Here are 10 hiking and backpacking gear maintenance tasks to put on your to-do list this November. With the three-season hiking and backpacking season winding down, it’s worthwhile to maintain your hiking and camping gear before packing it away for next spring and to prepare for hiking in colder weather, when it could snow any day.
1. Store your quilts and/or sleeping bags unstuffed.
If your quilts and sleeping bags are still stashed in their stuff sacks, unstuff and store them in their manufacturer-supplied storage sacks to preserve their loft over the winter. Make sure to store them away from daylight to prevent any discoloring or degradation of the exterior shell fabric.
2. Restock your first aid supplies.
This is a good time to restock your first aid supplies if you don’t do it on a regular basis. I like to toss out and replace older medications like Benadryl, Immodium, and anything else that’s crumbling inside my first aid stuff sack. I’ll replace my earplugs, cut up more strips of leukotape, replace any missing bandaids, alcohol wipes, and so on. If you prefer to buy the pill packages sold by the first aid manufacturers, this is also a good time to catch up on the stuff you’ve used.
3. Wash your Ursack, bear canister, or bear bag
Ursacks can get pretty gross if your liner leaks or if the outside has gotten filthy from use. Dirt shows more on the white Ursacks than the black ones, but you might want to consider freshening yours up anyway. You can wash some Ursack models in a washing machine although others should be hand-washed. Just make sure you knot the rope closure so it doesn’t pull out. See Ursack’s website for washing instructions and advice. Washing out bear canisters and bear bags is a much simpler process. Wash them with a mild unscented soap, rinse thoroughly, and air dry.
4. Backflush, sanitize, and dry your water filter.
If you use a squeeze, pump-style, or gravity water filter, this is a good time to clean it, sanitize it to kill the guppies growing inside, and store it over the winter. Most manufacturers provide a method for backflushing or cleaning a water filter so that it flows faster. Go to the manufacturer’s website, which will usually have directions for how to clean your filter if you’ve never done it before. If you use a Steri-Pen instead of a filter, take the batteries out in the off-season so they don’t drain.
5. Disassemble your trekking poles and clean the parts
If you have twist or flick-lock style trekking poles, take them apart and wipe down the segments with a damp cloth, paying particular attention to the fittings, on the interior of the poles for twist locks, and the exterior if you have flick-locks. Once clean, set the segments aside to dry. Many pole jams can be avoided if you disassemble your trekking poles occasionally, let them dry after use, and wipe them down.
6. Clean and lubricate the zippers on your tent, backpack, and rain gear.
Tent, backpack, and rain jacket zippers last longer and function more smoothly if you clean and lubricate them. Zippers have a tendency to trap sand and other tiny debris between the teeth so it is a good idea to clean zippers regularly, especially when backpacking in sandy areas. Sand can jam zippers to the point that the slider won’t move back and forth. It’s easy to clean a zipper using Gear Aid Zipper Cleaner and Lubricant which adds a protective finish to the zipper that resists debris.
7. Consolidate your canister stove fuel and recycle the empties.
You can transfer any isobutane from partially used isobutane canisters and consolidate it to create a full canister for use next year using a special two-way Lindal valve like the G-Works Gas Saver. Simply screw it on both canisters and stack the emptier one on top of the full one so the fuel can collect in the bottom canister. You can spread up the process by freezing the bottom canister in the refrigerator so that the remaining fuel in the warmer top canister flows down into the bottom canister faster. Once a canister is empty, puncture using a tool like the Jetboil Crunchit and drop it into the recycling bin.
8. Patch the holes in your backpack and outerwear.
I routinely tear holes in my backpack and clothing on hikes, both on-trail and off. But you can keep your backpack, rain jacket, wind shirt, puffy and other clothing going with a few well-placed patches. My favorite patch material is Tenacious Tape, a sticky fabric patch material, available in precut patches or more economical rolls, that doesn’t require any sewing to use.
9. Wash your rain gear
If you have waterproof/breathable rain gear, it works much better when it’s clean. Wash it with a gentle soap like Woolite or Nikwax Tech Wash to remove the sweat and body oils that can accumulate when you wear it. If the DWR coating has stopped beading rain, retreat it. Wash-in DWR Treatments are more effective than the spray-on versions in my experience. Washing rain gear that is not waterproof/breathable is also important to remove built-up sweat and stink.
10. Pack cold-weather survival gear in your car.
Someday, your car or truck isn’t going to start after a cold weather hike or you’ll get stuck if it snows. Rather than freeze to death at the trailhead waiting for a tow to arrive, if you can even contact one, it’s best to pack a sleeping bag and sleeping pad so you can sleep in your vehicle if you have to. Here is a laundry list of items that can come in handy in winter if you get stuck.
- a shovel to dig out your car if it’s buried in the snow
- a tire iron and a small hydraulic jack to change a tire
- sand for traction on ice and as a weight over your wheels, and/or traction boards
- a battery-powered lantern
- an emergency blanket
- sleeping bag and a sleeping pad
- a small propane stove and fuel
- an axe to clear trees or branches blocking the road
- battery pack to jumpstart your car or truck if the battery is dead
If you hike in the backcountry, all of this stuff becomes handy sooner or later. I’ve used every single one of these on past winter hikes in New Hampshire and Maine, for example.SectionHiker is reader-supported. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.