How Should I Organize My Gear Closet?
Learn to stow your packs and jackets like a true professional.
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We’ve passed the last day of summer, which for most of us means the start of stashing our paddling, hiking, and biking gear. And praying for snow.
Big-mountain athlete Aaron Mulkey and professional triathlete Jesse Thomas, who also co-owns Picky Bars and is married to pro distance runner Lauren Fleshman, know a thing or two about storing gear—and staying organized. As elite athletes in gear-heavy disciplines (with boats, bikes, wetsuits, and climbing equipment to worry about), the two men have come up with some ingenious ways to keep their gear sheds in check.
Here are six tips from Mulkey and Thomas to help you prepare for the shoulder season—and the start of the ski season.
Ditch the Bins
“I need to get to my gear quickly,” says Mulkey. “I keep it out of bins so I don’t have to dig around for it.” Mulkey uses peg boards and hooks, which you can find at any hardware store, to hang his climbing gear. In his garage, he uses ladder hooks attached to the wall to hang paddling gear.
Both of these storage solutions not only make it easier for Mulkey to grab gear when he’s getting ready for an expedition, but they also help the gear dry quickly. No rotting away in a moldy tub. When nighttime temperatures drop below freezing, Mulkey stores his kayak gear in an airtight box to protect the gaskets.
Thomas went with a similar solution. “Lauren and I have racks everywhere,” says Thomas. When you walk in to their home, you’re greeted by a rack that contains about 30 pairs of cycling and trail running shoes and racing flats. The shoes’ accessibility makes it easy for the power couple to get on the trails quickly.
Once you establish an organizational system, stick with it. It’s annoying to have to hunt for a misplaced item, and you’re liable to leave behind essentials if they’re not stashed where they’re supposed to be. “If you have a system down, you are less likely to forget something like your helmet,” Mulkey says.
Be Space Efficient
Mulkey stores all of his climbing gear in a three-by-four-foot closet. He lined the back wall of this closet with peg boards and hooks, and he installed a metal shelf that holds his shoes and rope. The rack and hooks allow him to get a lot of gear in a tiny space where it can dry overnight.
Thomas stores five bikes along a seven-foot-long wall in his garage, staggering the bike hooks to fit all the equipment. He placed one row of hooks seven feet off the ground and another row five feet off the ground so the handlebars don’t hit each other.
Thomas also leaves his cycling shoes attached to his bikes. This is both efficient and good practice for the race transitions. “It’s a tri-dork thing,” he says.
Keep It Dry and Warm
After ocean swims, Thomas throws his wetsuit over a railing to dry before stashing it in a simple mesh bag, which also holds his goggles, snorkel, and other swim-specific gear. The mesh bag is key to letting the equipment breathe, dry out, and stay funk-free.
To dry out his gear, Mulkey placed an inexpensive heater from Walmart under the rack where he stores his boots. He suggests spending a few extra bucks on one with a thermostat, such as the Optimus Electric Portable Ceramic Heater, because you’ll be able to regulate the temperature in the gear closet. In addition to drying gear quickly, the heater makes Mulkey’s boots nice and toasty for morning trips.
Keep It Tacked Down
If you’re storing gear outside, keep it tacked down. Mulkey built a rack out of two-by-six boards to hold his four whitewater kayaks on their sides so they don’t fill with rain and snow during the winter. In Cody, Wyoming, where winter winds regularly reach speeds up to 40 mph, he needs a structure to protect the boats. “I learned this lesson the hard way,” says Mulkey. “I chased boats all over my yard one winter.”