Camping Gear Chaos

I have many pleasant memories of camping with my family – the beach, hiking, fishing and eating around the campfire. Everyone would dutifully unload the car upon our return, but then everyone would disappear. Somehow, it always fell upon mom to clean the camping supplies and put them away. I remember trying to put everything back where it came from, but somehow, it wouldn’t fit on the same garage shelves. How was this possible? Wasn’t it there before? Well, yes and no. We always seemed to buy new camp gear during each trip although we kept all the old gear for back-up. We would end up with multiples of everything. Too many sleeping bags and pads, coolers, stoves, lanterns and oodles of gadgets. You name it, we had it.

The gear began to creep into the floor of the garage in front of the camping shelves. Eventually, it started getting dirty and tattered-looking. Something had to be done? But, what? That’s when I found out about Gear Forward. This is a nonprofit that recycles camping gear to the Boy Scouts or other youth in need (see You can also donate it to a local hiking or climbing club or the Sierra Club. They will put it to good use. REI and Goodwill have a program called the Give Back Box. You can go to and print out a shipping label. Put your donations in a box, attach the label and then drop it off at any U.S. post office or UPS store. Making donations to nonprofits will keep huge amounts of gear and clothing out of landfills. Of course, people can also sell excess gear on eBay, Craigslist or

How do you arrange your camp gear on shelves in your garage? Please check out our related article in this newsletter on garage accessibility. Garages can be divided into regions for different items: automotive, tools, lawn and garden, recycling, sports and recreation, etc. Use open storage as much as possible. There are all ranges of shelving from very inexpensive plastic shelves to very expensive customized metal and wooden shelves. Pegboard with sturdy hooks can hang some items. Be careful not store things too high and out of reach. Accessing items overhead can be risky when you have to climb a step stool or ladder to get to them. Remember to leave at least 3-4 feet in front of shelves for easy access and put heavier items closest to the floor.

Now, my kids are all grown and gone. The camp gear went to their homes since I no longer have a garage. Although I am welcome to join them on camping trips, my idea of roughing it is to rent a hotel without room service.