How To Backpack More in 2019

If you’re like me, you’ll get to the end of the year, look back and wonder where it all went. I think that’s pretty common for everyone though. Life just gets going and before you know it you’re wishing you had done more with your summer.

That was and still is me. I’m getting better at it, but I too struggle with making plans to get out for some backpacking or even just a hike. What’s strange is that I’ll tell myself on Wednesday that I want to do something, but come Saturday, I’ve failed to make any plans and by Sunday I’ve botched the whole weekend. It’s an endless cycle but there’s a reason why this happens to us. We haven’t made backpacking, hiking, or any other outdoor activity a habit that we do without having to plan or think about it.

The pitfalls of not having a habit

A few years ago I was struggling to workout on a routine basis. I’d exercise regularly for a few months then for some reason I’d just stop and after a few weeks I’d get back on the bandwagon. I can’t honestly tell you why, but looking back now it was because I hadn’t made working out a daily habit to where my mind didn’t have to think about. Now, after finding a secret hack/tool/trick (probably not so much of a secret) working out is just part of my day and I don’t have to think about it at all. That secret turned out to be a pretty powerful method of creating a positive habit in my life in a very short amount of time. It worked for me then and it’ll work for me now when I focus it towards backpacking and the outdoors.

the habit hack

Each year at my job I’d get this company calendar to put up by my desk. I never really used it until one day I looked over at it and wondered how many days per month I was actually lifting. Then it hit me, I took the calendar home and posted it down in the basement in my home gym to where I’d see it when working out. I kept a pen hanging on it and each time I did anything active, I put an “X” on that day. It started as me noting the muscle group I worked out on that particular day and morphed into an all around activity tracker.

As the weeks went by I could see where my habits were and weren’t. Come the end of the month I had no other choice but to look at where I was falling short. Sometimes the month was full of “X’s” and others it was pretty slim. After a few months, something natural began to happen. I started having a competition with myself to see how often I could mark that calendar up with those “X’s.” When December rolled around, I counted up the days I worked out, and noted it on the following years’ calendar.

My goal for the year was to workout MORE than I did the previous one. I’ll be damned if it didn’t work! Once I had a goal of beating last years count, I was on a whole new level. By the third year of doing this, I was doing something active almost every single day of the year (I don’t recall the exact number). I remember looking at that filled up calendar and feeling like I had accomplished something.

It wasn’t that each one of those “X’s” meant that I killed myself in the gym that day (I don’t believe in killing yourself that way), but rather it meant that I had established a healthy lifestyle. By the time the 4th year rolled around, I never touched another calendar again because exercise was now part of my day no matter what. I didn’t have to make time for it because there was nothing to MAKE time for. Working out was like coffee, breakfast, or anything else you do during the day.

The Hiking Calendar

If it worked for me to build a habit of exercising, then it’ll work for you when it comes to backpacking and hiking. Want to do more than last year? Keep a physical calendar in your office, on the fridge, or wherever you like that you can refer to time and again to see how often you’re heading out for a trip. If you need to, hammer out some dates in advance with your family and stick to them. Not every outing needs to be an epic adventure. Simply going for a hike in the morning or evening to stretch the legs, letting the dogs run, and snapping a family photo will begin to instill this habit you’re dying to have.

Before you know it, you’ll be more used to going hiking and backpacking than NOT. You won’t have to plan it anymore because it’ll be a habit that you and your family just do because it feels better than sitting at home watching the game on Sunday (my wife and I record games and watch them at night to wind down from the day).

Creating Good Habits

Creating good habits isn’t easy. It takes time and it helps to have reminders. Give yourself and your family a goal to meet. If you don’t get out much now, set a realistic goal of doing something active in the outdoors once a month at a minimum. That’s only 12 trips to the mountains and I have a feeling you probably want it do be more like 24-30.

Start small and work up to it. Change it up from outing to outing. Go camping one weekend, hiking another, and backpacking another. Hike short distances and long distances. Bring food for a picnic on top of that mountain you’ve always wanted to go see the view of and if it’s hot out, invest in some water activities like a canoe or kayak (you can get them cheap on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace).

Don’t pressure yourself to be a badass outdoorsman/woman. Just do your thing and enjoy yourself. Don’t compare your trip to the one you might see on social media (because..yeah…it’s probably not like that in real life) and don’t get down on yourself if you didn’t get out as much as you had hoped.

Before you know it, that calendar you used to encourage and challenge yourself will be filled with notes of adventure and a head filled of memories. That’s what it’s all about anyhow, right?

Counting the Days,

Emory