I don’t massively subscribe to the ‘new year, new you’ bollocks that gets bandied about every January but I do believe in setting myself a few rewarding resolutions to help me get outdoors. These ten easy challenges are brilliant ways to get off the sofa and into your hiking boots in 2018.
10 outdoors challenges for 2018
1. Get out of your comfort zone
What outdoor activity gives you the willies? Scuba diving? Cliff camping? Make this the year you push past the activities you know well and try something that gives you The Fear. The best way is by signing up to a course, so that you’re taught a new skill in a safe environment – I’m taking a winter mountaineering course in March to learn how to ice-axe my way to snowy summits.
2. Write down your adventures
Putting pen to paper (or keys to keyboard) is a creative and cathartic way to retell and relive the big and little adventures you take this year. I keep a diary full of random thoughts on the places I’ve been to, and reading old pages about past travels brings back the sights, sounds and smells of farflung countries and summer camping trips in vivid detail. And think – if you start a diary now and you can read about all your epic trips when you’re a granny.
3. Map your own routes
Map reading is a skill most of us could do with brushing up on, and regular navigating practice really helps my confidence. Try planning an easy hike or a trail run (I like View Ranger, as you can find lots of great routes already online to inspire you, too) near obvious landmarks such as roads or along the coast and have a go at reading a physical map or an online route.
4. Sleep wild
Pack a tent or a bivvy bag (or my new favourite for sleeping wild, a camping hammock), check out my advice on where you can wild camp in the UK and go sleep outdoors under a blanket of stars. A night in the great outdoors is free, quick and easy to plan and gives you a big big dose of fresh air.
5. Make a British wildlife bucket list
We’re lucky to live on a little island rich in beautiful wild creatures, from red deer to badgers and barn owls. Pick a wildlife wonder you’ve always wanted to see in its natural environment, such as red squirrels on the Isle of Wight or otters in Scotland, and plan a road trip or a multi-day hike around their habitat to see if you can tick them off your wildlife list.
6. Get a qualification
There’s nothing better for boosting your confidence levels in an active skill than getting some professional training. You could take a climbing proficiency course to improve your belaying technique, have a few swimming lessons to gain strength before you take on a big sea swim or get some ski or surf coaching to learn how to tweak and improve your style. On my list for 2018? Taking an emergency wilderness first aid course – a no brainer if you’re off on remote adventures.
7. Make a change for the planet
Cutting down the single use plastic you consume is a brilliantly easy tweak you can make to help the environment, and one that’ll allow you to see instant results. Try these ten easy switches to limit your plastic use, including swapping plastic water bottles and takeaway coffee cups for reusable alternatives.
8. Plan more of what you love
The dark, dragging days of Jan and Feb can be a bit depressing, can’t they? My solution is to make a list of the trips and activities that make me happy and then to book in lots of them for the coming months. Like a surf trip to Ireland (my flights cost a grand total of £35), signing up for an Endurance Life half marathon and getting some summer camping trips planned. They’ll come around in now time.
9. Go self-sufficient
Bike packing or hiking your jam? Practice carrying your own gear in 2018. Self-sufficient trips are great rehearsals for bigger hikes and expeditions, and you’ll gain good experience in planning meals, picking lightweight kit, packing a backpack and learning what you can and can’t live without in the wild. If you fancy learning more about what to pack, I got tons of advice on what to carry and what to eat (plus some epic blisters) on JT Expedition’s training weekenders.
10. Climb a new mountain
Standing on a new summit brings a real, simple sense of achievement. Don’t fancy a big climb to the top? Try the easy but rewarding Sugar Loaf in the Brecon Beacons, or lovely Catbells in the Lakes. Or take on a Welsh or a Scottish classic like Snowdon, Cadair Idris or Ben Lomond. It doesn’t matter if it’s an easy scramble to the top or not – conquering a mountain and gaining the panoramic view of a wild landscape from the top always lifts the heart.
What challenges and adventures are on your list for 2018?