*Different pieces of outdoor gear and equipment are designed to last for a range of expected life spans. A cheap inflatable pool toy can only be expected to last a few days of fun in the sun. High-end boots, tents and other various outdoor gear also have a finite lifespan, but are expected to offer years of use before beginning to deteriorate. It is an unfortunate fact that no matter how much care is taken to preserve an item, its days are numbered. For those who invest in high-quality outdoor gear, it is important to know how to make it last.
Storing your gear in a temperature-controlled environment helps to prevent leather and synthetics from cracking and placing unnecessary stress on the materials. Keeping items out of direct sunlight will aid in keeping certain fabrics and materials from breaking down at an accelerated rate. Above all, keeping your gear routinely clean, dry and neatly packed (when not in use) will help extend its life tremendously.
If you have invested in leather boots, make sure they have been adequately waterproofed to protect the leather or surface material. You can test them by sprinkling some water on the boot, if it beads you are in the clear. Before storing them, make sure they are completely free of dirt or grime that may become corrosive to the boot. You can effectively and gently clean them with a mixture of two parts warm water and one part vinegar. If they become saturated for any reason, do not place them in front of a furnace or fire to dry, the extreme heat and drying the material too quickly may cause the surface material to crack. Always allow the boots to air dry and remove the foot beds, if possible. Stick balled up newspaper in the boot while they are stored to help pull moisture and reduce odor from any bacteria inside.
Tents and Shelters
When using shelters, make sure to lay down a ground cloth barrier to protect the base from coming into contact with sharp rocks or sticks that may damage the equipment. Do not stretch a tent too tight when staking it down, as it will add unintended stress to the materials and can cause it to rip or wear down faster than desired. Ensure that any type of shelter is completely dry before storing. In situations when the shelter has to be packed away when damp, remove it from its storage bag and allow it to dry as quickly as possible to prevent mold and bacteria growth. If your tent needs to be washed, start by gently wiping away any dirt or sand from the tent and then clean with a soapy water mixture. Allow it to dry completely before storing. When folding tents and shelters, try to find different folding patterns as to not apply pressure on the same areas of zippers which can cause them to break after years of wear and tear.
In addition to preserving equipment so that you always have a piece of reliable gear available to you, it also is a great way to save money. In the Western world, we are so accustomed to one use items that we easily toss away when finished with them. Maintaining the quality and life of your gear enables you to save the money that you would spend replacing gear lost to mold, cracking and carelessness.