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5 Perfect Fall Microadventures

Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to planning your next mission and maximizing outdoor fun this season


Epic trips are awesome but not always feasible. That’s where microadventures come in. Loosely defined as quick outings that offer “something different, something exciting—but cheap, simple, short, and on your doorstep,” according to Alastair Humphreys, author of the book Microadventures: Local Discoveries, Great Escapes, these bite-size excursions are the perfect way to inject more outdoor fun into your day-to-day life.

As Humphreys points out, most of us have nine-to-five obligations Monday through Friday, but they’re sandwiched by five-to-nine blocks that we tend to neglect. The key is to “do what you can do according to the time you have and your fitness level,” says Humphreys, a UK-based explorer who bicycled around the world before focusing on feats in his own backyard. “Do something small. Getting started is the hardest part.” To help you do so, we’ve rounded up five micro-ideas to get you out the door this fall.

1. Walk the Straight and Narrow
Anybody can follow a trail. The challenge here is to choose a bearing and not deviate from your path—and attempt to follow that arrow straight through wherever it goes—across meadows, over blowdowns, through muddy creeks, up steep ravines. Start by choosing a small segment at your local park or favorite hiking area—and be sure to tell friends or family what you’re doing in case you get lost. Walking a transect is an honored tradition in biological research: A scientist will walk across a fixed line from point A to B, recording all the species of flora or fauna encountered, but it’s also a great way to get out of your comfort zone, explore new terrain, and experience familiar territory in an entirely new light. “It really doesn’t matter where we go or how ugly or pretty it is,” says Alistair Humphreys. “The purpose is to force us out the door and give us a reason to get enthused and overcome inertia.”
Essential Gear: Garmin GPSMAP 64st GPS. A dedicated and easy-to-use GPS makes it much easier to walk the line. The GPSMAP 64st comes pre-loaded with topo maps and a bright screen that’s readable even in full sun.

2. Create Your Own Triathlon
Who says you have to train for months and buy lots of fancy gear to be a triathlete? Pick a day (or hour) and build your own outdoor multisport adventure race with your crew. When you’re the race director, you can make up the rules. Cycle to the trailhead, hike up a mountain, and then finish by swimming across an alpine lake? Run a mile to the park, play three rounds of bocce, and then roller skate to the bar? Snowshoe, ski, and then sled down the same hill in one hour? You get the idea—the options are limitless.
Essential Gear: REI Co-Op Quarter-Zip Tech Shirt. A lot of things might slow you down—transitioning from sport to sport, photographing your friends flailing, or pausing for a proper snack—but this versatile layer won’t. Its stretchy polyester fabric wicks moisture away on the fly and dries quickly, and the deep front zipper lets you dump heat or seal it in without breaking stride.

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3. Create an Instagram Series
This is the time of year when the light is soft and the leaves are changing—the perfect opportunity to channel your inner Ansel Adams. Make a list of photo objectives and seek them out over a day, a weekend, or even a month. Options can include capturing your favorite stretch of river in the moonlight from different locations, the aspens changing color on the highest nearby summits, your dog at is favorite trail run at each mile mark, or the last blooming flowers you can find at sunrise. Collect your photo safari into an Instagram album, or better yet, use a service like Artifact Uprising or Blurb to create a printed book of your favorite shots.
Essential Gear: LifeProof Nuud Case and Joby GripTight GorillaPod XL Tripod Phone Stand. The slim and waterproof Nuud (iPhone 6 only) punches above its weight, can withstand drops from heights of up to six feet, and pairs easily with Joby’s bendable GorillaPod tripod, which allows you to get shake-free shots on virtually any terrain.

4. Start a Commuter Challenge
Love it or hate, work is a part of life for most of us. And while your job may not be an adventure, who says getting there can’t be one? Challenge yourself, co-workers, or that stranger at the bar to see who can come up with the most unique ways to commute to work for a week. Don’t limit yourself to bike commuting. Consider your local landscape and get creative. Trail run or paddle to work, anyone?
Essential Gear: REI Co-Op Quarter-Zip Fleece Pullover. For lightweight warmth on chilly mornings, a stretchy fleece like the Quarter-Zip can’t be beat. It’ll dry fast if you work up a sweat and layers well under a shell in cooler weather.

5. Conquer Your High Points
Consult your local topographic maps and commit to climbing the ten highest peaks, hills, or slight rises in your area or county over the next month. That’s what Tim Webb did. The president of the High Pointers Club began taking short trips to hike the Southern Sixers, the peaks in Tennessee and North Carolina over 6,000 feet, which eventually led him to his passion of climbing the highest point in each state (he’s at 46). “I can put on a harness now and head up the side of Mount Hood,” he says. “That’s something I would have never done without getting started on these lists.” Live in a vertically challenged place like Florida or Kansas? Challenge yourself to conquering the ten most popular Strava routes in your area or hitting the ten closest biking trails to your home.
Essential Gear: REI Co-Op Down Jacket. Ridges are often windy, making topping out chilly affairs. Stave off the cold with this highly packable, water-resistant puffy.