A Hiker's Guide To Not Hiking

A Hiker's Guide To Not Hiking

With even local trails getting clogged, our editor has some advice for you that he hoped he’d never have to give.

We can’t help ourselves: A hiker’s gonna hike. Hiking is good for your body and soul, and both need nourishment now more than ever.

But this isn’t about you, it’s about the health of others and the bandwidth of first responders, and it’s time to stay home. I know that’s a tough pill to swallow because I feel it, too.

Overflowing trailheads with minimal regard for social distancing isn’t what we need right now. I support the parks and trail systems that have chosen to close because that’s the only way to keep folks at home. And that’s the only way to ensure we’re protecting vulnerable populations and not unnecessarily taxing the limited infrastructure most small outdoor towns have.

I live in a town of about 2,000 in the foothills in between Boulder and Estes Park, Colorado. I moved here for one trail in particular, my favorite mountain bike trail. It doesn’t hurt that there’s a couple trout-filled rivers nearby as well as a few lifetimes of rock climbing. Naturally, it’s a popular weekend destination. It’s now seeing peak summer levels of traffic and taxing local law enforcement and first responders (I’m a volunteer firefighter, and I see it every time I work a shift).

For now, I’m not hiking or biking area trails. I’m turning to home-based stuff like the below. I urge you to do so, too. Frankly, it’s been pretty fun.

Work Out

I love training, and it’s benefits are endless. Stronger bod and lungs are up there, as are fun and camaraderie, but most pertinent right now, in my opinion? Stress relief. An hour in my driveway or garage working up a sweat while blasting Beastie Boys is an hour out of my house and out of my head. Here’s a sample workout from my friends at Boulder Athletics that you can do at home.

Put some weight in a day pack (15 to 20 pounds), then:

5 Rounds for time of

20 Backpack lifts from ground to overhead

15 Burpees, jumping over backpack

4 Rounds for time of

40 Backpack Russian twists

30 Second plank hold

Need a little motivation? Follow along with our recording of a live workout with coach and athlete Jason Antin. Heck, you might just come out of this thing stronger. Train hard now, hike easy later.

Zen Out

Take a few minutes to clear your mind and appreciate where you are and what you’ve got. You can do it on your own simply by sitting quietly with your eyes closed for 10 minutes and focusing on your breathing. Or you can download any of a host of apps. I’ve used Headspace for years and love it. We’re hosting our own guided meditation for our Basecamp membership program.


To learn. To escape. To grow. To travel the world while not moving an inch. We have a few lists of our staff’s favorites here. I turned to Gretel Erlich’s Solace of Open Spaces and am cracking Peter Heller’s The Dog Stars next.

Write a Letter to a Hiking Partner

Take a minute to thank an old friend for an amazing trip, to reminisce about that one time it all came together perfectly, and you hiked with ease, ate well, didn’t see another soul, did see a moose or a griz or the biggest shooting star of your life, and enjoyed it all amidst golden weather. Or commemorate the hard times, that trip you toughed it out together and staggered back to the car grinning. I remember a late summer trip to West Virginia’s Cranberry Wilderness with my college roommate Glen. It was a little of both: We had torrential rain, and Glen had somehow forgotten his shell. I’d decided to forgo my canister stove for an alcohol stove I'd made from a Coors can. Our progress was slow, but that afforded us time to shoot the shit and solve all the world’s problems while drinking just the right amount of Jim Beam. Handwritten is the way to go for style, but email works too.

Address Your Maintenance Backlogs

My favorite sleeping pad, an old Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLight, has a slow leak, which I’ve learned the hard way at least three times. But after each of those trips, I shoved the pad back in my gear closet bleary-eyed without fixing it. Today’s the day. I’m also going to wash my most-used sleeping bags, refresh waterproofing on my boots and gloves, and address long term inattention my cooking and water purification kits have suffered. Might even unbend some tent stakes, if it comes to that.

Video Chat Someone for Fun

Yes, I said fun. You may already be swimming in a sea of video-conferencing. Even my kid has Zoom meetings. But add one to your week with people you’re dying to see, that you miss. Toast to their health. Have a campfire. Human connection, even with a device in between, will do you good. A phone call works too.

Get Hooked on a Podcast

We’re biased for sure, but we have a brand new story from our Out Alive series that’s just dying to explore your headphones. It’s armchair entertainment and educational at the same time.

Learn Something New

If you don’t come out of quarantine with a new hobby, skill, or side-hustle it’s not for lack of time but for lack of desire. Just chillin’ is fine too, if that’s what you need, but make that a conscious decision. But if you and your family are well, consider this unstructured time the rare chance to learn the banjo, practice your conversational Spanish, or master your camp chef skills. And we’re giving this Essential Knots course away free. Grab some cord and show us a bowline or a taut line hitch.

Plan Your Next Trip

This pandemic grounded trips I had on the calendar for the country of Georgia, Colombia, and Oregon. It cancelled a few conferences I was stoked to attend. It closed the ski resorts and climbing gyms. It closed Rocky Mountain National Park. You get it, and I’m sure you have your own unfulfilled list you wish to realize. Use this downtime to plan (or replan) your next great escape. I have some pent up energy and can’t stop thinking about fly fishing and pack-rafting in Alaska, biking a section of the Great Divide, maybe finally hiking the JMT, or climbing in the Wind Rivers. As my friend and 2013 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year Mike Libecki says (cheesily, yet guilelessly), “Dream big, and climb those dreams!”

Written by Shannon Davis for Backpacker and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.