Weekend Wanderlust: Green Escapes for Outdoor Exploration

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When did you last spend the weekend outdoors, camping under the stars and exploring the wide-open wild spaces? For most, it’s been years since the last impromptu weekend break to somewhere beyond the backyard.

Changing your habits and exploring the great outdoors can do wonders for your health if you’re stressed or stuck in a rut. This sentiment is echoed by research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry which found that folks who spend more time in green spaces exhibit “less mental distress, less anxiety and depression,” as well as “greater wellbeing and healthier cortisol profiles.” 

Getting out into the wide world is good for your health — it’s also a lot of fun. From stargazing to backpacking, countless adventures are to be had and weekend wanderlust to be quenched. Even short trips, like hiking into your local foothills, can give you the physical and mental boost you need. 

Ultralight Backpacking

woman standing on cliff
Photo by Bianca Gasparoto on Pexels.com

Packing up some supplies and heading out into the backcountry always sounds like a good idea on Friday morning. However, by the time the evening comes around your energy has all been spent and the thought of spending the weekend hiking sounds a little torturous. This is entirely understandable, as lugging around a 40lb pack will put a real strain on your body throughout the weekend. 

Rather than committing to a heavy backpacking weekend, consider ultralight backpacking. Ultralight backpacking means that your pack will not weigh more than 10 lbs, yet you’ll be able to have a fun weekend hiking, camping, and cooking smores over the fire.

To achieve this kind of balance, you will need to invest in items like: 

  • Lightweight sleeping bag or quilt 
  • A sleeping pad that weighs no more than 15 ounces
  • A backpack with a lightweight frame for a blend of support and weight management
  • Ultralight tent that weighs between 1 and 1.5lbs

When packing provisions, be sure to bring plenty of water and a few lightweight ways to purify any water you plan on collecting. This is key, as picking up giardiasis on your weekend escape is sure to put you off backpacking for an extended period.

Next, you’ll need to think about bringing food items that are lightweight, convenient, and enjoyable to eat. 

Fortunately, this means marshmallows will still make the pack! Just consider leaving the can of beans at home in favor of dehydrated favorites like hashbrowns and ready meals.

If you want to make the trip even easier, consider making your own walking stick to help you along the way. 

Stargazing

scenic view of night sky
Photo by Soly Moses on Pexels.com

You don’t necessarily need to drive deep into the backcountry to enjoy the wonders of this world and beyond. If you live near an area of low light pollution, you can give yourself a well-deserved weekend break by setting up a telescope at a nearby campground and stargazing while camping in the great outdoors. To get the ball rolling: 

  • Research visible phenomena that are visible at the moment. 
  • Pick up a star chart to better understand what you are seeing.
  • Learn about the movements of astronomical objects, so you can spot things like Jupiter and the Andromeda Galaxy — both of which can be seen with the naked eye. 
  • Get comfortable and sit down for a long, relaxing evening of viewing the stars; it’ll take 45 minutes for your eyes to properly adjust.
  • If you fancy getting out of town, choose a spot with low light pollution that has wide-open sky views. 

These tips will help you get the most from your time stargazing. Even if you don’t see spectacular sights, you’re sure to enjoy sitting down in nature and enjoying the sight of stars wheeling overhead. As your interest in stargazing grows, consider upgrading to telescopes and photography equipment that will capture the celestial bodies in all their majesty. 

Bird Watching

close up of a hummingbird sitting on a branch
Photo by Lina Marcela Ortega Gaviria on Pexels.com

If sitting out after dark isn’t your thing, you may want to get into bird watching instead. Bird watching (birding) is an underappreciated way to connect with nature and learn more about the world around you. You can easily spend hours in a bird lookout box and will be surprised to learn about the range of wildlife that have set up nests in the trees and canopies around your home. 

Birding is also a low-cost alternative to more expensive outdoor hobbies. You don’t need to spend cash on equipment or book an expensive rural hotel to enjoy birds. You simply need to be curious about the world around you and should keep a bird guide and a pair of “OK” binoculars with you at all times. 

If you’re struggling to identify the calls of birds, consider downloading an app to your phone that can help you begin to learn the calls of different avian animals. These mobile guides are perfect for beginners and will help you get to grips with the songs of the wildlife around you. Consider waking up before dawn to hear from your favorite birds, too, as the dawn chorus is the best time of day to hear a range of songs from creatures large and small. 

Conclusion

Escaping the city for a weekend break can do wonders for your mental and physical health. Even short breaks into nature can be restorative if you’re overworked or are feeling anxious. Consider making the most of your time away from home by packing an ultralight backpack and setting up for activities like birdwatching and stargazing. These will take your mind away from life’s stressors and will help you unwind in nature. 

  • Katie Brenneman

    Katie Brenneman is a passionate writer specializing in sustainability, mental health, education, and fitness-related content. She is a graduate of UCR where she discovered her love for health, eco-friendly lifestyles, and writing. When she isn't article brainstorming, you can find her with her nose buried in a book or hiking with her dog, Charlie. To connect with Katie, you can follow her on Twitter.

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