The Best Advice We've Ever Given

Illustration: Erin Wilson

In honor of Outside's 40th anniversary, we're selecting our all-time favorite gear, places, accomplishments, and people. This month, we rounded up 40 of the wisest tips we've ever given—on everything from health and fitness to what should be on your reading list.

For 40 years, Outside has sought out the world’s most influential athletes, scientists, health experts, and outdoor enthusiasts to help you improve your performance and take full advantage of the outdoors. In celebration of our 40th anniversary this year, we dug through our archives to bring you the very best advice for living bravely.


Keep It Simple

The fundamental tenets of training haven’t changed much in decades. When planning your workouts, keep these general principles in mind:

  1. If intensity is high, volume is low.
  2. Volume never increases more than 10 percent per week or more than three weeks in a row.
  3. Weekly intensity is measured by the number of hard workouts, from none to three.
  4. Follow hard days with easy days, not rest.
  5. At least one day per week, and one week per five-week cycle, is devoted to recovery.

    —“To Each His Zone,” May 1993

Get the Best Adventure Partner in the World

Stay away from pet stores and backyard breeders, where you’re most likely to get a dog whose best attribute is looking good with a bandanna around its neck. Likewise, avoid so-called puppy mills, which raise 200 or more dogs a year; they may not be able to afford good veterinary care (or they may not bother with it at all).

When it comes to training, take your new puppy home during its eighth week and immediately expose it to different surroundings, experiences, and people. Take it with you everywhere—the woods, the car, downtown—and then, when it’s nine weeks old, start basic training. Conduct short, consistent, daily sessions that drill in the basics: sit, stay, and come. —“A Good Dog,” October 1993


Begin Your Day with the Perfect Breakfast

Then, after you’ve mastered your morning meal, move on to making the ideal lunch and dinner.

—“Bodywork,” March, June, and September 2015


Trade in Your Car for a Bike

Breaking habits is hard but not impossible, and you have to give a new routine time to take root. The first step is making it easy, and one way is to get a suitable bike. Start when the weather is best, because it’s not easy for bike commuting to take root in the hot, muggy summer or dark, cold, wet winter, when it’s so hard to resist the comfort of a temperature-controlled sedan, listening to your favorite tunes and sipping coffee. The more you do it, the easier it gets. —“The Original SUV,” October 2009


Have One Piece of Gear You Truly Love

What I really feel when I hold the DMM Predator Ice Ax in my hand isn’t so much the possibility of murder as the gravity of mortal things. It speaks to me of the vulnerability of human flesh, but also of the resilience and determination of the human mind: Lying on my desk, it whispers, ‘If you need me, I’ll be there. If you need to hang all 215 pounds of you off me, I won’t let go—if, that is, you plant me deep.’ One never knows when one might need a good tool, the sort of thing that might make the difference between life and death. —Stephen King

—“When What to My Wondering Eyes Should Appear,” December 1995


Eat Whole Foods

Don’t overthink it. You want to get most of your total calories over the course of the day from real foods rather than powders, bars, gels, or blocks. Zero in on foods that have healthy mixes of proteins, carbs, and fats. —“The Performance Grocery Cart,” May 2001


Ditch All This Stuff and Replace It with Your Phone

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(Chris Philpot)

The days when you needed a whole backpack of gear are gone. Now all you need is a phone. —“Mission Impossible? Take Professional Photos with an iPhone


Enjoy the Summit (Even if You Can't See Anything)

I would never have known we'd reached the summit except that Mr. Watanabe said we'd reached the summit and should stop under a shelter and have something to eat. The crater was there but I couldn't see it, and the whole of Japan was spread out underneath us but you'd never know it, and there were scores of people all around us but I couldn't make them out even though they were probably just a few feet away. I didn't really care. I was completely thrilled just to be on the summit. I was the highest thing in Japan! —Susan Orlean

—“Do We Transcend Before or After We Purchase the Commemorative Eel Cakes?,” October 1997


Wander Without Getting Lost

  • When setting out late in the day, always bring a headlamp. Darkness can make even familiar terrain look foreign.
  • Texts can be transmitted when calls can’t.
  • Cold ground saps heat much faster than still air. Branches and leaves can provide critical insulation.
  • Make a mess. Break branches, string rocks into arrows, scratch HELP in the mud. Rescuers are looking for clues.

—“Live to Tell About It,” November 2009


Ditch the Barbecue Sauce for Good

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(Kevin Sprouls)

Instead, cook pork ribs for a couple hours with a light coating of a paprika-based rub. Place them on the grill, away from the heat, and baste with a sauce of cider vinegar and mustard until they start to fall apart. —“All Up in Your Grill,” June 2008


Know What Advice to Ignore

People will tell you just any damn thing. I have found this to be especially so in establishments called Pappy’s, Cappy’s, Pop’s, or Dad’s. The wizened, senior quality of the names seems to give the people who work in such places a license to browbeat customers and pass on whatever opinionated misinformation they please. —Ian Frazier

—“Trust Me: In These Parts, Hot Dogs Repel Bears,” December 1999


Replace Your Hikers with a Canoe

Food is the main reason we camp by canoe. And the ice chest is what separates the civilized voyageur from the trailside grunt. Racks of lamb, watermelons, tubs of mousse, we take everything. —“Paddle Camping Made (Very) Easy,” April 1991


Fake a Sick Day

Toby, head of human resources on NBC’s The Office, explains how:

  1. Fake two sick days, preferably in the middle of the week.
  2. Miss a “fun” work event.
  3. Trust no one.
  4. If caught out and about, pretend you’re feeling better but still contagious.

—“How to Do Everything (Well, Almost),” July 2007


Fix a Flat


Embrace the Rain

The experienced Accidental Camper accepts rain. The experienced Accidental Camper enjoys rain. The experienced Accidental Camper thinks through rain like a Zen Buddhist transcends obstacles along his path to enlightenment. But most of all, the experienced Accidental Camper comes prepared for rain. This means a waterproof sheath for your body and one for your tent. You must also bring plenty of quality clothing—wet and cold form a devastating combination. —“The Accidental Camper,” April 1990


Be an Activist, But Only Part-Time

Do not burn yourself out. Be as I am—a reluctant enthusiast…a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it is still there. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizz, climb the mountains, bag the peaks. Run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much: I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those deskbound people with their hearts in a safe deposit box and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this: You will outlive the bastards. —Edward Abbey

—“The O List,” October 2001


Read ‘Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,’ by Annie Dillard

Hard upon its 1974 publication, this Pulitzer Prize-winning meditation produced a plague of Dillard wannabes, yammering on endlessly about their supposed mystical revelations in nature. But what distinguishes the real thing is Dillard's grace, wit, and flat-out talent to convince us that she experiences religious ecstasy at the sight of a muskrat in her local creek—and to make us feel it ourselves. —“The Outside Canon: A Few Great Books,” May 1996


Build Your Own Rock Wall

Let’s assume that the wall you have to work with is no shorter than nine feet and no wider than 14. Within these 126 square feet, your mission is to create the tallest, broadest sheet of unbroken, overhanging climbing surface you can. The key here is not the severity of the angle—so long as it’s overhanging—but the variety and quantity of the holds you place within this space. Even a barely overhanging wall can provide endless challenges if you decorate it with sloping holds and tiny foot jibs. The more T-nuts you insert—try to place at least three or four per square foot—the easier it will be to rearrange your holds into fresh and ever more devilish configurations. —“Garage Rock,” October 2000


Pick the Perfect Marathon

Here’s what to look for:

  • A time of the year that accommodates at least six months of training. If you live where snow removal is the main topic of conversation at December cocktail parties, training for an early spring race makes little sense.
  • A reasonable course. No elevation changes, no extreme temperatures, no wind, no humidity—every little discomfort becomes a major burden in the final miles of a marathon.
  • A city you want to visit. An otherwise disastrous marathon experience quickly becomes tolerable, even enjoyable, after a few chichis on the beach at Waikiki.

—“Training for the Big One,” January 1989


Learn to Wheelie

Find a flat surface, such as a grassy park, and shift onto the middle chainring up front and maybe the third-biggest cog in the back. Cruising slowly, yank up on the bars and lean back as if you were balancing on the back legs of a chair, keeping your weight squarely over the rear wheel. Stay seated and ride. Pedal when you start falling forward, and feather the rear brakes if you start falling back. —“So You Want to Be a Superstar,” July 1999


Never Keep More Fish Than You Can Eat at One Meal…

never eat more than you want, never want more than you need, never need more than is reasonable, never be too reasonable about what you love, never love anything so much you love it to death, never destroy what can’t be replaced, never think everything can be replaced. —Bob Shacochis

—“Fly,” July 2000


Stop Paying for a Gym Membership

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Gyms are great for building strength and avoiding injury, but you don’t have to throw down $100 a month for that.

Instead, do a series of body-weight-resistance exercises that target nearly every muscle, like the following four moves from certified strength and conditioning specialist Paul Hiniker. “This workout is formatted so you’ll have stability in every plane of movement, making it beneficial no matter what your sport,” says Hiniker, co-founder of SurFit.tv, a surfing-inspired video exercise program. Hiniker’s circuit is a full-body blaster and highly time efficient. “You can get two hours of workout benefits in 20 minutes,” he says. No contract required. —“Ready, Set, Go Nuts,” March 2014


It's OK to be a Glutton

The latin gula—a hollow, gobbling word—stood for gluttony, ranked near the bottom of the seven deadly sins along with that other carnal peccatum, lust. Gula stood for the greed of the mouth, champing and bolting food, cramming in great lumps of pottage, swilling ale and spirits to the point of reel-and-roar. Smeared on the bread of modern usage, it means excess of any kind, and applied to the world of outdoor activity we recognize a certain type: those unable to get enough of anything—endorphins, scout badges, campfire coffee. —Annie Proulx

—“Sin in the Wild Outdoors,” June 1997


Own One Good Knife

  • What to Look for When Choosing a Blade: When a lock-back knife is fully opened, the blade should be rigid and true. The blade should have no lateral movement. With a fixed-blade knife, the grind lines on the blade should be clean and straight. The blade should be smooth and consistent on both sides.
  • Choosing the Right Design: Clip blades taper at an angle on one side for a finer point, making it good for filleting. Drop-point knives have a point that is there when you need it but out of the way when you don’t. Spear blades are on most pocketknives. They have enough of a point for chores but not so much of one that you’ll accidentally puncture everything in sight.

—“The Fundamental Tool,” August 1984


Have the Perfect Day

Every day, we’re confronted with a thousand choices that can impact our health. But decision fatigue can increase stress and zap motivation. So we enlisted the best researchers in the country to design the perfect day. —“24-Hour Fitness,” January/February 2017


Find Your Dream Job

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(Peter Arkle)

With these tips:

  • Parlay your skills and experience with a quick lateral move to an industry you admire that values your skills.
  • Don’t undervalue experience. If you can’t afford to go back to school, look for opportunities at your current gig to broaden your expertise.
  • Avoid umbrella job sites like Craigslist or CareerBuilder. Industry-specific sites are a more efficient use of your time, and most companies these days will post openings on their social media channels.
  • Network offline.
  • Once you get an offer, negotiate. Once you’re hired, all your leverage is gone.

—“Work, Play, Live,” November 2014


Don’t Force Your Kids to Be Active

Get your kids up and moving by joining them and creating challenges for each other. “Race you to the other side! Try to jump over this! I bet I can kickflip before you!” (Oh, wait, maybe that’s just for me.) Bottom line: engage them instead of just telling them—and let them discover it at their own pace. —Tony Hawk

—“Born to Be Wild,” June 2010


Go on the Best Road Trip Ever

There’s nothing more American than hitting the open road with the window down, the music up, and a cooler full of beer in the back seat (you know, for later). Sure, the game has changed a little—smartphones have all but rendered guidebooks and rumpled maps obsolete—but one essential question remains: where to go? Look no further. We hand-picked the ten best, most adventure-packed road trips in the country. —“Drive, We Said,” July 2014


Stick the Landing

Catching air is the easy part—landing smoothly takes a bit more finesse. Leaving the lip of the jump with commitment and purpose will help with the rest of the stunt. Landing smoothly has more to do with not freaking out midair and spotting your landing than any superhuman ability. Watch the kids for a speed check, subtract a few feet from your drop-in if the kids are shorter than your beer gut (overshooting can be worse than undershooting), and commit. Good luck. —“100 Goals to Be Accomplished in a Lifetime,” December 1998


Look Before You Open the Car Door​


Get in the Shape of Your Life, in Five Steps

You think you’ve got it all figured out? We used to think that, too. But there’s always a day of reckoning. It isn’t just about getting winded on a long ride or your pants not fitting like they used to. It’s about waking up and realizing you’re ready for a whole new fitness paradigm. A strategy for the long haul—your key to all-access adventure. Get in the shape of your life with our award-winning five-part plan. —“The Shape of Your Life,” May 2002


Tell a Great Story

How? Divorce yourself from any obligation to the truth. Southerners, though maligned for their deficiencies in other areas, are, without a doubt, the world’s best storytellers. That’s because they couldn’t care less about facts. —“Bachelor of Lost Arts,” September 2010


Start Ski Mountaineering

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(Hans Teensma)

More than three decades before the current skimo craze, we were singing the sport’s praises: “Ski mountaineering is the only way to be in the alpine wilderness during its hibernation and the easiest way to get around in this tortuously rocky terrain. It goes beyond downhill into the untracked and ungroomed snow that lies beyond the runs, where, if you see a mogul, you know it has a heart of stone.” That, plus it’s a hell of a workout. —“Ski Mountaineering: Gearing Up for the Ultimate Escape,” November/December 1978


Build the Perfect Campfire

  1. Gather wood.
  2. Place something that will burn well, like balled-up newspaper, at the center of the fire pit, then build a small structure of your kindling around it. (Either a log cabin or teepee shape is fine.)
  3. Light the material inside the structure, then sit back and be patient. Blow on the flame a bit to stoke it if need be.
  4. Once your fire is consuming forearm-thick sticks, drop one or two larger logs on there, gently, one at a time.
  5. Sit back and enjoy.

—“The Beginner’s Guide to Getting Outside—and Loving It


Go on a Solo Camping Trip

Because it’s fun. Because it’s hard. Because, as cliché as it sounds, you’ll learn something about yourself. —“This Is How You Do It,” November 2015


Learn How to Manage Avalanche Risk

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(Bryan Christie Designs)

You’ve probably thought about going into the backcountry, and you’d be in for an incredible time—but only if you know what you’re doing. Thanks to a sea change in avalanche education, it has never been easier to become an informed, safety-conscious backcountry skier. Rather than overload students with the esoterica of depth-hoar faceting, today’s classes emphasize decision-making tools that enable you to make order out of chaos. —“White Noise,” October 2014


Watch ‘Touching the Void’

Hands down, it’s the best movie ever made about survival—and the only feature film that’s gotten mountaineering right. —“Outside Movie Canon,” June 2005


Treat Nature Like Medicine

We don’t need a scientist to tell us that flowers and chirping birds make us feel good. But if the benefits of getting outside are so intuitive, why don’t more of us do it? Nature-based recreation has declined 35 percent in the United States in the past four decades, according to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. We underestimate the curative effects, or perhaps we’re just too readily beguiled by the easy entertainments of technology. —Florence Williams

—“Take Two Hours of Pine Forest and Call Me in the Morning,” November 2010


Fall in Love and Live to Tell About It

Living with your geared-up, hyper-fit significant other is thrilling—and perilous. Here are three tips for making the leap:

  • Those Who Sweat Together Stay Together: Joint workouts help cement your growing bond. But you have to plan thoughtfully. If you have vastly different paces, then meet up for swims, recovery days, or track workouts where your differences won’t pull you apart. And while a little competitiveness is healthy, don’t be that training partner who always has to be just a little bit ahead.
  • Food Is for Sharing: Having dinner together every night may sound great—unless one of you is a paleo CrossFitter and the other a carb-needy ultrarunner. Focus on one meal a day that finds a middle ground. Above all else, avoid lecturing your partner about his or her diet.
  • Nobody Likes a Messy Gear Cave: When you first shack up, have a candid conversation about your living standards and agree on how often you’ll clean. An organizational system is crucial. Gather your gear in one place, separate it by sport, then designate the best places for everything.

—“Till Boredom Do Us Part,” November 2016


Swim Naked

Somewhere you shouldn’t. On a whim. With friends. —“You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Bucket,” September 2010

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