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Gear

How To Stow and Fix Your Winter Adventure Gear

As summer beckons, Colorado’s outdoor experts share their wisdom on cold-weather gear care and storage—from backcountry beacons to base layers and ski boots.

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While some Colorado resorts are holding out hope that their lifts will turn one more time before the end of the season, it’s safe to say that for the majority of winter adventurers, the season is effectively over—cut short by the coronavirus. That means it’s time to transition your gear closet to warm-weather sports. But not with haste: There are a handful of simple steps you can follow to maintain, inspect, and prolong your winter adventure gear before summer storage. According to industry leaders, here are the best methods to clean, fix, and stow your equipment—from boot liners and bindings to poles and packs—so when the next snow flurries arrive, you’ll be ready to shred.

Apparel

Hardshell Jacket and Pants
Pro tip: Wash and hang outerwear in a closet—avoid packing it in plastic bins
“Spot-cleaning with regular soap and lukewarm water is a great way to keep your gear looking fresh between washings,” says Pia Halloran, a designer and developer for Strafe Outerwear. But for deep cleans, “We recommend washing in cold water (if your gear is really dirty, wash it in warm water) on gentle cycle with a detergent that is specifically made for outerwear. Never use liquid detergent or hot water, as both can destroy the membrane and the glue that holds the seam tape. We recommend Grangers, which has a wide range of products for all types of technical gear.”

Wearing and washing a garment eventually erodes the fabric’s water repellency treatment, DWR (Durable Water Repellency). “To reinvigorate the DWR after washing, throw the garment in the dryer on low for about 10 minutes and then hang dry.” Additionally, reapply the DWR via detergent or post-wash treatment.

Puffy Jacket
Pro tip: Don’t squash (and suffocate) puffy jackets
“If polyester fibers or down feathers remain compressed for extended periods, they will not be able to bounce back and become as lofty as they were when they were new. The loft between the fibers is what keeps you warm, so don’t leave your puffy crammed at the bottom of your pack or in its stuff sack for the summer,” says Halloran. “If you’ve already made this mistake, you can try to fluff it back up by putting it in the dryer on low; and with a tennis ball, if it’s down fill.” Insulators and hardshells follow the same wash-and-dry steps, but you’ll need a specific detergent for down and polyester-fill jackets. To repair rips, “we recommend using fabric patches with glue (not heat) rather than trying to stitch the tear, which can create holes,” she says.

Base Layers and Socks
Pro tip: Pack cedar with clean merino wool base layers and socks
“Odor-causing bacteria is absorbed by merino wool fibers—keeping them from reproducing or growing on the surface of fibers, so merino wool can be worn for days without needing to wash it,” says Maggie Meisinger, manager of communications at Smartwool. “But, if you need to pack away your heavier merino wool winter layers for lighter merino wool summer layers (or vice versa), make sure your garments are clean: Moths are attracted to body and food smells.”

A few expert storage tips: Turn your socks and garments inside out. Machine wash on gentle cycle in warm or cool water (hot water causes wool to shrink) with mild soap and air-dry to extend product life. Then store garments flat (not rolled into balls) in vacuum-packed bags or boxes for protection. Include cedar as a precaution to keep moths at bay.

Accessories

Gloves
Pro Tip: Don’t machine wash or dry gloves, and use balm to extend the life of leather
“Please don’t put your gloves into the washing machine!” exclaims Marc Cutilletta, national sales manager for Hestra, which specializes in manufacturing ski and outdoor gloves—many of which have leather exteriors and wool liners. To clean gloves, hand-wash the exterior with warm water instead. “You can spot-clean with a paper towel and mild dish soap, which easily removes surface dirt and grime. Disinfect and deodorize the inside of your gloves with a spray. Never put your gloves into a clothes dryer: Hang dry (upside down) for best results. If you use a glove-specific dryer, we recommend ‘low and slow’ heat.”

Leather gloves also need conditioning treatment to remain soft, supple, and protected. “The most important time to balm your leather gloves is at the end of the season before you store them away for the summer. I use a small amount of our all-natural Hestra leather balm,” says Cutilletta. “For severe tears, take your gloves to a local shoe repair shop. And for storage, lie the gloves flat, at room temperature, and out of harm’s way.”

Helmet
Pro tip: Never submerge your helmet in water or drop it—like, from a shelf in the garage
Before cleaning, inspect your helmet to make sure it’s viable for next winter season. “There is a misconception that helmets designed for use on snow are multi-impact helmets. A helmet should be replaced after any significant impact, whether it was worn in the impact or dropped from your car’s rooftop storage box in the resort parking lot,” says Casey Garrity, marketing manager for Sweet Protection‘s North America office. “Any dent that’s larger than a dime in diameter and deep enough to catch a finger-tip should be cause for concern. No crack or separation of the exterior is permissible. Helmets are usually constructed as a single continuous structure, so cracks compromise the functionality and safety.” A snow helmet should be replaced about every three years due to environmental, weather, and user impact.

If your helmet is still safe, remove and hand-wash the interior lining with mild soap and hot water. Air dry or tumble dry with no heat to avoid shrinkage or destruction. Use a microfiber cloth to clean the shell, using warm water and mild soap. “Soaking a helmet can result in destruction of [material] bonds and render the helmet unsafe,” warns Garrity. Give the helmet ample time to air dry before storing it in a hard case at room temperature. “Storage in a helmet bag is fine, but be sure to keep it away from sporting equipment or anything that could impact it. Make sure nothing is sitting on the helmet, which can cause pressure dents or deformities,” he says.

Goggles
Pro Tip: Thoroughly air dry to avoid mold, distortion, permanent fogging, or odors
“Use a microfiber cloth or goggle bag to clean the outer and inner lens—but refrain from touching the inner lens, as that’s where the anti-fog treatment is applied and it can be worn away,” says Garrity. For storage (daily and for summer), remove the goggles from the helmet to reduce strap stretch or lens and frame distortion. Store in a hard case. “If you only have a soft case, store goggles with other soft goods, like base layers. Before storing, make sure the goggles are completely dry. Dampness can lead to permanent fogging between the lenses and moldy face foam,” he says. Avoid storage in areas with humidity, extreme temperatures or direct sunlight.

Skis and Snowboards

Base
Pro Tip: Fix core shots before adding wax and reheat brittle post-summer wax
“In areas like Colorado and other states with high temps and low humidity, it’s great to treat your base before putting your board or sticks up for the summer,” says Nate Dumais of Weston Backcountry. Step one: Scrape off excess wax or climbing skin glue. Wipe the surface with a base cleaner (substitutes include acetone and paint thinner). Check the base for core shots. “You don’t want to fill a core shot with wax, which will make it harder to repair later,” he says. “Allow the base to dry then fill the core shot with epoxy or P-Tex. After it dries, smooth it out with a metal scraper, bastard file, or sanding paper; and proceed with the summer wax treatment.”

Rub a base-prep wax that’s warm-rated (yellow or red) onto the base. Then, use a wax iron to drip on a second wax layer. “Make several passes up and down the ski or board, then iron the wax in. Leave it on to keep the base moisturized over the dry summer months, prolong the base life, and make it less susceptible to damage during early turns next season,” says Dumais.

Edges
Pro Tip: Do not let rusty edges fester all summer
For edges, use an edge tuner tool “to clean up, and set the side and base bevel,” says Dumais. “Most skis use a 2-degree side bevel, and .5- or 1-degree base bevel. Snowboards are usually a 2-degree side bevel and .5-degree base bevel. Use a Scotch-Brite or S.O.S. non-scratch scrubber and elbow grease to scrub any surface rust off the edges. If it sits all summer, you could see corrosion by next fall. If it doesn’t clean, consider using a file or have the edges worked on at your local shop.”

Bindings
Pro Tip: Remove snowboard bindings to let the materials relax
“When the snowboard bindings are mounted on the board, it pulls the base upward,” explains Dumais, which is why you should remove bindings for summer storage. Tape the screws and splitboard pucks to the bindings, so they don’t get misplaced. “Tighten up your highbacks. Don’t be afraid to add thread locker or Locktite to your hardware. For ski bindings with a DIN, it’s not a bad idea to turn them down. Then, store skis and snowboards in a room-temperature, dry climate. Don’t band skis together with a strap, especially if they are cambered. It’s fine to store gear in a bag provided everything is dry as a bone when it goes in,” adds Dumais.

Ski and Snowboard Footwear

Boots
Pro Tip: Thoroughly dry boot liners and close up boots to prevent deformities
First assess the condition of your boots to make sure they are good to use next season. “Are the liners packed out? If so, maybe you should replace them. Are the toes and heels worn down on your ski boots? You can replace those, as well. Are the laces still in good shape on your snowboard boots? If not, replace them now before they break on the mountain,” advises Potter Seybolt, demo center manager at Apex Ski Boots. Then, dry out the liners. “Remove the liner and footbeds and let them air dry in a warm place. You can also get a boot dryer to speed up the process,” Seybolt says.

Then, tighten up ski and snowboard boots, so they hold their shape while being stored. “Close the buckles, laces, or BOA reels. Make sure that the liner is not folded in a weird way that may bend or deform it, as this can cause discomfort and pressure points when it’s time to put them back on again,” says Seybolt.

Backcountry Equipment

Beacon
Pro Tip: Clean corroded battery connections, remove batteries, and check diagnostics
First, review if your beacon (also called a transceiver) needs a software update or an electronics diagnostic test, says Bruce Edgerly, vice president and co-founder of Backcountry Access. Then, “Inspect your transceiver for any physical damage it may have incurred over your travels this winter. The most common failures include on/off and search/transmit switches. Electronically, it’s possible that your antennas can become detuned over time, which can affect your receive range,” says Edgerly.

“To check your range, stand 50 meters away from a transmitting beacon (with the long axis pointing at your beacon), and walk toward it. If you don’t pick up a signal within 20 meters of the transmit unit, then your transceiver probably needs an inspection or upgrade,” Edgerly says. Also,“Check for corrosion around the batteries. If you find any, wipe the compartment with a Q-tip and rubbing alcohol. Then, test the beacon with working batteries, so that you know if there is any malfunction.” Make sure to take the batteries out of your transceiver at the end of each season before storing.

Pack
Pro Tip: Remove all interior items and clean exterior with mild soap
“At the end of each season, make sure there aren’t any rips or tears in the material of your pack. Take all food items and other extraneous material out of the bag, as rotting items can impair the material over time,” says Edgerly. “If your pack needs to be cleaned, wash with mild soap and water and hang dry. Store your bag in a cool, dry place until next season.”

Avalanche Airbag
Pro Tip: Monitor cylinder pressure and inflated airbags for any leaks
“To start, check the pressure gauge on the cylinder to make sure it’s functioning and that the cylinder has maintained pressure since you last refilled it,” says Edgerly. “To maintain the longevity of a cylinder, use the Consumer Refill Kit each Float cylinder comes with. This allows you to replace the valve stem O-ring in the cylinder head so you can start fresh in the fall.” Then, deploy the airbag and make sure it stays inflated for two minutes to detect any slow leaks. If everything is functioning well, store the bag in a cool, dry place. “At the start of next season, refill cylinders at a local refill center, and monitor the pressure over the following months to make sure everything is working properly,” says Edgerly.

Collapsible Poles
Pro Tip: Dry out poles before folding them up for storage
If poles are wet, store them disassembled at room temperature until they dry out. Then store your poles in a cool, dry place, such as a garage, says Edgerly. If parts are worn out—grips, straps, baskets, tips—check with the manufacturer to see if you can order replacements before stashing the poles.

Shovel
Pro Tip: Check for damage and dry the interior shaft
“Inspect where the shaft attaches to the shovel blade: This is where they tend to break,” says Ben Markhart, a rock, alpine, and ski guide at the Colorado Mountain School. Then, “take the pieces apart and make sure it’s dry on the inside of the shaft before storage.”

Probe
Pro Tip: Check for bends and cracks at connection points
“Assemble your probe and look down the length to see if it’s straight. With carbon probes, give it a good flex and inspect each section. With aluminum probes, you typically start to see wear and tear where the sections fit together: Small cracks form in the tube at the connection point,” says Markhart. Dry out the probe before storing in a cool, dry place, such as a plastic bin in a garage.

Radio
Pro Tip: Fully charge the reusable battery or remove single-use batteries
“I fully charge anything that uses a battery pack before storing it, including a radio. If it has removable batteries, I take them out to avoid the chance of any corrosion at the terminals,” says Markhart. Store a radio in a cool, dry place.

Climbing Skins
Pro Tip: Re-glue skins at the start of next season
“The glue deteriorates and will stick to the base of your skis, which compromises your glide,” notes Markhart. Then, it’s time to re-glue your climbing skins. First, “remove the old glue, by warming it with a hair dryer and scraping it off. Use a citrus base cleaner and a scraper to remove any glue on the ski or snowboard base. Then, at the start of next season, re-glue the skins by applying a new tub of glue, like the Black Diamond Gold Label Adhesive,” advises Markhart. For storage, hang skins or fold them with the original skin savers and soft carry case in a cool, dry place.

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