Kids and not-so kids alike are back at school this month. The adventure-minded college-bound would do well to heed these pointers on keeping their room — and their gear — in tip-top shape.
If you — or your young athlete — are heading to college and into dorm living, it might seem daunting. Where’s your hiking pack going to fit with your regular backpack, and where are you supposed to put a bike without driving your roommate crazy?
Not only is space an issue when living in a small dorm room, but keeping it clean is as well. Keeping mud off the floors, shoes dry, and running or riding gear from stinking up the place is a hard task when you’re balancing training and studying.
Fortunately, you’re not alone. Here are some storage tips (and gear!) to keep your room clean and organized, despite the lack of space.
Assess and Edit Your Gear Ruthlessly
Before we talk about the gear that can help you stay organized, start by thinking about how you can cut down on what you need to bring in the first place.
Do you need a hydration vest for trail running and a hydration pack for mountain biking? While you might want to have both because the fit differs slightly, it’s time to think about ways to save space, and that means choosing one hydration pack to rule them all.
Or, if you can’t live without both, narrow down to one hydration pack bladder! The same goes for your bike quiver, puffy collection, and running shoe addiction.
Work With What You Have
Some schools allow students to loft their beds for more under-bed storage. That’s the perfect space for your bike to sit, or you can stash all of your hiking gear there. The key is to make the most of the space.
“I lofted my bed this year, and it made a huge difference,” said Laney Butt, Milligan College junior and a hardcore cyclocross/road racer.
“I found storage boxes [that] are as deep as the bed, and I sort the boxes by outdoor activity. Then, I found some S hooks at Home Depot that fit in the holes in the stabilizing rail to hang my gear bags.”
Outdoor Gear Organization for Dorms
While a little know-how will go a long way, some organizational gear won’t hurt either. Check out these products to help turn that clutter into a stylish setup.
Be the good person who doesn’t leave wet shoes around that give your dorm room that lovely wet dog smell. The full-size DryGuy shoe dryer might be ideal if you have tons of space, but in a dorm room, the tiny travel DryGuy setup is ideal.
It sports two small fan-style inserts that just slide into your wet shoes and dry them from the inside. Not only are you ready to roll in non-soggy shoes in a couple of hours, but you won’t stink up the place.
Not just for your shoes — these odor-absorbing cedar bags are great for inside your backpack after a rainy hiking weekend or just to toss in your gym bag to absorb odor from your sweaty gear. While you want to clean your gear ASAP, sometimes it’s just not possible, but these will help reduce the funk.
If you know your shoes are prone to emitting an odor after a few wears, make sure you’re popping these in after every use. In a small space, even the slightest odors become unbearable.
You likely won’t have easy laundry access on the daily in your dorm or small apartment. That can be a problem because, as an athlete, your gear gets gross really quick. A hand-crank laundry machine that you can use every other day to take care of super-grungy athletic clothes is a lifesaver.
The hand-crank option is only $55 and doesn’t use electricity, so just bring it and your dirty laundry into the shower and lather, rinse, repeat. There are plenty of small options out there that do use electricity, but this one boasts over 1,200 positive reviews and will take up the least amount of space when not in use.
You likely can’t fit a whole drying rack in your dorm room without immediately knocking it over, but a hanging one allows you to dry your gear without getting in the way. This simple one is perfect for hanging up clothes after you’ve run them through a wash cycle, and the clips make it ideal for the little stuff like socks, gloves, sports bras, and hats.
If you need to free up space when your roommate’s BF is visiting and you have to bring your good race bike outside, you want a bike lock that not only looks intimidating, it actually works well too (remember that video of a well-known massive chain lock being picked with a ballpoint pen in 9 seconds?).
Enter the ABUS Granit CityChain 1010 Chain Lock, which offers a 3.5-foot chain, so you can lock your bike and each wheel before you head into class.
If you can’t loft your bed, or simply prefer not to, you can still create better, cleaner-looking bike storage by going vertical. Save space by storing your bike upright next to your bed with this Bike Nook rack. At first, this seems like a gimmicky rack, but compared to having a bike constantly leaning up against your stuff and getting grease everywhere, it’s shockingly useful.
Bonus: It can create a bit of visual separation from your roommate if you have it set up next to your bed — even better if you have two bikes in stands!
Fall and spring semesters mean most college kids are forced to have clothing and gear for all seasons with them at all times, which can mean a lot of clothing that isn’t in use. Use your hiking pack (or any pack that can’t be stored flat because of metal framing) to store off-season stuff like heavy sweaters, and compress them in these plastic bags to save even more space.
You’ll likely get a set of drawers in your dorm room, but a tower of clear plastic drawers can stash your athletic gear: anything from sports bras and climbing carabiners to cycling computers and sports nutrition items. Pick one that’s the right size for your needs, of course — depending on what sport you’re in, you may prefer wider, longer drawers or shorter, slimmer drawers for better division.
Another alternative: Use a back-of-the-door shoe rack hung on your closet door or off of your lofted bedframe for accessories like gloves, hats, sunscreen, and shoes.
You still want to keep your muscles supple and spend time on mobility, but you may not have the space for that foam roller in your pack. Swap the burly foam roller for a lacrosse ball to save on space, while still getting a serious self-massage.
Bonus: Lacrosse balls are small enough that you can even bring one to class and work on your quads or lower back while listening to a lecture.
If you’re constantly leaving for a race weekend or a rock climbing trip with your friends, your roomie might get sick of you constantly throwing things around as you pack and unpack. Enter packing cubes, where you can keep gear and clothing organized inside of drawers when you’re in the dorm, then zip, grab, and go for a speedy exit.
This is also ideal if you’re the one on the cycling team or in your running crew that’s always forgetting things or holding the group up while you search for your lucky shoelaces.
A sleeping bag can take up a lot of space, but if you use it as a comforter, it’s serving double duty! For those doing more mild-mannered camping, the Rumpl Down Puffy Blanket is ideal: It’s a perfect comforter but also has clips on the sides to turn it into a warm-weather sleeping bag, and it packs into a ultralight bag.
If you’re a more serious camper, then the NEMO Banshee 20 sleeping quilt is ideal, since it zippers into a more traditional sleeping bag, but it can also be unzipped to lie perfectly flat on your bed.
Figure out how to keep your gear semi-clean and make the smallest kit possible at the same time. A 16L silicone collapsible camp sink that folds up is perfect for this, along with some Dr. Bronners castile soap that you can also use in the shower for yourself and a couple of scrub brushes (depending on what gear you’re cleaning). That should keep most bikes, shoes, or packs pretty roommate-friendly!