We have already discussed what is “the outdoors” and what you need to survive, but what about comfort? We all want to be comfortable, especially when we are doing some thing that is supposed to be fun. How can it be fun if you are suffering? The discussion about comfort and feeling spoiled in the outdoors seems taboo sometimes when you talk to serious outdoor people or when delving deep into the outdoor reading.
In the outdoors, it is all about efficiency and practical carrying and reducing weight and technical gear, or at least that is the feeling one can get. But it is not. You can go outside, have fun, be efficient in many ways and enjoy nature, and be comfortable. I know, such an odd thing! But how can this be achieved?
What is being comfortable?
Probably the best way I can think of what being comfortable is, is by using the negative – what makes you uncomfortable? For me it is being cold, hungry and having a sore back. I can deal with pretty much everything else, from sleep deprivation to being wet or having aching feet and legs. So the best way to understand what makes you comfortable is by identifying what makes you uncomfortable and then solving it. By solving it I mean finding the way to eliminate that discomfort.
Lets take me as an example again:
- Being cold – this can be solved by either not going out in cold conditions (not really an option), buy a lot of warm clothing (good trick, but might be heavy), buy very high quality warm clothes (comes with a cost) or be very active (and use the heat generated to keep me warm). I use a mix of being very active (less stops, moving faster) and high quality warm clothing (I also need to remember my back) to increase my comfort.
- Being hungry – eat, a lot. Easy. Or is it? Eating a lot means carrying a lot of food and that can be heavy. So I instead of just bulk, I learned (a new skill) which foods work best for me, what makes me feel full and how to use advanced food preparation methods. That way I can carry less food (so lighter) and still keep myself fuelled and comfortable.
- Sore back – there are two ways to solve this: carry a lighter load and keep my core very strong. Again, we have a combination of the right gear (to be light enough but still will provide all I need) and skills/training. The core’s role is to support the spine and with carrying a backpack you can feel it even more, so I do regular core training. I also carry a camping chair so when I rest I can lean back and relax my back and core to reduce strain and even more soreness.
How to solve discomforts?
As you can see, my discomforts were solved by using a mix of tools to get me constantly comfortable outdoors. To be able to do this for yourself, just follow a simple process:
- Next time outdoors, identify discomfort(s)
- Can it be solved with a new skill (most sustainable and usually cheapest way)?
- Can it be solved with a specific bit of gear (invest in your “discomfort gear” the most as they impact your enjoyment the most)?
- Rinse and repeat until you are always comfortable outdoors.
Don’t forget that sometimes just by repeating the activity you will become better and therefore more comfortable with it. If you are going for the first camping night in your life and you find a sleeping bag uncomfortable, give it a few more nights. Things take time to get used to and the aim is to find the core of the discomfort (cold feet/sensitive ears/easily peeling skin from the hands etc) rather than just blaming the weather or the gear.
I hope this helps you find your discomforts and when you do – share them in the comments. If you already know what they are and how you solved them, I’ll be happy to learn new tricks so drop a note below.