There is something about gear that makes us all love it so much. For some, it's the level of design and thought that goes into a piece of gear that allows it to work better, fit in your hand better, or just look better because of the unique aesthetics that spawn from good design.
Then there is the patina — that intrinsic mix of the scratches and memories that get embedded into a piece of gear. The longer our equipment lasts with us, the more experiences we associate with it and the more nostalgic it becomes, adding to the richness of our current and future adventures.
Even with minimal space you can get creative and store your adventure equipment properly.
To make it last, the best thing you can do for your equipment is to use it ... and use it often.
Not only is getting out into the wild good for your body and soul, it also ensures your equipment is being periodically and appropriately ventilated and flexed — and not all creased and crinkled, sitting for months at the bottom of a storage bin.
And the next best thing is to make sure it’s clean and dry when you store it.
Some of us have elaborate gear lofts and organizational spreadsheets. Some of us have a tiny, but well-designed closet. Others have a few piles and a bin, and hope for the best. We all have our favorite methods for arranging our gear. But if there is one thing we all should practice... keeping moisture away from our stored gear is paramount.
Putting everything back in its place makes packing for your next adventure that much easier and enjoyable.
CLEAN & DRY: Getting Your Equipment Ready for Storage
Keeping your equipment as clean as possible and storing it free of moisture will help to make it last with you through years of adventure. Here are a few tips and things to consider when prepping your equipment for the dreaded closet so that you may find it as you left it when the next exciting adventure comes along.
Sleeping bags. Wash you sleeping bag in a front-loading washer with a gentle detergent on a gentle cycle. Most likely it’s not too dirty but it is good to keep sweat, sunscreen, or bug spray off the fabrics for any extended period of time. You can also dry it in a front-loading dryer, just be sure to add tennis balls to the cycle to keep the insulation lofty and spread evenly throughout the bag. Make sure to dry it completely before storage.
Sleeping pads. Sleeping pads take a little more abuse than other items in your kit, especially if you are doing some ultralight trips that have you sleeping directly on the ground or in an old lean-to. The best way to wash a sleeping pad is by hand with some warm, soapy water and make sure to rinse completely. Again, hang it up until it is dry.
Tents. The dirt a tent usually faces is from rain splashing mud up from the ground as it drips off the fly. Usually a quick rinse with the hose at home should remove this really easy. Anything else, like pine sap or a food spill, might need some localized care. Be sure not to use any cleaners that might be harsh to your tent materials. And yes ... after you have rinsed your tent, make sure it has ample time to dry completely.
Pro Tip: Stuff sacks. At NEMO, we believe it’s best to stuff your tent into the stuff sack rather than folding and rolling it. This ensures a more even wear on your tent fabrics over time, avoiding the hard creases that result from a long folds. When storing long-term, it's better to keep tents out of the stuff sack until you're packing for your next adventure. See below.
Campstoves. Making sure cook stoves are wiped down, regardless of fuel types, will offer a more pleasant experience in the future and will also help to ensure that everything is working properly the next time you sit down to cook your first meal in the backcountry. Refer to your owner’s manual to ensure you are cleaning your specific stove appropriately.
Backpacks. Be sure to give your backpack a nice warm, soapy dunk once in a while and rinse until it is completely free of suds. Once my pack has hung to dry, I like to run a little silicone lubrication through the zippers to make sure it continues to work smoothly for my next trip. There is nothing worse than a seized zipper — something to watch out for especially near saltier coastline environments.
Boots. Boots take a beating and it is important they are cleaned regularly to maintain their important properties. Some boots with natural leather like a moisturizing wax paste that keeps the leather supple and waterproof while others like a lighter, more technical water repellent that doesn't clog breathability. Be sure to review your product and application descriptions before choosing the wrong one. Next, while the leather is saturated, apply your waterproofing product as instructed and let your boots dry without direct heat.
Hydration equipment. Bladders and filters items are constantly in contact with water, so it is very important to let them drain completely after you clean them. I like to use some warm, soapy water with a drop of bleach to sterilize. After everything is dry I like to store these items in my basement beer fridge to inhibit any mold growth.
Everyone has their favorite bins, but all do a good job helping to keep equipment moisture-free.
SAFE & SECURE: Organizing Your Bins and Hangers
1. Categorize your gear
There is no denying it, part of the fun of adventuring is collecting all of those well-designed pieces of gear we need. When you get into different types of adventure you’ll start collecting gear that is very specific to each activity, and gear that overlaps across all of your kits. It gets complicated fast. So we like to fill our bins based on categories — be it very specific activities like Backpacking, Caving, Climbing, or Fishing — and then more universal ones like Cooking, Shelter and Emergency Kits.
2. Systemize your bins
Once you have everything organized, you are ready to decide on a bin system that will work well with you kit. Think of a system that is scalable as you will surely collect more gear over the years. Bins are great because they come in so many different sizes, colors, and types of material. They are easy to label and stack, they help keep out moisture and dust, and best of all they block out UV light which can be rough on some of the delicate, ultralight fabrics and their water repellent coatings. Being organized by category, having contents well-labeled, and stacked by least/most often used will make gear searches faster and easier. Some people like to use different color bins to help identify which bin is which, others like a nice tidy stack of all the same monochromatic bins for a minimalist vibe.
- A couple packets of desiccant inside each bin help to keep everything dry.
- A cool, dry place like a closet is much better than a garage.
- Basements that do not leak are great if you use a dehumidifier in the summer months.
- Watch. For. Mice. They can chew through bins and destroy gear quickly. A couple cotton balls dipped in pure peppermint oil each month helps keep them away.
3. Stack your shelves
A couple of multiple shelf units are great for storing your bins without taking up a lot of floor space, and top shelves offer a safe and visible place for items that might not need to be in a bin. Shelving units are a nice way to make your gear area scalable as they can be placed side by side to double your shelf space or wheels can be added to make them easily moveable.
4. Hang your tents, bags, and pads
We recommend storing tents outside of stuff sacks, either loosely rolled or hung up in a cool, dry place away from any UV light. Your sleeping pads and bags like nothing more than to be hung vertically. This keeps insulation from being matted or clumping together which lowers its heat trapping capabilities. Whether you hang your bags from head to toe, or in a loose mesh bag, both down and synthetic insulation will maintain its fluffy loft and minimum temperature ratings for years to come.
Open and closed-cell foam pads that are kept expanded (whether hanging or lying under a bed) with will provide greater plush comfort far longer than if they were rolled up under compression.
The best way to care for your equipment is to keep it clean and organized — and to put it to use as often as possible. If you don’t see any adventures in your future, go through your bins and shelves once in a while to make sure things look good and nothing is living or growing in them ... and put a few maps of future projects up on the wall in your gear room to keep the stoke.