In between trips to the great outdoors, you’ll need to store your gear indoors — but don’t throw everything into a closet willy-nilly. Instead, make sure you’re always ready for your next adventure by following these camping gear storage tips.
Keep Bad Smells at Bay
Not much could be worse than pulling out your camping gear before a big trip and discovering that it isn’t as ready to go as you are. Dirt, pests, mold, mildew, and the accompanying odors can ruin your camping gear or at least necessitate a thorough deep cleaning before it can be used again. To prevent such disasters, be sure to clean and dry your gear before storing it — especially your tent and bedding. For good measure, pack a dryer sheet or two along with your stuff to mask any odors you couldn’t quite remove.
Group Smaller Items Together
Instead of throwing everything into one big container together, take the time to compartmentalize smaller items. You can shop for different containers online or in a brick-and-mortar store. A tackle box can be handy for storing your smallest items, such as matches and condiment packets, while cooking gadgets and utensils would be at home in a toolbox. Brands like Sterilite and Rubbermaid offer plastic containers in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, making it easy to find the perfect box for whatever you need to store.
If buying dozens of small plastic containers seems cost-prohibitive, consider a DIY camping storage solution instead. Keep your eye out for household items you can recycle for this purpose, from coffee cans to comforter bags. Zip-top plastic bags make an especially inexpensive and convenient option. They come in many sizes, and the clear plastic makes it easy for you to see what’s inside. If you don’t already have what you need, you can pick them up at the store for just a few dollars.
Label Every Box and Bag
Once you have everything sorted, be sure to label each container. Clear containers have the advantage of letting you see what’s inside, but finding what you need will still be easier with labels. For this step, you can write directly on the box or bag with permanent marker, or you can apply self-sticking labels. The latter is a particularly attractive option if you have trouble reading your handwriting or want to be able to make changes later.
If you opt for canvas tool bags or other fabric containers, your labeling options change a bit. Those who happen to have a sewing machine with embroidery capabilities could use that to personalize their gear. Alternately, you can purchase luggage tags to label and attach to the handles. You could even make your own using duct tape or other common materials. If you have a laminator, you can write descriptions on slips of paper and laminate them, then use a hole punch and a zip-tie or string to attach them to your bags. Just be creative and use whatever you have on hand!
Choose the Best Containers
When you pick out totes, lockers, and other camping storage containers, don’t just go with the cheapest option. Instead, look for containers that are durable. Particularly heavy-duty storage lockers, such as the Rubbermaid ActionPacker, could double as a bench while camping, while those with wheels will be easier to lug from storage to your vehicle, then on to your campsite. If you live in an area with high humidity, pay close attention to how tightly containers close to seal out air.
Another great example is the Mountainsmith modular hauler, which allows you to organize your gear into three or four zip-top cubes. The cubes are stored side by side in an open-top compartment designed especially for them, complete with reinforced handles and tie-down loops to secure it in your vehicle. Each basic cube is a different color to aid organization, but you can also purchase specialty cubes separately.
Find a Secluded Space
Unless you go camping every weekend, you will probably want to keep your camping gear in a secluded but still accessible spot. Depending on how much gear you need to store and the space you have available, you may need to tackle a DIY basement storage project to keep everything organized and out of the way. The garage, attic, or an unused closet are other good options. If you can’t find enough space in your house to keep everything together, consider finding a self-storage unit.
As tempting as it may be to forgo these measures, your unencumbered future-self will thank you for the time and effort you spend. After all, it’s much better to spend a little extra time cleaning, sorting, and packing at the close of one trip than be forced to do twice the work at the beginning of your next excursion.