Off-Season Gear Care + Storage

Cabins, barns, attics, garages or closets all work for storing your outdoor gear.

Taking care of and storing our outdoor gear is an art we’re still trying to master. After all, outdoor gear is an investment, and for the sake of the environment (and your bank account), you want it to go the distance to avoid repeatedly replacing items. Here’s a break-down of a few of the essential things we consider before packing gear away for the season.

ORGANIZE YOUR SPACE

The first thing that we’d suggest, is to find someplace to organize your gear. You want somewhere dry and out of the way, with bonus points for being able to regulate the temperature. An attic or garage with a free wall for hanging gear and a few shelves is ideal, but even a small closet will do for a simple setup. Depending on the level of your gear addiction, be warned that gear storage can get out of hand quickly. Before you know it, you could have an entire room in your house dedicated to gear, with your bouldering crash pads doubling as a couch for out-of-town visitors. We’ve seen it happen, and have to admit that we fully support it.

After you’ve got the space identified, lay out all your gear and give everything the yearly “do I really need this” test. We’re all guilty of owning gear that never gets used, so this process is critical.

 

Photo by Thomas Woodson // @thomaswoodson

There are lots of different DIY ideas around, so we’d recommend doing some research with a quick Google search (but we’ve also included a few relevant links below for some inspiration).

If you’ve got wall space to spare, a combination of pegboard and/or shelving is a great way to go. Even without a wall, picking up a few storage totes from your local hardware store is a must-do. They usually come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and can swallow up clothing, winter gear, helmets, backpacks, etc… And stack neatly pretty much anywhere. Organize your gear by category and remember to label your storage totes. This small investment is 100% worth it.

 

Photo by Brian Threlkeld // @mountains62

BACKPACKS

After any number of days out on the trail your pack will inevitably start smelling “natural”, for lack of a better term. This is acceptable on the trail, but not what anyone wants at home. And while we admit that our white packs won’t ever be brand-new-white again (wear your Trail Patina with pride), giving the outer fabric a rinse after each trip helps keep it looking fresh.

Care + Storage Tips
  • Always remove aluminum stays prior to cleaning. Once you’ve done that, keep in mind you can turn the pack inside out to help clean the interior. Once you’ve removed the stays, hand wash in the tub, spot cleaning with light scrubbing on worn areas using a mild soap + warm water. Then hang until dry.
  • NEVER PUT OUR PACKS IN A DRYER.
  • It’s a good idea to give your pack and all seams, zippers, buckles + pockets a once-over for any damage, and repair if needed.
  • Hang in your sweet gear-nerd-facility, or mount it on the wall in your living room, if your family/roommates are into that sort of thing–and we’re betting they are. Whatever you do, please don’t leave it stuffed full of other equally-smelly gear.

Photo by Steve Fassbinder // @republicofdoom

SHELTERS, TARPS + TENTS

Setting up your shelter out on the trail only to realize that it’s moldy will ignite a rage from deep within. Trust us…we’ve all been there. And while cleaning it after every time out is a great thought, it is rarely the reality. And don’t get us started on forgetting to count your stakes until arriving at camp. That’ll get you every time. So get out in front of the problem: Double-check your stakes and make sure everything is packed away together at the end of the season (or better yet, before and after every trip).

Care + Storage Tips
  • Take the time on a nice sunny day at home and wash your shelter out, spot cleaning any areas that need it. A hose with a bucket of water + mild soap (no bleach) will do the trick on any of our DCF fabrics.
  • Air-dry your shelter by either pitching it and leaving it out with the door open, or hang drying.  
  • Make sure your shelter is completely dry before folding and packing into a Stuff Sack. This will help protect the fabric and keep it safe from any damage.

Photo by Samuel Martin // @spmartin_

SLEEPING BAGS + PADS

Down and synthetic sleeping bags will have varying care instructions depending on your specific model, so be sure to check with your sleeping bag manufacturer to see what they recommend.

The crew over at Feathered Friends are, in our opinion, masters when it comes to caring for (and creating awesome) sleeping bags. Check out their Washing and Care Instructions for a head start into the process.

Care + Storage Tips
  • Always wash according to manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Tennis balls in the dryer help keep down from clumping inside the bag.  
  • Do not store long-term in a compression sack.
  • Clean your sleeping pads, and while doing so check for any holes and repair as needed. Most inflatable pads come with a small patch kit, or you can pick up a few from Gear Aid for short money.

 

Photo by Mike St. Pierre

OUTERWEAR

It should go without saying, but it will benefit you greatly to send your seasonal outerwear and activity-specific clothing through a wash cycle before packing it away for the season. Make sure to empty pockets and follow specific fabric care instructions as well. Although stuffing your jackets into their pockets is great in practice out on the trail, it’s not a good long-term storage idea. Let the fabric breathe and hang or fold it for storage.

 

Photo by Neil Provo // @neilprovo

COOKING SYSTEM

Remember what your mother told you: Wash your dishes. Especially before putting them away for the season.

And make sure you toss any empty fuel canisters that might be laying around. If you’ve ever accidentally brought an old canister on a trip, you’ll understand why this is a good idea.

 

Photo by Mike St. Pierre

FIRST AID KIT

Re-stock your kit with any items that were used throughout the year. Floss, tape, antibiotics, lighter, and aspirin are a few items that we like to swap out regularly. Adding a Dyneema® repair kit might come in handy as well. The tape and patches included are great for lots of different field repairs. And if you don’t have a standardized first aid kit yet, check out our blog post: How to Make Your Own Ultralight First Aid Kit, Redux.

 

We are only scratching the surface here, and would love to hear your thoughts on how to improve this list.

We understand that a lot of this information is specific to to our ultralight products, but the general concepts transfer well to any outdoor gear you may have laying around. And please feel free to share any of your personal insights and/or photos of your storage area. We’re in need of installing something at our offices here in Maine, and would love some inspiration. 

 

ADDITIONAL INSPIRATION:

The Ultimate Gear Storage Facility // OutsideOnline.com 

Upgrade Your Gear Closet // Backpacker.com 

A Look Inside the Country’s Raddest Gear Sheds // OutsideOnline.com

Ideas for Storing Outdoor Gear in a Tiny Apartment // Semi-Rad.com

How Should I Organize My Geaer Closet? // OutsideOnline.com