While Merriam-Webster defines summer as “the warmest season of the year that is after spring and before autumn,” it should say “the season of the year that gives Netflix 90 percent of its business.” As summer rolls around, college students feel relieved to be finished with classes and all too ready to cuddle up on the reclining sofa until September. TV and naps are a summertime must, but getting off your butt from time to time to take advantage of the great outdoors proves equally important. You don’t have to be John Muir to conquer a mountain or two.
Don’t spend thousands on hiking gear, but drop some cash here and there to make your excursions more comfortable. You want a solid water bottle, a lightweight backpack, exercise clothes and sun protection. One of the biggest mistakes new hikers make is carrying too little water. Dehydration turns a beautiful trail into an endless path of misery. Likewise, a small pack to hold your snacks and water comes in handy. Exercise clothes don’t need to be fancy—basketball shorts or yoga pants will do. Whether bright or overcast, hot or cold, sun protection serves an important purpose in keeping your skin safe, so slip on a hat or slather on the sunscreen. Though not a necessity, taking pictures to remember your adventures by serves as a fun bonus. Investing in a GoPro or DSLR camera adds to the experience and gives you an additional hobby—photography.
FIND THE SACAGAWEA TO YOUR LEWIS AND CLARK
The buddy system: everyone knows of it and successful people use it. Mustering up motivation seems like no simple task on your own, but if you find friends to get into nature with you, hiking becomes enjoyable and hard to cheat. Exploring nature with good friends serves as a fantastic way to stay connected (not to mention competitive human nature keeps the legs going despite the burning sensation in your calves). “Wilderness has not been about solitude, but about community,” Glacier National Park public affairs specialist Tim Rains said. “It’s a rare time to be free of distractions, hang out, talk, sit in a hot spring, relax, build a campfire…all those cliché things to do, I’ve done and enjoyed.” Since the start of his career, Rains works to bring the outdoors to others in some of the world’s most beautiful places. Two to four friends proves plenty; any more makes planning difficult. With the summer clock ticking, seek out your adventure buddies ASAP.
STICK TO A SCHEDULE
Once you establish a crew, answer one big question: When can we hit the trails? Finding a day that works for everyone often becomes a struggle. If you’re not a natural planner, step the f–k up or pass the scheduling on to one of your type-A friends. “Life gets busy and it can be hard to prioritize hiking,” Sierra College junior and frequent hiker Jacob Benso said. “When I set a weekly time to hike with my friends, I was forced to take a break from the routine and get outside.”
You trailblazed three times in the past week—now treat yourself to a real vacation. Stop retweeting pictures of strangers camping by a fire on the beach and do it yourself. Whether backpacking through a stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail or camping in the nearby woods, add spending a couple nights under the stars to your summer bucket list. Trips like this require some careful preparation. Map your route, choose a place to set up camp and gather some additional camping gear to stay sheltered and nourished. While a camping trip might not be as feasible as a hike, two or three camping trips during the summer is more than doable. Want to really indulge yourself? Invest in a tent or hammock to make downtime a special treat!
REAP THE BENEFITS
I still don’t understand why hiking is so great. I have a treadmill in the garage and scenery on my living room walls! Turns out, hiking provides a wide range of health benefits that other activities like running in place in an indoor gym can’t compete with. San Francisco State University kinesiology professor Matt Lee believes outdoor physical activity has both mental and physical perks. “Being outdoors, especially in nature, allows the body to sense things that it does not get to in an indoor setting,” Lee said. “Whether it be mountain biking, trail running or hiking, outdoor activity is not only beneficial as a form of aerobic exercise, but also because it allows you to disconnect from the stresses of everyday life.”
While you could dust off your treadmill to meet this minimum, weekly hikes do much more. Lee also encourages hiking as a form of exercise because “it’s relatively inexpensive and it is a great activity for beginners as it can be as difficult as you want it to be.” Regardless of your reasoning, an adventure into the wild poses too many benefits to pass up.