Time to Replace Your Camping Gear—5 Signs to Look For

By on June 8, 2015
Photographed by Daniel Case 2006-01-20.

Photographed by Daniel Case 2006-01-20. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Camping gear is usually built to last, and durability is the first thing most of us look for in our outdoor equipment. But even if you buy the best, everything breaks down eventually, and there are a few tell-tale signs you can look for. When it’s time for new gear, it’s not only a matter of comfort that you replace something that’s outlived its usefulness, it’s a matter of safety.

1. Your Gear is Too Heavy

In this day and age, there have been so many technological advances in equipment that things get lighter and lighter every year. Even just a few years of use can make pounds of difference, which really add up when you’re scaling a mountain. Even if your gear still “works,” it might be time to upgrade to a lighter alternative if you’ll be hauling it on long treks or uphill. And we don’t just mean your tent—your hiking boots, stove, and sleeping bag could all be weighing you down. Even your water bottle could probably be swapped out for something lighter.

2. You Don’t Know the Age of Your Stove Fuel

Sealed butane-mix canisters never go bad, but “white gas,” the generic name for camp stove and lantern fuel, has a shorter shelf life than you might realize. Most people either don’t know this or don’t believe it, but Coleman has stated that an unopened bottle of their fuel will last 5-7 years if stored in a dry area without exposure to heat extremes. An opened bottle, however, will last only about two years. If you use expired fuel, it’ll seriously damage your stove, causing build-up that’s very difficult to clean. And a new bottle of fuel is a lot cheaper than a new stove!

3. Your Tent Is Leaking

Even though tent advertising might make them sound invincible, tents are full of vulnerabilities, which is too bad because they’re perhaps the most important thing to keep in good working order. Nothing is worse than waking up in the middle of the night in a puddle of cold rain water, or having mosquitos buzzing in what’s supposed to be a refuge because they got in through broken mesh. If you have ever pulled a tent out from its bag after storage and it smells a little like vomit, that means the waterproof coating is breaking down. Most tents are made of nylon, which usually last only about 5-7 years, although your usage and treatment can make a big difference. You could always upgrade to a tent made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) fabric siding, which is much longer-lasting and great for long-term stays in one location.

4. Your Hiking Boots Slip

A good pair of boots is a necessity on the trail, and though it’s easy to get emotionally attached to a pair—after all, you’ve been through so much together!—slipping soles is a sign it’s time to move on. If you don’t have enough traction, you’ll not only be in danger of falling, but your decreased grip on the trail actually makes it harder to hike up or down hills. A bad sole can also lead to leaking, which is the fastest way to guarantee an unpleasant hike. A good cobbler might be able to replace the soles, or you can just start afresh.

5.) Your Down Bag Doesn’t Perform Like it Used To

Down sleeping bags are one of the best friends a camper could ask for, but they’re hard to care for properly. Storing and washing a down bag is difficult and involved, and if you mess it up, you can irreparably damage the down inside. When down is dirty or wet, it loses its loft, and if you let it stay that way the warmth rating of your bag will be permanently decreased. Of course, down bags will last much longer than synthetic ones, but when a bag that is supposed to be good for temperatures down to -20 degrees isn’t keeping you warm on a 30 degree night, it’s time to shop for a new one.
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