Stuck inside? Feeling restless and trapped? Canceled a spring desert trip? As fellow outdoorspeople, we feel your pain. Remaining socially distant when the mountains are calling is commendable; especially considering how some popular destinations have counter-intuitively become overcrowded.
So, how about we turn all that angst into motivation for a summer/fall adventure!
Step 1: Plan Your Adventure
Where are you going to go? What mountains will you climb? What hikes and treks will you complete? Check out REI’s Trail Project for hikes of all distances and difficulty levels across the country. The free app and website are continuously updated and a fabulous resource – as a bonus, maps can be downloaded directly to the app on your phone, for offline use. As long as your phone has charge, you’ll always be able to find your way back on trail.
Looking for a more backcountry, off-the-beaten-path, or alpine adventure? Check out Gaia GPS. This extremely powerful mapping tool lets users chart out paths where there are no trails. Subscription features prove immensely useful to backcountry travelers, including a host of layerable maps from different sources (such as National Geographic, Cal Topo, satellite imagery, and Gaia’s own detailed offering), downloadable maps for both specific routes and larger, pre-selected areas. You’ll be able to plan your perfect mountain adventure from the comfort of your home. An app for iPhone and Android means you’ll have no excuse to ever be lost again.
Last but certainly not least is make sure you’re armed with the right information to be successful during your outdoor endeavor. No one likes to be turned around due to rain, or hail, or snow. Some of the most detailed forecasting for the US comes courtesy of the National Weather Service (part of NOAA) and is available for the entire country. Should you be venturing into the alpine, Mountain Forecast provides useful forecasting estimates for a range of altitudes on the way to your summit. Mountain Forecast is very granular; while you may not be able to see the weather for your exact peak target, there should be an option to view nearby. National Geographic has a handy rundown of weather terms and definitions so you can understand each piece of the forecasts.
Step 2: Hone Your Skills
What better time to brush up on some skills to keep you safe in the outdoors? Nothing online or in a book can nor should replace formalized education or utilizing a guide service, but these resources can outline the basics and give you a head start.
Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills should be in every outdoorsperson’s library no matter their specified interest. This book is the bible for traveling in the backcountry, especially in mountainous terrain. Even the most experienced alpinists, climbers, trekkers, and hikers refer back to it frequently for refreshers.
Again, nothing can replace a NOLS Wilderness First Aid or Responder course but the basics provided in their playlist could help you safely self-evacuate with an injured or sick partner. After understanding these skills, make sure to give your pack’s first aid kit a once over: restock the ibuprofen, make sure your gloves aren’t falling apart. If you don’t have a first aid that lives in your pack, make sure you find and purchase a waterproof kit or take the time to assemble one yourself that meets all of your potential needs.
British Mountaineering Council Basic Skills
While understandably Anglo-centric (hill walking is largely no different to hiking), the British Mountaineering Council provides a wealth of basic skill knowledge presented in easily digestible videos across a multitude of subjects. Think “winter” skills aren’t applicable in summer? In most of the mountain west, you can find yourself climbing snow gullies and glissading well into August after a good snow year.
Legendary Alpinist Steve House founded Alpine Mentors to pass along his experiences to the next generation. This video series delves into mental strategies to ensure long-term success in the mountains. This series is relevant to more than climbers: everyone should watch it in order to structure their mindset and their goals.
Step 3: Learn About Your Gear
Do you know all the ins and outs about every piece of clothing you own? Learn about when synthetic insulation is more effective than down – and about what the number referring to your down jacket really means. Next time you’re ready for a new shell, make sure you understand the differences between the varieties of fabric that can make up a rain jacket, so you can get the best jacket for your needs. What’s best for Patagonian Alpinists may be overkill (especially in price) for your weekend hike!
Once you’ve mastered the basics, this article gives a great rundown of what various textile brands offer and what it means for your gear.
Step 4: Repair and Clean Your Gear
Repair Your Gear: our friends over at Noso Patches made this video on how to repair your trusty Deuter pack in the field. For those without sewing skills, these patches are a lifesaver. Take a morning with a hot cup of coffee to do a once over on your pack: look for and patch holes, wipe out any remnants of bars and nut butters, and reorganize the necessities that live in your pack at all times.
Clean Your Gear properly: gear detergent makers Granger’s provides great online resources on how to properly clean your gear and which detergents you should use for each type of clothing. Down jacket washing was already a project for a rainy weekend afternoon, with tons of indoor time on hand this is a fantastic project. Make sure your rain jacket gets some love too; after washing and drying your jacket, reapply a DWR coating so it performs at its absolute best. Take advantage of your indoor time now, so you can spend as much time outdoors when you finally can.
Step 5: Improve What You Already Know
How fast does it take you to set up your tent? Are you sure that’s the fastest you can do it? Go ahead and pitch it in the living room, and try to set it up faster and faster. Leave it up before sending the kids to bed for a fun night of s’mores and storytelling!
What lives in your daypack? In your backpacking pack? Can you pare down any of your essentials? How light can you get your pack for an alpine hike or an overnight trek? After that, how quickly can you pack your pack with everything you need?
If you’re getting bored cooking your usual repertoire while socially distant, check out Backpacker Magazine’s trail recipes. Spice up your home kitchen and your camp kitchen by learning even a handful of the delicious options.