Gear Storage 202 — words and photos by Molly Steere

Donni and Adam Vognild — outdoor freaks or neat freaks?

I constantly hear “you should talk to so-an-so about…[whatever their gear storage solution is],” when I chat with outdoor enthusiasts about gear storage. My husband and I are getting ready to build a big barn, so I decided to use journalism as my excuse to poke around people’s garages, see how they handle gear storage and pick their brains for new ideas. Here are several prominent Wenatchee area outdoor enthusiasts, their current gear storage solutions and what they would like to do if they had their druthers.

The Players

Donni and Adam Vognild. These two are fixtures in the climbing/skiing culture of Wenatchee. Almost every weekend, one or both of them are heading off on some epic adventure that makes the rest of us look like slackers.

Freeman Keller. You can’t go anywhere without seeing former bicycle road racer and current Renaissance man, Freeman Keller, out on his bike. He also spends a great deal of time on the rock, trail, and water and he has the gear to prove it.

Andy Dappen. It’s not a surprise that our intrepid creator and content editor of www.WenatcheeOutdoors.org, Andy Dappen, has a few bits of gear lying around his house. Outdoor adventures are, after all, his livelihood.

The Game

Guidebook heaven.

I found that storage is at once both universal and personal. The universal rules of gear storage are efficiency, and maximized utilization of space. “Gear expands to fill the space,” Freeman said, “so you need lots of space.” As we learned from Mark Shipman, that space needs to be utilized to fit your particular needs. And if you’re not building from scratch, you have to just work with what you have.

The Vognilds’ garage has personality. Posters and pictures cover the walls and music is always playing. At the back of the garage they have a workbench for waxing skis, the requisite shelves of labeled bins of gear lining one interior walls and racks that hang skis and bikes lining the other wall. The closets of their spare bedroom house sleeping bags, outerwear, boots and everything else that needs to dry after a trip. Bonus Points: Like some people collect snow globes, the Vognilds collect climbing guides from interesting locales. Their clever solution for storing these guides was to put them in wire racks hanging in their front hall. They’re easy to grab on the way out the door, and easy on the eyes.

When asked about her dream house, Donni says she’s been designing it since she was a young girl. She wants an oversized garage with a living space above it. The garage would be bigger than the living space “because that’s where we hang out most of the time,” she said. “I want to have a walk-in closet from the garage. There you can hang your sleeping bags, all your ski gear, climbing gear and everything is organized and locked off from the garage, so you seal off all the dust and dirt. When you come back from your trip you unpack all the bins from your car, and go into the closet and hang your gear out to dry.”

I paid a visit to Freeman next. His three-car garage looked almost empty to me in comparison to the other garages I’d toured recently, until I mentally cataloged everything that was in there. As if Freeman expected this initial reaction, he handed me a list, “I wrote down most of the stuff that’s in here”. It read like a wish list: four cars, a motorcycle, a scooter, five kayaks, sevens sets of skis (more in the attic), three bikes, toolboxes, air compressors, a work bench and a desk. And it still looked clean and open! His key is to get everything off the ground by utilizing racks on the walls. Bonus Points: Freeman uses a wood drafter’s cabinet to store his maps. It looks nice in the home office, but more importantly, you can actually find the map you need.

A garage for all seasons…and activities.

As for Freeman’s dream storage situation, he’s practically living it. Seven years ago, he and his wife moved a few blocks and downsized their house by 1000 square feet and doubled the size of the garage. “My wife likes to say I bought the garage and the house was thrown in for free,” he said. There was also mention of needing a workshop before he can possibly consider retirement.

Andy’s was the last house I visited, and I was not disappointed. As a multi-sport virtuoso and gear tester, Andy has an enviable amount of cool stuff. He keeps a lot of it in his separate garage, with the soft gear (bags, tents, clothing, boots) being stored in his basement in what he referred to as “Andy’s World.” Camping food is kept in the downstairs canning kitchen, and shelves lining his lair keep everything easy to access. Bonus Points: A modern addition to his storage is an area designated solely for charging the electronics we have come to rely on: iPods, phones, transceivers, cameras, GPS units, and flashlights. 

Even the old junk is organized — unused skis in the rafters of Dappen’s garage.

“In an ideal world, I would have all the gear together in one area,” Andy said. “When you live in a place like this and you can get to things really quick, your transition time is important. If it takes 20 minutes to get ready for an hour long outing, it’s too much time,” he said. Andy also thinks a mud room would be nice with a few cubbies for shoes where they can dry out. Right now he usually has at least one pair of shoes on the front porch airing out, much to his wife’s chagrin.

The Wildcard

There are particular wants and creative whims that would make a storage area yours – or just darn cool. For Donni Vognild, the atmosphere of her storage area is important; it can’t all be about gear. Her gear room also needs an area set aside to work on her art. A nice sound system is ideal, “and of course it has to be heated and have a kegerator,” Donnie added with a grin.

Always thinking of efficiency and ease, Andy half seriously jokes about a system similar to a drycleaner’s rack. “You’d have your ice climbing gear on one hook and your kayaking gear on another hook…you just push the kayak button and out would come the stuff. Grab and go,” he explained.

As for me, I’m typing this out of my office/gear room/spare bedroom/garage.  I don’t have grand plans; I’d just like to pack for an adventure without unstacking a wall of bins, digging through piles and blindly reaching into the dark corners of closets.  So, I put the question to my husband, what would make his storage area ideal?  Without much thought he replied, “A designated mechanic.”  Arguably a handy addition, but it wouldn’t help our storage issue. Where would we keep the mechanic?

Click here to read Molly’s initial article about dream homes and gear storage.

This post was originally published on 10/8/2008.

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