Gear tip: Set clear rules when you loan stuff out
Published: September 14, 2012 11:30AM
Updated: September 9, 2012 04:15PM
The author's MSR Hubba Hubba in its first use, August 2008.

So, I was getting ready for a camping trip, and I decided to check my tent for functionality. It's gotten a lot of use, though not so much by me. When my husband and I moved in together, our combined gear stash became sufficient for major group expeditions. So we loan out our stuff whenever friends have out-of-town guests or gear mishaps of their own.

Sometimes my gear comes back a little worse for the wear, and that's OK. Since I last used my two-man MSR Hubba Hubba, a few pole segments had bowed in the wind. A zipper caught some grit and needed rehabilitation. Tent pegs were buried in the sand and lost forever. These are camping hazards that I accept when I use it myself. Things happen. So before my trip, I popped the tent up in my living room for a once-over, just to be safe.

Good thing I did.

In the corner, I found a blob of sticky brown gunk with dirt caked to it. Shiny brown dots were spattered near the door.

Seriously. I was about to take this tent into bear country. I only checked it as an afterthought, since I generally assume that people who borrow my stuff will tell me if it is damaged beyond use. It never occurred to me that people were eating inside the tent AT ALL, much less that they would leave the mess behind.

The lesson here: Don't assume anyone knows the rules. Loaned gear often ends up in the hands of novices who can't be expected to simply intuit best practices. Attach a warning label if necessary. Try to reach a clear understanding that the gear will be returned clean, major damages are the lender's responsibility, and for God's sake, no food or drink inside the tent.

— Erin Alberty