What is a ritual? I’ve been told if something is done more than once in a particular order, whether it is for a religious purpose or not, it’s a ritual. From the professional basketball player who dribbles only 4 times before a free throw to the teenager girls who have to order a certain type of food before watching their favorite drama together on television, there are rituals all around us. It’s about this time of the year I partake in a ritual of sorts. This is the time of year when seasons change, sort of, and spring is right around the corner. With warmer weather on the horizon and longer days ahead, I take the time to transition from winter mode to spring. I can’t help it, I get anxious and as soon as the mercury hits 40 degrees or so, I start my own ritual. I won’t tell you all of the following aspects of my ritual will apply to you but maybe you’ll pick up one or two items on my checklist to add to your own. What works for me isn’t THE way but a way and ultimately what will work best for you is what you should adopt. Maybe you’ll start a ritual this year to follow for years to come.
1. Put away winter gear (but not far from reach)
Sub-zero sleeping bags, heavy pack boots and heavyweight wool are put back in the far reaches of my closet and office. Anything used heavily is inspected for wear and if a garment or piece of gear can benefit from a little TLC, it gets it. Any holes get patched up, boots get an extra coat of Snow Seal and what can rust in storage gets a little spray of oil or Ballistol until the leaves change. I make sure to use extra-large zip seal bags for my wool hoodie from Lester River Bushcraft and put other wool items in a cedar chest away from moths.
2. Check for Leaks
As I prepare for warmer weather and getting back out on the water, I always look for leaks. In dry bags, I trap air in the compartment and feel for leaking air as I squeeze it. If I’m not certain, I’ll take soapy water and splash it over the suspected leak zone and squeeze. Any leaks will bubble up. I also check my air mattresses as closed foam pads get put away for more comfortable less thermally efficient designs. The last thing I want is to get out on the trail and find out a sleeping pad will fail on me because I overlooked a pinhole.
3. Change out Batteries
Modern lithium batteries are excellent but they can drain by accident if a squeeze switch is depressed or if a lever is turned on accidentally. I change out batteries throughout the year but always check come spring time. I also swap out my cold weather lights (those with larger toggle switches) and go back to using smaller personal lights I can operate without gloves on.
With warm weather coming in weeks, I wait until there is a good day and I unpack and repack all my gear used throughout the year that I’ll also use in the spring. Those warm temps can get in the way of me thinking clearly and I may have forgotten I used all my gauze pads on the last trip or I might find a tear in my favorite tarp I never fixed. It’s a good time of year to go through everything and just look for something that isn’t right. This means going through your kit and looking for what’s missing, what should be added and what can be taken out because it isn’t needed in warmer temps.
Spring is good. Warm is good. Ticks suck. It was a mild winter and from what I hear, the tick season and threat of Lyme Disease is going to be really bad this year. Don’t frown upon using permethrin on your clothing and your gear. We usually will treat a set of clothes we romp around the bush in but don’t forget your pack. I’ve carried a few ticks back into the house with me accidentally. It won’t hurt your gear. Not treating your gear could leave you covered in ticks and that will hurt you. A single bottle of Sawyer Permethrin will treat a couple tops, a couple bottoms, some socks and a pack. It’s cheap insurance and it pays off.
6. Clean and Lubricate
When I take out the gear for warmer weather, including warm weather firearms for EDC, I do a serious clean and lubricate. Firearms should never be run dry and they like to be lubed. It’s better to overlube than not lube enough. Don’t let them drip that gunk all over you but make sure all the residue found in the working parts is in constant solution. If your guns have sat in a dry safe in a dry house all winter, double check they are cleaned and lubed. If a fishing reel feels tight, I disassemble it and put lubricant on the moving parts that need it.
7. Check Expiration Dates
Each season, it is a good idea to check expiration dates. You may look at water purification tablets one year and say “They’re good until next year.” That year creeps up on you and over winter those tablets are out of sight, out of mind. Check them out along with your meds and food rations if you are into food rotation. It’s good practice. A month-old aspirin won’t kill me but I still re-up my supply with fresh items whenever I can.
8. Check Pockets
Before you put away all your winter gear, check the pockets. I lost a Surefire Backup light for 3 months, ordered a new one, then found the “lost” one when the temps dropped and I felt it in a pocket of a jacket I put away. Do yourself a favor and look in all your pockets. You might find a treasure like a few dollar bills, some loose rounds or maybe a cap to something you lost and never thought you’d find again.
9. Re-order gear closet/locker: In order of importance/use
Just as you would pack a backpack in order of need, repack your gear closet or locker in this way too. The winter gear can go in back and the spring gear in front. Some gear is used year round so that should occupy the middle if you are reaching from front to back. Don’t make getting your gear for the field a chore.
10. Sharpen Machetes
During the fall and winter, I’ll take an axe any day but with green stringy vegetation about to bloom, I want my machete! Fiddleback Forge’s custom machete has been with me to the jungles of Costa Rica and many points in between. Since it has been a while since I used it, I always make it a point to give it a good sharpen before the trees go into full bloom. I’ll usually do this in front of my fireplace during one of the last fires I’ll burn before spring. I try to keep all my knives in good working order but some cutting tools are season specific. Before that season arrives, they get a good once over with some stones and a ceramic rod..
Spring is only days away, I think it is about time to get the dust off your gear and get ready for a great season. Then again, as I write this, a blizzard is pounding the Northeast with a couple feet of the white stuff and the “snowpocalypse” is in full-swing. Maybe I should wait until the snow melts or maybe I’ll take care of some of this spring cleaning as I’m snowed in. Then again, what better time to address some of the ritual items than when I can’t even get out of my house? Come on Spring, hurry up.