There’s an old saying about prior planning preventing poor performance, and that axiom shouldn’t only apply to work or sports. The time we spend outdoors should form some of the highlights of our year, and although we don’t have to take it as seriously as a big work assignment or a big game, a few tips about preparation and planning can maximize our time in the backcountry and minimize time spent dealing with hiccups in our plans.
Show up in shape
Outdoor sports can be taxing in ways our normal lives hardly ever are — you probably don’t have to climb a steep, rocky trail to get to your office. A bit of physical conditioning during the week can make your weekend or vacation time in the outdoors way more fun: some laps on the stair master can cut down on your huffing and puffing up mountain trails, leaving you with more energy to take photos. Squats, lunges and other leg exercises will strengthen your legs so you can ski full days on the mountain instead of feeling exhausted after a few runs.
Pack your car Thursday night
The more time you spend packing and doing last-minute errands on Friday night, the later you’ll get to where you’re going on your weekend getaway—you want to spend your time sitting at a campfire, not sitting in traffic because you waited until Friday after work to pick up stove fuel. Start packing on Wednesday, buy your last-minute gear and supplies on Thursday, and leave immediately after work on Friday and you’ll have more time in front of that campfire (and a longer night sleeping under the stars).
Be packed by the time you hit the trailhead
Don’t show up for a hike, climb, or mountain bike ride with all your stuff scattered around your car. Pack as much as you can the night before, lube your bike chain, pump up your tires, and do whatever you can at home, not in the parking lot when your friends are waiting for you. Better to spend those precious Saturday hours sitting and having lunch at an alpine lake than to waste them digging around your car for that tube of sunscreen you were sure you brought.
Don’t be afraid to sacrifice some sleep to get first chair
Yes, getting out of bed early sucks. But if you can drag yourself out of bed, having the trail to yourself for an hour on a Saturday or getting first turns on the mountain before it’s all tracked out by other skiers is worth it.
Don’t be afraid to try to do something on a weeknight
You probably live with a one-hour drive or bike ride of a campground, but you’ve probably never spent a Thursday night there, have you? Well, it’s possible. If you want to keep your job, you probably won’t be able to sleep until 9 a.m., but you can still head out on a summer evening and have a campfire and a night of sleeping in a tent, and get up early to head into work. Or tell your boss you have a dentist appointment the next morning and show up a little late.