Gear Head: Spring Gear Tune-up

Are your drybags water-tight? Are you sure? When did you last test them?  Are the medications in your first aid kit expired? What about your sunscreen? Especially for leaders, it’s important to tune up your kit before you hit the water this spring so you and your crew can be safe and comfortable on your journey.

1. Deck lines and bungees

Worn out bungees are an inconvenience and worn out deck lines are a danger. You need to rely on your deck lines for handling the boat and for towing scenarios. If things go bad and you need to be towed, the last thing you want is for the situation to escalate because your deck lines broke. Both are easy to replace without specialized tools or knowledge and offer a practical opportunity to freshen up your knot tying skills.

2. Drysuit maintenance

If your suit smells funky from last year then start by giving it a wash. In their FAQ, Kokatat recommends washing your suit inside out in a front-loading washer with cold water and mild liquid detergent. Some people use 303 to rejuvenate their gaskets but years ago a friend turned me onto food grade silicone spray, which works just as well but without the harsh chemicals. You can typically find it in dive shops. Take an old toothbrush to your zippers and clean out the sand and grit that accumulates from surf sessions, then lubricate them with paraffin wax (regular candles). I stay away from anything sticky like surfboard wax because it tends to attract grit, and I also avoid natural beeswax because I’m apprehensive of attracting critters to my suit at night when I’m camping. Kokatat recommends a bit of petroleum jelly on the closing end of their zippers to improve the water-tight seal.

3. Kit bags and lists

Go through all your kit and make sure everything is present and accounted for. Reconcile kit contents against your lists (you do maintain kit lists, right?) and make a shopping list for items that need to be replenished. If there’s anything you didn’t use last season, it’s worth considering whether it really belongs. I’m a bit of a pack rat and I can attest that there’s a fine balance between preparedness and hoarding.

I’ve published my kayak gear inventory for the list junkies like me.

4. Replace expired products

Not everything lasts forever and some items may need to be replaced. Medications and sunscreen are examples of important things that are labelled with expiration dates.

5. Batteries

Batteries may not have expiration dates but they don’t last forever, either. Like your smoke detectors, it’s better to replace batteries proactively before they expire rather be surprised with a low battery when you’ve just activated your headlamp, strobe light, or locator beacon.

6. Dry bags

Nothing lasts forever and dry bags are no exception. Micro-perforations in your dry bags can mean the difference between a dry, comfortable sleeping bag and a sad, soggy night. Fill those dry bags with water and look for signs of leakage. Patch or replace — you’ll be happy that you did.

Invest the time up front to get your boat and gear in shape for the season and avoid unpleasant surprises — or worse. With a good system of checklists and routine maintenance, the process of tuning up for the season can be fun, fast, and thoroughly satisfying.

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