3 Ways to Keep Your Mind on the Trail When Life Drags You Elsewhere
Let’s face it; for every day we spend hiking and backpacking, we spend many more doing less exciting things (unless you somehow get paid to backpack, in which case I envy you). So how can we curb that burning desire to just drop everything, hop in the car, and high-tail towards the nearest trailhead? Here are three ways that will put your mind at ease, and put you at a major advantage once you finally make it back into the woods.
Start Planning Future Trips
Don’t just stare out the window, wishing you were on the trail… start planning your next trip now. Plan everything. Certainly start with where you’re going to be hiking; scour the internet for resources on different sections of the AT, different mountain ranges, or different trails, long or short. But deciding on your destination is only the tip of the ice-burg, as the vast majority of your trip planning is going to concern logistics:
- Plan how you’re going to get to the trail, and even more importantly, how you’re going to get back to your car (unless you’re hiking a loop, of course).
- Figure out how you’re going to make the time to go (keyword: make, not find).
- Plan out options for where you can camp while you’re hiking (this way you can spend less time planning when you’re actually out there, and more time enjoying your experience).
- If you’re driving to the trail, plan out the best travel route so that you spend more time in the woods, and less time in traffic.
- Figure out what adjustments you need to make to your gear-list, depending on the terrain, weather forecast, and time of year.
These are only a few different things you can plan long before you actually leave for your trip. I plan just about everything I can possibly think of before I leave, all the way down to the restaurant I’ll be pigging out at after I’m done hiking!
Improve Your Gear List
I do the vast majority of my hiking in the spring, summer, and fall, but despite this, I hardly do any work improving my gear list during these seasons. Winter is the time of year I use to make changes to my gear, so that way I know everything is in order once my hiking window comes, and I can worry less about my gear and just enjoy the trail. This is probably going to be different for everyone, the winter just ends up being my biggest window of time off from hiking (and certainly the time I miss it the most). So while you’re sitting at home, knowing it’s going to be a long time before you hit the trail again, get to work on your gear:
- Research new gear, browse outfitters, and read gear reviews.
- Make a spreadsheet and weigh everything you plan on taking (yes, even your toothbrush).
- Buy new gear, and replace faulty items.
- Spend time packing and unpacking your gear to make sure you’ve loaded everything for the most comfortable fit (especially important if you use a frameless pack).
- Create DIY items, such as alcohol stoves, pot cozies, or even shelters and sleeping bags/quilts.
Get Involved with the Online Backpacking Community
While you’re sitting at home twiddling your thumbs, wishing you were on a hike covered from head to toe in dirt and sweat, just know that you aren’t alone! There are thousands of other people in the exact same position as you, itching to absorb as much of the backpacking lifestyle as they can from home. So get involved! The fact that you are reading this shows that you’ve already discovered one of the fastest growing and most popular online backpacking communities on the web; Appalachian Trials. Some other places you can go to get involved are:
- Whiteblaze.net contains a wealth of information on everything from gear, to planning a thru-hike, to how to dig the optimal cat-hole for when nature calls. You can find it all on Whiteblaze.
- If you’re a Redditor, /r/AppalachianTrail is a fantastic community to get involved in. If you’re looking for advice about thru-hiking, section-hiking, or anything related to the AT, check it out!
- Don’t over look good-ole-fashion YouTube! There are numerous popular YouTube channel’s that feature backpacking trip reports, gear videos, discussions, and tips.
- There are many Facebook groups that are open for anyone to join, created with the purpose of discussing hiking topics as specific as certain trails (such as the Long Trail), or anything AT/backpacking related. The Appalachian Trials group is a great resource!
I’ll be the first to admit that there is no definitive actions you can take to completely satisfy your desire to be out hiking (other than, well, hiking of course), but these three methods will hold your mental sanity in-tact until the next time you get out! What are some of the ways you tame your thirst for the trail-life, when real-life prevents you from hiking?
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