If you’re in a part of the U.S. with heavy winter weather, it probably seems like spring and summer are still far, far away. But I promise, they are coming. And now is the time to make an outdoor plan.
Here in Middle Tennessee we are already on the verge of better weather. Yes, it’s still in the 30s every day. We still have days that are even colder. And we’ll probably have a few days of debilitating snow, maybe as late as April (here that means, you know, two inches). But we also have hints of green poking through the dirt, reminding me that someday, eventually, we’ll be spending the night in a tent.
Do you know what that means? It’s time to pre-game our outdoor plan.
You know I love time management. Part of that is making sure I have taken time to plan — so that I can use my time and energy well letter.
And yet every year I get caught with my pants down, so to speak. May rolls around and I realize I forgot to buy such-and-such thing or book a spot at one place or another. It’s not that I don’t know what I’m doing — it’s a lack of planning.
An old pro or a newbie, it’s always nice to have a reminder for planning your season. So here’s our checklist.
Pre-Game It: Make an Outdoor Plan
Dream it. Where do you want to go this year? What do you want to see and do? Now is the time to make an outside dream list. Maybe you already have one of these on paper or in your head. Break it out and review it.
Making one for the first time? Go crazy. Have you always wanted to go to Alaska? Stick that on there. What about State Parks in your area? Think about things you could do on short weekend trips as well as trips you could tackle over a week of vacation. Include trips you can take with your kids if you’ve got ‘em, and trips you want to do adults-only. Dream big here. Reality is waiting in the next point, so relish it dreaming for now.
Reality check. Look at your calendar. What kind of vacation time do you have to work with? Can you work longer hours a few days early in the week over the summer, and duck out a little early on Fridays to hit the road? Match your dream list with the kind of time you actually have on your hands. Make a secondary list of the things that you do have time for, and save the other stuff for later.
Budget. Money. Such a bummer, right? But the truth is that while some trips are going to be something you’ve got to save and save for (that Alaska trip comes to mind), most adventures can be within your budget, especially if you’re willing to roll on the cheap. Start today stashing away cash every month for your upcoming adventures. Make a list of the gear you need to buy for the year, and keep that in mind as you plot and save. For example, our tent is in good shape for the coming year, but almost 7-year-old Dave has totally outgrown his cot, so we’re going to need to come up with and purchase an alternative solution for him (probably a sleeping mat). We bought a ton of propane for our camp stove early last year, but it’s gone now so we’re going to need to buy more soon.
Book it. If you’re heading somewhere popular, you’re going to want to book your campsites now. Yes, right now. Your outdoor plan requires, well, planning. The popular places fill up early, and you will be sad if you wait. Another option is planning to visit sites over popular weekends that don’t take reservations so you can just walk in (but get there as early as you can!).
Gear. Here’s the deal with gear: you can always buy more. Resist that temptation. Take a look at what you need, make a list and start stalking sales and resale options looking for it. Dave’s new sleeping mat will probably be purchased second-hand via a resale group like this one on Facebook. If we were in the market to upgrade some sleeping bags, we’d resell them at a garage sale or online and buy one used or on sale. Start reading the ads for the local outdoor stores while you look for things like propane and figure out when the nearest REI will have their Garage Sale, a great chance to snag gear at a fraction of the cost.
The good news is that pre-gaming your upcoming outdoor season should give you enough to plot and dream over to keep you busy between now and that first trip of the season. Enjoy it!