How to Get Outside More Often

I like to get outside on the weekends. If I don’t, the brief days blur together.  Despite good intentions, I often find myself sleeping in or puttering around the house doing chores rather than getting outside. I also find it harder to get out for a weekend-long trip, never planning ahead enough. I’ve developed some solutions that help me get outside more often, as well as some ideas I want to try (there’s always room for improvement!).

Know Your Options

  • Keep a list of possible excursions, including the time and preparation needed (for example, you might need to make or buy dehydrated food for backpacking). Include a range of lengths, from half-day trips to three-day weekends or longer. Make sure you include options for every season.

Prepare Ahead of Time

  • Make Thursday your “decision night”. Check weather forecasts, pick a trip, and coordinate with friends.
  • Gather your gear the night before so your gear’s sitting by the front door ready to go. Pack your bag. Make or buy your lunch. Prep breakfast. Go to bed early.

Eliminate Barriers

Grab and Go Hiking Station in a Drawer

Hiking gear ready to grab and go in the “hiking station” drawer.

Think of anything that might hold you back from getting outside, whether you’re too busy, you hate gathering your gear, or you don’t want to commit to a day.

  • Have your gear ready to grab and go. I created a “hiking station” at our house where I store my 10 essentials kit, maps, gaiters, nature guides, and binoculars. I can load the appropriate gear into either my small or big hiking bag depending on the trip and the weather.
  • Open up your weekend schedule by doing chores and errands on weeknights. Or make one weekend day your chore/errand day, leaving the other open for outdoor fun.
  • Make reservations. Book the trip. Pay a deposit. Sign up for vacation time.
  • Stock up on travel-friendly snacks. Hit the bulk section of the grocery store and make your own GORP. I got inspired to make some of my own energy bars and bought a dehydrator (I recommend the cookbook Raw Energy by Stephanie Tourles).
  • Coordinate a pet-sitter or find a friend or neighbor with pets who you can exchange favors with.

Get Social

documenting animal sign (kill site)

Volunteering for citizen science initiatives like the Cascade Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project supports conservation and gets you outside. Plus, you improve your naturalist skills and usually see interesting stuff!

You’ll be less likely to back out if someone else is counting on you.

  • Arrange “activity dates” with friends to do specific activities or excursions.
  • Join a hiking group, sign up for an outdoor course, or volunteer with a citizen science initiative. Offer to drive if you’re worried you might hit snooze and stay home.
  • Invite a kid – your kid’s friend, your friend’s kid, your niece or nephew. You won’t want to let them down by canceling. Plus, you’ll make their week.

Find Motivation

  • The night before, think of a reason why you need to go or set a goal for your excursion. That could be “I need the exercise,” or “I need to shoot some photos for the Cascadia Inspired monthly theme.”
  • Set goals at the beginning of the season for how many trips you’re going to do, and establish a nice reward for yourself (but be firm and don’t get the reward for yourself unless you follow through).
  • Buy a guidebook for your sport of choice. Keep it by your bed or desk, somewhere you’ll see it frequently.
  • Read outdoor magazines and books. The library is your friend.
  • Give yourself a little reward for getting outside. My partner and I like to treat ourselves to sweet potato fries after a long hike.
  • Take up a naturalist hobby or get interested in wild edibles. Every fall I join a friend to hunt for chanterelle mushrooms even though I don’t like them. Tracking animals is a good reason to get out in the snow since tracks are easy to see.

But It’s Raining

hiking in full rain gear

Head to toe rain gear makes mushroom hunting in the rain a reasonable proposition.

  • Have backup options for bad weather excursions.
  • Just do it. (Assuming conditions are safe.) The rain always sounds worse on the roof than it feels outside. Bring a dry change of clothes to leave in the car and change for the drive home.
  • If the weather really is too bad to go out in, use that time to check your gear and resolve any issues. Patch your air mattress, waterproof your boots, buy new gloves, test your water filter’s canister, change the batteries in your headlamp. Get everything ready so that no gear problems will hold you back from your next trip.

How do you make yourself get outside? Share your tips!

About Tracy Durnell

Seattle-area graphic designer and SFF writer inspired by the Pacific Northwest, crafting a sustainable and intentional life.

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