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WTA's Puyallup Gear Library. Photo by MJ Sampang.

Spring Cleaning: How to Spark Joy With These Gear Organization Tips and Tricks

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.

WTA snowshoes hang against a wall.
Snowshoes at the WTA Puyallup Gear Library. Photo by MJ Sampang.

Store items without compression

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:

Get a tiered wire shelving unit

      • These are tough, industrial pieces that can withstand any residue left on your gear.
      • The shelves aren’t solid, so they’re easier to see through when looking for things
      • Some units are customizable, so you can adjust the height of each shelf. You can also use add-ons, like baskets, for separating specific categories of gear.
      • The best part: you can hang stuff off of them. Consider hanging hats, headlamps, camp stools, rope and other climbing tools off of the wires with carabiners and hooks.

      Visors and hates hang from a a wire rack that is housing other gear. Photo by Joseph Gonzalez.
      Wire racks aren't just great as shelves — you can hang items from them too. Photo by Joseph Gonzalez.

      Set-up a peg-board

                                      • These are the ultimate customizable storage space and can be fitted with a number of attachments, some of which might also be applicable to your wire shelving unit.
                                      • They’re great for storing backpacks in a row (no more leaving them on the floor!)
                                      • Peg-boards fit snug to the wall, decreasing the outward projection of a shelf or bin.
                                      • You can hang most mid to lightweight items, such as small baskets, paddles, ice axes, snowshoes, rope and more.

      A brown pegboard is hanging on a wall. It is organizing backpacks, snowshoes, kayak paddles and more.
      Get creative with your pegboard! Photo by Joseph Gonzalez.

      Install a wall-mounted bike rack

          • Bikes take up a bunch of floor space. Securing your bike vertically on a wall-mount can save room for activities, or if you have a bunch of gear, more storage.

      One bike is suspended on a wall with a rack. The other sites below it with a kickstand.
      Bike racks really open-up floor space. Photo by Joseph Gonzalez.

      Add some egg crates/cubbies

          • We heard you like storage tools. So we are recommending you get some storage tools for your storage tools. With these smaller cubes, you can compartmentalize subsects of gear on specific shelves, making it even easier to find what you need.
          • Just like the wire shelves, egg crates are tough enough to handle whatever you throw at them, but see-through so you can find what you need quickly.
          • These are great for grab-and-go items like water treatment, wag-bags, trowels, down-wash, DWR coating wash materials, bug spray and sunscreen.

      A collection of gear is organized on the floor as a hiker looks it over.
      Packing for the Wonderland Trail is a breeze when your gear is organized. Photo by Joseph Gonzalez.

      Buy some storage bins

          • These are great for the items you really only use seasonally. Having a bin that stacks is a bonus.
          • Great option for sensitive items you don’t want pets or children to get into, such as chemicals or expensive gear.
          • Can fit nicely in a closet beneath hanging clothes.

      Backpacks are hung-up against the wall in a long row. They are organized by color in a pleasing fashion.
      Backpacks at the WTA Puyallup Gear Library. Photo by MJ Sampang.

      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!