If you love the outdoors, being stuck inside can feel like one of the worst fates imaginable.
Luckily though, there are plenty of things you CAN do inside that will keep you inspired and prepared for future outdoor adventures.
This post will share 32 of the most productive things to do while waiting to get outdoors.
This post is inspired by current events preventing outdoor exploration but is written with the regular ‘off season’ in mind as well.
You’ll find me doing most of these activities every winter (and into the spring) as I eagerly await the warmer days to come back.
Published April 2020. This post includes some affiliate links. If you make a purchase via one of these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Learn new skills
This is an ideal time to expand your knowledge and also improve on outdoor skills. These can enhance any future outdoor trip. I don’t know about you, but I have a seemingly endless list of things I ‘need to get around to’ and so many of the below suggestions are on it! The resources listed are merely a starting point.
- Navigation – Learn one of the most fundamental outdoor skills and never get lost again. Outside covers the basics here. The SAS Survival Guide covers skills and techniques to transverse unfamiliar terrain
- Leave No Trace – Reducing our recreational impact on wilderness areas is so important. Brush up on your knowledge on the LNT Canada website
- Basic First Aid – The best training is in person, but learning the basics online is better than nothing. The Mayo Clinic has a good overview to start.
- Knots – Whether you’re climbing, backpacking or paddling, knots are endlessly useful when exploring the outdoors. They can save lives too. OutdoorLife lists 20 different knots here
- Tarps – Once you have the basics down, a tarp shelter can be created anywhere you need it. This REI guide coves the classic setups
- Sewing – If saving money and weight is your jam, consider making your own outdoor gear. Look to Quest Outfitters for material and patterns and Ray Jardine for advice and kits
- Foraging – Learning about wild edibles and medicinals can be hugely rewarding. It can also be risky, so do your homework first (this book is excellent), take a course if you can and follow these tips for ethical foraging
- Nature – Get more out of your next trip outside and be able to recognise birds and whales, name wildflowers , identify animal tracks and more
- Sky – Look up and learn more about the skies above us, an enriching experience even at home. Discover how to predict the weather or recognize constellations (we like Sky Map)
- Photography – Get off manual mode and find out how to use your DSLR camera to its full potential! Or download new filters and editing software for your smartphone
Find new adventures, at home
We will explore again, one day. Until then, we can dream about it in so many different forms. Keep your sense of wonder and adventure going with the following ideas.
- Research new trails and destinations – There’s always more places to find and add to your backcountry bucket list. My favourite sources are Pinterest, outdoor adventure blogs (like this one), national and provincial park websites (e.g. BC Parks), National Geographic and the endlessly engrossing Backroad Mapbooks
- Go on a mini-adventure – Make most of nature near your own home and explore new neighbourhoods and local parks, following all necessary precautions and regulations. Beauty isn’t only found in the backcountry, but also in the blooming curbside flowers and budding trees all around us
- Watch outdoor themed films – As well as Into the Wild, The Way, A Walk in the Woods, Wild, the Secret Life of Walter Mitty and other awesome Hollywood movies, check out the Banff Mountain Film Festival back catalogue or Alex Honnold’s Free Solo
- Get reading – There’s nothing better than getting lost in a great book, especially if it transports you to the outdoors. Besides the (original) book versions of the movies mentioned above, I recently read and loved Dare to Do by Sarah Outen and Keith Foskett’s PCT, AT and Camino travelogues
- Go hiking (virtually) – Long distance hiking may not be possible right now but you can still virtually hike the Appalachian Trail! The Walk the Distance app logs your daily walking against the route of the AT. For a more passive experience, check out VR Hikes or YouTube for virtual hikes
- Reminisce about past adventures – While digital photography enables us to take hundreds and thousands of photographs without thinking, it also makes it too easy for photos to remain achieved on a memory card or hard drive. Display your treasured memories and appreciate the experience fully
Check and clean your outdoor gear
After a hard season or two of use, outdoor gear usually needs some TLC. Though it may not be the most exciting task, your future self will definitely thank you for it! Careful maintenance can really prolong the life of key items, such as tents, sleeping mats, sleeping bags, backpacks and more.
- Re-waterproof jackets and pants – Over time, waterproof membranes become clogged with dirt and grime. When rain stops beading on your waterproof jacket, it’s probably time for a wash. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to wash and restore the waterproof finish. I usually use Nikwax
- Clean your sleeping bag – Keeping a sleeping bag clean helps to maintain its loft and overall performance. Spot washing is easiest with a toothbrush and mild soap. For a real wash, follow MEC’s instructions here
- Check mat inflation – It’s always good practice to test your sleeping mat before a trip, so get this done now to ensure its function. One winter, two of the chambers on my mat fused together. It was almost impossible to sleep on!
- Sort First Aid kit – One of those things that is too easy to just set it and forget it, your first aid kit should be regularly checked and sorted. Look for out of date products (e.g. rehydration packets) and items that may need restocking
- Repair and replace items – When sorting through your gear, put aside any items that may need replacement or repair. Most outdoor gear companies offer very respectable warranties to ensure that items should last for the practical lifetime of the product. Even when a replacement is not available, repair may be offered.
- Revise your gear – Now is the time to consider any chances or alternations to your gear list. This is especially true if you desire to transition to more lightweight gear and have the budget to do so. Check out the Ultralight subreddit for inspiration and ideas
- Wash, wash, wash – Sleeping bags aren’t the only item of gear that may need a bit of cleaning. Give your pots a good scrub, clean out that car camping cooking stove and spot wash your trusty backpack. If you have a kayak or canoe, it’s a great time to give it some care and perhaps a polishing treatment
Make your own trail food
We’ve been experimenting with making our own trail snacks and dehydrated meals for some time now. It’s a great way to pass the time in the spring while waiting for the weather to warm up! It also saves us a lot of money.
If you don’t have a dedicated dehydrator machine (we use and love this one but have owned this one in the past too), you can use your oven at a very low heat instead. Here are some ideas for simple DIY trail food (find more at Trailgourmet.com!):
- Our go-to breakfast in the backcountry is granola. DIY versions are usually cheaper and also surprisingly easy to make. Package it in resealable bags with a tablespoon or two of milk powder so you can just add water later
- A great trail snack, making homemade fruit leather also offers a way to avoid food wastage at home. It’s as simple as blending any leftover or over-ripened fruit and then baking at a low temperature until dry
- Trail mix is a classic outdoors snack but the grocery store bought versions can be quite boring. Make your own instead, adding your favourite nuts, dried fruit and chocolate (M&Ms work best).
- Making dehydrated meals for backcountry adventures is easier than you make think. As long the oil/fat content is low, you can dehydrate leftovers of everyday meals like chili, pasta bolognese and curry
Prepare for your next adventure
Even if things are still up in the air now, it’s still worth planning for the next adventure. Not only does this help to speed things up when the time comes but preparing in such a way also offers anticipation and motivation.
- Train – Building muscle strength and endurance is not only important to help avoid injuries, but it will help you enjoy your outdoor adventures more too! Even if you can’t leave the house, there are plenty of ways you can train – backpacking examples here and here. For video workouts, I’m a long time fan of FitnessBlender
- Resources – Gather all of the necessary information for your next adventure including maps, guidebooks, reservation info and more. Check for online trail reports and blogs that may share latest conditions and regulation changes
- Packing checklist – Create an item checklist to help you pack for the trip. Ideally, the template could be used for other future adventures as well. If you’re struggling for inspiration or just want a finished checklist already, join our newsletter mailing list and receive PDFs of our own paddling and hiking packing lists for free
- Plan your menu – If you have an extended backpacking or paddling trip in mind, plan out a potential menu of food for the adventure. Consider trying out some new ideas for meals or snacks, experimenting in your home kitchen first
- Support local outdoor businesses – Need new gear? Where possible and when budget allows, try to support as many local outdoor businesses as possible. Even buying a gift card can help!