As the big game hunting seasons come to a close, hopefully you’ve got a pile of dirty, muddy and well-used gear. That’s the sign of a fun year, right? But before you forget about it for the winter, give your hunting gear some attention.
You’ve probably invested a great deal on your clothing, sleep system, footwear, weapons, field dressing equipment, and a myriad of other accessories. Before you call it quits for the year, take time to clean, dry and winterize your gear. Some effort now will make your hunting gear last for many more years of use.
Get the Blood Out
If you harvested an animal this season, start with any items that need a need a good washing. Hopefully you immediately washed your game bags when you got home. If you need a refresher, check out this video and easy instructions on how to wash Caribou Gear game bags.
Get out your hunting knives, kill kit, Hunter’s Tarp and anything else that might have dried blood on it. Wash them carefully and then make sure they’re totally dry before you put them away for the winter.
Washing blood from your backpack can be a little more cumbersome, but it’s usually not difficult. Unless the manufacturer offers other instructions, an hour-long soak in bathtub full of cold water and dish soap, followed by a cold-water rinse is a safe way to clean most packs. Hang it to dry and you’ll be good to go.
Clean and Wax Your Hunting Boots
Next, take good care of your hunting footwear. Quality boots are the foundation for being able to hunt hard and stay comfortable in the field. Take care of them and they’ll take care of you. I have a pair of Kenetrek boots that are now six years old and have over 150 days of hunting under their soles. Keeping them clean and waxed, they are still in great shape.
Start by removing the laces and thoroughly cleaning your hunting boots. I like to use lukewarm tap water and Nikwax Footwear Cleaning Gel to rinse off all dirt, mud and other grime. Once the boots are totally clean, leave them to dry overnight. When they’re completely dry, I apply Kenetrek Boot Wax, as much as the leather will absorb. After letting it soak in for a couple of hours, use a clean rag to wipe off any excess wax. Replace the laces and store them in a cool, dry place where they won’t be in direct sunlight.
If you use a synthetic boot rather than a leather boot, use a waterproofing agent that’s designed for synthetic footwear and follow the instructions.
Revive Your Hunting Apparel
After a long hunting season, your hunting clothes could probably use some attention. If you’ve invested in high quality technical clothing, make sure you get the most longevity out of each piece. That starts with proper washing, treatment and storage.
Only use detergents that are designed for technical outdoor apparel. I wash all my outerwear in Nikwax Tech Wash. It’s even safe on items with Gore-Tex or a similar waterproof-breathable membrane. Then, I re-waterproof any items that have a DWR (durable water repellent) finish – that includes rain gear, gaiters, softshell jackets, hunting pants, gloves etc. The re-waterproofing step is something I do every year at the end of the season. Renewing the DWR finish allows water to bead and roll off, just like when the garment was new.
Next, I wash my base layers and socks using a mild detergent that’s recommended for outdoor gear. Once again, I usually turn to Nikwax. Their Wool Wash for example, is great for all those merino wool socks and base layers.
After washing and re-waterproofing, hang everything to dry. Then, store your gear in a closed container or hang in a plastic wardrobe for the off-season. Like your boots, keep the clothing in a cool, dry place that’s out of direct sunlight and those items will last a great deal longer.
Inspect Your Rifle or Bow
After any trip, make it a habit to carefully clean and inspect your rifle or your bow. Wax the string or run a few patches down the barrel. Generally, make sure it’s dry, clean and ready for storage.
Before you put it away, check that all mounts and screws are tight. If there are any issues, it’s best to discover them now so that you can get it fixed before your next day at the range. Speaking of which - don’t forget to keep up your range practice during the off-season! For a few ideas on how to stay sharp, see our previous article on that subject.
Clean and Carefully Store Your Sleep System
Your sleeping bag, sleeping pad and tent are critical parts of your hunting gear setup. And they are probably some of the most expensive! So it’s worth making sure these items are clean and dry before putting them away.
After each trip, I like to set up the tent in my yard and hose it down (weather dependent of course). If it’s snowy or wet outside, you’ll have to do what you can indoors. In either case, do your best to get the tent clean and then totally dry.
Never leave your sleeping bag in a stuff-sack longer than is necessary. After the hunt, lay it out flat for a few days to air out and recover. For storage, hang it up in a closet or keep it in a roomy storage bag where the down feathers won’t be compressed. In fact, our Medium Quarter Game Bag is the perfect size for storing a sleeping bag.
Does your sleeping bag need a wash? While it is possible to wash high quality down sleeping bags at home, a professional gear repair/cleaning service is recommended to help get the longest life and best performance out of your bag. You can expect about $30-$40 for a professional sleeping bag cleaning - and you might be surprised how much loft is restored!
As you put away gear for the winter, check for anything else that might have dirt, mud or blood that needs to be taken care of. Dirty gear will corrode if left unattended. Wipe down your optics. Take the batteries out of your headlamps to avoid corrosion. As you put each item away, give it a quick inspection and make note of anything that needs to be replaced.
The off-season is a great time to make sure everything is in good shape and working order before the next adventure. If you’ve invested in great hunting gear, you want to get the most out of it! High quality gear isn’t cheap. But when treated right, it can perform at a high level and last for many years.
If you have specific questions about our Caribou Gear products or how to take care of them, please don’t hesitate to reach out! We’d love to help you get ready for your best season yet.
By Ryan McSparran
Ryan is an outdoor writer based in Colorado, and is proud to be a part of the team at Hunting Gear Outfitters.