We have already discussed the fact that we go outdoors to have fun, and as much as just being helicoptered to the middle of nowhere for a few hours with an icebox full of beers and snacks sounds great, most people want to actually do something when they are out – but what?
The outdoors offer us endless options. You can literally do anything, but by now there main categories for the activities people choose, and so gear is made specifically for those activities – some of them require specific weather conditions, or a specific landscape. If you talk to a fellow outdoor enthusiast you will find that we each define what we do slightly differently, but from years of talking to outdoor people in different countries and different sports, here are several main categories:
1. Walking – probably the simplest form of being out: set a goal, and off you go. Within this category there are many names of sub-sports based on the extra activity that a person chooses to partake in while walking. Walking is also called hiking by many, usually more related to when you use a specific trail (“I went hiking up Mount Cook”). The next step is backpacking, or trekking (or tramping, by Kiwis), which describes multi-day hiking and usually requires you carrying all your gear though this is not a must (you can do hut to hut trekking, for example).
2. Climbing – here we move into the vertical world, and it can include a rock climb route that is done in 5 minutes or it can be full-on mountain climbing. Rock climbing can happen at indoor gyms, up rock faces with ropes and harnesses, up and over boulders (“bouldering”) and pretty much anywhere there are rocks. Routes can take 5 minutes, 5 hours or even several days. Mountain climbing (also called mountaineering) is a form of walking, and lies between walking and climbing in terms of exertion, but tends to take longer and requires actually climbing a mountain. While mountaineering you might move from horizontal walking to fully vertical climbing several times on your route.
3. Skiing and Snowboarding – also called mountain sports sometimes, or snow sports. The world of snow sports is truly endless, and the various sub-sports are too many to name them all. To try and give a general over view (and I’m sure I will be chased by skiers about mistakes…) – you can split snow sports into the means of going (skies, a snowboard or snow shoes), where it happens (backcountry, piste, or telemark) and what are you planning on doing (going downhill, cross country, climbing). The most obvious issue for snow sports is that is requires snow, and so it is limited to winter or places high enough to hold snow for longer periods of time.
4. Cycling – This is a very straightforward sport category that has one main feature – you need a bicycle for it. In the last decade or so cycling has become a really popular sport, ranging from road cycle touring of rural areas, to downhill mountain biking, all the way to backcountry exploration using fat bikes. Cycling is also a sport not limited to specific terrains or seasons. Cycling’s main benefit is the ability to cover very long distances in a short span of time without causing much environmental impact.
5. Camping – Essentially represents any situation in which you sleep in a temporary shelter outdoors, usually with a tent, and can be done year-round. Camping is usually in conjunction with other sports to offer a multi-day adventure, but sometimes can be the main purpose of the trip, such as when you go car camping to enjoy a specific area.
6. Running – running outdoors can be seen as a very ancient sport or a relatively recent trend. Running outdoors is usually broken down according to distances covered in one go and encompasses trail running, mountain running (“fell running” in the UK) and ultra running (long distances of 60 to hundreds of miles). Running outdoors can be in a single session (you go out, run, come back home) and so require very light kit for short use, or it can be a multi-day event requiring ultra light gear that includes sleeping and food preparation kit. If you are interested in taking your outdoor walking hobby to the next level, trail running is the way to go.
There are many other activities that take place in the outdoors such as fishing, water sports, base jumping and so many more, but the core of outdoor activities falls into the 6 categories listed above.
Making the choice of which activity to partake in should include what it takes for you to enjoy yourself, increases your fun factor and is within your limitations. It is also a great deal of fun to try other activities that you are not used to – that is how I got to try mountain running and climbing, and how I want to be able to learn more about snow sports and do some backcountry fat bike cycling.
Are there any other great outdoors activities I missed you want to tell me about? Leave me a comment and tell me what else you do outdoors, or what do you want to get into.