Most lists of the “10 Essentials” for outdoor adventure” focus on the gear necessary to deal with emergencies in the outdoors. The basis for the lists is to indicate what items are best to have on hand if one had to unexpectedly spend the night in the wilds and/or to deal with an emergency when assistance is many miles and hours away. The list is a good one to consider though in many instances, say if you’re out for a few hours of day hiking in a nearby county wilderness park, some of those items may not need to be on your person at all times.
In my series of posts that have been previously published I’m offered the “Other 10 Essentials” (O10E) that I think are important to fully appreciate and be prepared for the outdoor experience.
I’ve included the State of Mind:
As well as one’s State of Being:
- Challenging Yourself
- Physical Agility
The aforementioned groupings and items are less tangible than perhaps “Extra Food,” a common item found in other 10 essentials lists, and purposefully so. My desire in making this new essentials list was to divert the hiker’s focus to perhaps more esoteric concerns.
But now, it’s time to get real. In this and the next three installments I’d like to suggest a few real-world things that a hiker should have on hand when venturing out, things that may or may not be on any published lists. I will group these items in the “State of Reality” category.
To qualify for inclusion, these items must be:
- Easily obtained
After careful consideration and paring down my original list, these three additional items are:
- Repair Tape (duct tape and “Fiber Fix”)
- Plastic Bags (multiple sizes)
- Paracord (brightly colored preferred)
We’ll discuss each of these in more detail later on but let me preface that “Fiber Fix” is a product that, once obtained, you’ll immediately find yourself thinking of a dozen ways it can be used. I have no affiliation with the product or the manufacturer but I wish I did. It’s amazing stuff.
While we’re on the subject, what item do YOU think should be included in the O10E?
Number six of the Other 10 Essentials for outdoor adventure is the last of the three that deal with your state of being:
In order to enjoy hiking and other similar outdoor adventures, your physical agility should be a priority. Certainly, after a hike you should expect to feel a bit fatigued, but there is little joy in being completely exhausted or totally expended. In an emergency, your physical ability to hike out of harm’s way or imminent danger can be very important. Agility and conditioning is truly essential in this regard.
In many ways, the mental and physical preparedness necessary for outdoor adventure is not unlike what practioners of martial arts undertake. The key physical elements include
As with any physical activity, check with your doctor if you have any reason to be concerned about engaging in increased activity. If you’re currently working with a trainer or physical therapist, discuss your outdoor activity pursuits and perhaps focus on the four key elements described above.
However, if you’re ready to begin training to improve your physical agility, even if you are starting from “zero” you might want to consider the “AAB – Poetry In Motion” approach to your hiking endurance training. It incorporates the most basic skill involved in hiking; walking.
Truly, hiking is nothing more than walking on earthen paths under an open sky. If you’re going to hike, you have to work on walking a bit further than you may currently be able to do. Like a turtle, start slow and increase distance and elevation change with time and patience. As you do so, increase your hiking speed until that magic moment during which you find YOUR pace.
For some, that may be 2 miles an hour. For others, it may be as swift as 4 mph. Whatever that pace is, with increased experience and time on the trail, you will find that personal pace in which you can walk for longer periods and longer distances.
The “AAB Poetry In Motion” Hiking Workout
A poem written in AAB rhyming scheme looks sometime like this:
Under an open, birdsong filled sky
Watching as clouds overhead passed by
Spreading oaks gathered before me.
This three day-a-week (minimum) workout is similarly simple to follow; walk two days at a comfortable distance and pace but on the third day, increase either distance, speed or elevation gain/loss. During the following week, follow the same pattern, increasing your effort each week. Continue with this approach until you are satisfied with the distance you can walk/hike, the elevation gain/loss you can handle and the speed that you can execute both.
Assuming you haven’t walked or hiked very much at all, here’s what an initial Eight-Week AAB workout might look like.
- Day One 1 mile ~ relatively flat 30 minutes
- Day Two 1 mile ~ relatively flat 30 minutes
- Day Three 1 mile ~ relatively flat 25 minutes
- Day One 1 ½ miles ~ relatively flat 45 minutes
- Day Two 1 ½ miles ~ relatively flat 45 minutes
- Day Three 1 ½ miles ~ relatively flat 40 minutes
- Day One 2 miles ~ relatively flat 1 hour
- Day Two 2 miles ~ relatively flat 1 hour
- Day Three 2 miles ~ relatively flat 45 minutes
- Day One 2 miles with hills (+/- 200 feet) 1 hour
- Day Two 2 miles with hills (+/- 200 feet) 1 hour
- Day Three 2 miles with hills (+/- 400 feet) 1 hour
- Day One 2 miles with hills (+/- 200 feet) 45 minutes
- Day Two 2 miles with hills (+/- 200 feet) 45 minutes
- Day Three 2 ½ miles w/ hills (+/- 400 feet) 1 hour
- Day One 3 miles ~ relatively flat 1 hour
- Day Two 3 miles ~ relatively flat 1 hour
- Day Three 2 ½ miles w/ hills (+/- 300 feet) 45 minutes
- Day One 3 miles with hills (+/- 200 feet) 1 hour
- Day Two 3 miles with hills (+/- 200 feet) 1 hour
- Day Three 3 miles with hills (+/- 400 feet) 1 hour
- Day One 4 miles ~ relatively flat 2 hours
- Day Two 4 miles ~ relatively flat 2 hours
- Day Three 5 miles ~ relatively flat 2 hours
Of course, finding your pace might occur well before week eight. If so, GREAT! But I’d like to offer that every so often, challenge yourself, and find deep reserves that you didn’t know existed. The satisfaction and sense of accomplishment and self-confidence gained can be enormous.
As mentioned above, other aspects of physical agility such as flexibility and balance are important skills to consider. Exercises with a balance exercise ball, BOSU balls, balance boards or simple floor balance exercises will improve your skills of hiking over uneven terrain. Flexibility training such as yoga, dance or running stretches help to reduce the potential for pulled muscles or help in steep climbs. Here are few links you may find helpful, but a Google search or consulting with a Certified Trainer will also aid you in finding what is best for you.
There are a lot of good articles and advice available online to improve your physical agility for hiking. Here are a few worth reading:
Hiking is a physical and mental activity. If you plan and prepare appropriately, your physical performance in the outdoors will also enhance your mental well-being in the outdoor environment. Whenever possible, take the long road home.
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”
~ Helen Keller
The fifth of the “Other 10 Essentials” for outdoor adventure flows directly from the previous, fourth essential; Self Awareness. It also deals with one’s State of Being:
Once you have an objective examination of your physical state in the here and now, it’s important to look beyond to horizons yet to be explored, vistas waiting to be discovered, and personal barriers to break down. The outdoor experience provides multiple opportunities to do that, every time you step outside of the comfort of your here and now.
Your internal dialog might be something like, “This is where I am, where do I want to go? How much further will I need to explore to get there? What obstacles will I need to conquer?”
The best challenges are those you have chosen for yourself. Your ability to hike three miles a few months ago can become four or five on your next outing. For others, the challenge may be much greater because of their physical abilities, strength and stamina.
Challenges, whether they are imposed by life or taken on by choice, help you discover who you are. Each challenge is an opportunity to learn more about yourself and what you are capable of. Time and again, people who have pushed themselves just a bit further than the day before find that they are capable of more than they imagined.
It’s imporant to realize that success can be achieved regardless of outcome. Embracing a challenge can result in improved confidence, skills and feelings of self-worth that will not be present if there are no attempts. Failure to conquer a challenge provides lessons and understanding that are unavailable to those who do not test their own mettle.
Many limitations are self-imposed. Exercising control over self-limitations will result in accomplishments undreamed.
The satisfaction and discovery that accompanies this is immense. In an emergency, it can be life saving. In a person’s life, it can provide purpose.
In this next installment of the “Other 10 Essentials” (O10E) let’s change directions a bit. The first three essentials dealt with becoming more mentally focused and in tune with the environment in which the outdoor adventurer moves;
These elements coalesce into an amalgam that might be categorized as one’s state of mind. The next three essentials focus on the outdoor adventurer’s state of being. These essentials are not as esoteric as the first three, but they are important to consider as one enters into the very real and physical requirements that accompany outdoor activity.
Take stock of your physical condition and perhaps what boundaries exist for your stamina, outdoor abilities, and adventure skill level. This applies to the new hiker or the experienced mountaineer. Self-awareness demands an objective evaluation of what you can and cannot do.
It is fool hardy and dangerous for an inexperienced hiker to attempt a twenty-mile hike over a 14,000’ high alpine pass when all they have done prior to that are three to five-mile hikes across rolling ridges in the foothills. It happens much too often that outdoor adventurers will do this only to be found by cadaver dogs days later or if lucky, airlifted out by a search and rescue team.
This is not to say that a person shouldn’t challenge oneself, and we’ll discuss that later, but having a clear understanding of your abilities in the outdoors is vital.
The ancient Greek axiom, “Know Thyself,” was purportedly inscribed in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. The adage, of course, has deeper meaning but for purposes of our discussion, self-awareness also means not comparing yourself to others. The 10th-century encyclopedia of Greek knowledge, The Suda, says: “the proverb is applied to those whose boasts exceed what they are and that ‘Know Thyself’ is a warning to not pay attention to the opinion of others.”
It’s your hike, your trail, your mountain and your pace.
Being aware of your physical “now” helps you to enjoy the outdoor experience as well as developing an understanding of where you want to be in the days to come as new adventure presents itself.
A home’s green lot gave way
to the untended woods in
the spring of my youth.
Now is the autumn of my time but
tall trees, gray speckled rock and bird song
remain fresh and new as when first beheld.
I will pass as quickly as a leaf
floating earthward from the crest of an oak
carried on a soft wind
as winter whispers its return.
The oak will stay watch over the meadow
I walked many times in search
for the reason of my journeys.
It will linger five times the number of sunrises
I am allowed to witness given
time and awareness to regard.
The balance tips in favor of the oak
to be here well past my passing,
and seeking of meaning.
Connectedness, in the context of being in the outdoors, can be used to describe one’s desired relationship with the wilderness. It is the feeling you might have in the outdoor environment as well as the realization that you belong there and are in fact, an important part of it.
Many outdoor adventurers describe feeling home in the forest and a stranger in a crowded city. That sense of belonging and comfort is truly the result of 1) increased awareness and 2) attaining mindfulness in the natural world.
In addition to this sense of rapport, connectedness with wilderness demands an understanding that you, and all of the living and still things around you are connected, linked, joined in ways that may even be beyond full understanding.
Your actions and mere presence has an impact, an effect that can be transitory or long lasting. The wilderness, in turn, will have an effect on you, which can be similarly profound.
With this understanding, a deep respect for that environment will manifest. Respect, admiration, and with time, reverence.
Mindfulness is being present in the moment. This is done by taking in all of the information available to you through increased awareness. In a sense, it is a processing of all sensory inputs, both from external and internal sources, to reveal meaning, purpose and beauty of the place in which you find yourself.
Closely associated with Awareness, the first of the “Other 10 Essentials,” mindfulness is somewhat more nuanced in meaning. In “Mindfulness, A proposed operational definition,” written by Bishop, Lau, Shapiro, et al. the writers defined mindfulness in a two-fold manner:
“The first component involves the self-regulation of attention so that it is maintained on immediate experience, thereby allowing for increased recognition of mental events in the present moment.
The second component involves adopting a particular orientation toward one’s experiences in the present moment, an orientation that is characterized by curiosity, openness, and acceptance.”
Mindfulness can enhance the viewing of a sunset, something that happens at the end of each day, through understanding that THIS sunset can never be repeated. The light, clouds and sky color will never appear this way again and I will never be the same person as I am, right this moment and in this unique place.
Your favorite trail or canyon will continue to delight, as each time they are visited something new is discovered with every familiar turn.
Mindfulness in the wilderness brings clarity of place and time, and your presence in both.