As summer ends and the weather turns colder, it’s inevitably time to pack away some of our adventuring gear for the season. Whether you’re a back-country camper, a car camper or ultralight fast-packer, a proper end-of-season inventory and storage system for all your gear is essential to the longevity of your stuff and smooth packing the next time you head out. Take a couple of hours, put on some good tunes and with our tips below you too can be a pro at organizing and storing your gear.
Step 1: Inventory Your Gear
If you’re going to pack things away in a streamlined way, yes, you do have to go through your stuff. Ideally you’ll follow these steps after each adventure, but if you’re doing it all at the end of the season, take a deep breath, turn up the jams and dig in.
We’ll say it again: please, please do this after every trip. Wash and dry your sleeping bags, air out, sweep and dry your tent, and clean your stove and kitchen supplies. Storing things clean and dry will help it last longer, and do you really want to open up a bag on your next adventure to be greeted by an entire ant colony?
If there’s a rip, now is the time to patch it. Trust us, in 6 months time you will have forgotten that annoying leak right over your favourite sleeping bag spot - only to discover it the first night out next year. Same goes for damaged or missing parts - fix them or replace them now.
If some of your gear has really seen better days and you can’t fix it, consider shopping for an upgrade or replacement. If you’re lucky, you might find a good deal at the end of the season, or you could make a list to keep somewhere safe so you can stock up before the season starts again next spring.
This one can be hard, but do you really need it? As you sort through your gear, keep an eye out for duplicates and items you never use. If you only ever car camp and always use your two burner stove, do you really need that ultralight single burner? And how about your dad’s old sleeping bag from the ‘70s - you have a warmer, lighter, more packable one these days, so maybe it’s time to pass it on. If it's in good condition, you could make a few extra bucks on a resale site - stash the profits away in an adventure jar and put it towards new gear or future trips!
The last thing you’ll do here is figure out how you’re going to organize your gear. We recommend separating things by category: multipurpose vs activity specific. Your sleep system, tent and cooking gear can be used on many types of adventures, so it should be accessible and stored separately from very targeted gear, like climbing or bikepacking gear. You may also want to organize things by season, and for cross-over items, keep like with like.
Step 2: Store Your Gear
You’ve done the hard part already - you now know exactly what gear you have, it’s clean and in good condition, and ready to be put away. Depending on the space you have available, there are many ways to store your gear - so here are a couple of ideas.
Don't let that daunting pile of gear scare you - you've got this!
If you have the space, a heavy duty storage shelf makes an ideal space to keep all your adventuring gear together. Whether you use storage totes or just neatly slide items in on the shelves as is or in stuff sacks, everything will be organized and easy to find when the urge for adventure hits. Just remember the golden rule of loading shelves - heavy stuff on the bottom, light on the top.
For collections of smaller items, storage totes of varying sizes are the solution. Think of how much easier life will be if all your camp kitchen stuff is in one bin, and your climbing gear is in another. Electronics like flashlights, headlamps, and GPS devices also store well in smaller totes - they’ll stay dry, protected and safe. Just remember to take the batteries out before packing them away to avoid problems with corrosion and leaking. Don’t forget to label each bin, so you know where to look when you’re ready to head out!
If you keep your adventuring clothing separate from your regular wardrobe, it might make sense to store it on a hanging bar or rack near the rest of your gear. But clothing isn’t the only thing that can benefit from hanging - sleeping bags, pads and packs can also be stored this way.
If you’ve ever been attacked by falling paddles when trying to pull down your gear from a high shelf, you know how frustrating it can be to store oddly shaped items like these. If you have the space, consider installing some heavy duty wall hooks in your storage area to hang up paddles, ski poles, etc. Another option is a large, tall laundry basket - tuck it in a corner or up against the wall, and you have a perfect place to stash things like paddles, skis, and poles.
We don’t all have a dry garage or basement space. If that’s you, use small spaces! Look for underused storage areas elsewhere in your home. Long, low storage totes can fit all kinds of gear and tuck neatly away under your bed. Maybe it’s time to sell off your old textbooks or downsize extra towels and sheets and make some space in a closet?
Beware of Moisture!
Dampness is the one thing you want to avoid at all costs when storing your gear. It will leave mildew (and funky smells) on your fabric items, ruin your electronics and just all around make for a frustrating pack-up the next time you want to head off on an adventure. Make sure things are fully dry when you put them away, and for extra reassurance, throw some of those little silica packs that come with almost everything you buy in with your gear to soak up excess moisture.
We knew you could do it! Check out that neatly organized, ready-to-go camping gear!
Step 3: Make an Inventory List
OK, this might seem like something only the really Type A adventurers do, but it’s well worth the effort. As you sort and pack away your gear, just jot down a list of what you have, and where you put it. Keep it on your phone, or even on the back of an envelope if you wish, but combined with your labelling, this little list will help you get out the door faster on your next trip, and identify any gaps in your inventory (send it directly to mom and dad as your Christmas wish list).
And if you actually are one of those Type A types, go ahead and type it up in a spreadsheet.
There you have it - 3 steps to check over and pack away your gear at the end of the season. It’s not the most fun job in the world, but with some tunes, a buddy, and maybe a cold drink in hand, it’s almost tolerable - and you’ll high five yourself next season when you pack up to head out in half the time.