Maintaining Your Outdoor Gear Inventory

 The Three Rs – Restore/Repair/Replenish


While most outdoors enthusiasts are active all year long, once summer is over and the few days of fall hunting have passed, November is often the time to pack the gear away for the winter. All too often, that means stuffing away what’s broken with a promise to yourself to “fix it before I head out next spring” or “get more of these this winter”. Jump ahead to that anxiety-filled morning next year as you eagerly grab gear so you can head outdoors only to be reminded that your tent pole is still broken, your field jacket ripped and someone ate all the Snicker bars out of your “emergency kit”!

Much of our outdoor gear – whether it’s for hunting, fishing, paddling or even bird-watching hikes – suffers from the wear and tear of back-country use. A season’s end reassessment of your gear and supplies – and using the 3 R’s: Restore, Repair, Replenish will help you keep gear in good shape and ready to be called into service quickly.

Restoring gear in this context may be as simple as bringing back the edge to a dulled knife – or fish hooks – to cleaning gear such as sleeping bags and camp stoves. If you can, it’s always good to try to repair damaged gear ASAP – sometimes not to the level we’d like if it’s an emergency fix in the woods, but clearly more damage can occur the longer a proper repair is put off. 

How many times have you sneaked a candy bar out of your survival/emergency kit?  How many bandaids have you used or handed out over the past summer? What about those all-weather matches you grabbed when your lighter ran out trying to start your campfire?  It’s a mindless pilfer of small units of gear that are often forgotten – until you need them most and realize they’re gone.

There is one advantage to “borrowing” an item from your emergency/survival kits – you may notice that something’s gone bad, prompting you to check other goodies that haven’t been inspected in a long while. It’s often the wake-up call we need to initiate our own 3R’s process.

Here are some key maintenance protocols (in the field and at home) to follow for different pieces of gear:


  • Always keeping tent clean is preventative maintenance; check tent fly for separation of waterproof coating; check for breaks, kinks in poles (use splices or splints to repair); rips in fabric (small: tape or glue; large: consider sewing on a patch);
  • Stuff tents into sacks instead of folding – or if you do fold, change the pattern to reduce wearing out material along repeated fold lines;
  • Make sure tent, tarps are clean and completely dry before storing, especially for long periods;
  • Check lines for fraying, clips for cracks, inspect the small components.


  • Soiled insulation reduces its efficiency,  build loft back up with a good cleaning at season’s end;
  • Wear sleeping clothing or use a bag liner to minimize body oils and dirt in bag;
  • Don’t pull out little fluffs of down, instead pinch feather shaft through material, from behind, pull back in, repair and holes or seam separations as needed;
  • Check for leaks in inflatable pads (inflate, submerge and look for bubbles, mark),  patch to fix;


  • Always check fuel lines for clogs, burners for soot build-up; use white gas on rag to wipe/scrub sooty areas;
  • Carefully remove pin insert in fuel jet and clean; check all, seals, valves and other components;
  • Empty liquid fuels completely before storing.


  • Check inventory of high-energy “emergency” food you may have taken from your kit to satisfy a craving between planned meals;
  • Check for packaged bars that have deteriorated due to age, moisture, etc.;
  • Replenish any spices, herbs that are spent or past their prime;
  • Replace those “kitchen” matches you used when your lighter died on you.


  • Refresh/replace inventory of small bandages as needed;
  • Check seals and condition of ointments, lotions, liquids (iodine, etc.);
  • Check quality of tablets and capsules (crumbly, deformed, signs of moisture);
  • Packets of sterilized bandages, pads, etc. with broken seals should be replaced; 
  • Check kit itself for worn, weak seals or loss of waterproofing;


  • Thoroughly clean firearms, double check they are unloaded before storing;
  • Clean and lube fishing reels; clean ferrules on two-piece rods;
  • Clean lures, sharpen or replace hooks; dry out tackle box before storage;
  • Replace spent or worn line on reel;
  • Rinse and clean all paddling gear and boat assemblies (critical for salt-water use);
  • Smooth out abrasions on rotomold hulls, check for breaches in hull; (check with manufacturer before using adhesives, cleaners on hull material);


  • Now is the time to fix the rips, lost buttons, stuck zippers and all those little  annoyances that come back to haunt you as get ready to head out the door next season;
  • Check waterproofing on footwear; rain gear, etc.

These are pretty straight forward and obvious maintenance routines, but so often overlooked – or more precisely, ignored at season’s end. Sure it’s OK to take a break for a week or two, but find time in those off months of winter to deal with the 3Rs.

Like most situations we encounter outdoors or anywhere, prevention is so much better than trying find the proper cure. When we do have to deal with the “cure”, a self reliant outdoorsman/woman knows it’s better to deal with it sooner than later, especially if it’s time to restore, repair or replenish your outdoor gear.

Be safe, be smart, have fun out there!


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