Washington Trails Association
Trails for everyone, forever
Do rainy days in winter and spring have you feeling blue? Spark joy and get ready for summer by organizing your gear closet with these tips and tricks! By Joseph Gonzalez
There’s no such thing as “hiking season,” but let’s be real, most of us hike more when the weather is good. The joke in Washington is that summer doesn’t begin until after the Fourth of July, but it’s only half a joke — many favorite destinations in the mountains can still be snow-laden until mid July. While you’re waiting for the rainy season to end, why not make the most of our winter to address the elephant in the room: your unkempt gear closet. Organizing your gear can feel like a chore, but it can also be therapeutic, fun and helpful. Not only will decluttering your gear space make you feel accomplished, but your future self (and your gear) will thank you.
They say “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” (no base-weight pun intended), and the same is true for gear maintenance. Take care of your gear, and your gear will last longer to take care of you. Gear maintenance starts and ends with how you clean and store it at home. Here are a few quick tips on how to prevent your most expensive items from tearing, disintegrating or losing their powers.
Stuff sacks compress items. Leaving insulated down and synthetic puffies and sleeping bags compressed for prolonged periods of time can permanently reduce their ability to fluff back up. It’s the air pockets between the down that retains warmth, so without the opportunity to sit in its natural state, you’re decreasing the efficiency of your gear over time.
Tent fabric will deteriorate if not given the chance to breathe. Water, dirt and other particles caught between the fabric will disintegrate the tent if it is compressed for long periods of time. If you use a tent with collapsible tent poles, the shock cord inside the poles will lose elasticity and strength if exposed to the elements without a chance to dry out. To combat this, ensure your tent is 100% dry (erect it in your yard or drape it across furniture) before storing it away. Instead of a stuff sack, consider putting it in a storage bin by itself, or even hang it in your closet.
The last thing any hiker wants to do when they get home from a trip is de-rig their gear, but getting into a good routine will prolong the life of your equipment and bring you peace of mind. After all, happy gear equals a happy hiker.
Properly storing gear is important, but what does that actually look like? Not every hiker has a backyard, a shed or a garage to store stuff. The more you hike, the more gear you inevitably acquire, so it’s important to be intentional with your organizational practices to maximize your space. Thinking three-dimensionally, storing vertically and maximizing dead space are great practices for squeezing every ounce of value out of your living space. (Another base-weight pun, see what I did there?) Here are a few storage items to consider:
Having like-items stored together in a centralized location takes the edge off of the “organizational chaos” you might experience when prepping for a big hike. The ability to see, sift through and exchange your gear without doing any heavy lifting will save you time and make your life that much easier.
Even knowing the why, rolling up your sleeves to get organized still feels like a chore — so make it fun! The main purpose is to save space, preserve your gear and increase productivity, but the process can also play into your decorative aesthetic. If you don’t feel like organizing by activity, consider organizing by color to make things pop! Dead space between gear racks? Look to pin a map to your wall to keep the outdoorsy vibes going. Don’t worry if your efforts don’t spark joy now — they will when it comes time to pack for your next hike. The summer version of you will be thankful!