CROCK­ETT’S COUN­TRY WAYS: The joys of kit main­te­nance

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Clean­ing might not be your favourite job, but keep­ing the con­tents of your kit bag in tip top con­di­tion is easy when you know how. Fol­low Jonny’s help­ful guide for stress-free kit care

It’s the end of the sea­son and the weather has def­i­nitely taken on a win­try feel. At the time of writ­ing this ar­ti­cle, it is head­ing for -12°C and the fire is lit. The snow out­side means that it is time to play, not work in the woods. At the start of the year, there are a few chores that need to be done: not ar­du­ous or un­pleas­ant, but re­lax­ing, en­joy­able jobs. I’m talk­ing about kit main­te­nance.

The bag

2017 was par­tic­u­larly hard on my kit so this is not some­thing that I’ll rush through, but rather take one piece of kit at a time. I start with emp­ty­ing my day­sack and hang­ing it up to air.

There is lit­tle point in dry­ing, clean­ing and oil­ing kit just to put it away in a damp bag to fester over the win­ter months. If there are muddy patches then I’ll clean them with a damp cloth and per­haps use some soap on it if needs be.

Knives

Now I’m not say­ing I’ve got a fetish about this sort of thing or am in any way a knife geek, but I do have a few knives.

I’ve got a small necker knife for skin­ning and gut­ting, a knife for gen­eral work, a heavy duty knife that I take to Scot­land for the longer, more ar­du­ous trips, a ‘Sun­day best’ knife and a multi-tool. Add on to those the carv­ing knives, crook knives, draw knives, a Swiss Army knife and a beau­ti­ful fold­ing knife I was given last year and it adds up to a few hours’ work.

I tend to work on one knife at a time, but I bring them in­side the day be­fore to let them warm up and get rid of any con­den­sa­tion. They like the warm and the dry, I like the warm and the dry, so ev­ery­one’s happy. I find that spread­ing ev­ery­thing out on the kitchen ta­ble is enough to keep the fam­ily away and with a lib­eral spread­ing of news­pa­per I’m happy to sharpen for a few hours.

Just re­mem­ber to sharpen, hone, test and then oil. Be­fore you fin­ish, re­mem­ber that the sheath is part of the knife and should be cleaned and thor­oughly dried.

Saws and axes

The saws need to be washed and their teeth cleaned. They are dried off and the hinges and han­dles tight­ened. The axe is sharp­ened on a wheel if needs be, but I like to hone it on a leather strop­ping wheel with plenty of hon­ing paste.

As it is the last clean and sharpen of the sea­son, I’ll give it a tickle with a buff­ing wheel too. Then it is time for a good oil­ing. Don’t for­get to oil the han­dle of your axe (if it is wooden) and re­place it back into the sheath. If you’ve a leather sheath, treat it with some leather oil.

First aid kit

Hav­ing wiped down the ta­ble, it’s time for a look at the use-by dates in your first aid kit. I know, it is some­thing that you’ve spent money on and hope­fully will never have to use, but many items in the kit will ex­pire and need re­plac­ing.

The eye­wash, an­ti­sep­tic wipes and plas­ters tend to go first but they’re not ex­pen­sive when you think about what you’ll need them for. I rarely use the first aid gloves, but seem to get through them at a rate of knots for some rea­son, so I’ll put a hand­ful in a plas­tic bag to sit at the top.

Mis­cel­la­neous

I al­ways keep the means to light a fire and make a drink in my pack, so I’ll redry my tin­der if nec­es­sary and buy a new fire steel if it is run­ning thin. The wa­ter bot­tle needs wash­ing, rins­ing and dry­ing out and I’ll re­place the hot choco­lates, cof­fee sa­chets and tea bags.

The UHT milks may need to be chucked away and fresh ones bought. My ti­ta­nium mug needs a visit to the dish­washer and by the end of the sea­son can of­ten re­quire a scrub to get both the in­side and out­side clean.

My down jacket needs a visit to the wash­ing ma­chine and then a good tum­ble dry­ing with a ten­nis ball in the dryer to stop the feath­ers from clump­ing to­gether: a neat lit­tle trick, but it works. The wa­ter­proof trousers and jacket also need to be washed. First, I put a towel on a quick wash with no de­ter­gent to get any de­ter­gent residue out of the drum. Then I put the wa­ter­proofs in with a soap-based cleaner and then re­wash with a wa­ter­proofer. It takes a while but it is worth it.

My whis­tle is given a quick wipe over with an an­tibac­te­rial wipe and I change the bat­ter­ies in my head torch. I’ll un­ravel my 10m of para­cord, air it and hank it back into its man­age­able bun­dle.

The food I’ve had in my pack all year, in case any­one on a course with me feels tired due to low blood sugar lev­els, is eaten and re­placed with more and my wood split­ter is re­sharp­ened, bev­elled and oiled (you should re­ally do this be­fore sharp­en­ing your knives).

That just leaves my sharp­en­ing kit. The stones need rins­ing off with soapy wa­ter, left to dry and put away again.

Boots

Don’t for­get your boots. They’ve looked af­ter you all year and now it’s their turn for some care and at­ten­tion. Give them a good clean and take the laces out while you do it, get­ting right into all the nooks and cran­nies with an old tooth­brush. You can use a qual­ity boot leather treat­ment or just a cou­ple of lay­ers of old-fash­ioned boot pol­ish.

I put the laces through a wash to de­grease them as this stops them from com­ing un­done while you’re work­ing. Now my kit is ready to go for next sea­son and I can sit back with a large sin­gle malt and put an­other log on the fire.

The cold evenings pro­vide a good op­por­tu­nity to get your kit cleaned and sorted

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