Organizing Your Outdoor Adventure Gear
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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 to organizing your outdoor adventure gear; and it’s a continuation of our Minimalist Travel: A Beginner’s Guide to Lighter Travel post. This goes a bit deeper into purging existing gear, what to keep and what to let go.
So, let’s get to it!
Organizing Your Outdoor Adventure Gear: Admit You Have a Problem
Chances are, if you’ve landed on this page, you recognize you have a problem. Or maybe someone organized 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 layered on snowboards layered on 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 your outdoor adventure 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:
- Gather all of your gear
- Layout it out on the floor
- Pull out anything you no longer use and put it into one of three piles: sell, donate, or recycle (the SDR in my KSDR method)
- Take out any duplicate items and put them into one of the same three piles
- 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 your outdoor adventure gear later in the post. For now, let’s discuss the three remaining piles.
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.
Places to Sell Used Outdoor Gear
As for potential places to sell used gear, check out the following:
- Facebook has many local area gear swaps. Just do a search for “gear swap” from your account. Look at Groups, Posts, Pages and Events. You’re bound to find something near you.
- REI hosts member gear swaps throughout the year, all over the US. It’s free for buyers and $20 for sellers (entry fees go to charity). They have food, games and prizes. It’s a great way to sell your gear and meet fellow enthusiasts. Plus, attendees generally know the value of good stuff and expect to pay a fair price.
- Craigslist is still a great way to buy and sell gear. I use it regularly. But, did you know you can also find local swaps? Do a search in the Community and Events sections.
- OfferUp is another option for selling used gear locally. I’m not extremely fond of this platform, as many of the users will attempt ridiculously low offers. You can check the “firm” box next to your price, which reduces some of that. However, if you want to sell something quickly and you’re flexible on the price, it’s worth a shot.
Determining the Value of Your Used Gear
Part of the selling process is determining the value of your used gear. There are several ways to go about it, but I’ll give you some that work for me.
First, I like to look on eBay to see how much similar items sell for. Just do a search for your item. Then, scroll down and check the box next to “Completed Items” on the left-hand side. This will filter out and show only completed auctions. If the price is in green, it means the item sold for that much. It will also tell you how many bids it received, which might indicate interest. Now, it doesn’t mean you have to sell through the platform, but it will give you an indication of the going rate. If you intend to sell locally and to an audience who understands the value of the product, you often can fetch a higher price. Be sure to consider overall condition in your assessment.
If I don’t find many comparable items on eBay, I’ll look at some of the online listing platforms like Craigslist and OfferUp. With these, it’s important to remember the listing price does not mean the item will sell for that much; but if you see many similar things listed around the same price, it’s a good indication of the acceptable price range. Again, consider the condition of your item relative to others for sale.
Fetching the Highest Price
There a few ways to ensure you get the best price for your used gear. If you do these simple things, you have a better chance of selling you stuff faster and at a higher price.
Consider the Season
If your item is typically used in a specific season, it’s best to sell it shortly before the season begins. For example, try to sell skis in late fall and tents in late spring. The only real exception to this is Christmas time in the US. Sometimes, out-of-season items will sell in December, but don’t count on it.
Repair Any Damage
Even though you might not think something is a big deal to fix, buyers don’t want the hassle. Plus, they may not be able to see past the problem. Therefore, perceived value plummets considerably. Take the time to repair anything you can yourself. If it’s something that requires special skills, consider sending it in to the manufacturer. In some cases, many offer excellent warranties. Others offer repairs, like tears and zipper fixes, for a very reasonable price. Have a look at the Have your Gear Repaired section below for more information.
Clean Your Gear
This is very important, yet often overlooked. Cleaning up your stuff indicates you care about it. Potential buyers can more easily imagine themselves using it and making it their own. Often, this is as simple as scrubbing down a kayak with soap and water or tossing a jacket through a washer cycle. Be sure to read and adhere to the manufacturer’s recommended cleaning methods. This will ensure your gear is in top condition for the sale.
Take Fabulous Pictures
If you’re selling your items through any of the online channels, be sure to take great pictures. As potential buyers can’t see your stuff in person, this is the next best thing. Pictures can entice or deter interest. Give yourself the best chance possible and provide fantastic shots. As for format, it’s nearly always best to isolate items on a plain white background, if possible. With larger items, it might be appropriate to showcase them in their intended use (like a kayak in water). Whatever you do, pull them out of your cluttered garage and limit as many visual distractions in the image as possible. If you lack the skill or equipment, ask a friend. With today’s high-end phones, someone you know is bound to have a decent camera.
Write Great Ads
Donate Used Gear
The donate pile contains items that don’t have as much value or would be really hard to sell and this step brings you even closer to organizing your outdoor adventure 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!
If you really believe those 15 year old boots are still worth $70, but the best you’ll get on OfferUp is $10, consider donating them to the Goodwill. It’s a good cause and you might be eligible for a charitable tax deduction.
Another great option for donations is REI’s Give Back Box partnership. According to their site, “26 billion pounds of clothing and textiles are put in landfills each year.” To combat the problem and reduce waste, they set up a mail-in donation program. It’s pretty simple; you just download a prepaid shipping label, package up your used gear and mail it. The donations also go to the Goodwill, but it’s much more convenient. You don’t even have to leave the house. Best of all, they’ll accept nearly anything, not just outdoor gear.
If you’d like to give your used stuff to wonderful cause, consider Gear Forward. They believe many people develop an appreciation of the outdoors while growing up. However, many kids don’t have access to the right equipment to take part in these activities. They help to fill the gap and give back to local communities. If you need inspiration, they even have a current needs section. Check them out.
Freecycle.org is a nice community of people who give and get things for free. It’s a wonderful option for giving usable things to local people while keeping it out of landfills. They even have local communities all over the world. Sign-up is free. After that, you just find your local community and post an offer.
You can sell, trade, give away or donate your unwanted gear on ROG (Recycle Outdoor Gear). Donations go directly to charities. This is currently only in the UK, but it’s an interesting platform and worth a look.
Give Your Gear to Friend or Budding Enthusiast
A final option is donating your used gear to friends or new enthusiasts. Many folks would love the opportunity to take up a new activity or to travel more, but they lack the resources to buy appropriate equipment. Help a budding fanatic with the gift of gear. Who knows, you might gain a new partner to feed your passion.
Repair or Recycle Used Gear
Obviously, this pile contains items that are in really bad shape. They can’t be sold or donated as they are. However, everyone at NV is a big advocate of 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. Here are some we’ve had good luck with:
Their apparel warranty is pretty straightforward. It states, “If for any reason, you’re not 100% satisfied with your Black Diamond apparel, we’ll repair, replace, or refund it. No charge, no fine print, no debate. Guaranteed.” However, their exclusions section does mention normal wear and tear is not covered. So, it looks like they do have some fine print. I’ve only had one item repaired and it was due to a defect. However, they were very courteous and quick to fix the issue.
Their GUARANTEED TO KEEP YOU DRY® promise covers all products made with their fabric by their trusted partners. It is limited to the “useful life” of the product, which they determine. In our experience, this guarantee saved many of us at NV lots of money by repairing items that we would have had to replace.
This is a great company with great products. A shirt I’d purchased at least five years before had frayed along the bottom hem. Even though their guarantee claims they do not warranty against normal wear and tear, the customer service rep agreed this shouldn’t have happened. I fully expected to pay their “reasonable fee” to repair it, but they sent me a brand new replacement shirt at no cost.
I own quite a few items from this brand and have only had a problem with one jacket, when it lost the ability to effectively repel water. Despite their more limited lifetime warranty, they took it back and replaced it with the newest model, no charge.
Their All Mighty Guarantee is just as the name implies. In the US, Osprey will replace any damage to any pack they’ve ever made, regardless of the reason. If they can’t repair it, they will replace it. I’ve used this warranty on one of my very favorite packs and it is as advertised.
The Infinite Guarantee is much like Osprey’s warranty, but it covers the “life of the product.” They don’t seem to go into much detail on the website, but none of us have ever had a problem with it. They replaced an older jacket with the newest model due to water repellent issues. When I had issues with the hood on another jacket, they offered full retail credit toward anything in their online store. It’s a solid warranty and their support center is very helpful and knowledgeable.
I like their Ironclad Guarantee, even though they claim, “Damage due to wear and tear will be repaired at a reasonable charge.” No one at NV has had any trouble returning something that didn’t work for them, myself included.
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.
Upcycle Your Gear
Upcycling is making something new out of something old. Basically, once an item has outlived its original purpose, it can be used to create something else. Check out these sites for upcycling options:
- Green Guru – These guys will take bike inner tubes, climbing ropes, wetsuits, tents and other stuff directly from you or from upcycling bins located at their partners’ physical locations. Better yet, they even send you a discount code toward the purchase of new gear.
- The North Face – Their Clothes the Loop program is one of the best out there. They will take any apparel or footwear (any condition, any brand). Just drop them off at any The North Face retail or outlet store. They will even give you a $10 reward toward your next purchase of $100 or more with their brand.
- Metamorphic Gear – If you have unwanted sailcloth (or similar material), truck tarpaulin, seat belts, parachutes, climbing ropes or other materials to recycle, consider giving them to this company. They re-purpose these materials into dog leashes, tote bags, wallets, etc.
- Patagonia – They will take any used Patagonia product and recycle it. While it doesn’t extend to other brands, it is a nice option.
Re-purpose Your Gear
You can also re-purpose your gear. That just means using it for something else. This is similar to upcycling, but you end up keeping the product. Here are some great sites with lots of ideas.
- Instructables – There are some great projects on Instructables for re-purposing old gear. Just do a search for upcycle or repurpose and the item you want to reuse.
- Pinterest – For those crafty folks, check out Pinterest for some great ideas. As with Instructables, a simple search will turn up lots of options.
- The Sewing Loft – This blog post offers 100 different ideas for upcycling clothing. Many of these will work for outdoor fabrics and tent material.
- Etsy – While not a DIY option, some of you might prefer to have someone else re-purpose your old stuff. You can often find a crafter or sewer willing to turn your old material into something new and wonderful. I’ve had good luck using the search term “custom” to find a seller willing to make me something specific.
Recycle Your Gear
Finally, if you can’t find a new use for your damaged gear, you can recycle it. You’d be surprised at how many materials are actually recyclable. Many plastics can be thrown into your standard recycling bin. Just check to ensure they have the appropriate logo and number for your local programs. Metals are also very recyclable. Some can go in your container, while others need to go to a recycling center. If you have questions about how or where to recycle something, check with your local waste management center or check out earth911.com.
Buying Quality Gear
- Scour online reviews
- Talk to friends and family – ask people at activity-specific events
- Chat with sales associates at quality retailers
- Look for manufacturers with great lifetime warranties
Start with the Basics
- First, consider your luggage; we recommend a high quality backpack
- Consider good equipment cases to protect your investments
- Look at quality bare-bones kits to get into a new activity and add later
- If possible, try on any apparel items before you commit
Shop expensive, buy cheap
- Always shop sales
- Frequent clearance sections
- Attend gear swaps
- Look at online sales sites (Craigslist, Buy Nothing, Facebook)
- Spread out purchases as budget allows
- Make wish lists for family and friends
- Don’t just look at the price
Take Care of Your Gear
- Perform basic repairs and cleaning
- Consider the location, storage requirements and organization
- Keep up on regular maintenance
Keep Your Gear Collection Up to Date
- Get rid of unused gear
- Sell anything you don’t use that still has value
- Some outdoor retailers will give you trade-in credit
Organizing Your Outdoor Adventure Gear
Now, what to do with all the stuff you’ve kept? You have some options, my friend. Many of my die-hard adventure enthusiasts dedicate entire rooms to this stuff. I only have a closet. You can also designate part of the garage (although, you’ll probably want sealed bins to keep the dust at bay).
Start by determining how much space you will 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 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.
Gear Storage Area 1 - Closet
This was my only 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.
- 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.
- 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 we often seem to as we get older).
Gear Storage Area 2 - The Garage
We’ve dedicated most of a wall in the garage for large and heavy equipment. This consists of several hooks and hangers as well as a rolling rack.
- 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
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 a