Gear Organization

Here’s a fun exercise. Call your mechanic buddy and ask him how many 10mm sockets he owns. Then ask him how many of them he can put his hands on right at this moment. If you don’t know where something is, if you can’t find it, then does it matter if you actually own it or not?

While the quickest way to find something might be to buy a replacement, as suddenly the original will be right where you thought it was, despite having searched there a dozen times, in a crisis you may not have the luxury of time. Getting your supplies organized and keeping it all that way takes some degree of work as well as time, but the investment of both is worth it in the end.

For ease of discussion, we’ll divide our stuff into two basic categories, stationary and mobile.

Stationary Supplies

These are the items that tend to stay at home. They aren’t stationary in the sense that they never move, just that we don’t usually take them anywhere. This includes everything from stored food and water to first aid supplies and personal protective gear.

It only takes one failed seam to realize that old cardboard boxes and duct tape is a bad approach. Far and away, the most popular storage method at home involves the use of plastic tubs or totes. There’s a reason so many people use them—they work!

Some folks prefer the clear type because you can see what’s inside at a glance. Others like the colored models as they can then color-code their preps. For example, anything medical goes in a blue tub, anything related to fire goes in red, and so on.

A couple of caveats. First, these aren’t rodentproof. Mice and such can and will get into them if you use them for food storage. Second, they aren’t waterproof. While they’re certainly better than cardboard boxes in that regard, moisture can still get inside and muck up the works.

Whatever you end up using for storage containers, keep them themed in some way, so that all of the gear inside is related, whether they’re water filters or rags. While a nice label maker is certainly useful and can provide you with all sorts of fonts and colors, simple paper and clear packing tape works just as well. Some people prefer to use some sort of code for their totes or even just numbering them (1 = camp cookware, 2 = spare backpacks, and so on), with a list kept somewhere of which totes are which.

There are a number of ready-to-assemble shelving units available from home improvement stores that could be used in a garage, basement, or spare bedroom. Just be sure to pay attention to weight limits. Another approach is to invest a few dollars and buy lumber to build your own shelves. This is not a difficult project for someone with basic carpentry skills and a few simple tools.

For tool organization, I’m a big fan of pegboard, though I’ve come around to the idea of using large rolling tool chests. Growing up, our garage looked like the tool department at a Sears store as my dad was a fanatic about Craftsman. Three walls were covered floor to rafters with pegboard, filled with all manner of hand and power tools. While perhaps excessive, it certainly made it easy to find a specific tool in a hurry.

As for tool chests, sorting tools into drawers, such as all sockets in one, all pry bars in another, makes sense. Some might go so far as to use magnetic strips to label each drawer. These chests can be used for more than just hand tools, too. They work great for knife collections as well as first aid supplies.

Mobile Gear

Here, we’re concentrating on organizing the supplies you keep in your Get Home Bag (GHB), vehicle emergency kit, and such. In other words, the gear you take with you when you leave the house or that is stored away from home, like in your trunk.

When it comes to bags and packs, the first part of the equation is to find one that lends itself to good organization through the inclusion of pockets, pouches, zippered compartments, and the like. While even a plain duffel bag beats trying to carry everything in your hands, something with built-in storage options will help tremendously.

The use of zippered plastic bags, such as the Ziploc brand, will help protect items that are moisture-sensitive. You can even write on the bags with a marker to indicate what’s inside. These can then be slipped into pockets or compartments in the pack or bag. Some people prefer to use roll-top dry bags to protect their stuff.

Another method many people use is to invest in zippered pouches, such as those sold by Maxpedition or Vanquest, and use them to organize your supplies. Your fire kit goes in one pouch, your first aid kit into another, and so on. The use of colored lanyards or affixing labels to the pouches will save time when you’re searching for something specific.

Along those same lines, store your gear in a way that makes sense within the pack. Frequently accessed items, or supplies you might need in a hurry like your first aid kit, should be positioned somewhere easy to access, such as an outer pocket. Less-needed things can be stuffed down into the bag.

If you have old prescription bottles, they can be great for organizing and storing small items, such as sewing supplies, tinder, or even emergency cash. They are easy to label using scraps of paper and clear packing tape.

When it comes to storing emergency gear in the trunk of your car, head to your local dollar store and buy a small clothes basket. They work great at keeping everything together and have the advantage that if you need to empty the trunk for some reason, you can just take out the basket and be done.

The takeaway is this—keep your gear organized in a way that makes sense for you so you can find what you need when you need it.

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