Whether you’ve managed to take Covid in your stride or you’ve found yourself walking around the house with backpack and boots on, sipping on a reservoir whilst figuring out what meal to prepare on your camp stove – you’re not alone.
In the same way that only the most challenging wilderness conditions show us what kind of hiker we truly are, Covid is holding up a mirror to how strong we can and must be in challenging times.
So don’t give up on your passion for the great outdoors. When all of this is over, it will still be out there waiting for you and there are plenty of things you can do in the meantime to stay focussed and productive.
Below we’ve pulled together some hiker-centric tips to keep ticking along, so get stuck in!
Appreciate what’s around you
It might be a little corny but this year has been the ultimate example of ‘You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone’.
Suddenly our ability to travel has been snatched from us and even the luxury of roaming around outdoors has diminished.
But with it has come a heightened sense of appreciation for every swaying tree, singing bird, foraging squirrel or local green space.
Enjoy them. Soak it all in. And remember that just because something is familiar, doesn’t mean we should ever take it for granted.
Stroll down to the end of your road or pull up a chair in the garden to catch the sunrise or sunset a few times a week.
Getting back to nature doesn’t always involve a major excursion and you’ll be surprised at how much peace and solace you can find in your immediate surroundings.
Whether it’s hiking a backcountry trail, wandering around your neighbourhood or an open green space, walking provides an abundance of mental and physical perks – but more on that here.
Just because we’re moving in and out of various lockdowns and restrictions, there’s no need to abandon your health and wellbeing.
Alongside getting out and about for a daily walk or jog, you can do some bodyweight workouts.
A simple circuit of press-ups, sit-ups, tricep dips and planks alongside squats, lunges and burpees will make sure you’re hitting all the major muscle groups.
Whilst you’ve got a bit of extra time, try some new strength and stability exercises.
Yoga is an amazing full-body workout with plenty of poses that target high-risk areas for hikers. For example, Tree pose develops focus, balance and ankle strength – ideal when you’re scrambling over rocky terrain. Whereas plank pose works your core, promoting better posture, balance and breathing.
In the evenings, wind down with a bit of stretching – crucial for injury prevention but also aiding good posture, reducing muscle soreness and increasing flexibility/range of movement.
Turn the news off
Between daily news updates, social media and distractions around the house, we’re faced with constant stimuli that not only make it hard to focus, but stress us out.
A dose of stress once in a while might improve our concentration or physical performance but over an extended period it depletes important neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. As a result, our mood, motivation and happiness suffer.
So take a break from the Covid updates, shut down social media and read a book, go for a walk or schedule a FaceTime with friends.
One of the best forms of mindfulness and relaxation is reading.
Books can offer inspiration as well as relief.
- Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” about the Pacific Crest Trail
- “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer
- “The Man Who Walked Through Time” by Colin Fletcher
- “Neon Pilgrim” by Lisa Dempster
- “Beyond Backpacking“ by Ray Jardine
- “A Journey of Days: Relearning Life’s Lessons on the Camino de Santiago” by Guy Thatcher
Laughter is a great coping mechanism in trying times, so if you want hiking-related humour, give some of the following a go:
- Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods”
- Lawton Grinter’s “I Hike” books
- John D Burns’ “The Last Hillwalker” and “Bothy Tales”
Plan your next trip
Although you might not be able to pack your bags and head to the airport just yet, there’s no reason why you can’t plan your next adventure.
If you’re like us, half the excitement is in the planning anyway.
Consider your budget first, then route choices, the best season to go, gear required, resupply points, flights, insurance, etc. If it’s a major expedition or altitude climb, you can even start working on a fitness regime and training plan.
Whether it’s a local hike or a route halfway around the world, having something planned gives you a goal to work towards and a trip to look forward to.
And with the arrival of the Covid vaccine, you might be out on those trails sooner than you think!
Work on your backcountry skills
Download a knot-tying guide and get practising, perfect your tarp- and/or tent-pitching, read up on edible plants and food preparation, and refine your bag packing prowess.
Time yourself for a challenge or give it a go in a downpour outside for ultimate authenticity.
Order a couple of books from Amazon, borrow guides off a friend or work from your own knowledge.
Whatever skill you want to work on there are so many free resources online that you can keep yourself busy and productive for weeks at a time.
Do a deep clean of your gear
It’s a task that is always on our to do list and we never quite get round to it. But when you’ve got nothing but time on your hands, there’s no excuse.
Dig out all your sleeping bags and liners, mats, quilts and shelters and give them a good wash.
Then hang them out to dry and leave them up for a few days to fully air out before packing away again.
When your next backpacking trip finally rolls around it will feel like you’ve got a whole new set of gear.
Repair your kit
A bit like cleaning, there’s always a little mending task that we have on the back burner.
So set aside a half day to tape, patch and sew up sleeping bags, coats, thermals and anything else that needs a bit of TLC.
Don’t throw something away just because it’s well-worn, you’ll realise there’s plenty of life in it yet.
One of the most heavily-used phrases of 2020 and yet still the most powerful and necessary of them all.
It’s hard to keep smiling through it all but try to make a positive difference by reaching out to friends and family, supporting local businesses, donating if you can, volunteering remotely and lending a hand to vulnerable neighbours.
Look after yourself – both physcially and mentally – and take some time to tick those pesky items off your to do list, but go the extra mile in your community and you’ll see the immediate and profound effects.
Charlotte walks anywhere and everywhere she can. Although she hasn’t ticked off as many official routes as she’d like, she has walked her way around large parts of Latin America, Southeast Asia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.
Bucket list routes: