Organizing Outdoor Gear : Outdoor Gear Storage

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If you’re reading this, you probably have too much gear. It’s easy to do and you may not realize it until it’s bursting out of your closets. This is a problem many serial travelers and adventurers face. Just know, you’re not alone. I’m here to help! This post will show you how organizing outdoor gear can be easy. This goes a bit deeper into purging existing gear, what to keep and what to let go. We’ll also discuss outdoor gear storage options.

So, let’s get to it!

Organizing Outdoor Gear: Admit You Have a Problem

Chances are, if you’ve landed on this page, you recognize you have a problem. Or maybe someone held a gear-hoarder intervention for you. Either way, you’re in the right place!

I was once like you once with packed gear closets and a garage full of stuff. Imagine: climbing ropes layered on backpacks strewn about snowboards covering kayaks…you get the idea. Even with racks, hooks and shelves, I had trouble locating what I needed when I needed it. I had a problem.

Now, what to do?

Paring Down Your Gear

The first step toward organizing outdoor gear is paring down. In our post Minimalist Travel: A Beginner’s Guide to Lighter Travel, we discussed the overall process and how it fits in to becoming a minimalist traveler. This holds true for outdoor/adventure enthusiasts as well. To summarize:

  1. Gather all of your gear
  2. Layout it out on the floor
  3. Pull out anything you no longer use and put it into one of three piles: selldonate, or recycle (the SDR in my KSDR method)
  4. Take out any duplicate items and put them into one of the same three piles
  5. Closely scrutinize all remaining items and get rid of anything that doesn’t fit, is badly worn or is low quality (same three piles)

Now, you should have a total of four piles: keep, sell, donate, and recycle (KSDR, get it?). Obviously, you’ll keep everything in the keep pile and we’ll discuss organizing outdoor gear later in the post. For now, let’s discuss the three remaining piles (SDR).

Sell Used Outdoor Gear

This pile consists of things that are still in great condition. These things have considerable value and will be relatively easy to unload through Craigslist or at a gear swap. This is usually highly desirable stuff that other adventurers and enthusiasts are looking for. I wrote an article all about this. For now, I’ll summarize the selling process here, but please have a look at Where and How to Sell Used Outdoor Gear for a lot more detail and specific suggestions.

Donate Used Gear

The donate pile contains items that don’t have as much value or would be really hard to sell. This step brings you even closer to your goal: organizing your outdoor gear. These could include items with significant wear or things that would take more effort to sell than you have time to put into them. Remember, your time is worth money. Don’t undervalue yourself!

There are lots of programs to give old gear new life for someone else. We cover all of these options and include appropriate links in our article, Donate Outdoor Gear. Have a look!

Repair or Recycle Used Gear

Obviously, this pile contains items that are in really bad shape or don’t function properly for the activity. They can’t be sold or donated as they are. However, everyone at NV is a big advocate for less waste, so we recommend a couple of options: repair it or recycle it.

First, consider repairing gear to give it new life. You can still keep, sell or donate it, but it will have a lot more value to the recipient if it’s in working order, and a better chance of staying out of a landfill.

Quite a few of the higher-end brands offer lifetime warranties on their products. Many will repair or replace the item for little or no cost. The best will do so even if it wasn’t due to a manufacturing defect. Check out our article, Outdoor Gear Repair, for options and links to some of the manufacturers warranty pages.

Recycle Your Gear

This is your final option. If you can’t get your gear repaired, you have a few choices: upcycle, re-purpose or recycle it. Many outdoor brands have recycling programs and will take overly used and irreparable items and recycle them. It keeps them out of landfills and may give them a second life. For a full view of all the options, have a look at our article Recycle Outdoor Gear.

Buying Quality Gear

What does this have to do with organizing outdoor gear? That’s a good question. Actually, we’ve found high quality gear lasts much longer and eliminates much of the waste we’ve seen with average gear that wears too quickly. It also tends to work for broader needs, which means less stuff for more activities. If you have fewer items, it’s easier to organize them. We go into more detail in our article, Build a High Quality Adventure Gear Collection. For now, this is the basic outline:

Do Research

  1. Scour online reviews
  2. Talk to friends and family – ask people at activity-specific events
  3. Chat with sales associates at quality retailers
  4. Look for manufacturers with great lifetime warranties

Start with the Basics

  1.  First, consider your luggage; we recommend a high quality backpack
  2.  Consider good equipment cases to protect your investments
  3.  Look at quality bare-bones kits to get into a new activity and add later
  4.  If possible, try on any apparel items before you commit

Shop expensive, buy cheap

  1.  Always shop sales
  2.  Frequent clearance sections
  3.  Attend gear swaps
  4.  Look at online sales sites (Craigslist, Buy Nothing, Facebook)
  5.  Spread out purchases as budget allows
  6.  Make wish lists for family and friends
  7.  Don’t just look at the price

Take Care of Your Gear

  1.  Perform basic repairs and cleaning
  2.  Consider the location, storage requirements and organization
  3.  Keep up on regular maintenance

Keep Your Gear Collection Up to Date

  1.  Get rid of unused gear
  2.  Sell anything you don’t use that still has value
  3.  Some outdoor retailers will give you trade-in credit

Organizing Outdoor Gear

Now, what to do with all the stuff you’ve kept? You have some options, my friend. Many of my die-hard adventure enthusiast friends dedicate entire rooms to this stuff. I only have a closet and part of the garage.

To start organizing outdoor gear, determine how much space you’ll need. If you’re only a skier, you can probably get away with the corner of a closet or a garage shelf. However, if you’re a four season adventurer like me, plan on using most of a standard 6′ wide closet. In my case, I managed with just the closet. But when I married a fellow adventurer with an equal amount of gear, we had to expand into the garage. Here’s our setup:

Outdoor Gear Storage Area 1 - Closet

This was my only outdoor gear storage area when I was single (save for the bike and rowing scull in the garage). It’s a 6′ closet in a spare bedroom. We keep most of our camping and climbing gear in here as well as all of the technical clothing. It’s organized as follows:


A 3′ W x 18″ D x 4′ H shelf unit sits on one side of the closet. Most shelves have several bins, each dedicated to a different activity or item. We actually have one bin that only stores gloves (we like warm hands).

The top shelf has wire baskets: one for maps and paper items, one for travel organizational items (like space bags and packing cubes), and one for miscellaneous small items like compasses, sunscreen, head lamps, etc.

The bottom shelf holds boots and a bin for shoe-related items (crampons, gaiters, traction devices, etc.)

The top shelf, built into the closet, holds sleeping bags (we keep these unpacked to preserve loftiness and effectiveness) and other large and bulky items.

Hanging Storage

We’ve kept the closet rod and use it to hang things like backpacks, technical wear (pants, jackets…), trekking poles, ice axes, and other things. I’m experimenting with some 3D printed hangers I found on Thingiverse like this one for smaller packs and this one for larger packs that are working quite well.

Plastic Bins

Below the hanging gear, we have a stack of several plastic bins with lids. I’d love to say these are filled with other amazing gear, but they actually hold medical injury devices. Between the two of us, my wife and I have grown an impressive collection of braces, restraints, supports, sleeves, and so on. They’re not always used, but they do come in handy when you need them (which seems more often as we get older).

For most, plastic bins are just a general must-have for organizing outdoor gear. We like the type with the flip-down locks for extra assurance. However, most anything will do for outdoor gear storage. If you have a favorite, tell us about it in the comments.

Outdoor Gear Storage Area 2 - The Garage

We’ve dedicated most of a wall in the garage for large, heavy equipment and other outdoor gear storage. This consists of several hooks and hangers, as well as a rolling rack. I actually built a simple modular wall system out of plywood for the purpose. It’s very flexible and allows us to move things when necessary – which is key when organizing outdoor gear. The whole setup is as follows:

  • The snowboards and A/T skis hang from hooks in their respective travel bags. The bags keep them clean and dry in the off season.
  • The bikes hang, one above the other, from wall mounted adjustable racks, but we’re seriously considering these flip-up bike racks by Zero Gravity
  • A 4′ wide rolling shelf sits along a wall in the garage, next to the snowboards. We use a 6′ high by 4′ wide rolling baker’s rack to hold plastic bins with lids (the garage gets dusty). The casters let us roll it out of the way when needed, and to another area of the garage when we’re packing up for an adventure.
  • The bins on the rack hold various things, but mostly items related to the activities associated with other gear in the garage (biking gear, snowboard/ski accessories, etc.).

So, that’s our setup…for now.

UPDATE: I’ve been looking at these gear organizers lately. They’re designed for car trunks, but they’d work great in our closet shelf. I plan to get one for each activity. That way, I can just grab the whole bin and throw it in the car for that adventure.

Now, It's Your Turn

Organizing outdoor gear isn’t difficult. Pare down what you don’t need, maintain what you have and use some of our suggestions for outdoor gear storage and you’re  on your way.

So, take it from me, don’t be a gear hoarder. You can do this. It just takes a little work to get started and when you’re done, you’ll have just what you need and you’ll know where to find it. 


MJ is a world traveler and outdoor enthusiast. To date, he has visited 26 countries (most while wearing a backpack), scaled 17 peaks, hiked the back-country in 11 national parks and snowboarded in both polar hemispheres. He enjoys experiencing new cultures and soaking in all life has to offer.

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Just great tips, no spam!