For those of us in the northern hemisphere, summer is winding down. You may be getting ready for the depressing ritual of packing up the patio furniture, summer clothes, and camping gear for the winter. If only there was a way to elongate the season of outdoor fun! Or at least have less stuff to put away.
Before you pack up your camping gear, take a look at this list of gear you can use all year round. Maybe some of it can be used in ways you hadn’t thought of — and can bring little reminders of summer every time you use them.
You probably already have a flash light in a ready-to-go spot for when the power goes out. Why is a headlamp any different? If you’ve used one while camping, you already know how sweet it is to go hands free while still illuminating the dark. How many times do lights go out because of a blown fuse? And how many times have you had to wrangle your flashlight in your armpit or hold it in your mouth in order to see the fuse box? The headlamp to the rescue. Instead of packing it up for camping next year, tuck it in with your emergency flashlight and use them in tandem.
Headlamps are also useful for illuminating the dark corners of the basement or storage area when you’re searching for something — as well as walking the dog. I don’t even know why these are sold almost exclusively in camp stores — they should be sold in everyday life stores.
If you camp, you probably have an air mattress — whether it’s one you blow up with a pump or a self-inflating jobbie. These are great for camping; they bring luxury to the outdoors. You wouldn’t go camping without it… so how come your impromptu house guests gotta sleep on the floor? Is there a stigma against using camping gear as hometime sleepy-gear? If there is, fight it — your guest will be much more impressed about you whipping out a Thermarest at 3AM for them to crash on than you drunkenly motioning to the floor.
Self-inflating mattresses are best stored with the valve open in the extended position — not rolled up. The product lasts longer this way. You can store it under your bed or behind a sofa — perfect for whipping out at a moment’s notice.
You can also store your air mattress inside your sleeping bags, which benefit from being stored open rather than scrunched up, too. Stash it all behind the couch or under the bed and voila: world’s easiest set-up for a sleepover.
If you use waterproof bags while you camp, consider using them to store items during the off-season, too. Oftentimes the off-season for camping means the on-season for flooding: heavy rain, snow, thaws, etc. If you have keepsake documents, magazine collections, or photos you don’t look at very often, you might as well put your waterproof bag to work by using them for storage through the winter. Seal them up, and they’ll be more likely to survive a flood. Just be sure that there are no sharp objects or corners on whatever you’re storing, and find a replacement method when you are using the bags for camping.
These are way more comfortable than most folding “extra” chairs people pull out of dusty closets when company arrives. Why buy camp chairs and folding chairs? Camp chairs come in many different colours, AND they have cup holders. Win.
You use special biodegradable camp soap when you camp to wash dishes, clothes, your hair, your self — “anything that’s washable,” according to the label. When I used it a few weeks ago to wash dishes at our camp site, I suddenly thought, “Why the hell aren’t I using this year-round?!” There’s no reason not to use biodegradable camp soap to wash your dishes, or hand wash your clothes, or your hair, or body. And a little bit goes a ridiculously long way. I have had the same bottle of camp suds since 2001. No joke.
Camp gear as decoration
Why put your canoe paddles in the garage when they’d look awesome hanging above your TV? Paddles, life jackets, your bike, even your bright red kayak can be suspended from a wall or ceiling for camping-themed decoration that doubles as storage. This works with your winter gear, too. Depending on how you do it, this look could be anything from rustic log cabin to edgy extreme sport to colourful craziness.
There’s so much camping gear to think of — but these are my ideas. Anyone found a good off-season home use for a tent?