The Perfect Pack for Microadventures

A few weeks ago, the ​New York Times ​published ​an article ​praising the concept of the microadventure, or the adventure found in our immediate, local surroundings. As I read it, I smiled.

I spent half of my childhood sleeping outside thanks to my parents’ ingenious idea to put a bed under a wall-­free lean­to in our yard. My family’s perception of a weekend party was inviting everyone over to play hide-and-seek on our four-­acre wooded property; there were no guarantees you would be found. In essence, I was raised to be a micro adventurer.

It was only on my first NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) course that I realized how my upbringing had shaped me and fed a desire for adventure both large and small. The shock that sometimes overwhelms people when they face the idea of living in the backcountry for weeks on end never came. At first, I was puzzled and anxiously awaited its sudden arrival, but as the course went on, I saw that I simply felt at home. My life in the backcountry perhaps involved less showering than I was used to, but I still felt at ease.

In a world that is so often driven by the ‘go big’ mantra, I feel truly lucky not to need an adrenaline kick to feel alive. Of course, I still love to climb high and navigate white water— activities known for getting your heart rate going — but my sense of adventure is not restricted to my interpretation of risk. It is, however, acutely linked to my sense of being present and enjoying my surroundings. As an adult, I often find myself having adventures quite unexpectedly. Like deciding to take a solo overnight in the Alps on a work night. Because why wouldn’t I?

Last year, I upgraded my daypack to a ​Deuter Spectro AC SL ​to make it easier to pick up and go. Since, it has proven itself to be a vital piece of equipment, accompanying me on numerous last­-minute, unexpected journeys. It sits by my front door, filled with the standard safety equipment, maps and snacks that you would expect any NOLSie to carry, only with a few added layers and comforts hinting that this girl is always ready for a night under the stars. Because that is just it: we might not know what is coming, but we can keep a few things to be prepared for any unexpected turns we might take. And isn’t that ultimately what adventure is about?

NOLS Sleeping Bag Edit Waking up in a sleeping bag on a work week.


Are you interested in going on an macroadventure? Check out the ​NOLS field course offerings​ and ​Wilderness Medicine Institute courses ​to develop your technical outdoor skills, preparing you for microadventures to be remembered.

Alex Phillips is NOLS’ European recruitment coordinator. Alex has been on multiple NOLS courses, including an ​Outdoor Educator course in the Rockies​, which she took for professional development while working at an international school in Switzerland. In addition to working for NOLS, she is currently completing her master’s in experiential education at the University of Cumbria​. She can be reached at ​​or on ​LinkedIn​.

Check out another post by Alex: ​The Alps Don’t Have Everything

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