Ever since I was a small child I have dreamed of owning my own gear closet.
Okay, that is a bit of an exaggeration but it certainly feels that way. My desire for a gear closet (a magical room or space where our outdoor gear gets to live, unfettered by bins and stuff sacks, stored correctly, and easy to get to and put away) began shortly after leaving the American Conservation Experience. At that point, while moving all of our possessions from Arizona to Washington, it became apparent just how much gear we really had. Bins full. And bins are not a great way to store gear. Not only is it bad for the gear to be stuffed tightly into stuff sacks and jammed into a bin, but it is impossible to find anything under those circumstances, no matter how organized you are. Then, when you do manage to locate everything so you can go hiking or backpacking, when you return from the trip putting it all away basically seems impossible. Instead the gear just lays around your room, cluttering the floor and creating an obstacle course from the bed to the door.
I have a have a great fondness for our gear. Well for all gear, but I have come to love the pieces we own, which have kept us alive through many different adventures. My sleeping bag and I are old friends, my backpack a constant companion (even if it smells terrible) and my trekking poles feel like natural extensions of my body. It hurts me to see them squished and scrunched, even the storage sacks for our sleeping bags seem like insufficient wiggle room. So what is the ideal storage for different items of gear? Allow me:
Sleeping bags: Sleeping bags do best hanging in a closet. Pick a place that isn’t too humid or musty and doesn’t experience extreme temperature fluctuations, cool being the preferred temperature. Every sleeping bag I have ever known has one or two little loops on the bottom of the sleeping bag so you can hang it upside down from the foot box. If you don’t have a whole closet for storing your sleeping bags you can also store them in the large cotton bag that came with the sleeping bag, or if that has gone missing, a large cotton pillow case will suffice. Just make sure your sleeping bag is nice and loose within the sack.
Backpacks: Backpacks are a little less picky about how they get stored, just make sure you don’t stack them into a bin while they are still sweaty or wet because then they will mold. One again, hanging them in a closet would be best and will make getting them out easier when you are ready to adventure. Always make sure that if you used a rain cover on your trip you air it out before storing it along with your pack.
Tents: Tents do best stored loosely, just like sleeping bags. If you leave your rolled up tent in its stuff sack all the time the creases become more and more permanent, causing those spots to weaken and degrade. Instead, pull it out of its stuff sack and let it crumple loosely into a large opaque plastic bin or large cotton stuff sack. Store in a cool dry place. Always make sure your tent is completely dried out before you store it. Like totally completely dry as a bone. Can never be too dry. Seriously.
Sleeping pads: Sleeping pads should be stored flat, unrolled from their stuff sacks. The air valve should be left open. Store in a cool dry place, like underneath your bed.
Biggest rule of thumb, with any type of gear, is to make sure it is clean and dry before you store it. The above ideals were what I had beed yearning for ever since I bought my first down sleeping bag back in Arizona. But the kind of space necessary has often eluded us. Until now. Recently we moved into a large house in Seattle with a friend of ours, and the house happens to have a strange abundance of storage. For the first time ever getting our gear out of bins was a real possibility. This last Saturday Kyle and I had planned on heading to the mountains for a hike but when we woke up the nightmare of extricating all of our gear from bins loomed up in front of us. We hadn’t packed the night before, meaning the amount of time it would take in the morning to get everything ready, to hunt down the right map and make sure there were batteries in the GPS… Well, it was daunting.
Kyle knew what I was thinking before I even said anything. The time had come to dedicate one of our off days to creating the gear closet we had always dreamed of. In the end it was two gear closets, one for climbing specific gear and the other for backpacking related stuff. That isn’t counting the closet under the stairs that is now bike specific items only. I cannot even begin to express how nice it feels to see our racks hanging from hooks, and our odds and ends organized into containers labeled cooking, water treatment and storage, first aid, navigation and gear repair. Our climbing shoes and chalk bags have a home, our crampons no longer stab other gear with their spikes, everything has it’s place. Now when we get ready or when we come home we know exactly where everything lives. I really feel like we are entering a new world of possibilities.
Of course, our work isn’t done. There are still a couple of big chores to do if we are to feel really good about our gear. One of the biggest is to take all of our sleeping bags to Rainy Pass Repair and get them professionally laundered. When we were at ACE we washed our own sleeping bags regularly, but last time I tried to wash Kyle’s 15 degree by hand (because most people don’t have giant front loading washers and dryers in their homes) it got a little out of sorts. Rather than spend multiple days sitting at the laundromat for hours we are going to have the pros do it and I know they will do it well. I am excited to see some life breathed back into our bags. I also want to wash all of our backpacks, which I can do by hand but requires a free afternoon, a very large bin, and a lot of drying time. Then there are our two MSR tents, which I would love to give some TLC, particularly around the seams where I feel like they could use some seam sealing touch ups, and perhaps another coat of DWR. And lastly, there are our Zpacks tents, both of which need the zippers lubed, some seams sealed, and a couple of repairs made to the mesh. So stay tuned and expect a gear care and repair post in the near future.