I’m a city dweller. I have been for over fifteen years now.

Camping was never really my thing, until about five years ago. My friends started doing a big trip every year. I went and had an absolute blast. I haven’t missed a year yet.

The first year was easy – I just kind of packed up some blankets and went for it. But as the annual camping trip has become more of a staple in my life, I needed more appropriate gear. However, living in the city doesn’t make it easy to store all that much.

This year I decided to get serious about collecting gear and organizing it all efficiently. Here’s what’s worked so far:

Camping Storage Photo
Photo credit: Lydia Brewer Photography

Use Big Plastic Totes

Lots of them. I chose to start with four totes with lids. Those made by Rubbermaid or Sterilite are best. Why?

First of all, they are sturdy enough to haul around to the campsite. They’re also waterproof, so when some of my gear stayed overnight in the rain outside, there were no issues. Totes are also stackable – so when I brought them back home the storage unit in my condo building, they fit right in without any issues.

Keep an Inventory

Get enough storage bins to hold all of your camping equipment. Use big totes for large outdoor gear like tents, hammocks, chairs and so on. Use smaller totes for gear storage like stoves, water filters, headlamps , first aid kits, etc.

Keep an inventory list on your phone that lists everything that goes in each bin. Or better yet, laminated the list and stick to the inside of the lid.

Whenever you are heading out on your next trip, you can simply load all of your totes into your vehicle and be on your way knowing everything you need is there. When you are done camping, make sure everything is clean and dry before stashing your items away again. Use your list to make sure the right items go in the right bin.

Try Using Space Bags

I have always been leery of space bags—if you’re keeping something in them, how often are you really using it? Why not just get rid of it? However, for things like sleeping bags and foam sleeping pads that are used for camping, they really do make sense. Bonus: they fit better in the totes!

Space bags are plastic sealable bags that you suck the air out of with a vacuum.

There is a lot of debate over whether storing your sleeping bag compressed will break down the fibers in the bag or not. Since I consider myself a “casual camper” and don’t have very sophisticated gear, storing my sleeping bag in this way doesn’t worry me too much – after all, living in a small space makes me value every inch of storage.

Take Care With High End Sleeping Bags and Gear

However, if you’ve splurged on a higher-end sleeping bag, storing it on a hanger in your closet may be a better option.

After spending a weekend in the woods, your first instinct might be to get your sleeping bag into the washer pronto. However, the camping experts over at Backpacker.com advise against this, instead recommending a wash only when your sleeping bag gets dirty – too much washing can cause unnecessary wear.

Camping night

Tent Cleaning and Storage

Most tents will clean up nicely with a damp cloth and mild soap, but in the case of an extra-dirty trip, you should set up your tent when you arrive home and hose it down to get any excess dirt out of it.

If you’ve been camping by the ocean, EurekaTent.com recommends wiping down tent poles so that the salt from the ocean doesn’t damage them.

Like sleeping bags, many recommend that tents are stored loosely in an open area. I compromise on this by keeping my tent in a big plastic tote (see above) without the lid – this way it’s not packed too tight, but still fits nicely in my storage unit.

Before you pack your tent away, make sure it is completely dry. Otherwise you will invite mildew to grow all over it and that is the last thing you want to happen. Keep it stored in a cool, dry place as swings in temperature can cause the waterproof coating to degrade. If keeping your tents and camping gear in a self-storage unit at any time, choosing a facility with climate-control will protect against this.

Air Out Hiking Gear

If you’re a hiker, it’s important to air out any gear upon your arrival home. Closetmaid’s Storganazation Blog recommends taking your insoles out of your boots and brushing the dirt off before putting them away for the season. If possible, store boots and backpacking gear on a shelf to avoid trapping in any moisture.

Camping food

Keep At Least One Big Empty Bin

Big plastic bins are perfect for that huge (and probably expensive) camping grocery shopping trip that everyone embarks on before hitting the road. Consider it a portable pantry for your camp kitchen. You can also use 5-gallon buckets with screw on lids to carry dry goods, oils an and other cooking supplies.

Check out Pinterest For More Ideas

Some of my most genius ideas can be found on Pinterest. Hanging a shoe organizer from a branch with all your little camping accoutrements? Genius!

Utilize Storage

Storage units can be perfect for camping gear. If you are short on storage space at your home, think of your storage unit as a base station for all of your outdoor adventures. Remember, climate-control is your best option as extreme temperatures and humidity can damage high-end gear overtime.

What do you think? What camping storage ideas have worked for you?

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Stacy Erickson