Beginner Skills

It's Never Too Late To Start Backpacking

Roxanne Fleming took her first hike at age 57, then went to Everest Basecamp and summited the Grand Teton. Here’s her best advice for late bloomers.

Never Too late

Roxanne Fleming starting hiking at age 57, and has already hit more bucket list spots in the last three years than most of us get in a decade.

Never Too Late

Fleming (right) backpacking in Grand Teton National Park. (Photo by Cori Wright)

never too late

Fleming tried rock climbing for the first time on the Grand Teton, at age 60. (Photo by Cori Wright)

Roxanne Fleming, 60, of Washington, D.C., took her first hike at age 57, and in the three years since, has already visited Everest Basecamp, summited the Grand Teton, and hiked in Patagonia’s Torres Del Paine. She’s living proof that it’s never too late to get started. Here’s her best advice for late bloomers.

Start slowly.

At the beginning, I just walked outdoors. Next, I found a wide path near my house and did small hikes near home.

Set a goal.

Once I realized how much I loved doing this, I figured out somewhere I really wanted to go. For me it was Everest Basecamp; if you don’t know your spot, go through an Atlas or a book on hiking to pick whatever you like. Then figure out how to get there. I joined two local hiking clubs to help me train.

Get the gear.

Comfortable shoes make all the difference. I’m astounded by how many people get blisters or have issues with their feet. Try your shoes on, and buy from somewhere you can take them back if it turns out they’re not working for you. I also really like having a hydration system. I don’t want to have to take the time to open a water bottle and drink it; I’m just concentrating on getting myself to my destination.

Find a buddy.

I had a friend with me at the beginning; conversation helps make it more enjoyable. Then I relied a lot on guides from the local clubs as I learned the ropes. Hiking on your own comes later.

But it’s ok to make new friends.

My husband and kids are supportive, but this is my thing. It’s been a nice way to kind of reinvent myself. I have had a few friends say Eww, how can you do it? How can you go without taking a shower? Forget the whole poop situation, we won’t even get into that. But listening to my own heart and soul, I know this is something I want to do. I like my identity as a backpacker. I’d never been an outdoors kind of gal before. I’m not sure we ever know for sure why we do anything. All I know is its working right now.