Be sure to inspect camping gear before heading out

Spring officially has arrived, and that means it is time to blow the dust off your camping gear and head outside. Daytime temperatures are nice, and, depending on how far north you travel or how high in altitude you climb, the nights still are cool enough to enjoy the warmth of a glowing campfire and the taste of toasted marshmallows.

Before you load up your gear and pull out of the driveway, however, take the time to inspect your equipment. Strange and even unexplainable things can happen to camping gear while it is stored away for the winter, and sometimes we pack up following our last outing and forget to make needed repairs after returning home. Unexplained damage also can occur when we loan equipment to others.

Either way, you don’t want to find out something is broken or missing parts after you have driven a couple of hundred miles from home and selected a camping spot that is far from the nearest store. Taking the time to inspect your equipment before packing it up is the stitch in time that could save nine later. It also can prevent vigorous discussions with a frustrated sweetheart.

Part of the preparation process includes setting up your tent. Doing so serves two purposes. First, it gives you the chance to test zippers and poles, count stakes, check for holes and lose stitching in the fabric and look for any creepy crawlers that might have chosen the folded-up tent as a nesting site. Second, it provides the opportunity to give the homeowners association’s letter writer a little excitement.

Some people believe that if they own an RV or a tent trailer, they automatically are good to go without much prep work, but that is the kind of thinking that finds them stuck along the road somewhere or sleeping with a family of mice. With both of these shelter options, mechanical, electrical and other considerations might need attention.

Since one of my favorite pastimes is sleeping underneath the canopy of stars one can see in Nevada’s outdoors, I like to give my sleeping bag a thorough once-over as well. As with the tent, be sure to inspect and test the zipper, and look for loose stitching and nesting critters or signs that they have been hanging out in your bag. This also is a good time to have the bag cleaned or at least aired out. Either one of these steps will help restore the loft and insulating properties of the bag’s filling. These sometimes are lost when a sleeping bag is rolled up for extended storage periods.

The camp kitchen is another area that needs close attention before your trip begins. Be sure to test the integrity of valves, hoses and propane bottles associated with your camp stove. If you use refillable propane tanks, be sure to top them off. One never knows when he might experience conditions requiring an unplanned extended stay in the wild. It always is better to have extra than not enough. This is true for food stores and paper goods of all kinds, especially the rolled-up variety.

This also is a good time to machine wash your kitchen utensils, dishes and pots and pans. If you use cast-iron pans or a Dutch oven, you might consider reseasoning it. This is especially true if someone has borrowed your cast iron. One year I opened a Dutch oven that had been borrowed from the scout closet at church. The borrower put it away while it was half full of taters and onions. Who knows what medical breakthrough could have been found in there, but being a guinea pig was not for me.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at