shelter, clothing or sleeping pads while in the field.
In total honesty, I'm guilty of neglecting my boots. I'll beat them up for the whole year then kick them off when the seasons are over just to have them sit in my gear pile until I need them again. I've become better since buying higher end boots and spending a couple hundred dollars on them. Now, when it comes to boots — since I mainly use Crispi boots — I use their treatment solutions. I remove the laces and rub the boots down with their waterproofing cream for leather boots or, on my suede boots, I’ll use their waterproofing spray. It’s a fairly straightforward and simple system, which is convenient. I have also used other leather conditioners and put my boots in the oven (at a very, very low temperature) to aid in opening up the pores of the leather, then reapplied the waterproof conditioner before setting them out to air dry. Not really sure if it really helped, but it brought life back into an old pair of boots for another season. Also, be sure to remove your insoles and clean out all the crud that collects in the depths of your boots. This is also a good time to replace/upgrade your insoles if you notice they have lost their support.
Make sure to comment below on what your processes are for maintaining your gear in the offseason. Learning from each other is one of my favorite aspects of this platform!