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First Trip Out
by Amanda at the Mast Store Annex

Latest Update: March 17, 2015

Temps are warming, and it's time to take it outside. It's time to pull the tent out of the closet, get the hiking poles ready, dust off the old boots. In this installment of Take It Outside, we'll be talking how to get your gear ready for the upcoming explorations.

Has your sleeping bag and tent been stored away in the depths of some closet? Perhaps a lingering smell from last year's adventures or a tad musty? While your first instinct may be to chuck it into the laundry and drown it in detergent, there are much better ways of cleaning your gear to ensure it'll last for many seasons to come. While your gear may be built for the elements, they actually require a bit of pampering to preserve their "elementproof-ness."

Most tents, rain shells, and some sleeping bags are made with a durable water-repellent (DWR) fabric. Traditional detergents leave residues behind and can clog up this special shield, which will make your gear lose its repellency. Non-detergent cleaners meant specifically for cleaning gear is the way to go. They clean with out leaving residues, keeping your gear water-repellent and breathable. Washing with a non-detergent can also restore loft and warmth to your synthetic or down-filled gear, even if they outwardly do not appear dirty.

Now is the time to inspect your jackets and tents for tears and leaky seams--before you hit the trail. While you may garner strange stares from the neighbors, try setting up your tent before a rain in the backyard to see if there are any failures in the gear. Better to find out at home than in the backcountry, right? If any leaks spring up in your tent, there are special tapes and sealers available at your local outfitter to help keep puddles out and you dry while enjoying the outdoors. Next time there is as drizzle, test out your rain jacket. Note areas of failure; there are similar products available to repair your rain jackets as well.

Picked up any new gear in the off-season? Now is a great time to learn how to properly use your equipment. Do a test run of that new GPS or tracking app on an afternoon run. Practice setting up your new ENO hammock so you don't have any surprises when you are out in the forest. Know how to set up your tent and attach the rain fly if you need to in a pinch.

Renting or borrowing gear are always good options, but remember to budget in an extra day or two to ensure you know how to operate the equipment, or have all the essentials. A few years back, I decided to go on a backpacking trip on a whim with some friends and was away from most of my personal camping gear. The folks I accompanied generously let me borrow an extra tent they had. Great?! Setting up the tent the first night of camp, I realized there was no rainfly accompanying the tent. No big, right? My optimism quickly washed away with the 2 inches of water that accumulated in my tent that night from an unexpected thunderstorm.

If you haven’t donned your hiking boots in quite some time, go ahead and start wearing them around in increasing increments to adjust your feet back to their wear before hitting a long, technical hike. No one likes blisters, or being out of commission when the weather turns nice. If you pick up a new pair of boots this spring, be sure to break them in before your big trip. Your feet will thank you.

Right now, we are great candidates for Ray to issue a White Legs Alert! We haven't seen the sun's rays in far too long. It's easy to underestimate the amount of sun you are getting and the lack of shade makes it difficult to seek "natural protection" when you feel your skin starting to sizzle. As always, protect your skin's health, and your overall health, by putting on a hat and applying sunscreen.

Now, go work on that Bucket List of places to Take It Outside this year. If you run out of ideas, stop by your local outfitter...they are always happy to share.

A note about Bob: If you've followed these articles over the years, you've recognized the familiar author - Bob at the Mast Store Annex. He's enjoyed sharing his tips for the trail, gear recommendations, and how-to-buy guides, but he has decided to go out and enjoy them for himself. Next time you are out on the trail, you may run into him. Toss out a question or two to test his knowledge…or a simple nod will be appreciated. All the best, Bob! And thanks for dropping some knowledge on us.

And with that, welcome Amanda! We look forward to learning your perspective on the outdoors!