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How many nights do you spend outdoors a year?
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Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
How many nights do you spend outdoors a year? on 07/19/2011 01:36:19 MDT Print View

Just wondering. I am a full time student and father of one (soon to be two), so for the last year and for the next few years I am only going to be able to do weekend trips at most. I miss the days when I was younger and did week long trips, but what is frustrating is that I didn't discover LW/UL (and soon to be SUL as of next week) until somewhat recently. I believe I would have enjoyed myself even more if I had known about all this back in the day, but I digress...

This year my goal is to sleep 30 nights outdoors camping/backpacking. So far I have put in 12 nights, not too bad, but still a ways to go. Anyone else have a goal like this? Or keep track of how many days you are out?

I know I am setting myself up to be green with envy for you single, no kids, flexible job type people that are able to go on several month long trips a year.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: How many nights do you spend outdoors a year? on 07/19/2011 03:01:10 MDT Print View


When I was young, I did a lot of multi-month trips. But then work and family limited my time somewhat, at least for epic trips. But that does not mean you cannot fit in a lot of little trips.

I did short backpacking trips with my kids, and a lot of family car camping, and then later tent trailer camping. I also got in a lot of little solo trips. Usually 2 - 3 nights and a few of up to a week. At least I was outdoors a lot. Even with 2 kids, we spend about a month outdoors camping as a family, plus my own little trips.

Now the kids are grown and gone, and I am still backpacking.

My wife will never sleep on the ground, but she loves to hike. So we go camping most weekends in our tent trailer, and just about every vacation and holiday. When we camp together on a weekend, Saturday is usually an all day hike, up to 15 or 18 miles. We then do a 1/2 day hike on Sunday. Sometimes on a two week camping trip with her, I will go backpacking for one week. And when we are not camping together, I go backpacking. So that has averaged 100 nights each year year since 2002. The last 3 years or so, I have done more backpacking and a little less camping with my wife, and she is okay with that. So I can actually do several 1 week trips a some years.

If you work 5 days a week, you have 2 days a week to hike. That is 102 days a year. Add in your holidays and vacations (which is over a month for me) and you will be surprised how much you can get out.

Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
Wow on 07/19/2011 04:05:52 MDT Print View

Only took one post for me to be jealous! ;) But I am happy for you Nick, that sounds like a good set up. I think the big factor is your kids are grown and gone. My kid is only a toddler, and my wife has a bun in the oven. I just have to be around, and many weekends are taken up by family stuff (dinner with the 'rents and such) or boring stuff like fixing up my house. I wish I could go out every weekend, but at 12 so far this year 7 months in, that's almost 2 nights out per month on average, which is the best I can do right now sadly.

If I won the lotto or something, heck, I would be out probably 200 nights a year, starting with a thruhike of PCT and then the entire Spanish Camino de Santiago.

Once my kids are older, I will take them with me of course, and it will be easier for my wife and I to go out together. For obvious reasons she has not been able to camping with me for a while, but she also enjoys the outdoors (we did trips on the AT in our youth). So in a few years we can also get a babysitter and take off for some longer trips, which I am really looking forward to.

A lot of people ("normal" non-camping type people) are shocked at my goal of 30 when I tell them, but around here I figured that ain't nuttin' as you have demonstrated Nick!

Sumi Wada
(DetroitTigerFan) - F

Locale: Ann Arbor
Re: Wow on 07/19/2011 07:56:50 MDT Print View

I hate to break it to you but it *could* get worse before it gets better...

I felt really lucky that my son loved the outdoors and especially hiking as a toddler. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), that love has evolved into a love of outdoors and sports in general. He's now 12 and spends most of the year on some sports team or another. He also plays in a jazz band. A weekend without some sort of sporting event or concert is rare.

For me, at least, leaving him with a babysitter isn't a realistic option most of the year. There's homework to help him with, school functions to attend, sports games to cheer on...

My husband and I give each other one week-long solo trip each year. I usually use mine to go backpacking. I always do at least one week-long backpack with my son. We do one week-long car-camping trip as a family. We squeeze in maybe another 6 weekends for camping or backpacking. (We also do another winter beach or snow vacation.) And that, among our friends with teenage kids, is a lot. We do make concessions to do this -- our house is a wreck, my husband is self-employed and I've given up the executive fast-track at work.

Edited by DetroitTigerFan on 07/19/2011 07:57:26 MDT.

Chris Goldberg

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: How many nights do you spend outdoors a year? on 07/19/2011 10:02:02 MDT Print View

My wife and I work full time and have two young children (3 and 5). Backpacking has been on hold for the last 4 years, with this year being the first we've managed to either include the kids, carve out kid-free weekends for adults-only trips, or take solo trips. We have been car camping a few times each year since the kids came into the picture.

This year, we've got three, one and two-night family backpacking trips planned, along with two car camping trips (a four-nighter and a two-nighter). If I'm lucky I'll get a solo two-nighter in at some point and may manage to swing a three-night trip with my wife (sans kids) in the fall.

If it all works out, it'll add up to about 16 nights total. A light year for many but an outdoor feast for me!

Realistically, I imagine I'll be able to squeeze in a couple more solo weekends per year as the kids get older. Beyond that, I suspect there'll be plenty of weekends where a day hike, scheduled around a soccer game/dance performance/music lesson/birthday party/etc, will be the norm.

I probably won't be taking on the AT or PCT anytime soon, but, in a couple of years, I could see finding time for something like the JMT, either solo or with the family.

Having a family and full time job definitely changes the picture for the next 18 years or so. But, gotta have something to look forward to for when the nest is empty...

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: How many nights do you spend outdoors a year? on 07/19/2011 10:43:28 MDT Print View

Kids change our lives. When you have kids, then they must become #1 priority and everything else is secondary. And there is no guarantee your kids will enjoy backpacking. I also think other activities like sports, music, etc. are very important for character development.

Some families do a lot of BPing together. For example Jim W here on BPL, who I know personally, does the JMT or portions of it with his kids and wife every summer. But he has the ingredients that everyone in the family enjoys it. He also does a lot of small trips without his kids. And like me, he has a pop-up trailer and can combine this activity with hiking.

To me just getting outdoors a lot is the goal. Day hikes or camping may be the best you can do instead of backpacking, but it beats watching TV at home. My son is a backpacker. Daughter and wife have zero interest in that, but they enjoy camping and hiking. So find the outdoors activity that everyone in the family enjoys and do that a lot.

I guess the bottom line is that when you have kids and/or a significant other, they come first and you may have to adjust your aspirations.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
Getting outdoors as a family man. on 07/19/2011 11:30:47 MDT Print View


Do what you can as life affords. I'm a husband and young father of two children, I've learned to make the best of the opportunities to get out for a few evenings on the trail, but having realistic goals that consider all aspects of being a family man has helped me put things into perspective and appreciate the time I do get. Quality over quantity is my motto. No, I'm not doing thru hikes, flying across the country on 2 week expeditions in the Tetons, doing speed attempts on long trails, but I am grateful for the solitude found even on a single weekend of wilderness exploration in my regional mountains and deserts.

One thing that I do make time for is trail running, this I do about 5-6 days a week, from anywhere to 1-4 hrs. depending on the run, I find that I gain much of the same personal edification in these brief encounters with the outdoors that I do on a multi-day trip. In this case I'm outdoors almost the entire year, there is a real connection I have with the outdoors. So like Nick mentioned, bag nights aren't the "be all end all", who really cares if someone is sleeping outside more than the next guy?! It could mean you've got nothing else better to do. Just get outdoors as you can and in a capacity that you enjoy and find rewarding, whatever that may be.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Getting outdoors as a family man. on 07/19/2011 11:36:38 MDT Print View

Well said Eugene, I'm in the same boat. Totally agree that nights spent out are an arbitrary measure, at least in my book. Like you, I do manage to get outside and on the trails at least 4-5 days a week. This is more important to me than sleeping outside.

Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
How many nights do you spend outdoors a year? on 07/19/2011 12:04:17 MDT Print View

Job responsibilities stem from kids, spouses, mortgage/rent, car payments, and even just keeping the resume fresh.

I used to get out once or twice a month for about 25-30 nights per year, but now trying to get out once a month before winter, though the western US "Mega-drought" = massive wildfires put a crimp in my plans. Also working overtime despite the sour economy in my new civilian job. Now working most weekends from Sept to Nov 2011. So planning a couple weeks each season (fall, winter, spring, up to summer - 2012) with about 4-5 days backpacking each, plus a couple days each month before winter, so about 22 total in the next 12 months.

Wouldn't mind finding a job where every other weekend was 3-days off (5x4 schedule??), though on either US coast maybe have a couple/few consecutive weekdays would be a better for packed back-country sites on weekends/holidays.

Also, when stuck in town for a non-backpacking weekend, I go mountain-biking or drive a few hours to Albuquerque for snowshoeing and snowsports in winter. Not really a bag night but it'll do.

Edited by hknewman on 07/19/2011 23:11:17 MDT.

Erik Danielsen
(er1kksen) - F

Locale: The Western Door
Every Night on 07/19/2011 17:26:59 MDT Print View

My job (working on a small organic produce farm) has me sleeping outside EVERY night. Sure, I could sleep in the yurt, but I feel so much better every morning that I wake up with the cool earth cradling me. Stand up, water a bush, walk another 50 feet, and I'm at work. It's the life.

This doesn't include a lot of actual camping, but I'm headed up to the dacks for a few days so I'm about to get some of that, too.

Russ Porter

Locale: Anchorage
30-45 days on 07/19/2011 17:43:54 MDT Print View

I try to shoot for 30-45 days a year. I usually take two 7-12 day trips (half rafting/half hiking) then I try to get out atleast 2 out of 4 weekends a month to do some backpacking, even if it's just an a quick overnighter. I get out either trail running/hiking/cross country skiing about 4 days a week.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: 30-45 days on 07/19/2011 22:01:24 MDT Print View

Job, spouse, mortgage, yard work......these all take a toll on the days spent under the stars. I wish I could do more

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Re: 30-45 days on 07/19/2011 22:18:46 MDT Print View

Not enough! ;-(

But I'll be getting 12 days and nights in late Sept / early Oct this year.

Party On,


Robert Carver
(Rcarver) - MLife

Locale: Southeast TN
nights out on 07/24/2011 06:58:28 MDT Print View

I've logged a little over 900 backpacking nights over the past 12 years. So, an average of 75 nights a year. Not as much as I want. But, I'll take every night that I can get. Just returned from a 10 day AT backpacking trip from Erwin,TN to Damascus,VA.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
Same reply I give to mileage... on 07/29/2011 18:45:48 MDT Print View

Somewhere between a little and a lot? :)

Being serious, just as I never bothered counting lifetime mileage (does ski touring count? What about short hikes after work? Should I add up vertical feet from climbing? :) ), I never counted my bag nights.

I honestly don't know. Do I count late night bivys after driving to the trailhead after work? Car camping? Hut trips where I ski in? When I say something stupid and get kicked out of the house and have to sleep in the truck? (I kid! I kid!)

The best answer is probably the one given a few times in this thread: Not enough!