If you are into the outdoors and have not heard about microadventures, you really are off grid or well into no contact with the world. In case you did miss it, the microadventure hype started in the UK with Alastair Humphreys’ book, which came out in mid 2014 and carried the same name. In the UK it was accepted comfortably but without too much noise, picking up in early 2015 when the greater London population decided to embrace the book and its ideas. Lately though, it seems that the book and its ideas have made it to the USA, creating a new wave of microadventures all across the US and populating every site – microadventures are now all the rage!
But lets take a step back – what is a microadventure?
Microadventures are adventures that are close to home, cheap, simple, short, and yet very effective. A microadventure has the spirit (and therefore the benefits) of a big adventure. It’s just all condensed into a weekend away, or even a midweek escape from the office. Even people living in big cities are not very far away from small pockets of wilderness.
So, pretty straight forward – a microadventure is a close to home, cheap, short adventure. Sounds familiar? If you have a weird feeling that it sound exactly like your normal day hike you are right, it is one. Or maybe it sounds like taking the kids on a night camping, or going for a trail run in a nearby forest, or any other great adventurous thing we do do in our lives.
Back to the hype, why is it so big? When did we need to start defining the normal adventures we do as microadventures? To give you a taste of the articles I have read talking about microadventures (and they really are all good):
- Art of Manliness: Getting Out There: My 8-Week Microadventure Challenge
- Outside Online: Improve Your Life with Microadventures
- Huckberry: How to: Microadventure
- Gear Patrol: 25 Best American Microadventures
- Adventure Journal: Alastair Humphreys on ‘Microadventures’
I’m guessing that the main reason is that we all want to feel that the great outdoors are easily accessible, to make it fun and spontaneous. Not everyone is a professional adventurer and having those microadventures makes it all possible, even for a couple of days. Or so it seems.
I know that many people support the concept and I agree it has, “on paper,” many good things to it:
- More people feel the outdoors are accessible to them
- Increased awareness of our natural resources
- Better people (being outdoors reduces stress)
- More money is poured into the outdoors industry, leading to better gear
- Governments are pressured to conserve more land for recreation
But what many forget is that going on those “easy, simple, accessible” microadventures has a big cost:
- Less experienced people try things that they can’t necessarily do (like going camping in freezing temps without adequate gear)
- Insufficient awareness or care about “Leave no Trace” practices and damage to local nature spots
- A possible congestion of outdoors users on delicate environments that are not always able to cope with that influx
There is another big thing that the microadventure creates: light-heartedness with regards to being outdoors. If you have been in the outdoors long enough, you know that even the smallest outing holds its share of danger: falling, changing weather, hypothermia, dehydration, snake bites, etc – the list is endless, so we prepare well. We learn navigation and basic first aid. We make sure we know how to use our gear and assess dangers in the places we go. The microadventurers are simple, spontaneous people, they just go out – but it isn’t that simple.
We should reclaim the concept of adventure and remember what it really means:
- An unusual and exciting or daring experience
- Excitement associated with danger or the taking of risks
- A reckless or potentially hazardous action or enterprise
It is not by chance that all the definitions for an adventure include danger and risk; adventures always have the potential of risk that microadventures seem to not recognise and so send people unprepared. As much as I like doing small things like heading out on day hikes, family camping trips or morning trail runs, they are all full scale adventures, and I take each of them seriously. If you are going on adventures this summer (even if you call them micro), remember that they hold a risk and should be treated accordingly.
Enjoy the summer, and be safe.