Expert tips and hacks for caring for your gear

The Basics

How to Organize Gear in a Small Space

Proper storage means you get outside faster—without forgetting anything important

Proper storage means you get outside faster—without forgetting anything important. (Emily Reed)
Photo: Emily Reed

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Proper storage means you get outside faster—without forgetting anything important

Having a clean, organized gear closet leaves less of a chance you’ll forget something important when heading out for a weekend adventure. Plus it streamlines upkeep, allowing you to see what you have and the condition everything is in. But achieving an Instagram-worthy gear vault can be daunting—especially if you have a small space to work with. Regardless of available square footage, these steps will get you there.

Purge Your Stash

Not to get all KonMari on you, but any good gear-closet organization starts with objectively taking stock of what you need. Are five packs necessary? Four shells that serve the same purpose? Probably not. Begin by breaking up what you have, either by type of gear (like jackets) or specific activity (say, camping), and dumping it in the middle of the room. Then sift through it all, setting aside anything you have doubles of to donate or sell. And don’t be sentimental. If there’s any doubt in your mind that you need a certain item, chuck it in the must-go pile.

Buy the Right Tools

Without proper storage, it’s hard to keep everything in its rightful place—your pristine gear closet will inevitably devolve back into a stressful heap. There are plenty of options to tailor your setup to your space.

Storage bins: If you have open-floor or shelf space, get bins that latch, stack well, and are clear, so you can see what’s inside. Buy a couple different sizes to help you separate small items from larger ones. We’re partial to these bins from Sterilite

Hanging organizers: Keeping shoes or clothing in vertical storage can save a lot of space. This one even has small pockets on the outside for flat objects, like maps or rolled-up socks.

Ceiling hooks: Hooks work great for hanging bicycles indoors, and they’re fairly cheap. Install one for just the front tire, or use two and hang both front and back tires at once.

A pegboard: A pegboard can be great for organizing small technical gear, like climbing quickdraws and carabiners. Once you have a pegboard installed, you can pick out various hooks to display your gear on. 

Shelving systems: If your space is lacking closets with real shelves, consider a freestanding unit like this one to store more bulky gear items, like helmets, packs, and rolling luggage.

Start Low and Move Higher

If you’re working in a small space like a closet, start with a clean slate and remove all contents before diving in. Then work from the ground up.

Floor

Store bulky boots, luggage, or large storage bins full of out-of-season layers down low. The floor affords plenty of space, and you can then stack smaller items on top of the larger ones. A durable boot tray like this one from WeatherTech will keep shoes from dirtying rugs or hardwood. Avoid stashing anything on the floor that could gather and hold onto a lot of dust, like sleeping bags or camp pillows, since it’s likely to be dirtiest down there.

Hanger Space

A good way to think about organizing your hanging space is to sort layers from shells to puffies to midlayers to base layers (or vice versa). This will make for faster packing. Sleeping bags should get hangers, too, instead of stuff sacks, so the insulation doesn’t pack out. If you have extra room, consider hanging backpacks as well, to keep them from piling up in a corner.

Top Shelves

Finally, work on filling in your top shelving space with bigger, less used, or off-season items, like ski boots, carry-on bags, or solar panels. Storing items that you don’t need constant access to higher up means you won’t be reaching for a step stool every week. If you don’t have space to hang your sleeping bags, store them up here, uncompressed, in a sleeping-bag storage bag.

Filed To: Clothing and Apparel / Car Camping / Hiking and Backpacking