How to Organize the “Gear Closet”

By Dan S., Great Miami Outfitters

“When did you start packing for this trip?” is a question that is often asked by others on a backpacking trip. Everyone has their own strategy – from packing weeks ahead to packing hours (or minutes) ahead. There is no right or wrong answer. It’s all part of personal preference.

However, it’s best to plan ahead and be prepared on any trip into the back-country.

Personally, I usually start getting my gear together within a day or two of the trip. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t planned out my trip. I’ll have a running list of needed items including meal planning and menu items. I like the spontaneity – okay, the truth is I’m a procrastinator.

For me, preparing in advance depends on the type of backpacking trip – group or solo, number of days, climate and expected weather, terrain and so on.

But the key for me is having an “organized” gear closet. (I use the word “organized” loosely as my wife may not agree with my definition of organized. But I digress.) By having a dedicated space to store and organize gear is definitely a luxury. Even a small space is helpful in order to pack for a last minute opportunity to go on a trip to the back-country.

Here’s what I do. I have a closet that I’ve set up with wire shelves. I like these because the open space between the wire allows air-flow around my gear. I always clean and dry any gear before putting it away.

My gear closet with wire shelves. I kept the clothes rod so that I can hang items on the other side of the closet.

Each shelf is organized like this:
• Shelters – tents, tarps and hammocks.
• Backpacks & Day Packs
• Sleeping bags, stored in their storage bag, never their stuff sack.
• Self-inflating sleeping mats, totally flat with the valve open.

Then on other shelves I have plastic bins. I use various size plastic bins to organized my small gear. I can easily grab any needed items out of each bin for a specific trip.

Each bin is labeled simply on a piece of tape with a black Sharpie pen.

My bin categories include:
• Personal Care items: from compass to matches, first aid kit, bug repellent, toilet paper, headlamp, hand-warmers, etc.
• Food & Drink: includes extra items from previous trips – snacks, extra dehydrated food, electrolytes, coffee, etc.
• Stoves & Fuel: various stoves and fuel canisters (not fuel bottles)
• Hydration/Filters: pump and gravity filters, reservoirs & collapsible bottles
• Fishing Gear: lightweight tackle, 5 pc. pack rod & reel
• Sacks & Bags: just an assortment of dry bags and stuff sacks
• Camp Kitchen: cups, plates, pots, utensils
• Miscellaneous Outerwear: hats, gloves, head bug net & gaiters
• Trail Maps and info: I collect maps from previous trips for future trip reference. I’ll throw games in this bin as well.

Personal care items
Food & Drink
Stoves & Fuel Canisters
Hydration & Filters – reservoirs, bottles
Lightweight fishing gear – pack-able rod, tackle
Sacks & Bags: dry bags, stuff sacks, compression sacks
Camp Kitchen: pots, pans, cups, plates, utensils
Trail Maps: games and more

This set up works for me. Try it for yourself and share your ideas.
 Happy Trails!

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