We know. You meant to scrub and scour your gear last fall. But then came gift shopping, snow shoveling, and the NFL playoffs. First, make a resolution to take better care of your stuff this year. Next, set aside one weekend afternoon to get your gear back into action.
Pitch your tent in a well-ventilated spot. Shake it upside-down to dislodge dirt and debris, then vacuum or sweep the interior. If it's dirty, hose off the exterior with cold water. Wipe down with a towel and let it dry thoroughly. Never store a wet tent.
Brush away mildew by adding a half cup of bleach to one gallon of hot water (1/32 solution), followed by multiple rinses of hot water mixed with small doses of lemon juice and salt. For serious funk, deodorize in a tub with McNett's Mirazyme ($4, mcnett.com).
Scrub off sticky pine sap with a sponge soaked in mineral oil, then rinse the fabric to remove residue.
Clean balky zippers with a toothbrush and warm water. Lubricants can attract dirt and grime.
Check for mesh rips, especially near the doors. Reinforce worn spots and repair tears with nylon repair tape.
Let your tent dry completely before rolling it loosely to store in an old cotton pillow case.
Replace any missing or worn guylines. Straighten bent stakes with a vice or by bending them inside a narrow metal pipe.
Wiping away dirt isn't just cosmetic. Caked-on mud clogs pores in leather, drying it out and compromising breathability. Use warm water and a stiff brush to remove what you can. Clay and mineralized soils may require a mild dish soap. Use a toothbrush for tight spaces.
Scrub especially grungy footwear with McNett's ReviveX boot cleaner ($7), which is designed to remove mud without clogging waterproof/breathable membranes.
Dry boots at room temperature. Direct heat from a radiator or hair dyer can damage leather and weaken the adhesives that bind the sole to the upper. Let boots dry slowly to avoid cracking.
Treat leather with Nikwax cleaning gel ($8, nikwax.com), and restore waterproofing with a coating specific for the leather type: usually suede, nubuck, or full-grain.