Offseason blues? Start your prep for the season.

Getting ready for the upcoming season starts now.

Plans for this upcoming season have been moving along. It looks like I will be able to get a ride to the trail with my parents in early May as they road-trip past my trailhead.

Now though, as always, the waiting really starts to take its toll. I always get pumped up to hit the trail, unfortunately that excitement usually hits me a month or two before the actual "season" starts.

There is still some to organize and plan for in the meantime, but nowhere near what there used to be. I used to spend months researching everything I needed to know, refining my equipment load-out, and testing out my equipment. Now sometimes feels more like a waiting game until the weather's right. 

Yes, I could be hiking now. People do that. I'd like to wait for the turn in the weather though. I've been out in the snow without much, if any, company for weeks at a time and it isn't as enjoyable to me. Last spring I dealt with frequent snowfall in NC and TN. I'll be starting northbound a day or so south of Harper's ferry this season, and do not want to be alone in the snow for weeks. The weather usually turns after April 15th, so at the very least I'm looking at two and a half months before I start back. 

Good thing too! 

With the gear changes I've made I'm waiting for two items to come in the mail. I bought the bivy sack and sleeping quilt I wrote about recently from two different cottage gear manufacturers. The weight times are projected to be 8 and 5 weeks respectively.

Cottage gear makers are small or very small businesses that make specialty equipment. Cottage gear can be of much higher quality and better function than store bought versions. One of the largest drivers for the cottage gear market seems to be that the equipment is often much lighter than its store-bought counterparts. A much greater degree of personalization and customization are possible since these are much smaller gear-shops.

Oddly enough, cottage gear can even cost you less than the high end gear you buy in the stores while offering similar performance. Cottage manufacturers are making everything from down jackets to tent stakes. It's not always the case that the equipment will be less expensive, but it is definitely worth checking out.

The small-shop structure does have one significant drawback for a lot of people. Many of the cottage vendors have long lead times for getting their products to customers. In this way, cottage gear-lists can be very unfriendly to those who fail to plan ahead. For those that are months out from their next adventure, though, the wait times are not so bad!

Whether you are making equipment changes, reorganizing your existing kit, or making some of your own gear, the colder winter and early spring months are a perfect time to get your gear-list in order for the upcoming season.

Starting your projects, talking to cottage vendors, and organizing your gear-list now could save you money, time, and base-weight.

As as last note, while you are organizing your kit and tidying up your gear closet these next few weeks think about cleaning your gear. When was the last time you aired everything out and washed your hiking base-layers, socks, and other gear? Dirty tents, tarps, bivy sacks, and packs are heavier than when they are clean. Dirty gear can also get worn down more quickly. Just be sure to follow all care instructions that came with the gear. You can find care instructions online pretty easily if you've lost them.

Take care of your gear. It takes care of you!