How to make sure your camping kit's sorted and ready to go after a weekend away...
So you're back from a weekend in the hills, it's Sunday night, junk tv and the chippy beckon and the temptation is to leave your weekend's camping kit mouldering in a shabby heap on the floor - don't do it! A few minutes of post expedition routine will make sure everything's ready and raring to go for next time.
Here's a quick list of stuff to sort out while you're enjoying a quick post-weekend cuppa or a well-earned beer.
Particularly important if you've been camped in the wet, but worth a check anyway, make sure your tent is thoroughly dry. Pack it away damp and mildew can take hold and cause permanent damage and staining. If it's warm and dry, just pitching it in the garden with the sun on it may be enough - make sure the underside of the groundsheet is thoroughly dry as it'll tend to collect condensation, as will the inside of the fly.
Things are more problematic if you have to dry the tent out inside. Drape it over a selection of chairs, sling it over a shower rail or a banister - if you have one - or maybe screw some handy hanging hooks into a convenient wall - something like this in a bathroom with a dehumidifier and a closed door works well.
You may need to split inner and fly-sheet if they're semi-permanently connected or even invert the tent to make sure it's completely dry. Finally, once it's done and you're sure there's no dampness left, pack it carefully away ready for next time. You may, if you're really careful, want to check that all your pegs and poles are present and correct and free of mud and soil which add weight to your pack.
As you sleep your body creates vapour which can be trapped inside your sleeping bag. This is less of a problem with non waterproof outer shells, but particularly if you have a bag with a very water resistant outer fabric, it's important to let the bag air properly.
Throw it on a bed for a few hours, suspend it from hooks or throw it over a washing line. If you have a waterproof or near waterproof outer, turn the bag inside out to give it a helping hand. Finally store your bag either in the over-sized storage sac which many sleeping bags now come with, or use an old pillow case. Don't put it back in its stuff-sac - compressing down or synthetic fills long term isn't good for performance - but do throw the stuff-sac in with the sleeping bag so you know where it is next time.
Traditional closed-cell foam mats can simply be wiped down and stashed away, but if you have a self-inflating mat, unroll it and store it expanded to minimise 'loft' times next trip and help any vapour inside to clear. Under your bed is a good storage choice. Or propped up alongside a wardrobe or cupboard.
Last but not least, if you're anything like us, you may just have a tendency to throw last-day cook pots, mugs and plates away unwashed. To avoid a nasty surprise next time out, grit your teeth, unpack them and give them a good wash, dry carefully and stow ready for next time.
Check your gas or meths supplies too and, if you're low on levels, make a note to buy more in the next day or so and avoid your very own personalised camping fuel crisis. Or worse. Ditto with matches or lighters if you use them to fire up your stove.
And that's it really. Make it all a regular, post-trip routine, and there'll be no nasty surprises waiting next time. Not that we've ever skimped on any of those and suffered the consequences, erm, no, definitely not...