The Only Thing You Need to Know
Most sports aren't that complicated. You can usually boil them down into one simple rule. (OK, maybe two.)
Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
To Climb Rocks
Use your feet. Despite what you may have seen in Cliffhanger or depictions of climbing in energy drink ads, rock climbing is less about doing 40 pull-ups in a row and more about techniques that place your weight on your feet and reliance on core strength.
Another thing: If someone yells “rock,” duck, don’t look up. You’re trying to avoid a falling object, not catch a foul ball at a baseball game. If a small rock, a cam, a carabiner, or a large rock comes flying down from above, catching it with your face is going to ruin your day.
Every fall is a ground fall.
Another thing: It’s perfectly acceptable to spend half a day (or an entire day) trying to climb eight feet of rock.
To Climb Ice
You’re not doing it because it’s comfortable: it’s cold, it’s wet, you’ll spend lots of time standing in snow, chunks of ice will come flying at you from above, your hands and feet will go numb, and that’s just when you’re belaying. When you’re climbing, you’re attached to several sharp points capable of ripping your clothes and/or flesh, and when you get to the top of a pitch of ice, you’re likely to experience something called “the screaming barfies,” a pain from rapidly warming hands so named because you will want to scream and vomit at the same time.
Another thing: It’s pretty fun if you’re into that sort of stuff.
In a tent, you will probably not sleep for eight hours straight like you do in your bed at home, but if you get good at camping, you can get five or six somewhat consecutive 90-minute naps.
Another thing: Other animals in nature also enjoy food, so don’t leave yours out overnight or when you’re away from your campsite. Squirrels can ruin your supply of snacks, bears can ruin your life.
To Go Backpacking
An oft-cited adage says, “ounces equal pounds, and pounds equal pain.” When you’re at home piling up all your stuff to pack for your trip, that paperback/French press/extra change of clothes may seem like it’s worth it, but three miles into an eight-mile hike with all your stuff on your back, it may turn into the bane of your backcountry existence.
Another thing: Don’t ever share a tent with anyone who says they “don’t really snore.”
Hiking is pretty much just walking on dirt and rocks, so you don’t need a lot of specialized skills to do it.
Another thing: It’s different from walking in that you can get caught in a thunderstorm, get lost, and have unexpected things happen on the trail, so it’s not a bad idea to buy a rain jacket, a map, and a headlamp, and always let someone know where you’re going.
To Mountain Bike
Even a very slow mountain bike crash can be really painful.
Another thing: You don’t need an $8,000 mountain bike to get started (but they sure are fun).
Taking a ski lesson may seem expensive when you’re first starting out (in addition to lift tickets, equipment, and ski clothing), but think of the money you spend on it as an investment in fewer shitty ski days in your first season—you’ll learn and get better way more quickly, and will spend less time flailing on the slopes your first ten times.
Another thing: Skiing fast doesn’t mean you’re good.
To Ski in the Backcountry
As the saying goes, “The avalanche doesn’t care if you’re an expert.” Also, the inverse: The avalanche doesn’t care if you are blissfully ignorant of what causes avalanches.
Another thing: There’s no ski patrol in the backcountry.
Don’t try to walk backwards while wearing snowshoes.
Another thing: It’s really just walking, in snow, with big things on your feet.
To Flatwater Kayak
Push the paddle from your core, don’t pull it with your arms.
Another thing: It’s a lot easier to stay in a boat than to get into a boat after you’ve flipped it.
To Trail Run
It’s usually slower than road running (i.e. it’s not just you), unless you’re on a perfectly groomed, flat trail (which a lot of people including myself would say isn’t really trail running).
Another thing: Rocks and roots may be taller than they appear.
You can also sit and kneel on a SUP board, if that’s more comfortable at first.
Another thing: If you haven’t SUPed before, SUP yoga might have a pretty steep learning curve.
To Bike Tour
The slower you go, the more fun it is. Trying to hammer out as many miles as possible on a fully-loaded bike is a recipe for burning out. It’s a tour, not a race.
Another thing: Take care of your butt and it will take care of you.
With a fully-loaded bike, there’s no shame in getting off and pushing it up hills.
Another thing: Bikepacking is just bike touring on dirt. Or bike touring without panniers. I think. I don’t know if anyone actually knows. Also, take care of your butt.