The epic adventures are great, but it can be a long and dusty road of adventureless time in between.
If you're one of those people who, when kept away from the wilderness for any extended period of time, get bored, have built up energy and tend to annoy those around you like a golden retriever puppy wanting to go for a walk, then this post is for you.
How do you get your outdoor fix when you don't have the time or money for an epic? The answer is simple: Microadventures.
Microadventures take minimal planning, cost next to nothing, and don’t eat into your precious time too much.
A microadventure is a pretty open ended word, but I take it to be mini adventures that are cheap, relatively simple and take less than a week to complete (although I think the sweet spot is between 12-48 hours).
One person who'se been championing the benefits of microadventures is British Adventurer, Author and Blogger, Alastair Humphreys. He regularly posts ideas and advice for microadventures. His blog is well worth a read.
Without further ado, here's 10 ideas for microadventures that won't break the piggy bank and will fit around your busy schedule.
1. Walk 100 kilometres
Image courtesy of Matthew Cranney
Time needed: 24 hours.
Basic equipment needed: Good walking shoes, hat, sunblock, sunglasses, water, hiking poles and a headlamp.
Choose an arbitrary starting point (perhaps where you’re standing right now) and find a point either 100 km (62 miles) away, or a 100 km round trip. Begin walking. It’s that easy.
I suggest starting early in the morning so that you’re likely to finish around sunrise the next day. The trick with any long distance walk is to take it easy, don’t carry too much, use hiking poles if you like, drink plenty of water (with electrolytes) and don’t stop.
Just keep plodding away, listen to some music if you like, and before you know it, you’ve walked 100 km.
Choosing a scenic route will help the hours slip by, and keep in mind you’ll be walking in the dark for much it, so nothing too hazardous please.
If you think 100 km is unattainable for you, try 50 km, or even 20 km. The aim is to walk further than you would normally, and of course have a little adventure along the way.
2. Mid-week overnighter
Time needed: 12 hours.
Basic equipment needed: Bivy bag, warm clothes, sleeping bag and a head torch.
We spend most of our awake time at work and complain that we never have enough time to go on an adventure.
But if you think about it, we don’t do a lot with the hours between five and nine. That’s a whole 16 hours that you could spend having a microadventure.
Challenge yourself to spend one night during your work week in the outdoors. Even big cities have a small pocket of wilderness within an hour or two of your office. After work, grab your overnight bag, jump on your bike, train, car or whatever and head straight to your little pocket of wilderness.
Spend the night under the stars and enjoy the zen feeling that comes with a mid-week jaunt into the wilderness.
The beauty of this is that you don’t need much planning and it doesn’t eat into your weekend. Wake up early and head back into work.
You’ll be tired, a little disheveled, but I guarantee you’ll be smiling all day long.
3. Climb a (small) mountain
Time needed: 12-72 hours.
Basic equipment needed: Depending on the type of mountain, you could get away with a pair of walking shoes and a warm jacket. If it’s an overnight trip, bring the usual shelter, sleeping bag, headlamp and food. If it’s a technical climb, bring the appropriate gear also. The aim though, is to go small and light. This is a microadventure after all.
Your mission is prett straight forward: find a mountain (or hill) nearby and get to the top. It’s that simple.
The type of mountain is entirely up to you. It could be the tallest hill in your area and might take an hour to get to the top, or it might be the tallest mountain in the country and take a week to get to the summit.
Either way, standing on top of the highest point in any area is a great feeling and you’ll be rewarded with incredible views.
4. Commute to work (by any other means)
Image courtesy of David Grech
Time needed: 0.5-4 hours.
Basic equipment needed: Human powered transport, work clothes.
We spend so much of our lives traveling to work, usually stuck in traffic, that we may as well spend that time doing something awesome.
There’s no better way to start (or finish) your day than with a bit of exercise and a healthy dose of adventure, so set yourself the mission of getting to work at least once a week by human power.
This could mean walking, cycling, kayaking, running, skiing or even swimming to work. It’s a great way to kill two birds with one stone.
Remember, you’re already spending the time traveling to work in your car. Why not add a little bit extra to that and double it up with the time you spend exercising or having an adventure.
Experiment with different routes and methods of getting to work. The best way isn’t always the shortest way.
5. Backcountry snow camping
Image courtesy of Matthew Cranney
Time needed: 2-5 days.
Basic equipment needed: Warm clothes, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, tent, stove, food, headlamp, map, skis (or snowshoes).
During winter (or summer if you live in an area that has snow all year round), grab some mates, pack your snow camping gear and head to the mountains. Catch a lift to the top of the mountain and instead of skiing down the run with the rest of the punters, turn around and head off into the wilderness.
Ski or snowshoe for a few hours until you’re well and truly in the wilderness and the sounds of ski lifts and society have all but disappeared.
Snow camping is a wonderful experience if you’re well prepared. Enjoy both the calm snowscape and the windy extremes that frequent the mountains.
Walk to the top of a nearby mountain and ski down, build a snow cave, have a snowball fight, build a snowman, drink hot chocolate and escape the real world for a night or two.
Even though you might only be a few hours from a bustling ski village, you’ll feel like you’re a million miles away from anyone else. Enjoy.
6. Sleep on a beach
Image courtesy of Andrew Johnson
Time needed: 12-48 hours.
Basic equipment needed: Food, water, warm clothing, shelter, headlamp and a sleeping bag.
Beach camping is a great way to experience nature in all its glory. You’ll have a constant breeze, the sound of crashing waves, and of course a great view to wake up to in the morning.
Take a look at a map. Even those living in cities will be within a few hours drive of a beach that’s rarely visited. Rivers often have small beaches that are only accessible by water, so perhaps you could grab a friend’s kayak and paddle to a remote river beach.
Sand has a habit of getting into everything, so perhaps you could find a campsite a short distance inland from the sand. Or, embrace it and simply bring a tarp and sleep in the open.
The best bit about beach camping is jumping in the ocean (or river) after breakfast. Clothing’s optional. If you do this mid week, I guarantee you’ll be smiling all day long in the office.
7. Do without for a night
Image courtesy of Chris Bray
Time needed: 24-48 hours.
Basic equipment needed: Absolute minimum required kit for safety.
The aim of this microadventure is to explore what it means to ‘do without’.
Find a good pocket of wilderness to spend the night and pack your bag as usual. Then unpack your bag and re-access each and every piece of gear you’ve packed and ask yourself - do I really need to bring this? I think you’ll find you can easily halve the weight of your backpack during this process.
Depending on where your adventure is, you may need certain pieces of equipment for safety (such as a sleeping bag warm enough to avoid hypothermia).
The idea is to reevaluate the difference between want and need. Do you really need that camping espresso machine? Do you really need all those extra clothes, sleeping mat, tent or pots and pans?
There’s a certain dark art in ultralight adventure and you’ll probably find that in having less luxuries, you’ll suddenly have less stuff to worry about, less stuff to carry and you’ll have a far richer experience because of it.
I would rather carry a 5 kilogram backpack with the bare essentials than a 20 kilogram pack with loads of goodies to make your life more comfortable (and more cumbersome) in the outdoors.
8. Go sea kayaking
Time needed: 1-12 hours.
Basic equipment needed: Kayak, paddle, lifejacket, water, EPIRB and strobe (if going coastal).
Sea kayaking is a great way to have an adventure in a short amount of time. Find a friend who owns a sea kayak (or rent one) and go for a paddle.
Beginners could choose to do this in closed waters such as a river, harbour or lake. The real fun though, begins when you head into open water and paddle along the coast.
You’ll be amazed at how different the coastline looks when viewed from the outside in.
Depending on the weather, you may even be able to pull up onto the occasional beach or landing area for lunch.
Always check the weather before you go, and if you head along the coast, bring an EPIRB and strobe-light with you.
If you plan it right, sea kayaking is a very efficient way to have an adventure and zen out for a few hours whilst you paddle along, one with nature.
You may even be lucky enough to see some dolphins, seals or whales. The occasional shark might even swim past. Who knows what else, it’s an adventure!
9. Go for a wild swim
Time needed: 1-4 hours.
Basic equipment needed: Swimmers (optional) and a towel (also optional).
We’ve all been for a swim in a pool or at the beach, but not everyone has been lucky enough to go for a wild swim. By this, I mean somewhere remote and rarely visited, where nature is king.
Have a look on a map and find a river, lake or beach that you’ll likely have all to yourself.
There’s nothing more refreshing than jumping into a lake surrounded by bushland and having a good old fashioned wild swim.
Go find your special patch of water, grab some mates and jump in today.
10. Source to sea
Time needed: 2-5 days.
Basic equipment needed: Food, water, warm clothing, shelter, headlamp, sleeping bag, kayak (or packraft), life jacket and a dry bag.
This one is pretty straight forward.
Find a river that appeals to you and hike all the way to it’s source in the mountains.
Follow the trickle of water until it becomes deep and wide enough to launch a kayak, packraft or whatever.
Paddle down the river until you reach the ocean. Simple.
The length and difficulty of this micro adventure depends entirely on how long the river is, in what environment and how many rapids (if any) there are.
This can take anywhere from a day to a few months, but for the sake of a microadventure, 2 - 5 days is the sweet spot.
Have other microadventure ideas?
Add them to the comments below. We're always looking for more inspiration.
On the hunt for something bigger? Check out The Crossing, a film about my 1000 kilometre walk across a remote island in the arctic.