I’m not a fan of doing end of year reviews or new year’s resolutions, but I am a big fan of planning, especially when it comes to upcoming trips. As a father to two kids under 3, a business owner (well, a start up) and a loving husband, finding time for going outdoors, especially overnights, is a challenge. Back when my daughter was born I had a conversation with my wife in which we came up with a plan to keep me going outdoors while staying a responsible adult (or at least the appearance of one): an over night trip once a month, a longer (4+ nights) trip once year, a couple of 2+ night trips a year and day trips in between – all solo. Of course we will also try and have family trips, but those are mainly during the summer and I like to backpack year round. All this was fully cleared with my wife (even planned), using any method to be outdoors including ultrapacking, microadventure style trips and prebooking to get things set in stone (you know, sandstone…).
In 2016, though, I had a lot going on: another child (my son) was born in March, I started my own company in February (that failed), we went on a 2 month family trip in July and August, we moved from the UK to the USA in September and I started another company in October. All in all a very, very busy year which led to a less-than-ideal situation for hiking, especially with my presence needed to help keep the family unit working and happy.
In 2015 I had managed to get 18 nights outdoors; not a huge amount, but within reason for a boring full time working father of a young child who lives in a city and has no car. Of those 18 nights, 10 were on the Cape Wrath Trail and I only had 4 months (January, June, July and October) that I didn’t get to sleep outdoors.
In 2016 my outdoor adventuring went down the drain: only 9 nights outdoors, a far cry from my hope to get around 20 nights outdoors a year. As I mentioned above, I feel this is acceptable given the amount of big, life changing events we were going through, but it now makes me really want to get outdoors according to the great plan that I had.
To make things more exciting, I thought to make it into a small challenge, giving myself and others who might be interested to join the accountability to get those solo nights outdoors. So here are the ground rules, qualifying factors and what can come from it:
- At least one night outdoors, solo, each month. This includes winter and the summer holiday, so it’s up to you to find the time. A good trick is to sneak out on Friday straight from work, do a bit of moon walking if it is possible, camp and have a full day of hiking on Saturday. This minimises the impact on the family.
- One expedition-style trip a year. This can be either the whole or a section of a long trail, a backcountry trip that requires lots of planning and resources, etc. The challenge is for it to be longer than 4 nights but best is over a week, where you really settle into the rhythm of life outdoors.
- Two trips or more of 2+ nights outdoors. It can be an extension of your one nighter trip, but it can’t be calculated in the big expedition-style trip. You can fit family camping trips here, but they need to be more than just the simplest car camping and be an actual hiking/backpacking trip.
More is always welcome of course, so don’t feel the need to limit yourself.
The qualifying factors
In order to officially participate you must meet a few qualifying factors, but that is just in order to be in the running for the prize; really, anyone can join in. Officially, this is for anyone that is:
- A parent to at least 2 kids under the age of 6. It can be any combination and you might have more than 2 (including older kids) but there must be 2 kids that are too young to understand your need to go outdoors and drain your time, energy and resources.
- You need to be working to make money. Sorry, being financially free means that a lot of the stresses of modern life are eased off. You can be an office worker, a truck driver, a business owner or a politician, but you need to be committed to an external system to make sure your kids don’t starve and you can afford new gear. A note: if you work outdoors in the outdoor industry you can’t play, sorry – when you spend 100 nights a year outdoors AND get money for it you can’t win here, you are already winning in life.
- A partner of any sex and any legal status must be present, happily. It doesn’t matter how you organise that committing headache that you call your “relationship”; but it needs to be a loving and committed one, the kind you want to actually be part of. If you hate your partner, are separated or would rather milk spiders than have a night in together, you are out.
- You want to be outdoors. Pretty obvious but thought I’d mention it – don’t go outdoors if you hate it.
- All those nights outdoors must be about backpacking/hiking/walking: no cars, bikes, canoes, rafts, gliders or anything in between.
A note about what counts as a night outdoors: I think it is obvious but to be clear: a night of camping/bivying or crashing in a super simple dwelling like a bothy (no hotels, hostels, caravans etc). It must be away from your home, so no back yard or local park sneaky bivying.
This is what we have all been waiting for, right? I was thinking what would be interesting but completely unknown, so here it is: I have a company that makes outdoors gear, called Cnoc Outdoors, where I try and develop outdoor gear that is a little different, gear that tries to correct the odd design choices that have been made in the outdoor retail industry. At the moment I only have a pair of hiking poles in production, which have a special design and are really light and doing well. In the coming year I hope to finish testing, finalising and move on to producing 4-7 more prototypes I’m working on right now. So the prize will be:
One of each item I have in my company, no matter what it is.
It is a two way problem for me: if I’m not doing well with my company you will get a smaller prize, but if I’m doing well the prize can be really big!
How to win
If you are a qualifying person (see above) and feel committed to the outdoors and to your family, you need to meet the above goals and prove it as you go, along with submitting final proof by the 2018 new year. In order to prove it you need to:
- Upload at least one picture of each monthly trip and tag it with #outdoorsfather and #OF2017nights on one of the following social medias: Facebook, Twitter or Instagram; you can also tag me by using @outdoorsfather
- If you write a post about any of the trips, let me know- we might do a monthly round up of everyone’s trips
- By January 2018 you need to send me an email, to gilad (at) outdoorsfather.com, that includes at least one picture of every trip with a quick description of what it was: where, how many nights, how it was and if you have any gps data, attach that
- Some kind of communication from your partner to show that they are real, you have kids and that also gives their honest opinion about this challenge.
The decision on the winner will be based on a random selection from any of the qualifying backpackers that have successfully proved they completed the challenge.
What is next
The best way that I found to move forward is to start with an idea of what trips you would like to do and roughly when. To make things even more interesting, I’ll share my initial plan:
- Hike the Timberline Trail on Mount Hood in 2 days in the summer – a 1 night trip
- Hike the Wonderland Trail in 3 days around Mount Rainier in the summer – a 2 night trip
- Start section hiking the Oregon Desert trail in late spring – my yearly expedition
- Hike along the Oregonian coast overnight (about 2 hours drive for me)
- At least one family camping trip in the Columbia Gorge this summer
This is my initial list for some accountability, you can add yours in the comments or email it to me. If you are joining in, feel free to let me know in advance so I can keep track – I like to hear what others are doing!
If you have any questions, get in touch.
Disclaimer note: the terms and conditions for this competition might get updated from time to time if something comes up or is unclear, so come back every once in a while to check.