The leaves have turned, there’s snow on the high peaks, and it’s getting dark earlier. This means it’s finally time to start storing your summer gear. I asked my closest friends, all of whom work as guides or athletes, for tips on taking care of your toys during the winter. Here are their top five most important lessons.
Store All Your Gear in One Place
This sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s key. If some of your gear is in the garage, some in a closet, and the rest in the attic, you will inevitably forget something on your next camping trip because there are too many places to look. Packing also goes a lot faster when everything is stored together.
Keep Your Packs Packed
Store your camp stove, sleeping pad, first-aid kit, and cookware in your pack over the winter, and then hang the pack in an easily accessible spot. You’ll save space and be ready to go once the snow melts. The same goes for your backcountry pack during the summer.
Rack It Up
Metal shelves from companies like Edsal and Gorilla Rack are great for storing gear. I use these shelves as a base for a series of 25-liter Rubbermaid Roughneck Storage Bins, where I store everything from my headlamps to my sleeping pads. For the really small stuff, such as my pocketknives and compasses, I use a three-drawer organizer like the Sterilite ClearView. As a general rule of thumb, I don’t build the shelves very high, because it’s hard to take down a heavy bin if it’s over your head. To keep the bins organized, I label them with different colors of electrical tape, which doesn’t leave behind a residue when you peel it off. Final tip: Get the wood shelf bases—it’s easy to slide bins onto them.
Be Disciplined About Unpacking
At end of my final summer trip, I have a tendency to throw everything in a corner and forget about it. That’s bad. This is when you need to pay attention to what you’ve used and what you need to restock for next spring. Find out if you need more Band-Aids for your first-aid kit, and make sure you have enough iodine tablets for drinking water.
Give Your Gear Room to Breathe
I’ve lived in a lot of apartments, so I know extra room for gear is a luxury, but try to find space for your toys to air out during the winter. Tents, sleeping bags, and outerwear last longer if you can hang them in a place where they can dry properly and don’t spend several months squished together.