It’s Spring—Get Into the Great Outdoors

You spent your winter wrapped in a blanket on the living room sofa
dunking your Chips Ahoy! in hot chocolate. Understandable. Outdoor
recreation isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind in the
bitter cold of January. But now April reminds us it’s time to wake up
from hibernation and resurrect that forgotten New Year’s resolution
that this year—you’re not going to be such a slug. Forget about the
treadmill and the exercise video promising firmer abs in a mere eight
minutes. A beautiful world is sitting out there for you to enjoy, and
taking advantage of this free gym isn’t as complicated as it may seem.
All you need is a few pointers and a bit of motivation.

Let’s start
with the motivation part. Of course, nothing can compete with the
beauty of the great outdoors. Whether it’s the ocean, a mountain, a
lake, a river, a forest or a field, creation is breathtaking and never
disappoints. Time spent in nature refreshes your spirit and can
reconnect you with the one who made it all. Peter, an avid backpacker
and outdoor adventurer from Colorado Springs, Colo., believes people
are more candid when they’re involved in an out- door activity. “People
tend to open up and be more ‘real’ when they are stepping out of their
comfort zone and really being challenged,” he said, “and that seems to
happen often when I’m out playing hard with friends in this amazing
creation all around us.”

Getting your body moving also has the
positive effect of getting you in shape. According to a study done by
Men’s Fitness magazine, the most physically fit cities in the U.S. were
the ones where the most people were using the outdoors as their own
natural fitness center. Greg, also from Colorado Springs, hikes around
five times a week and recommends getting outside because it’s
relatively inexpensive. “You get to breathe the fresh air, and it gives
you a lot of energy,” he said. “I do it because it’s just really a lot
of fun!”

Countless different ways to enjoy the outdoors are
available to you, with skill levels ranging from the most hardcore to
the greenest beginner. Take your pick—hike, go camping, bike, fish,
kayak, go horseback riding, view wildlife, ski, rock climb, go caving
… With so many activities to choose from, there’s got to be at least
one that strikes your fancy. Many require spending an entire day or a
weekend, but some can be tailored to fit an hour or two if that’s all
you have. And you can try most of these without years of experience or
piles of gear.

For example, for a day of hiking, the main thing to
remember is to have the proper shoes and plenty of water. Margaret, an
Alaskan outdoors enthusiast, recommends bringing an extra pair of
socks, lightweight snacks such as energy bars, trail mix or granola
bars, and if you’re walking near fresh streams, a water purifying
device, since it’s more efficient than lugging around heavy bottles of
water. Also, hikers should always bring a friend or let someone know
where they’re planning to hike in case of emergency. For biking, add a
quick-fix tire kit. A map always helps, too.

If camping sounds fun
to you, decide if you’d rather backpack or car camp. The backpack
version requires bringing a lightweight sleeping bag and tent, toilet
paper and a flashlight or headlamp, plus hiking supplies. Car camping
is easier—basically you can bring as much as your Prius can fit.
Margaret suggests taking along a battery-powered radio, pillows, soda,
steaks, a grate to put over the fire, s’mores supplies, a guide to the
stars and of course, a camera. For activities that require a little bit
of know-how, basic lessons or a guide can get you started.

Where you
go of course depends on your location. If you’re willing to plan a
trip, you could visit one of’s readers’ picks for the
greatest backpacking national parks in the U.S. Topping the list was
Montana’s Glacier National Park, featuring “massive U-shaped valleys,
castle-like peaks, (and) emerald (lagoons) tucked below shorn cliffs.”

Rainier National Park in Washington won second place for its “blue-ice
rivers” and “alpine meadows of timberline, thick with wild- flowers in
summer or crucifixion thorn in fall.” California’s Yosemite National
Park came in third for golden rock walls and “thundering falls,”
followed by Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, with its moody
weather adding to the natural excitement. Some national parks have
trails up to 90 miles long, which can be segmented to make for shorter

If you’re looking for something closer to home, nearly every
town has a state park nearby filled with trails and handy picnic tables
and outhouses. Most parks will have some sort of visitor/nature center
where you can get maps and information. Chain outdoor equipment dealers
or local bike shop employees can generally provide maps and direction
to local trails as well.

Having the right gear is important, and the
bad news is that getting what you need will probably cost you. “You
really get what you pay for,” Greg said, “which stinks because most
outdoor gear is really expensive.” The good news is that quality gear
is built to last, and much of it comes with some sort of guarantee.

See Also

clothes you wear to brave the elements should generally be
waterproof/resistant, lightweight, easily packable, breathable and
comfortable, have pockets, and shouldn’t hold odors. That’s a pretty
tall order, and you may have noticed that “fashionable” didn’t make the
list. Outdoor clothing is meant to be practical.

Peter maintains
that the best stores to go to for gear are local outdoors specialty
shops, where you’ll find the best service from employees who have
first-hand experience.

So put down the remote and start stretching a
little—creation awaits. Bring a friend. Bring your journal. Bring your
dog. You’ll never regret getting outside and enjoying nature, and once
you’ve climbed that mountain, kayaked that river or survived three
nights sleeping in a tent, you’ll have full bragging rights.

This article originally appeared in RELEVANT magazine.

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