How to Store Your Outdoor Gear for Summer and All Year

Bikes, boats, boards and beach chairs can take over at this time of year. Here’s how to store them safely and neatly

By Jeanne Taylor | Courtesy of Houzz.com

Warm-weather activities are among summer’s greatest pleasures, whether you prefer riding a bike, camping or paddling a kayak or canoe. But all these wonderful activities also can lead to an accumulation of outdoor gear — sometimes with no organized system for stashing it. 

Here are some tips for storing your summer activity gear so you can easily find and use it this summer. Perhaps one or more of these ideas can serve as inspiration for storing gear in your home.

Before you start organizing, take stock of your gear and reflect on how often you’ve used the items in recent years. If you own items that you haven’t used in a while, think about whether you’ll continue to use them. If not, consider donating them, selling them or sharing them with a friend who might enjoy them more often. 

Where to Store Camping Gear

As a professional organizer, I usually recommend that my clients store camping gear in the garage so they can quickly pack up the car for a weekend getaway. Consider using a sturdy shelving system, unless you have a garage closet or cabinetry system, which would also work. Tents, sleeping bags, sleeping mats, tarps and coolers should all be stored in the same area. You can purchase one or two clear plastic containers to hold smaller items like flashlights, matches, eating utensils, plates and cookware. That way, you can simply load these into the car when you’re ready to head out. Several smaller containers are usually more functional than one large container, which can get heavy.

If you do not have a garage, you could store your camping gear in a hall closet or extra bedroom closet.

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Camping gear storage tips:

  • To make getting away simpler, I recommend keeping a checklist stored with your equipment so you don’t forget anything for your trip. Your list should include all items you will typically want to bring along.
  • After using your tents and sleeping bags, spot-clean them with cold water and a mild soap to remove any dirt. Be sure these items are completely dry before putting them away to prevent mildew.
  • Store tents and sleeping bags loosely in cotton bags or breathable mesh bags (an old pillowcase will work well). Loosely fold your sleeping bag rather than rolling it tightly, as compressing a sleeping bag can eventually damage its fill. Avoid watertight storage bags for tents and sleeping bags, as condensation can build up inside of them and result in mildew.
  Photo by  Dani Jace

Photo by Dani Jace

Where to Store Beach Gear

I store my beach bags and beach towels in the same area as my beach chairs so I can pack quickly. I recommend hanging beach chairs and toys in the garage for a quick grab-and-go into your car (see next photo).

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Personally, I like the mesh baskets that hold shovels and balls in this photo. If you have garage shelving, you can place toys in clear plastic storage containers so they are easily visible.

If you do not have a garage, a hall closet or spare bedroom closet will also work. As with camping gear, the key is to keep everything together so you can get out of the house quickly.

Beach gear storage tip:

  • The most important thing to remember with beach gear is to hose off the sand before you store it!
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Where to Store Canoes and Kayaks

Canoes and kayaks are financial investments, and proper storage will help prevent damage. Manufacturers and retailers recommend storing these items indoors so the elements do not degrade fiberglass, plastic, fabric or epoxy-coated wood hulls (the bottom of the boat) or cause painted surfaces to fade or crack.

Outdoor summer storage. While indoor storage is generally best, you don’t want your canoe or kayak to be so inaccessible for the summer that you never use it. You can store boats outdoors if you take precautions. Limit exposure to ultraviolet rays by placing your boat under a deck, covered patio or suspended tarp. If you use a tarp, keep it from touching the hull, as this could lead to mold or fungal growth in areas with summer rain.

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Outdoor winter storage. Although storing your canoe or kayak inside during winter months is generally the best option, for those without access to a garage, shed or basement, outdoor storage might be your only option. If this is the case, keep in mind that exposure to moisture from rain and snow can cause hull materials to degrade over time. You can use the same strategies as for summer outdoor boat storage (store under a deck, covered patio or suspended tarp), but during the winter you’ll need to take a few extra steps to keep your gear in shape.

After storms, check to see if rain or snow has collected inside the boat, and if so, remove it. If you use a tarp, be sure it doesn’t fill with snow or rain and press down on your boat’s hull, which could deform its shape. Also consider storing your boat off the ground using a rack or suspension system. Placing a boat directly on the ground for long periods of time can cause the hull to become deformed. Unfortunately, you probably also need to think about whether theft is a concern. It’s a good idea to keep your boat hidden from view and in a position where it would be difficult for a thief to grab. You might also secure your boat to a post, fence or building using a durable cable.

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Indoor winter storage. Before stowing your canoe or kayak inside for the winter, wash it with water and a mild soap to remove dirt, sand, salt or grime. Make sure the boat is completely dry before storing. Keep your boat away from heat sources like furnaces or hot water heaters, as extreme heat can deform the hull. You might also use a rack or suspension system to raise your boat off the floor. 

Canoe storage tips:

  • Spread out your canoe’s weight by supporting the boat at several points along its length using padded cradles or wide nylon straps.
  • A rack or pulley system not only gets your canoe off the floor but also will allow you to store other items underneath.
  • Don’t store your canoe upside down on the ground, support it from its ends only, stand it up on one end or hang it from its grab handles (or thwarts), all of which can damage the boat.


Kayak storage tips:

  • To protect the hull of your kayak, consider using a rack that keeps the boat off the ground and supports it either on its side or with the hull facing up.
  • Suspending your kayak from the ceiling is another good way to get it out of the way. Never hang the boat by the grab loops (carrying handles) because this can bend the boat. Instead, use wide straps that wrap around the body of the boat.
  • Whether you put your kayak on a rack or suspend it from the ceiling, be sure to distribute its weight evenly using padded cradles or wide nylon straps. Don’t strap the boat down too tightly because over time this can deform the body of your kayak.
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Where to Store Bikes

Inside the home. Bulky bikes can be challenging to store, particularly if you don’t have a garage. If you use your bike as daily transportation, then easy access is key. Hanging bikes from wall-mounted racks might be a good option if you must store bikes in your living space. In this Manhattan apartment living space, the bike blends in as part of the decor.

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Inside the garage. If you have a garage, a wall-mounted bike rack for that space can work nicely for people who want their bikes easily accessible. In this photo, the back tire rests on the floor and supports the weight of the bike. This setup makes it possible to lift the bike and remove it from the rack without having to bear the bike’s full weight.

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A pulley system or bike hoist works well in the garage for people who like to have their floor free for other storage. In some cases, if your ceiling is high enough, you may even be able to park your car underneath. (This pulley solution may also work inside the house.) Of course, you can always simply park your bike inside the garage if you have the room.

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Where to Store Stand-Up Paddleboards

Stand-up paddleboards are generally 10 to 12 feet long and heavy, making them cumbersome to store. So before you buy one, think about where you’ll keep yours. Indoors offers the best protection against sun, moisture and heat. But as with other summer gear, sometimes you want your paddleboard easily accessible. 

If storing your board outdoors is your only option, avoid direct sunlight, because ultraviolet rays can discolor or damage the board’s shell. Place your board beneath the roof eaves, a covered patio, a deck or a strung-up tarp. Do not wrap a tarp around a board because it could cause mold or mildew to develop. 

If storing your board indoors, you’d be wise to use racks to keep it off the floor. Distribute the weight evenly and avoid strapping the board too tightly or it may warp over time. Hanging your board from the ceiling is another good option to get it out of the way. You can purchase a suspension system designed specifically for a paddleboard. To best protect the hull (the bottom of the board), hang it with the hull facing the ceiling.

Paddleboard storage tips:

  • If you are leaning a board against a wall, be sure to lean it on its side or tail, as storing a board on its nose can damage it over time. It’s also a good idea to put some padding between the board and the floor to protect the paddleboard.
  • If you’re storing your board upright, you may want to secure it in place so it won’t fall. To do so you can fasten a wooden peg to the wall on either side of the board, then use a strap to secure the board to the pegs.
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If you love the outdoors and own a lot of gear, in an ideal world you would have ample storage indoors to protect all your gear from weather and theft. For those lucky enough to have sufficient space, this photo is an excellent example of using one wall in a garage to hang a variety of equipment in a central location. This allows for easy access and transfer to your car so you can make a quick getaway to the mountains, beach or trail.