The 8 Things Outdoor Adventurers Should Spring Clean
Spring has sprung, and that means spring cleaning! I always loved it as a kid: I would (seriously) pull everything I owned out of closets, shelves, and drawers, stack it in the middle of my room, and then… put it all back, getting rid of some crap, and fixing other stuff. Again, I was a weird organizationally-obsessed kid. But that has served me pretty well over the years, and now, it’s something I’m forever trying to apply to my active, outdoorsy life, where gear tends to accumulate at a ridiculously rapid rate.
We don’t need to be slaves to our gear closet, and rides shouldn’t take 30 minutes to prep for. Let’s talk about how to Spring clean your life of adventure!
Clean: Pull out all of your active wear—every type for every season. Now, smell your clothes—you probably have been laundering them like a reasonable person, but sometimes, there’s a sweaty funk that just won’t quit. Adding a half-cup of white vinegar to a wash cycle with your gear works like a freaking charm! Sounds crazy, but I swear it’s worked for some of the toughest sweat smells I’ve come up against.
Update: Once your stuff is clean, start with the basic clean-out tactic, and get rid of clothes that don’t fit right for the activity you want to wear them for. This is key, because I’ve kept a lot of gear kicking around thinking I might wear it for something else, when it just wasn’t good for running/cycling/swimming/et cetera. Don’t be an athleisure hoarder. If you haven’t worn it in a year (unless it’s something like an ice climbing coat and there was no ice this year but you’re a serious climber), get rid of it. The only exception: gear that’s high quality, but just doesn’t fit exactly right and that’s why it doesn’t get worn. In that case, consider taking it to a tailor—the prices can be really reasonable!
Your Pile of “Gear”
Clean: You know what pile of gear I mean. The tangle of electronics, ride food, hydration packs, helmets, god-knows-how-many shoes, camping gear, climbing gear, half of a kayak paddle, exercise bands you bought but don’t use, a scale with half an inch of dust on it… First, pull it all out and make one massive mountain in the garage or basement or living room. Then, buy your significant other flowers or dinner, because he or she is going to be pissed. But now that it’s all out, Marie Kondo-style, start sorting. Is it broken, do you still use it, does it still have any value, etc. Be brutal.
Update: Once you’ve pared down and somewhat tamed the beast, get some clear storage drawers and boxes to actually organize your stuff, and protect it from mice. (I’ve lost many a good sleeping bag to mice in the attic. Now I’m a fan of stashing them in storage bins when they’re not in use.) Think box for bike tools, bucket for bike cleaning stuff, storage bins for camping/climbing gear, and drawers for clothing, accessories and food. I also like a hanging rack, if you have space, for your bulkier rain coats and winter coats, plus hanging things like hydration and hiking packs and bike helmets. When I am settled in a place, I prefer having all of my active gear in one place and ready to roll at a moment’s notice!
Clean: Bicycling has a great tutorial for cleaning your bikes here, so I won’t belabor the point. But give each and every bike some TLC! Make sure your gear is working, i.e. your Powertap wheel, GPS computer… (Also use this as a chance to diagnose if you need to repair anything, or sell anything!)
Update: Especially if you’re going to sell some of your old gear, or if you have racing plans for the summer, now is the time to make sure your bikes are ready to roll. I’m a major fan of new bar tape for an instant makeover moment (shallow, but useful!). Ditto new cables and brake pads. New cleats are another big thing I tend to ignore until it’s too late. Also, stock all of your saddle bags so they’re ride-ready! Lastly, set up your bike stands/racks/etc. so that you have your important gear on hand: bike pump, tools and minipumps for the ride, everything you need to be ride ready. Bonus points if this is all next to your now-beautiful pile-o-gear.
Your Lotions and Potions
Clean: Sunscreen typically is only good for up to three years (and some have expiration dates), and makeups and lotions have a shelf life of around a year (except mascara and eyeliner, that’s a three-month deal). Go through and get rid of the soap you don’t use anymore, the lotion that made you itch, and so on.
Update: Now’s the time to buy new stuff for this spring: new sunscreen, moisturizer, et cetera. I’ve been slowly switching products to more natural versions, though I’m far from being all-natural-beauty-all-the-time. But both Peter and I have been really happy with this moisturizer, Medicine Mama’s Apothecary Sweet Bee Magic All In One Healing Skin Cream, and I have a few other things I’m currently checking out, so more on that later.
Clean: Admit it, your camera’s SD card (and backup SD card) are crammed full of last year (and 2010’s) vacation photos. I have to admit, I’ve been found at races hiding behind trees frantically trying to delete old photos mid-race, missing tons of action. So clean those out. Ditto your phone and computer desktop, so you have space to store new photos from this year’s adventures. (Same with fitness devices like your Garmin that has 3000 saved routes and rides.)
Update: My biggest spring clean goal is to set up one primary charging station for the insane amount of electronics that I have, so they’re all charging in one place. (I’m ordering this 6-port charger from Amazon.) The other goal is more internal for my gear: to set up a better photo-saving and sharing system. Anyone with good suggestions, I’m all ears: I still haven’t quite mastered iPhoto, and I know I should!
Clean: Sad, but true—I’ve had to chuck a lot of really pricey ride food and post-ride food because I’m a bit of a hoarder and tend to forget that having a lot of pricey protein powder doesn’t do anything if a) I don’t drink it and b) it expires. In addition to doing the normal spring clean pantry purge and fridge makeover, make sure you’re checking your supply of supplements, powders, bars and gels. And for the love of all things good and pure, CLEAN YOUR WATER BOTTLES in hot soapy water to get all the residual grossness out. For real.
Update: I write about this a lot, but I’m a big fan of using an app like MyFitnessPal to check in on my diet every so often. Use spring as an excuse to log your food for a few days to see where your nutrition is at and what you could be cleaning up. And since we’re in pre-race season for most of us, this is an amazing chance to try out new ride food and hydration that you’ve been seeing for the last few months. Order new food that you might want for race season now, and don’t want to wait to try it out and get used to it. (Never, ever wait until race day to try new things! I talk a ton about that in Fuel Your Ride.)
Clean: Wash the exterior, vacuum and clean out the interior, and give it an oil, air filter and windshield wiper blade and fluid change if it’s that time. Make sure registration and insurance are up to date as well. Pro tip: take this moment to add notes to your calendar for when insurance, registration and licenses need to be renewed. We almost got screwed on that a couple months ago and it could have been ugly!
Update: Can you add any organizational elements? (I’m thinking about adding a shoe rack on the back of the seat for little stuff, but we’ve obsessively boxed ours out into different storage compartments already.)
Your Training Life
Clean: Whatever app or journal you use to write down training. You might not be able to update it much, but try to fill in the last couple weeks if you’ve been remiss. While you’re doing that, assess why you’ve missed any of the workouts you wanted to do. Were you strapped for time, did you not have your shoes with you, did you feel too tired?
Update: Add some kind of race date or goal to your calendar so you have one specific fitness / adventure goal in mind. Then, think about how to achieve it: if you were feeling fatigued all month, think about how to add an extra hour of sleep each day. If preparation was the problem, think about getting your ride or run bag planned out. (I always keep a run bag at the ready, no matter where in the world I am!)