How to Organize a Garage Jammed with Gear

Polar explorer Eric Larsen unlocks his storage secrets

Jun 6, 2016
Outside Magazine
eric larsen

The sheer volume of gear needed to make it back in one (preferably unfrozen) piece is staggering.    Photo: Eric Larsen

Next time you can’t find your headlamp before car camping, imagine gearing up for a 500-mile ice paddle to the South Pole or a 750-mile ski traverse across the Arctic. Professional expedition guide Eric Larsen leads these kinds of trips every year, and the sheer volume of gear he needs to make it back in one (preferably unfrozen) piece is staggering. We caught up with Larsen to unlock his storage secrets and find out how he keeps track of 13 tents, ten pairs of skis, eight expedition sleds, ten harnesses, 20 jackets, and winter-camping accessories galore.

Think Horizontal 

Storing gear in big stackable tubs sounds like a great idea until you need something from the bottom tub. I recommend taking advantage of as much horizontal space as possible with long, deep shelves and wraparound storage. This way, you can actually see your gear. A quick scan should tell you exactly where something is, and you can access stuff without having to move a bunch of other stuff.

Get a Rack 

If there’s one item that seems to really accumulate, it’s jackets. Most people stuff them into boxes or duffel bags, but then you end up playing hide-and-seek every time you go looking for one. I have a ten-foot coat rack where I hang everything. This makes for easy browsing, which reduces time and stress before a big expedition or even just a long weekend in the mountains.

Smart Security Wins

Never advertise your gear by leaving the garage open for extended periods of time—that’s just asking for a break-in when you leave town. At the same time, use your judgment. If your bike is hanging way high from the ceiling and locked to a bunch of other bikes up there, you might not ride that bike as much as you would if it were easily accessible, which kind of defeats the point of owning it.

Pre-Storage Rituals Are Key

A good storage system has enough space where you can comfortably get your gear into a storage state. You need room to hang up rain flies, lay out wet layers, dry your boots, and so on. If something is broken, make sure to repair it before throwing it into storage, because you’ll be extra mad at yourself next season when you’re packing for a trip and, uh-oh, there’s your broken camp stove.

Get Rid of Old Gear

I find gear I no longer use every time I go into my storage, but getting rid of stuff can still be hard. Sometimes it’s an item I think I’ll need down the road, like an extra sleeping bag, and sometimes it’s an item with sentimental value, like the tent I used for Everest. You just have to make it an ongoing process.

Filed To: Snow Sports, Camping, Gear

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