6 Items To Take With When Closing Down Your Cabin

You know to sweep the floor and turn off the lights. But do you know what should be on your cabin packing list as you close down for the season?

Your cabin is your warm-weather oasis. But when the snow and ice come, you prefer staying closer to civilization and plowed roads. It feels like just a few months ago that you were opening up the cabin at the start of the season, so all you need to do to shut it down is clean and lock up, right?

Not exactly. Taking out the trash is just the start of getting your cabin ready for a long, lonely winter.

There’s a lot to do, including removing anything and everything that can cause trouble if left unattended. This includes obvious hazards, like chemicals, and seemingly harmless things like carbonated beverages, says Melanie Musson, a home maintenance expert with Clearsurance. She told a story about a family that left two 12-packs of soda in their cabin over the winter.

“The soda froze (and) built up pressure inside the cans until the cans exploded and spewed pressurized soda all the way up to the ceiling,” she says. “Then, the sticky soda that was covering everything dehydrated until it was like hard candy stuck to everything.”

Fortunately, the incident didn’t cause permanent damage, but it was still a hassle to clean up. It would have been easy to avoid by simply bringing the soda home.

Want to sidestep a mess like this, or one way worse? Here are six categories of items to put on your cabin packing list when closing down for the winter.

What Valuables To Remove From Cabin?

Even if your cabin is remote, there is still a chance someone will break in when no one’s there. You can’t necessarily stop this from happening, but you can stop said thief from stealing anything you’ll truly miss by making sure it isn’t there in the first place.

A lot of it, says Spike Carlsen, a former Family Handyman editor and author of Cabin Lessons: A Nail-by-Nail Tale, is common sense. Don’t leave jewelry or large amounts of cash in your cabin all winter, or ever, really. (If you’re on site, keep those things in a safe!). For safety and security reasons, it’s probably best to take guns and ammunition.

You should remove sentimental, irreplaceable things like photographs or keepsakes as well, along with anything else that could look even remotely appealing to a thief peeping through the window. We’re talking game consoles or your high-end fishing gear, unless you can lock it all up out of sight. It might feel like a pain to take everything home, but it’s a lot easier than trying to replace it all.

Anything in an Aerosol Can

If you have aerosol containers of any kind, like hairspray, spray paint or even cooking spray, take it home, Musson says. These become unstable in extreme temperatures (hot or cold), and if they freeze they can explode, much like the soda.

Because the biggest risk is a mess, you don’t need to turn around after three hours on the road if you realize you left a can of avocado oil on the kitchen counter. But it’s definitely safer to remove it.

All Food and Beverages

Never, of course, leave perishable food in the refrigerator. But it’s also necessary to take all bottled and canned drinks, canned food, boxed items and bulk goods from your cabin kitchen, Carlsen says.

Why? The liquid in canned goods expands when it freezes. “A can of beans will explode when it reaches a certain temperature,” Carlson says. When it does, you’ll have beans all over the cabinets and countertops. And it won’t take long for pests to discover the mishap. When you return next season, you’ll find they’ve been feasting at your expense all winter.

Your beverages can freeze and expand, too. Leave them behind and you could easily lose your entire wine stash.

Non-perishables like cereal or baking supplies also need to go. Mice are notorious for breaking into boxes of dry goods, and insects will lay eggs in bags of flour. You don’t want to arrive at your cabin in the spring, ready to pour a bowl of Rice Krispies, only to discover a horde of mice got to it first.


For convenience sake, it might make sense to keep sunscreen, lotion, make-up and other personal care products at the cabin. You’ll regret it, though, when you discover freezing temperatures made everything separate or congeal, rendering them useless even when they thaw, Musson says.

Cleaning Products and Other Household Chemicals

You should also box up disinfectants and detergents. Just like your sunscreen, these items can separate when they freeze, so they’ll be no good when you try to use them again.

And don’t forget your household chemicals like bleach, antifreeze, paint and ammonia. Some can expand and explode if they freeze. If they do, it’s a safety risk — imagine walking into your cabin and breathing in all those toxic fumes. Plus, like so many other items, exposure to cold can damage the chemicals so they can’t do the job.


If you accidentally leave your tablet behind, you won’t get to use it all winter — and that’s certainly disappointing. But there’s a bigger problem — extreme temperatures can damage electronics.

“Both battery-operated and plug-in electronics shouldn’t be exposed to below-freezing temperatures,” says Musson. “LCD screens could crack, and battery life is shortened or damaged by cold temps.”

In general, it’s a good idea to take anything with a lithium-ion rechargeable battery. Think phones, tablets, laptops, smart speakers and smart watches.

The same goes for anything that runs on alkaline batteries, like toys, small household appliances and flashlights. Not only can they fail in freezing temps, they can also corrode if exposed to water — a real possibility if a pipe bursts during a big freeze).

Dawn Weinberger
Dawn Weinberger is a freelance writer in Portland, Oregon who has contributed to numerous publications and websites over the past 20 years, including RD.com, Glamour, Women's Health, Entrepreneur, and many others. Dawn has a BA in journalism from Western Washington University and is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. She writes about everything from health and medicine to fashion, shopping, and business.