Ideas for storing outdoor gear in a tiny apartment

A few years back, I went from a co-habitating man living in a spacious apartment with a walk-in closet dedicated to gear, to a bachelor living in a tiny studio apartment. I owned one chair, a couple plates and a bowl. But I still had several thousand dollars™ worth of climbing equipment. I thought about piling it into some Rubbermaid bins and keeping it in my storage unit in the basement of my building, but I was using it all the time, one to three times a week. I needed access to it so I could pack my pack while eating breakfast, not waste all my time running back and forth between my apartment and my storage unit when I re-read the guidebook and realized, oh, maybe I should bring a No. 3 Camalot on that climb.

So I did what any man would do: I went to Bed Bath and Beyond. Or Crate & Barrel. Or something like that. I went to one of those kitchen stores that non-nesting dirtbags like myself love to spend time in, especially on the weekends when we could be climbing.

I found the freestanding kitchen rack pictured above, with plenty of hooks, and a couple of shelves, for about $90. In my head, I saw it doing exactly what it still does to this day: Holding all my cams, nuts, quickdraws and ropes so I could stand in front of it and pick out what I needed for each day I went climbing, whether it was a day of sport cragging or a long multi-pitch day somewhere.

One day, I started dating a girl who would become my girlfriend. When she moved in, her rope and sport climbing gear piled right onto the kitchen rack without any effort. Thankfully, she’s also the kind of girl who doesn’t mind that one of the largest pieces of furniture we own is the one holding all our climbing gear, and she also doesn’t mind that it takes up an entire corner of the bedroom.

Most grown-up folks my age I’m sure have a gear room in their house, or keep most of their stuff in the garage, or the basement. But we are still cramming our stuff into a sub-500-square-foot apartment, and that includes two bikes, two pairs of skis, 12 or so backpacks, and all the shoes (cycling, climbing, hiking, approach, running) and boots (mountaineering, hiking, ski) each of us own. And a couple of puffy jackets apiece, which aren’t exactly space-efficient. So we find ways to put our stuff away.

We have a box of stove fuel in the coat closet. And the coat closet is half-full of backpacks, hung on hardware-store carabiners. Under the bed are those low-profile plastic storage bins, full of stoves, dishes, stuff sacks and a bunch of miscellaneous crap (Yaktrax?). A two-burner stove is hiding under the couch. We have a dresser drawer full of gloves and mittens, and another one full of beanies and gaiters. Sleeping bags are downstairs, taking up almost the entirety of our tiny storage unit. All of our avalanche beacons, shovels and probes are stuffed into a cooler that sits on a shelf in the closet.

We’re thinking maybe our next place might not have to have a space for our bikes in the living room, but I’m not getting my hopes up.


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