Once you find the right gear for you (based on your objectives) and spend your hard-earned money on it, you’ll want to make sure it serves you for as long as possible. You can help by
- Storing it properly
- Keeping it clean, and
- Knowing how to repair it when something inevitably happens to it.
At some point, you may even venture into the exciting world of DIY, or MYOG: making your own gear.
There are lots of ways to store your gear and stay organized. I find it’s helpful to have a dedicated gear closet or ‘area’ where you keep all of your stuff. Ideally, you’ll have a system of organization that works for you. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Rooftop storage containers are great. You can keep a lot of gear in them year-round without cramming it all into a closet.
- Storing down is something you’ll want to develop good habits with.
- Storing synthetic bags and clothing is a little less fussy, but the same general rules apply.
- Sorting things by type will make your life easier. Example: Keep your shelters in one duffel bag, hang all your down in one place, use separate packing cubes for your base layers, mid-layers, puffy things, shells, gloves, etc.
- Crates/Shelves are great for garage/basement storage.
- Duffel Bags work very well for car/travel.
It’s good practice to keep your gear clean, and it will prolong its useful lifespan. Wash your shelters after your use them, clean your zippers, clothes, and dry your things to keep them mildew-free. There are lots of resources on the internet on how to wash down and raingear too.
Things happen. At some point, you’ll probably want to repair a small hole in your tent, patch a rip in your jacket, or something even more technical. Before these things happen, it’s prudent to have some idea how to fix them and also to have the materials on hand to do so.
Some of the most common issues involve:
- Fixing zippers
- Replacing buttons
- Adding/replacing zipper pulls
- Patching holes in sleeping pads
- Repairing broken tent poles
- Replacing broken plastic buckles
- Fixing a tear in your tents bug-netting
- Fixing small holes in expensive DCF shelters caused by campfire embers or punctures
- Replacing broken hardware/buckles.
- Using Seam Grip to repair shoes or to make new ones more durable.
- Improvising all manner of repairs with duct tape, etc.
If fixing your gear is simply beyond your skill set, you can hire a local seamstress, or use a site like RainyPass.com. You can even send it back to the manufacturer if it’s covered under warranty. Sometimes, companies may even opt to just send you a new item instead of repairing what you’ve sent in. Winner!
Sometimes, you may want to modify your gear a little bit. Usually, this is to make it more durable, perform a little better, or add some features specific to what you want to do, based on where you’re planning on going, etc.
Some common modifications are:
- Beefing up your trail runners to perform better and be more durable
- Adding down to your sleeping bag to make it warmer, or to replace lost loft
- Adding load lifters to *some* frameless packs
- Helping your sleeping pad to stop slipping around
- Keeping your pillow on your sleeping pad
- Adding shock cord webbing to the back of your pack to hang layers or dry wet clothing while you hike.
- Making your existing clothing semi-bug proof instead of buying dedicated bug clothing by sending it to InsectShield
MYOG: The Final Frontier
Eventually, it might serve you to learn about different fabrics, how to sew, and to go down the MYOG rabbit hole. Once you know how to fix, modify, and make your gear, it opens up a whole new world of possibilities. Every cottage manufacturer around today started in a basement with an idea and a sewing machine.
CONFESSION: I’ve made and modified quite a bit of stuff, and it’s a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s incredibly liberating to conceptualize your own designs and see them come to life. On the other, it’s a LOT of work, and prone to error. Sometimes it costs more in materials alone and almost certainly ends up being WAY more expensive when you factor in all the time it takes. That said, if you have the skills, the time, and the desire, it can be very rewarding.
Common MYOG projects include:
- Jackets and vests
- Pot cozys to keep your food warmer in winter
- Bottle cozys to keep your water from freezing
- Alcohol stoves
There are endless MYOG resources on the internet, but some of the ones I’ve used are:
DISCLAIMER: Don’t get discouraged if your first MYOG project doesn’t stack up to a professional level product It takes time, practice, and patience.
- Here’s the best tip you’ll ever get: Take care of your stuff. Most high-end gear is simply not designed to be thrown down on a pile of sharp rocks.
- Get in the habit of cleaning your gear regularly.
- Think of your gear closet as a garden you need to tend to.
- Organization is key. Figure out a storage system that you will stick with.
- MYOG is not for everyone. It usually makes more sense to do your research and find an off-the-rack or cottage manufacturer’s product that is close enough to what you want.