The pumpkins have been tossed in the compost pile, a mountain of turkey and stuffing has been chowed down, and Santa, mistletoe and tree trimming are just ahead. No denying it, the winter season is here. And besides the holiday hubbub, that means it’s time to get the cold weather hiking gear together in preparation for some winter fun.
First off, you’ve got to find all your stuff. Then, I like to gather it into a big pile in the living room, much to my wife’s chagrin as she decorates the house around me and my mess. Discovery completed, I start to organize and inventory, inspect and clean, repair and replace.
Clothing accessories come first. Goggle straps get adjusted; the lenses wiped clean. Heavy socks get matched and mended, same for hats, gloves and mittens. Check the arch straps on the gaiters and look at the Velcro and zippers. And where’s that fleece neck warmer?
Inner and outerwear are next. Pair up the long john tops and bottoms. How did I get a big hole in the knee? The fleece vest and jacket need a serious laundering, ditto for the down vest and parka. Fleece can go in the home washer. The down I’ll take to a laundromat and use a big front-loading washer and a container of special down cleaner. Wind shells and rain gear could use a washing, too, and perhaps a fresh coating of silicone spray. Check all zippers as well for smooth sliding. Are hood and waist drawstrings and toggles OK? A search through all pockets yields a couple of sawbucks — easy post-hike beer money.
How about the winter boots? Insoles and inner boots can get pretty stinky over time. Give them a gentle washing. Replace any frayed laces, and pick up a spare pair. Repeat for cross-country ski boots, some of which may have zippers and toggles needing attention.
Let’s deal with skis and snowshoes now. I once stored my skis out on the screen porch for a summer. Come winter, I found the metal edges rusted big time, so much so that a professional sharpening was required. Don’t abuse your skis like me; store them in a dry place inside. Use a stone to remove burrs and put on a good edge. And make sure the bindings are tight and the boot locking mechanism works smoothly.
Plastic snowshoes require maintenance just like the old wooden ones, only different. Check the rubber straps and buckles, and examine for missing clips and clevis pins. Assemble a baggie of spare parts for on-the-trail fixes.
With trekking poles, swap the summer baskets for larger winter baskets. Break apart the poles and wipe them down with a damp cloth. But don’t use a lubricant — a big no-no on poles. Clean the dirt and grit from your traction devices.
Check the straps, buckles, drawstrings and rain cover of your rucksack. And when is the last time you showed your pack some love with soap and water?
Finally, there are the myriad odds and ends. Headlamp working? Spare batteries? I’ve gotten into the habit of packing two lights for the short, dark days of winter. How about rinsing the six-month old tea bag out of that Thermos? Got all your water bottles and their insulated jackets, with carabiners, to hitch to your pack? Review your first-aid kit and restock used and missing items.
Alright then, I think that’s about everything. If I’ve omitted any items here, not to worry, because you can always consult your own gear list. What? You don’t have a list? Better make that a priority. Nothing like a comprehensive checklist to be sure you’ve got all your goods and don’t forget anything when you head out the door into Old Man Winter’s cold embrace.
Carey Kish of Bowdoin is looking forward to many fun days out on the trail this winter season. He can be contacted at: