What to do until the airport shuttle gets here


As you look out the window at the rain and snow, you are probably thinking of future trips and the warmer climates that you will visit next year.

I encourage this. Visit your local independent book seller and browse the guidebooks for possible journeys. Buy something while you are there. Bring it home and read it.

That doesn’t mean that you should sit in your comfy chair for the rest of the year reading about places to visit, not until you have done some chores.

Where is your backpack?

Make sure that it is stored in a cool, dry place and that you have removed the dirty laundry and any morsels of food that you may have inside the pack. No reason to attract mice, and your don’t want mold or mildew on your pack, so think about where it will be stored.

If your pack is dirty, do not wash it in the washing machine. Laundry detergent destroys the polyurethane coating that is on the backside of the pack fabric. Washing machines eat packs, especially top-loading washing machines.

What you want to do is to get a new, clean sponge and, using clean water, gently rub off the accumulated dirt. Make sure that your pack is dry before putting it away, wherever “away” is.

In my household, “away” means thrown under the bed.

If your pack is in need of some repair, either send it back to the manufacturer’s repair department or to a specialist. The best one in the country is Penny Schwyn.

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What about your Goretex shell?

Now is the time to launder it with a powdered detergent (must be powdered!) and then to launder it again without any detergent so as to remove the soap scum. Throw it is a clothes dryer on medium heat. This revives the durable water repellency (DWR). The DWR needs heat to revive it to be as good as new, so that water beads up and rolls off of it. If it needs to be sprayed with some new DWR, the best stuff comes from Gore: Revivex. The stuff from Nikwax and the products from Blue Magic work well too, but not as well as Revivex.

Have a sleeping bag?

It should not be stored in the stuff sack; it should be stored loosely. If possible, hang it on the wall like a fancy wall hanging. If you have a goose down bag (and these are the sleeping bags that I use) , it may be time for its biennial cleaning. I recommend that goose down bags be sent to cleaners that specialize in cleaning goose down. That eliminates all dry cleaning establishments, no matter what they tell you.

I recommend Rainy Pass Repair (call 888-Rip-Stop) for down bag cleaning. If you insist upon doing it yourself, get some Nikwax brand down cleaner, a front-loading washer and a commercial sized, front loading dryer. (In my opinion, this is too much bother. I prefer to let the professionals handle my down bags, and I think that you should too.)

What about your tent?

Don’t leave it stored in the stuff sack, whatever you do. The polyurethane coating (which is on most nylon tents) is gaseous. Tents left in their stuff sack will shortly smell like vomit. They need air!

The tent poles should have their inserts cleaned and lubricated. An aerosol can of silicone spray will blow off the dust and lubricate the inserts at the same time. While you have the silicone spray in your hands, spray the tent’s coil zipper chain, and aim the snorkel tube at the zipper slider where dust accumulates. Give it a big spray of silicone spray.

What about those nifty acrylic hiking socks?

They should be laundered, sure, but you should also use a fabric softener on them (such as Downy) so that the fibers have that wonderful feel that they did when they were new.

How are your boots doing?

Off-season is a good time to send your boots out for repair. There is only one place in the country that I recommend, and that is Dave Page, Cobbler.

When all your ‘off-season’ chores are completed, you may relax with a travel book.