Writing for the Outdoors

It’s been a miserable day outside. Miserably windy. I can hear it howling through the fenceposts and blustering at the small vent behind the gas “Coleman” furnace that heats my little home.

I’ve not been outside today. On account of the weather.

How is this the first thing I write for Meander? I want to help people tell their stories, share their adventures and build up their experiences and here I sit—trapped in my 500sq ft of rural living.

I suppose I watered the chickens today. That was outside.

The truth is I’m an almost-literal pencil pusher. Literally a figurative pencil pusher. I write for Osprey.

As a company, we embody adventure: the epitome and spirit of the outdoors. We make the kinds of gear that traverses landscapes, scales peaks, sets PRs and establishes first-ascents. We supported a group of veterans who conquered Kilimanjaro—some summitting without limbs. We sponsor athletes—one of which just rode the entire length of Iceland by bike, unsupported, in a day. Have you seen 14 Peaks on Netflix yet? We build packs for that guy.

I write about it. I love writing about it.

These kinds of stories are inarguably compelling. These athletes operate at such a peak level of endurance and grit and ambition, you almost can’t help but feel inspired. Look what people can do.

We love it, consuming their stories because they model the very nature of adventure and exploration in a world that, day-to-day, feels so settled.

And yet.

I’d love to say my own ambitions will take me to such extremes of the world, pushing the absolute boundaries of will and physical toughness. They won’t. I’m quite content holing up on a blustery day like today. You won’t catch me conditioning for a marathon in the mud and rain, suffering up a post-holed slope to ski backcountry corn or crushing intervals on a stationary bike to prepare for the upcoming race season.

Talk about imposter syndrome.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have my stories too. There’s the time I broke a rib making snow angels on a casual weekend hut trip. Or the frigid afternoons I spent picnicking with the made-up, but still very real, Mount Madison Volunteer Ski Patrol. There’s my first canyoneering experience in Bluff, Utah, terrified by the piles of rocks we rappelled from. There’s the fateful Joshua Tree trip where we forgot to pack any food besides a can of chili, a few tortillas and a bag of animal crackers.

All of these stories I’ll surely tell. Stay along, and you’ll know them as I do.

But the thing is, these aren’t extreme stories. They’re casual meanderings with friends both new and old in beautiful places and, for the most part, fair weather. Wrapped up in them are small lessons—things I’ve learned, reflections.

We all have these kinds of stories. I love these stories.

There’s the gal who moved from Chicago to Colorado and discovered backpacking in Rocky Mountain National Park, despite carrying all the “wrong” gear. There’s the guy who’s using his experience as a “fat man” in the outdoors to shut down misconceptions about who belongs out on the trails, or not. There’s the woman who, after losing her husband, is regaining her confidence on the trail by hiking each week.

On the surface, these are just regular people doing regular activities, but through storytelling we can discover the challenges, adventure and humanity in their pursuits. These are stories worth telling.

You have these stories too.

Whether you’re an extreme outdoor athlete, an ambassador, a weekend warrior or a casual adventurer, you have a journey that’s brought you to where you are. You have a then and now, before and after, here and there—woven into that story.

Let’s tell it.

More Tips and Techniques

Using Detail to Enhance Your Outdoor Writing

Our minds are powerful visualization tools, and through our stories we have the ability to transport ourselves back into our experiences—and take others along for the journey. To do so, we need a firm grasp on detail and how to harness it in our writing. Committing your vivid, visceral, tangible, lived stories to the written

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How to Start Your Outdoor Adventure Stories

All too often, it can be hard to know where to begin when writing about your outdoor adventures, experiences or reflections. You may have a clear vision for the flow, details and ending, and yet the first few sentences elude you. There is no one way to begin a story, but if you want to

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Harnessing Conflict in Your Outdoor Stories

Consider the following sentence, and fill in the blank: A story is only as good as it’s __________. Protagonist? Especially as outdoorspeople, when we’re often at the center of the story, this would put enormous pressure on us to live up to some high standard. I reject the notion that we must become perfect protagonists

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