How Hiking, Biking and Camping Helped Me Win at Life

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Hiking, biking and camping aren’t just hobbies to waste my time with on the weekends.  These activities aren’t just an excuse to spend more time outdoors.  Hiking, biking, and camping all have taught me valuable lessons that I use in my everyday life.

Pick Your Line

While out on a trail, there is a concept known as “pick your line”.  Each step on a rocky dirt path, each pedal over a muddy trail is a choice.  Do you head toward that sloped embankment, or do you balance over the stacked rocks?  Pick your line, in that split second before your heal strikes the ground.  One wrong move, and you’re over your handle bars.  One wrong step and you’ve twisted your ankle.
Learning to make quick decisions on sketchy trails over and over again, puts you in a mental state to trust yourself.  You begin to feel comfortable making important decisions quickly.  You feel adept and quick on your feet.  You learn to trust.
Pick your line, and everything else falls in to place.

Where You Focus, Is Where You Will Head

When mountain biking, one of the first lessons learned is to focus where you want to go.  That advanced technical section up ahead that is beyond your ability? Don’t stare at it.  Don’t tense up about it.  Focus on that alternate section to the right.  Focus on where you are heading.  Where you focus is where you will head toward.
Off the trail the same rule applies.  What you focus on, what you spend your time on is where you will go.  Be careful where you focus your energy.

Always Be Prepared

We pack the essentials: a map, a compass, a headlamp, a warm layer, plenty of water.  We are always prepared.
Off the trail the same rule always applies.  Keep your cell phone battery topped off, dress for the weather, carry cash.  The little details of always being prepared often pay off.

Think it Through

When prepping for a camping trip we always think through the details: what will we eat, where will we sleep, what will we do?
Off the trail, thinking through the details sets us up for success.  What will we eat for dinner this week?  What do we need to buy to enjoy this dinner?  Does anything need to be prepped for the week?  The devil is in the details, and the details are realized when you think it through.

Plan For the Worst, Expect the Best

Our day hiking setup includes plans for the worst.  We don’t head out without enough supplies for worst case: to survive a night out in the cold. Though, we expect to have a gloriously photogenic hike in the sierras and be home in time to do laundry before work the next day.
Off the trail planning for the worst is a good m.o. to have.  Emergency fund in the bank account, shelf stable food in the pantry and backup generator in the garage.  I don’t plan to use these items, though should I need to, I’ll be a happy camper.

Keep Your Feet Happy

Dry non-blistered feet make for a happy day on the trail.  A day with blisters or cold wet feet make for a needless adventure.
Off the trail feet are still an important factor.  Making your way to an important interview with uncomfortable shoes on your feet is a recipe for disaster.  Always wear shoes that make your feet happy, and be ready for anything.

Become Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

I’ve learned that the days I push myself, a little farther than I was comfortable on a day hike or complete a sketchier climb than I thought I could handle, those are the days I feel accomplished.  I sleep well at night, and my confidence in my capabilities grows.
Off the trail pushing myself only helps me create the life I crave.  Moving across the country, riding my bike to work, seeking a new career.  These are the things that have set my life forward, toward the life I want.  These are also the things that made me uncomfortable, that forced me outside my comfort zone.

The Best Things in Life are Free

I can spend hundreds on the latest lightweight pack or hiking boots.  Yet, the best part of any day outside is the view, the smell of the pine trees or the new ability I found in myself.
Off the trail: it’s all too easy to spend money as a hobby.  To buy the latest jeans, or the better car.  Remembering that the best things are free: a walk in the park, a great homemade dinner, makes life all the better.

Know Your Tools

You don’t take anything hiking that you don’t know how to use.  A compass and a map are useless on the trail if you don’t know how to use them.  A camping stove won’t help you make dinner if you don’t know how it works.
Off the trail learning the keyboard shortcuts to the software program you spend eight hours a day in only makes you more efficient.  Learning how to maintain the vehicle you drive each day, only makes you a better driver.

Buy the Best You Can Afford

A poorly constructed tent will make for a very sad camping trip.  A leaking tent floor, and snapped tent poles are common failures for budget tents.  When you plan to use something frequently, it makes sense to buy the best you can afford.
Off the trail the same rule applies.  Buying the best skillet you can afford makes sense when you cook at home seven nights a week.  Buying the best comforter you can afford, that will last years, is better than buying a new cheap comforter every year.


“In every area of nature, efficiency is the law of the land. Efficiency just makes sense.The only thing I know of that doesn’t abide by efficiency is the human ego.” – Jay Schaffer
Efficiency is the law of nature.  Water flows downstream, plants grow toward the sun.  
Off the trail efficiency makes for a simple life.  Instead of piles of junk mail, unsubscribe and only deal with the necessary.  Instead of thousands of square feet of living space to clean, pair down to a smaller space for more efficient living.  

Live in the Moment

The biggest lesson of trail life is to learn to live in the moment.  Living solidly in the moment will allow you to appreciate the beauty around you, respond appropriately to potential disasters, and most importantly will bring joy to every movement.
Off the trial, living in the moment is more of a challenge though one worth rising to.  Finding the joy in a warm summer day, or the beauty in a new snowfall mean remembering to live in the moment.