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Prep your equipment for spring outdoor activities

Those of us who enjoy outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing, boating and camping are spending an awful of time around the house when there is inclement outside.

Nevertheless as you think of or plan your next outdoor trip, those conditions offer an opportune time to go through your equipment – cleaning, repairing, restoring and organizing various items that most likely were shelved, locked in a cabinet or safe or neglected.

You have the time to do this, trust me. I do.

Some piles of my outdoor equipment that needs to be cleaned, repaired, restored and organized. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Keep in mind money can fix problems, but so can you. Properly caring for your equipment takes effort but it can help you save money as well as unnecessary resources. You will be better prepared and organized for your next outing. Your gear will also last longer.

By going through your things now, dividends will be paid in the near future when you are able to go outdoors. Stuff won’t break and it will be fully functional when you’re in the woods, on the water or at the campsite.

At this point, I know what you are thinking and saying to yourself: “I don’t know where to begin because I have accumulated so much. There is almost no end to it all!”

So let’s get you started. I have compiled a list of things to look over that will allow you to stay connected to the outdoor world and inspire you to get out this spring for your next outdoor adventure when you have the time and weather that cooperates.

Organize your equipment.  This is a biggie and one that I need to a better job of doing!  It comes down to sorting, discarding or donating, assessing, arranging and storing your equipment. Set aside anything you no longer want, need or use. If the gear is still in good working order gift it to a family member or friend or donate it to a reputable charity. Otherwise, discard it. Look at your storage space and make the most efficient use of it. Whether you’re building shelves or just need a few more bins, buckets or tubs, having a specific place for each piece of gear will help you stay organized in the long term. Remind yourself to clearly label your bins, buckets or tubs. Keep pieces of equipment you use frequently in an easily accessible spot. Often gear that is stored out of sight or in inaccessible places simply never gets used.

Go through your first-aid kit. Haven’t checked your first-aid kit in a while, huh? Thought so. Go through your first aid kit and ask yourself these questions: Does my first-aid kit need to be restocked/replenished with anything? Are the contents listed all there? Are some of the medications expired? Have I added a small bottle of hand sanitizer and a pair of latex gloves? Answer those questions to have an up-to-date first aid kit.

A complete, up-to-date first-aid kit. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Clean the cooler. “I’m tired, just throw it in the garage and I’ll clean it later.” That phrase is uttered a lot when it comes to cleaning coolers after a day spent outdoors. Many times when we return home after a long day, the last thing we want to do is clean the dang cooler. I am certainly guilty of not cleaning my coolers in a timely manner. The best way to clean any cooler is with dish soap, water and a sponge or dish rag. For the removal of tough stains, you can use a combination of baking soda and water or a bleach solution and water along with a scratching pad. Let it dry in the sun on its side with the lid and drain plug open.

Season cast iron cookware. Want your food in camp to taste good with no burnt residue? Sure, we all do. Well then, remind yourself that properly seasoned cast iron cookware is a must. That seasoned cookware should be smooth, shiny, and have a nonstick surface. You’ll know when it’s time to re-season if food sticks to your cast iron Dutch oven or skillet or they appear dull and a bit rusty. After cleaning your cast-iron cookware with soap and water and drying it with a paper towel, rub a very light layer of cooking oil or seasoning spray onto the surface. Use another paper towel to wipe or dab the surface until no oil residue remains.

A nicely seasoned cast iron skillet. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Replace batteries. Some need new AA attention. Some new new AAA attention. And some need new C compassion. Yes, I am addressing batteries and changing them. Replace the batteries in your headlamps, flashlights, lanterns, two-way radios, range finders, trail cameras and other electronic devices. It has probably been a while since you did that. It should be done every few months. Prevent being comprised in low-light and darkness by replacing old batteries with fresh new ones.

Fresh batteries to be put in a headlamp. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Air out your sleeping bag. Give your sleeping bag some TLC (tender loving care) and air it out on a clear day with a slight breeze! Unzip and turn your sleeping bag inside-out, if possible, then hang it up outside to draw out any moisture, eliminate any undesirable odors and gain some fresh air. Try not to hang a sleeping bag in direct sunlight for very long, as UV light can slowly degrade the fabric. Better yet, hang the bag in the shade on a clothes line or over a fence for several hours about mid-day.

A sleeping bag airing out on a backyard fence. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Waterproof tents and tent blinds. Drip … Drip … Drip. You never want to hear the sound of water dripping in a tent and now is the time to stop that from happening. Apply seam sealer to help keep moisture from seeping through tiny spaces in your camping tent or turkey hunting tent blind. Refresh the urethane coatings on the inside of your rain fly and the floor of your camping tent. These are the main barriers against moisture. A durable water repellent (DWR) coating also helps your rainfly or tent vestibule shed water. One thing hunters can do to make their portable, camouflaged ground blind last longer in the weather, as well as allow for hunting no matter the weather conditions, is to waterproof the blind with a non flammable silicone spray.

Patch leaky waders. Leaky waders … Ugh! Leaky waders make life absolutely miserable in the water. Patching them yourself is actually an easy task. Fixing a leak with most items or kits offered by manufacturers such as Aquaseal will do the job. A hot glue gun can also be used effectively to fill small holes in neoprene waders. 

Clean your firearms and sharpen your knives. There’s nothing worse than unclean firearms and dull knives! Most likely you cleaned your rifle and shotguns after the hunting seasons, but now is the ideal time to open the gun safe and give your firearms another good cleaning and light coat of gun oil. Examine your shotgun for spring wild turkey hunting and make sure that all parts are in working order. Turkey hunting and fish fillet knives should be carefully inspected for wear, then sharpened and oiled as well. Use proper gun cleaning formulas for your firearms. The experts say it should take about 30 minutes to clean each rifle, shotgun or handgun. Like anything practice makes this process simpler, so grab the gun cleaning kit and get after it.

A sharp, lightly-oiled hunting knife. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Prepare to fish. Preparing to go fishing can be likened to preparing to go hunting. Those of us who fish typically don’t think of it that way though until we are along the shoreline and making the initial cast. If you take advantage of time now to prepare to wet a line, you will have fewer problems and less frustration when you are waterside. Removing and replacing old line, particularly old monofilament line, is a must for any reel each season. Reels also need routine cleaning and lubrication to function well. Go over your fishing rods for damage and cleanliness. Pay particular attention to line guides. Normally by running a Q-tip through the guide you can detect any slight cracks or old snags. Take everything out of your tackle box. Clean it with a damp cloth. Let it dry before returning tackle to it. Organize your fishing tackle categorically by type.

A cleaned and well-organized tackle box. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Get your boat and water gear ready. Before you float your boat, you better check it! If you use a boat for your outdoor recreation, complete regular maintenance and have the necessary servicing done to it and the motor(s). Inspect the drain plug, bilge pump, fire extinguisher, hull, hitch, trailer and tires. Double-check all of the required boating safety equipment for viability. Closely examine the life jackets for wear and tear and make certain they are not faded in color. See if they still fit all of your family members. It is crucial to check your inflatable life jackets to be certain they are charged and operative. Check over your pet’s life jacket, too!

Bogart, an English bulldog, wears his life jacket retrieving a disc toy in a private Nebraska sandpit lake. Don’t forget to look over your pet’s life jacket in addition to your own! Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Check the condition of your ATV or UTV. You’re excited to fire up your ATV OR UTV for another busy season aren’t you? I know. However, before you do that, start by giving your machine a good, thorough visual inspection and cleaning. Look for leaks and note the tires and other rubber parts. There is a good chance your tires lost air over the winter months. Change the oil. Check the battery. And schedule a maintenance appointment.

Go-over some odds and ends. Better take a look at your sleeping bag pad. Give it a once-over. Inflatable sleeping pads and air mattresses can leak and foam pads deteriorate over time.

Check your portable camp and turkey hunting chairs and stools to see if they’re still in good condition and usable. Patch any holes in the stuff sacks as these usually take the brunt of the damage.

Some items like sunscreen/sunblock, insect repellent and hand warmers have expiration dates and may need replacing.

Items that have been checked for expiration dates and are current. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

About greg wagner

A native of Gretna, NE, a graduate of Gretna High School and Bellevue University, Greg Wagner currently serves as the Communications and Marketing Specialist and Manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission's Service Center in Omaha. On a weekly basis, Wagner can be heard on a number of radio stations, seen on local television in Omaha, and on social media channels, creatively conveying natural resource conservation messages as well as promoting outdoor activities and destinations in Nebraska. Wagner, whose career at Game and Parks began in 1979, walks, talks, lives, breathes and blogs about Nebraska’s outdoors. He grew up in rural Gretna, building forts in the woods, hunting, fishing, collecting leaves, and generally thriving on constant outdoor activity. One of the primary goals of his blog is to get people, especially young ones, to have fun and spend time outside!

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