For some, the end of hunting season in late fall marks a time for rest and recovery. Others switch focus to other outdoor pursuits or rekindle the neglected parts of life — all relationships outside of hunting partners, personal hygiene their day job etc.. Regardless of you post season mindset, there’s always a gear rehab to be done. The season sneaks up fast!
With that in mind, here are five tips to keep your gear tuned up and ready to perform at its peak. The items on this quick and easy list are tasks I’m just as guilty as the next guy for not completing, so I write this as much as a helpful reminder to you as I do to myself.
- WASH YOUR SLEEPING BAG – Weeks in a sleeping bag in the backcountry leads to some unavoidable funk, though more importantly, accumulating dirt and sweat compromises the loft of the insulation (down feathers, in most cases) and loses the ability to trap air and provide warmth. Refer to your particular sleeping bag company’s instructions for instructions, but I’d highly recommend using a down-specific washing detergent like Nixwax Down wash. When drying on the lowest setting possible, toss in a couple tennis balls or natural fabric softening balls to fluff up the bag and restore loft. Oh yeah, and once your bag is all shiny and new, store it in it’s large mesh bag so the fresh down doesn’t get compacted — keeping it in a compression bag year round is about the worse thing you can do!
- WAX OR TREAT YOUR BOOTS – Ideally, if you’re using a leathers and not a synthetic mountaineering style boot you’d treat your boots several times throughout the season. I’d recommend every 7-10 wears depending on terrain and use. A wax designed to keep water repelling off the surface of the leather not only acts as first line of defense in keeping your feet dry, it also extends the lifespan of the boot as the supple leather is less prone to cracking and abrading from sharp and rocky surfaces often encountered in the mountains.
- CHECK YOUR WEAPON AND REPAIR NOW — Whether you’re an archery or rifle hunter, your weapon likely takes more abuse than you realize. I know mine does. It’s always a good idea to give it a detailed once over and, of course, make sure it’s shooting accurately. Inspect bow limbs for hairline cracks and ensure bolts are snug, replacing rusting ones if needed. Have a d-loop that looks like it’s starting to fray? Replace it. Action of your rifle a little sticky? Take it apart and give it a complete cleaning and servicing. Don’t wait until just before the season as that time should be reserved for final checks, not massive overhauls.
- WASH RAIN GEAR — I sometimes hear from hunters that their rain gear has “lost its waterproofing” — though it might sound strange, more often than not it’s simply the garment has become too dirty to perform optimally, breathe rather than a complete failure. Let’s face it, hunting can be messy. Crawling on hands and knees, bushwhacking through thick vegetation and even butchering an animal — it’s no question our clothing gets abused. When it comes to rain gear, this abuse leads to the loss of the ability to bead water off of the face fabric and reduces breathability. Washing your rain gear according to you manufacture’s instructions will revitalize its performance. Also, if your rain gear has truly taken a beating, once washed a simple reapplication with DWR spray will go a long way in keeping water rolling off of the face fabric.
- REPAIR YOUR TENT/SHELTER — Taking the time to dry and clean your tent after the season is a great idea. Look for grit in the zippers and blow or brush out sediment with a brush or air blower. Inspect guy-lines for fraying and replace if necessary. I always notice I can fray guy-lines when there’s no other options but using stacks of rocks in the high country and the sharp edges of shale type rocks can cause damage (ideally wouldn’t pitch in places like this in the first place, but sometimes unavoidable when hunting). I’m also guilty of bending or losing tent stakes so this check-up on the tent should include making sure they is the proper number of functioning tent stakes in the mix. You don’t want to find out nine miles and the day before the hunting season that you don’t have enough tent stakes — I’ve been there!