So you’ve heard about “wilderness and backcountry athletics,” it sounds like something you could really get into, but you’re not quite sure how to get started. You’ve probably heard that you need to take out a loan to get the gear you need. And most likely you’ve also heard that you should be in great shape or that you need to travel long distances to experience the “real backcountry.” Fortunately, none of these are prerequisites or requirements for getting out in the wild and experiencing all that nature has to offer.
I’ve received a lot of these types of questions and spoken with many enthusiastic thrill-seekers regarding how to jump into the sport of adventure hiking and general backcountry athleticism. Really it’s not as complicated as some think. Here are my answers to the above questions and a few steps that will set you up for success in your pursuits.
Just like hiking, climbing or anything else, it’s about starting, and then taking the next step to go the distance you want.
What’s the Cost?
It’s true that gear can be expensive, but what you spend is entirely up to you. I wouldn’t recommend buying all top line kit while just starting out, because your preferences may change or you may find that that highly recommended accessory just doesn’t work for you. Of course there will always be trial and error but there’s no need to make a major investment while your trying to figure things out.
Instead look around at what you may already have. A comfortable pair of tennis shoes and old school backpack will take you far. Save the spending for things you don’t have. For other sports like climbing, you can rent gear like harnesses and ropes at a local outdoor shop, from a guide service you’ve employed to teach you the ropes (pun intended), or at your local climbing gym so that you can get a feel for what’s available and works for you.
Do I need to be Athletic?
I know you shouldn’t answer a question with a question, but my usual response to this is: can you walk? And really being able to walk isn’t that important anymore, which is really exciting. There are numerous nature areas that provide paved paths making it easy for people in wheelchairs to explore wilderness. I know of one in the rugged Rockies of Colorado and plenty of others near urban areas, and more are popping up all over. For those blessed with the ability to walk, we’re really just talking about walking in, and exploring, nature. Sure, some trails are more strenuous than others, but there are lots of easier trails to get your feet wet. Too much too soon only leads to miserable trips and burn out. Trails are like people they come in all shapes and sizes, it’s easy to find one that matches you. Once you’ve grown comfortable it’s much easier to take the next step. If you're not comforatble hitting a trail right away start by walking around your neighbohood or at a local park. Also having a friend or group along for the journey makes for a good time as well.
Where Should I Go?
There’s really no need to travel great distances to enjoy backcountry wilderness. But it’s always a great option. There are trails and climbing spots all over and very nearby, you can bet someone else is traveling from far away to experience an area near you. You may not be as impressed with the trails near you because you see that sort of terrain all the time, but every place has its own unique beauty, it’s just a matter of appreciating it for what it is. Exciting life-changing adventures can be had in local wilderness areas just as easily as anywhere else.
The community of outdoor adventurers and wilderness athletes is a very inclusive one, so feel free to talk to people and find out about gear and places to explore. Local gear shops are great places to find like-minded people that are always willing to help. And follow us here at HighlandFrog.com for info to get you going and keep you going!
Begin, the rest is easy!