For many of us, getting outside exploring and being active borders on being a basic need. For us to function optimally, it is almost as essential as eating food and drinking water. And if we don’t get our fix, things can go downhill quickly.
Right now, many of you will be experiencing self-isolation. In the following months this may become enforced isolation for longer periods of time than we might be comfortable with. This will pose a great deal of challenges for us all, and taking care of our mental health will become as important as staying physically healthy.
Staying positive through all of this is the best possible thing we can focus on. But that can be easier said than done, especially for outdoorsy folk who draw so much positivity from spending time in the wild.
So to ensure that we all stay sane and as healthy as possible during these unpredictable and changing times, I’ve put together a list of activity ideas to do at home. Most of them are pretty easy to implement if you are feeling well. And a few of them can even be done if you’re not feeling tip-top.
23 ways for outdoorsy folk to stay sane during isolation
01Learn to whittle
If you have a sharp pocket knife and some bits of wood or sticks kicking around then you’ve just taken care of at least a day of time in self-isolation. Whittling is a slow-paced activity which requires time and patience. It’s the kind of thing many of us dream about having the time to do in everyday life. Well, now’s your chance! Not only is whittling a great new skill to acquire, it’s also a very good way to calm the mind and de-stress during times of uncertainty.
For some basic tips and guidance read our beginner guide to whittling.
02Buy from an independent outdoor retailer
If you’ve been putting off buying that new jacket you’ve had your eyes on (and you’re lucky enough to have some cash reserves), now’s the time to take the plunge. But if at all possible, seek out small, independent retailers and brands to buy from. Even your local outdoor shop might be able to mail you the item. In these uncertain times, it’s the small companies that will suffer the most. So support them whenever possible.
If you don’t need to buy anything right now, then consider buying a gift card instead.
03Have a outdoor movie night
Watching adventure movies and documentaries is a great way to while away a few hours. It’s also one of the best ways to get inspired for your next challenge, getaway or outdoor endeavour. Make an evening of it by setting up your TV, laptop or projector out in your backyard. Get the corn popping, bring out your warmest sleeping bag and enjoy getting inspired under the stars.
For ideas on what to watch, read our round up of adventure movies.
04Listen to an adventure podcast
If you’re battling with illness and really not feeling like doing much, listening to a podcast is a highly effective and low effort way to stave off boredom. There are tons of great adventure podcasts out there to inspire, intrigue and entertain. A couple I enjoy are The Dirtbag Diaries and The Outdoors Station.
05Cook your dinner over a campfire
You don’t need to be out in the wild to enjoy outdoor cooking. In fact, campfire cooking in your backyard means you can try new recipes and cooking methods without too much prior planning. If you’re worried about ruining precious food supplies then why not just try making some bread on a stick? It’s fun, uses very few ingredients and it’s very difficult to get it wrong. The kids will love making it, too.
Here’s how to make bannock bread, and a few camping recipes to try.
06Take stock of your outdoor gear
Time on your hands means time to get organised. Gather all your outdoor gear and clothing together and create an inventory of everything. In the process you’ll figure out what needs to be repaired and cleaned, what you really don’t need anymore, and what you could do with adding to your gear list.
If you need to make a few spare bucks then get your unwanted gear on Ebay. Better still, donate it to charities that distribute it to people in need.
Read our guide to recycling unwanted gear and clothing for more information.
07Clean and treat your gear
We all know that we’re supposed to clean our hiking boots regularly and that applying treatments to our gear will prolong its life. But do we do it? Like heck we do! Break that habit today and get scrubbing. Order some Nikwax treatments to apply to the appropriate items once they’re cleaned up.
Some essential reading and tips: how to wash a sleeping bag, how to clean hiking boots, how to re-waterproof a tent.
08Repair damaged gear and clothing
No matter how small the tear or how insignificant those loosening stitches may seem, repairing damaged gear before it gets worse is key. “A stitch in time saves nine”, and all that. Inspect all your clothing and gear and get sewing! There are plenty of online tutorials to help you do it well. If you’re new to needlework then it’s probably a good idea to practice on rags and scraps of fabric before you go plunging pins into your favourite down jacket!
09Learn and practice knots
If you spend time outdoors and enjoy camping, sailing, climbing, bushcraft etc, then you’ll probably be able to tie the most useful knots with your eyes closed. That said, knot-tying is the sort of skill that can easily fall by the wayside if you don’t do it regularly. So grab a piece of string or rope, practice loads and then get learning news ones. By the time you get to use your newly learned knot-tying skills they’ll be second nature to you.
If you’re looking for some basic knots to start with, you can learn how to tie them by reading our camping knots and climbing knots articles.
10Get or stay in shape
Just because you can’t get out to the gym doesn’t mean that your fitness has to go out of the window too. There are LOADS of ways to stay in shape at home and you don’t even need any equipment to do it. Staying active is one of the best things you can do to stay sane if you’re confined to your home, not to mention the physical health benefits you’ll get from fitness and strength. Write yourself a schedule that you feel is reasonable and achievable and then try to stick to it. If you’re new to fitness, then start small and build it up.
For ideas on exercises and workouts that you can do at home or in your backyard, watch the videos in our fitness for hiking and snowboarding workout articles.
11Make a DIY bike trainer
Another great way to stay in shape from the comfort of your home is to rig your bike up to a bike trainer and jump in the saddle. If you don’t already have one, or are unwilling/able to order one to your door, then how about making your own?!
12Start bird watching
Whether you live in an urban area or in the middle of nowhere, bird watching is something you can do from the comfort of your sofa. Set up a bird feeder that you can see from a window and then wait patiently for our feathery friends to come flocking in. Bird watching isn’t for everyone but if you give it a try I think you’ll be surprised at how exciting having your first visitor to the feeder can be, especially when you’ve got time on your hands!
The chances are, that at some point during your isolation time, you’re not going to be feeling up to vigorous workouts. At these times, practicing yoga is a great alternative, as well as something to include in your daily routine when you are feeling well. Turn your living space in a place of calm with low lighting, candles and gentle music, and take the moves at your own pace.
Read how to do yoga moves for hikers, surfers and climbers. Or check out my favourite online yoga teacher.
14Camp in your backyard
Avoid cabin fever from setting in by setting up camp in your backyard. Do it properly (pack food in a cooler, organise your camp kitchen, get your stove out, bring all the essentials etc) and you’ll not only fill lots of time getting things organised, but you’ll also feel like you’re going on a mini adventure. Even one night out of the house will do you the world of good. If you enjoy it then why not make it a weekly ‘trip’? The kids will love it and having something to look forward to will do you all good.
Read how to plan and carry out the best home camping trip ever!
15Revise (or learn) some map skills
Like knot-tying, map skills need to be practiced if you’re not using them often. There are online tests available to keep you sharp and up to date. For those who tend to rely on GPS devices for navigation, the time has come to finally learn some old-school map reading methods.
This Ordnance Survey map reading resource is a good place to start.
16Camp in your house!
If you don’t have outdoor space to camp in, then try setting up your tent indoors! You’ll need a small tent or a large room to make this possible. Alternatively, set up a tarp, or even a sheet, to sleep under. Rig up a ridge line using windows and doors, or put hooks into the walls if necessary. However you manage to indoor camp, be sure to only use torchlight, sleep in sleeping bags, turn your heating off, and eat boil-in-the-bag camping meals! The more realistic and outside of the norm, the better.
17Hang a hammock in your house
Maybe setting up a tent indoors isn’t really possible, or adventurous enough. If so, hang a hammock instead! It’s easy to do and you only need a few pieces of equipment to make it happen. Plus, sleeping in it, suspended above your sofa or bed, will be a whole new experience that you probably would have never had were you not on the verge of cabin fever!
18Dig a veggie patch or grow microgreens
With so much uncertainty of what is in store in the future, thinking about becoming more self-sufficient may not be a bad idea. Growing your own veggies is a brilliant place to start. If you have outdoor space then you’ll be getting fresh air and exercise as well as numerous mental health benefits associated with gardening. And if you’re planting indoors on window sills then the indoor air will improve once the plants start growing. But the best part is that the end result will mean having fresh, nutritious veggies on your plate with zero air miles and pesticides attached to them.
Learn how to grow veggies on your windowsill in this guide to microgreens.
19Organise your wood store
Put on your flannel shirt, grab your axe, crack open a local craft ale and get outside… It’s wood chopping day! Getting your wood store in order is an excellent use of time and the perfect opportunity to wield your axe around in a productive way. It’s also highly satisfying, will provide some good physical exercise and enables you to hone your axe skills without rushing to just get it done. Additionally, at some point further down the line, you’ll thank your past-self for stocking up and getting the job done.
20Make homemade fire starters
A fun and productive way to use up old candle wax is to create fire starters. There are loads of different ways to do it and you’ll probably find you have most of the materials needed just kicking around the house. Once you’ve made them, there’s little else to be done than to have a good old campfire in the backyard, marshmallows and all!
To learn how to make fire starters with wax and other things, read our guide.
21Get inspired with an adventure book
In between all your proactivity and self-development, there will be times when you’ll feel like doing little else than curling up on the sofa with a good book. Cosy! Use this down time to get inspired for future escapades by delving into an adventure book.
Check out our adventure book recommendations.
22Write a letter to a loved one
Explorers of old were highly adept at writing poetic prose of their far-flung adventures. Maybe you’re not having the most exciting of times at home right now, but why not try hand writing a story to send instead? You could base it on one of your past adventures, or even one that you dream of doing in the future. Either way, ensure that the content of the letter will be enjoyed and appreciated by the recipient. Receiving it might mean more to them than you could ever imagine.
23Plan your next adventure
You’ve sorted, repaired and cleaned all your gear, you’re getting into a great fitness routine and you’re feeling full of inspiration for future adventures. The only thing to do now is to get researching and planning exactly what that next adventure will be. So grab your maps, order some guide books and an explorer’s notebook, and get planning. Having something to get excited about and to keep focussed on will do wonders for your daily motivation and purpose. Plus, at some point in the future you’ll have a plan ready to be implemented at the drop of a hat.
For more adventure planning inspiration check out our adventure section.
What have you been doing to stay sane during self-isolation? If you have more activity ideas that you’d like to share then we’d love to hear about them, so drop us a line.