The only dark side of camping and slowly building your collection of rad outdoor gear? Inevitably, you’ll start to wonder where you’re going to store it all while you’re waiting for the weekend or your next trip to arrive.
As urbanization increases and our living quarters shrink (anyone else’s apartment under 600 square feet?), it’s wise to invest in gear that’s space efficient, does double-duty inside and out, and packs up small for storage. Luckily, there are solutions and camping gear picks that fit the bill for your tiny – but still super cute – apartment.
Tip 1: Go ultralight and ultra-compact
You don’t have to be an ultralight backcountry hiker or camper to reap the benefits of ultralight products. Gear that’s designed to pack up small to fit in a backpack means that it’s also space-efficient for storage. This is especially ideal if you don’t have a storage locker, a garage or a spare room, and need to stash your tent and sleeping gear in your cupboards or under your bed.
Fits in a drawer
Case in point, our newly redesigned popular Volt LT 2 (also in 3- or 4-person versions) and the mega-light Spark 2 (also in a 1-person version) for camping. Not only are these tents super lightweight, they also pack down really small – see the Spark below. Since they’re so compact, you can fit them in your closet or even a drawer.
Like a puffy jacket for sleeping
For sleeping pads, the latest from our material engineers and designers is the VectAir sleeping pad. It’s an insulated pad that weighs 0.8–1kg (depending on the size) and rolls up into a small package for storage. When it’s inflated, it gives you a cushy warm surface to sleep on, thanks to PrimaLoft synthetic insulation – the same insulation used in some puffy jackets. You can use your breath to blow it up, or use a little pump (sold separately) to inflate it.
Another good pick is the Therm-a-rest ProLite Sleeping Pad. Made of highly compressible foam, it expands as quick as it deflates. Depending on the size you use, it rolls up to about 28–33cm long and 10–13cm in diameter (about the size of a tall Nalgene bottle). You can also store it unrolled with the valve open under your bed, couch or behind a door.
Tip 2: Camping pillows for your couch
Is it just me or could these pillows double as throw cushions? Brands are stepping it up in terms of prints and colours for camp gear, which makes them useful on your couch or in your tent. The Poler Nod and compressible pillows from Therm-a-rest roll up into their built-in pockets and are quick-drying in case you drool a little (we all do).
Tip 3: Water gear that packs down
If you spend a bunch of time camping lakeside, inflatables have two benefits for city dwellers: easy storage at home and easy transport if you don’t have a vehicle (or a roof rack).
There are lots of inflatable SUPs to choose from. The newest ones from Level Six are 30% lighter than traditional inflatables and also roll up smaller (win/win). You can pump it up in about 10 minutes, so you spend as little time possible inflating and more time paddling.
The SUP comes with everything you need (except for a paddle), like a high-pressure pump, leash, and repair kit. It all fits in a nifty carry bag with shoulder straps so you can easily catch the bus or train to the water. To go with your inflatable SUP, look for a 3-piece paddle that will fit in the carry bag, like this Accent Octane paddle.
If you’ll be paddleboarding, you’ll need a PFD. Inflatable PFDs are compact options that you wear around your waist or your chest (this one is from Mustang Survival), and don’t take up much room in your closet.
Inflatable kayaks are becoming increasingly popular with urban dwellers since they store easily, inflate fast and dry quickly. They take the need for a roof rack out of the equation, pack down to about the size of a piece of luggage, and are still stiff and responsive enough to handle rough water, including rivers up to Class II (i.e., sections of the Bow river, or any other novice-level river with wide clear channels and straightforward rapids). To go with your inflatable kayak, choose a packable 4-piece paddle.
Tip 3: Camp gear for your kitchen
With limited kitchen counter space in most condos (barely enough for one person), it’s often not realistic to use a big drip coffee maker at home – plus it’s not as delicious as coffee from an Aeropress or Handpresso. Many MEC staffers, myself included, use camp coffee addict’s gear even when we’re not camping. Most are super easy to clean and stow away in a drawer when you’re done.
Once 5 o’clock rolls around at home or at camp, you can swap the Aeropress for a Happy Hour System, complete with a citrus reamer, shaker and jigger cap which conveniently stacks into itself for easy storing in a drawer or kitchen cupboard. Lime margarita anyone?
Rumpl makes multi-use blankets made from the same materials as a sleeping bag. From your bed to the cabin to a picnic, they transition easily from indoors to outdoors so you can be cozy anywhere. One that stands out? The Rumpl Old Growth blanket, which is printed with an image of an old-growth forest, captured by mega-talented photographer Jeremy Koreski.
The biggest space saver of them all
Renting gear means that when your camping trip is finished, so is your need to store anything. Most MEC stores rent tents, sleeping bags and sleeping pads. If you’re heading to the water, there are also rentals for kayaks, canoes and SUPs (heads up: you may need a roof rack).
Another option? If you camp with your friends as a group, try splitting the gear responsibility for shared items… maybe you have the big tent and other friends are in charge of the camp kitchen tub or SUP. Not only can this save money, it also spreads your camp gear storage needs across the city instead of solely in your apartment.
If you have any more tips on smart gear for small apartments, let us know on social media. Need more tips for keeping things light and small? Check out our lightweight packing tips.