What It’s Like to Be an Outdoors Newbie

Sometimes I feel like I’ve been hiking all my life.  And technically, I have!  Growing up I used to hike at World’s End State Park multiple times each year with my dad, and I would beg to hike as many trails as I could.  He taught me how to set up a tent, how to dress properly for the weather, and how to make the perfect s’mores.  But now that I’m living in Alaska and hiking up bigger mountains, I’m starting to realize that I’m actually an outdoors newbie.  And honestly, it’s rough.

I got a little bit lost in this boulder field once.  It’s actually really hard to find the lake on the other side even though I could always find my way back to the trail.

The outdoors is a tough place – one wrong move and you’re seriously hurt or dead.  And this creates this really intense space where I feel like I have to learn EVERYTHING there is to know about hiking and camping as soon as possible.  Everyone else seems like they’re lightyears ahead of me in terms of knowledge, skills, and confidence level and that makes me stress about trying to catch up.  I can hike on a well-used trail with other people in a state park with the right gear and feel safe, but I’m always aware of the fact that I’m still learning my outdoors skills.  To be less of a newbie I have to keep putting myself out there – hiking with more experienced people, going to classes at REI, reading books and blogs, and trying harder trails – but that means that I have to really push myself out of my comfort zone and be willing to feel uncomfortable sometimes.

On this hike, I overheated and almost threw up.  Good times.

The outdoor newbie struggle is real, and I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve done some pretty stupid or embarassing things outdoors in the process of learning how to do things right.  On my first solo backpacking trip last March I had to google “How to start a fire” when I got out to the cabin and couldn’t figure out how the wood stove worked.  I cried after my first time riding singletrack on my mountain bike because I was so scared.  Sometimes I wear the wrong layers and die from the heat, and sometimes I wear too few layers and don’t have any extras in my backpack so I freeze.  I literally just learned last week that I needed to get sized for a backpacking pack to fit right.  I’ve accidentally gotten way too close to a moose more times than I can count.  Sometimes I pack way too much water.  Sometimes I don’t pack enough.  Learning how to pee outside was definitely an adventure.  I’ve never been truly lost, but I’ve gotten off track to the point where I was completely frustrated and just wanted to go home.  And I’ve gotten horribly sunburned on the top of a few mountains.

It took me three separate tries to make it up to this summit.

All of that stuff is rough.  And each of those experiences teaches me something new about how to handle the outdoors.  Being outdoorsy isn’t something you learn how to do perfectly overnight, and that’s okay.  I’m slowly learning how to adapt, survive, and thrive in the outdoors.  And I know plenty of accomplished outdoorsy women who have had their fair share of newbie moments too.  I’ll probably never stop making mistakes, and might never feel like a pro.  But for now I can get excited about those moments where I am prepared, confident, and knowledgeable!  There are so many hikes where I do everything right, and those moments make all the tough newbie moments worth it.

Are you an outdoors newbie or a total pro?  How did you learn all the skills that you have now?  What skill do you want to work on?

21 thoughts on “What It’s Like to Be an Outdoors Newbie

    1. I am so glad to hear I’m not the only one! I think that I’m happier and more comfortable outdoors than I am in the city, so I guess that’s a first step!

      1. Duuude, i thought I liked hiking until I started reading the types of hiking you do. I enjoy living vicariously through you. You keep doing what you’re doing and I’ll read all about it with my butt on the couch. 😉

  1. I’m definitely a newbie! Despite growing up in Utah and being surrounded by outdoors opportunities, I never really went “hardcore” until I got married to a person who was used to backcountry snowboarding and hiked anywhere he could, anytime. I’m hoping to get as good at snowboarding as him and be able to camp in the winter – I’m a little scared of it, but that’s why I have to do it.

    1. I feel like you and me are twins! Every time I find something I’m scared to do I know I have to do it. This is how I got into mountain biking! I definitely want to try winter camping at least once, even though I’m sure it will be horrible.

      1. Yes, my husband (who did ice caving as a former boy scout) is NOT thrilled about the idea of winter camping, but I want to try it at least once just so I can see what it’s like and then if it sucks, we never have to do it again.

      2. Question for you: how much did classes from REI cost you? What kind of classes are offered? Obviously I could just google this myself but I thought I’d ask what your experience is. What did you like about it?

  2. I feel like no matter how long I’ve been hiking, I’m always learning something new! This year I’ve been figuring out what layers work best for certain temperatures / weather conditions, solo traveled and camped for a week, and took a wilderness first aid course through REI and NOLS! I still don’t know how to light a wood stove…I need to find a class on fire building haha

    1. Yes! That’s exactly how I feel. I definitely felt okay with my knowledge on the east coast but up here I’m like “Wait what do I do now?”. Learning how to deal with bears and moose was a big shock for sure!

  3. I used to do alot of hiking as a kid and have just got back into it so I’m in the same boat. When things go wrong try to treat it as a learning experience, also imo you can spend your whole life outdoors and you still won’t learn everything

    1. My entire life feels like a learning experience! Haha. I’ll never learn it all but I’d love to feel more competent than I feel now. Every hike teaches me something new for sure!

  4. What a lovely post and stunning pictures! I love the mountains and spend a lot of time in the wilderness and one thing I’m sure of is that I’ll never stop learning! 🙂

  5. Everyone starts somewhere, as long as you start! Good for you! Looking forward to seeing more of your posts in 2018.

  6. We all started somewhere and we all continue to learn new skills along the way no matter what level we are at. I am not necessarily a beginner outdoorsman, but I am not a Pro yet either. Keep your head up and get back in the game! Hike your own Hike 🙂

  7. Oh my – this is me! I don’t come from an out doorsy family per se. I don’t have a lot of support from my family in my interest either. I hesitate often – so worried I’ll get lost off the well beaten path!

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