I imagine Hell has the biggest TVs and comfiest couches. Sure, you get Game of Thrones streaming in HD but there’s a little window through which you can see—but can never venture into—perfectly pristine wilderness. Torture.
Work. Family. Court-ordered tracking anklets. We all have personal constraints that keep us home when we’d rather wander. So, how do you seize every sliver of freedom you’ve earned? How do you buck the burbs and get out more, see more, do more? Plan for spontaneity… duh…
1. Stay Shapely Always
If exercise is so “good” for you, it should feel like cheeseburgers taste. Walking off the field after my last football game my senior year of high school, I proclaimed, “I will never run again!” and meant it. Running sucks. Consequently, my “Freshman 15” was closer to “Freshman 60.”
There’s no way around it. Hiking is athletic. Say, you’re bumping your toes on rocks at the end of the trail. You stare at your dragging feet but don’t pay attention to where you place them. You hardly remember the last few miles. Keep walking. Just keep walking. Sound familiar?
It’s shameful how many would-be-inspiring hours I’ve spent outdoors just trying to will my flabby body back to the trailhead. The healthier you are, the safer you’ll be and the more you’ll get out of the trail. Don’t rely on binge exercising in the weeks leading up to a big trip. You could get hurt or entirely burnt-out before you ever reach the trail.
2. Tackle Weekend Chores on Week Days
This, for some, may be impossible. I write professionally. It’s cushy. Physical exertion comes on my own time at the end of the day when I am fortunate enough to leave work at work. My wife, however, is a nurse. She’s on her feet all day, saving lives. Some days, when she clocks out, she really wants to clock out.
But, for those of us whose necks are sore not from busting butt but from craning over computer monitors, don’t waste your free-time lounging below a TV screen. Toilets don’t scrub themselves. Get up! Get the blood flowing! Get it done so the weekend is yours!
3. Keep Gear Together
Where’s my compass? I mean, it has to be somewhere. Physics says so!
Have you ever had to put money down on gear you already own but can’t find? Yep, me too. Packing can be nerve-racking when you’re strapped for time or are unorganized. Time is often beyond our control. Organization? We got this.
I hang my trail clothes and “linens” (sleeping bags, etc.) in a corner of my closet and keep all other gear in two Rubbermaid storage bins. After a trip, I wash what needs to be washed and pack everything immediately. Nothing sits around the muck room. Whatever it is, it is either in its designated bin or in the closet. Simple as that.
4. Make a Comprehensive Gear List
Making a trip-specific checklist works well for some folk. But have you ever failed to pack an item because you forgot to put it on the list to begin with? Here’s how I combat forgetfulness:
Imagine your ultimate adventure. It has everything you’re into. Base camping and BASE jumping. Kayaking and spelunking. Now, type a list that includes all the gear you need to do all the things that you do. (I use Google Sheets on Google Drive. It’s free and accessible from any device with internet access.) Organize your gear under categories like “Necessities,” “Clothing,” and “Luxuries.” Beside each item, leave a blank cell for a ✓ or an X. Save the list. It’ll be ready when you get the itch to roam.
Think as you pack. You may not need your swim trunks for a winter’s romp through Mesa Verde, but this comprehensive gear list forces you to consciously decide:
Do I need _____?
Yes (✓) – Pack it (immediately)
No (X) – Leave it (wherever you usually store it)
5. Write a Practical Bucket List
Is there a hole in your bucket list, dear Liza? Every outdoors enthusiast wants to conquer the big one. For me, it’s the Pacific Crest Trail—2,600+ miles through the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountains (i.e., Heaven).
The catch? Money and time. The Pacific Crest Trail Association reports that the average thru-hiker spends $4000 to $8000 and 5 months hiking the PCT. If it was just me (and my student loans were magically null), I’d be there now. But many people rely on me as many people rely on you.
So, the big one is currently unattainable. No problem. According to the National Association of State Park Directors, the United States is home to more than 41,700 trail miles and 207,000 campsites in more than 6,000 state parks alone. At the federal level, the US National Parks Service manages more than 400 sites (parks, preserves, lakeshores, etc.). Like my gear list (always ready), I keep a well-researched bucket list of parks, monuments, and historical sites saved to my computer. Hike the PCT if you can but don’t just go for broke. Many profound things lie between Denali and the Everglades.
6. Go and Don’t Not Go
Say, you’ve been planning a late-autumn trek to Mount Sterling in North Carolina. (Mount Sterling is my unicorn. I’ve tried to bag it 3 times. Something always comes up.) You scout your route. Plan for Hell. Buy your gear. Pack your car. Then, the day before you plan to leave, a freak winter storm strikes early. Roads close for dozens of miles around the trailhead. Classes resume in a few days. This was your only chance.
Knowledge is power. Knowing is half the battle. All that PSA stuff about how reading and studying payoff is absolutely true. If you’ve stuck with tips 1 – 5:
- You’re in shape enough for just about any trail.
- Home is clean and orderly, ready to be left behind.
- You know where all your gear is stored.
- You have a gear checklist for any and every adventure ready, so packing’s a cinch.
- Most importantly, you have a cache of trips planned and saved to your computer.
Go. Something is keeping you from your destination. Pick another. Go there. There’s so much to experience and so little time. Unless something is specifically keeping you at home, don’t not go.