An organized boat means happy boating! In this article, we will run through the best boat organization ideas and boat storage ideas to ensure you have easy access to everything you need for a day on the water.
Whether you have a large pontoon boat or a small boat, taking time to plan out your storage is a major time saver for boaters. As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.“
Not only is a clutter-free boat safer, but it is also more enjoyable for everyone on board. Keep on reading to see our best organization hacks for your boat.
Boat Organization Ideas
A key storage solution on any boat is small storage. These types of storage areas are perfect for small items like cell phones, sunscreen, toiletries, etc. My favorite options for small storage include:
Boat Organizer Caddy
A decent boat organizer caddy is a must for any size boat. You can get these in a ton of different sizes and mounting options to suit your needs and their handiness cannot be understated.
A good caddy gives you somewhere to quickly put down any small item you are using on the boat in a secure location (and actually remember where you put it).
You can get both hard shell and soft shell organizer caddies. I love the Marine Organizer Bags by SurfMonkey. These are designed to easily attach to the rail of a boat and can be used for all sorts of small gear or as a shoe organizer.
The hardshell counterparts are awesome for cell phones, lures, and small tools. However, make sure to look for a marine caddy with drainage holes on the bottom to avoid water collection.
Kemimoto Boat Organizer
- Store water bottle, fishing gear, cell phone, sunglasses
- High-quality cloth material with drainage
- Easily attached with Velcro
Many boat organizer caddies are multipurpose and have cup holders, but you may also want a dedicated drink caddy. Drink caddies come in a lot of shapes and sizes too.
You can get models ranging from simple molded PVC, right up to the downright swanky Docktail Bar that mounts right into rod holders. If James Bond had to buy a drink caddy, he would most certainly opt for the Docktail Bar.
Having a dedicated drink caddy is great if you have guests or kids on your boat. Drink caddies will keep their hands away from tools or lures you may have in your other storage areas.
Docktail Boat Bar
- Mounts in most standard size rod holders
- Holds most bottles and cups 1.75 liters and smaller
- Bar includes 1 cutting board insert and has 6 pre-cut bottle slots
Boat Trash Bag
One of the simplest storage spaces you can have on your boat is a boat trash bag. This goes a long way in keeping the boat feeling clean and gives you somewhere to place empty water bottles, lure bags, and snack trash while you go.
This bag can easily be emptied at the end of the day into recycling or waste.
You may be wondering how a “boat trash bag” is different than the old DIY plastic grocery bag trick. Their key feature is a design that stops trash from flying out of the bag when the boat is running.
Boat Trash Bag
- Mesh and Nylon Bag
- Holds more than 20 empty cans, and they don't fly out when running
- Funnel-Like Opening of 4 inches inside diameter
Adhesive Boat Dash Holder
If you are on a larger boat built for cruising, an adhesive boat dash holder is a great place to store small items. The dash holders are molded pads that stick to the dash to create non-slip zones for things like cell phones and keys.
Look for holders that are marine-grade. These versions are made from closed-cell materials that will not absorb water.
SeaDek Boat Dash Holder
- 3M adhesive backing for quick-stick application
- Deep pocket to ensure valuables remain secure while out on the water
- Does not absorb water
Tip: Make Your Items Smaller
When thinking about small storage, also look for any ways to shrink the size of the items you are trying to store to save space. Items that are collapsible or inflatable can shrink down to a fraction of their size and save a ton of room.
On Deck and Under Deck Storage
If your boat does not have or does not have enough storage compartments, you may need to find some creative ways to make use of space on deck and under deck. When planning your storage, do a dry run moving around your boat to look for dead zones where people don't need to move. You don't want to be tripping on storage containers.
Once you have identified these dead zones, measure how much space you have to work with and consider some of the below options to make use of that space:
Storage bins can be a very fast way to add some extra storage to your boat. They come in a lot of sizes, so you should be able to find something for how much space you have.
Boat storage bins can be used for small items like fishing lures or can size up from there to carry anything from towels and water toys, or even used as gun boxes.
When looking for a storage bin for your boat, quality matters. Seek out bins made from heavy-duty materials that are built to last. Some other features to consider are whether the bin is watertight and/or lockable. All of this will depend on what you plan on storing in it.
Plano Storage Trunk
- Molded grooves for sturdy stacking
- 108 quarts capacity
- Built-in pull grip
Cargo Nets and Bungee Cords
For items that can get a little wet, cargo nets and bungee cords are a great way to store or hold down extra gear on your boat.
Cargo nets are awesome for boats because they turn virtually any flat surface on your boat into a slim storage area. Some of the mounting options for these include mounting along the inside wall of the boat, below bench seats, on the back of captain's seats, or even under your bimini top.
Most cargo nets are attached with simple bungee cords. You can also use bungee cords on their own to hold down things like inflatable water toys.
Rig Rite 42" Boatgo Storage Net
- Store life jackets, clothes, tackle, etc
- Keeps items from blowing out of your boat
- 2 different sizes to fit any boat
- Width stretches from 10 inches to 18 inches
To make use of vertical space, boat gear hammocks offer a lot of storage with a very small space footprint. Gear hammocks are often used for extra cabin storage for things like fruits and vegetables but can be used for almost anything.
As the name implies, the construction of these is pretty straightforward: they are a hammock for your gear. Most are made from nylon and are easily installed with a couple of hooks.
I love gear hammocks because floor space is at a premium on any boat. A boat gear hammock gets items off the floor and into corners and spaces that are otherwise unusable.
SeaSense Nylon Gear Hammock
- White nylon construction
- Use for extra cabin storage
- Handy way to store your gear
Fishing Gear Storage
Planning the storage in your fishing boat is a job that never really ends. There is always new gear, new tackle, and new techniques that will be fighting for space in your heart and boat.
Because fishing storage is such a big thing, we will only be able to scratch the surface here on how to store your fishing rods and tackle.
Fishing Rod Rack
First, and foremost, you need storage for your fishing rods. Many boats come with fishing rod storage built-in, but if yours does not or it's not sufficient, you will need some sort of rack to stop rods from tangling and getting in the way.
One of the best spots on your boat for rod storage is along the side walls. This space is often open and the perfect place for a horizontal rod rack.
SeaSucker makes are great rack for this exact purpose. This fishing rod rack has a barely-there profile and modern design. A rubber insert holds multiple rods crisscrossed between the units, topped off with a solid velcro-backed strap to keep everything in place.
SeaSucker Horizontal Rod Holder
- 4.5″ SeaSuckers mount them securely on your sidewalls
- Rubber insert holds multiple rods
- Solid velcro-backed strap to keep everything in place
When your rods are in use, you will want some rod holders to keep your deck space clutter-free. Fishing rod holders are a great addition to any fishing boat. They help with hands-free fishing, trolling, and are perfect for beginners and kids.
There are a lot of really fun options too when it comes to rod holders. Clamp-on rod holders are an inexpensive option that is easy to install on almost any boat. Before purchasing, double-check the width of the area you want to clamp onto to make sure the clamp is wide enough. This tip comes from experience!
Bekith 2 Pack Adjustable Powerlock Rod Holder with Combo Mount
- Set of 2, includes combo mount
- Rod holders are fully adjustable up and down and rotate 360 degrees
- Spring-loaded tension knob for quick rod adjustment
- Multi-positional mounting
- Can be detached when you not using it
Another cool way to hold your rods is with a bimini top rod holder. These units launch multiple rods off the back of a bimini top. This makes really good use of vertical space and is another way to keep your deck clear.
Now to tackle the tackle box. Fishing gear adds up fast, especially if you are fishing different lakes with different species of fish. Keeping all this tackle organized can be a chore.
My absolute favorite tackle organizer is the Plano series of modular tackle gear. Plano has a variety of tackle boxes, tackle bags, and inserts that are all designed to work together. I personally like the tackle bags, which are heavy-duty softshell duffle bags with plastic dividers that work as a filing system for your tackle.
Plano Guide Series Tackle Bag
- The sturdy material will hold its color and shape for years
- Dropzone Magnetic top for quick access to tools and lures
- Stowaways for premium tackle organization
- Waterproof cell phone holder, license holder, and carabiner
This makes it very easy to switch up what's in your bag and keep tackle compartmentalized by whatever method floats your boat.
Safety Equipment Storage
Boat owners need to have the required safety equipment on board, and thusly somewhere to store all of that equipment.
The thing about safety gear is that you do not need it until you need it. And when you do, access is very important. You also do not want to be scrambling all over the boat trying to remember the ten different compartments you put various safety items into.
Boat Storage Bag
To avoid this, it is recommended to put as much of your safety gear as possible into a single storage bag and stow it in a location that is easily accessible.
A storage bag can easily hold things like a first aid kit, buoyant line, bailer, sound device, a small fire extinguisher, and more.
Earth Pak Waterproof Duffel Bag
- Watertight, commercial-grade material
- Equipped with two interior mesh pockets for the smaller belongings you need easy access to and one large external mesh pocket with nylon coiled zipper
When looking for a good storage bag for your boat, look for a waterproof option to avoid the build-up of mildew. The hope is that safety gear will not be used often, so you want to make sure it stays clean and dry for a long time.
Boat Life Jacket Storage
The other piece of safety equipment you will need a spot for is all those extra life jackets. Life jackets can take up a lot of space and are notoriously difficult to store. My pick for this job is the T-top Hard Top Boat Life Jacket Storage Bag.
This bag easily mounts to most T-Tops, bimini tops, and pontoon tops and is designed to hold up to six Type II life jackets. It also has two zippered compartments, three mesh pockets, and a zig-zagged stretch cord on the outside to store additional gear.
Savvycraft T-top Hard Top Boat Life Jacket Storage Bag
- Holds up to 6 life jackets
- Made by durable 600-denier polyester UV treated and water-resistant
- Easily mount to most T-Tops, bimini tops, and pontoon tops
If your boat has a top, this is one of the easiest and most out-of-way spaces you can store your life jackets. This bag can also be used to store life jackets in a compartment or affixed to another part of your boat.
For those that love organizing, giddy up! Boat organizing is a lot of fun. There are a ton of options on the market specialized for boat storage or you can get creative with some DIY options.
If you don't love the organizing process, pick up some good storage solutions like the ones listed above, make a plan, and tackle it.
My recommendation is to get all the required equipment in place first, and then build around that for the various recreational needs. Think about variable storage as well. For example, have bags packed for specific purposes like fishing versus swimming. Bringing only what you need for what you will be doing that day saves a lot of space onboard.
The time investment you make upfront in organizing your boat properly will pay dividends in fun on the water.