It’s not always easy you know. Organizing, planning, packing, it’s all simple enough; however without the proper thoughtfulness a strategic onslaught of nature can easily leave you bewildered, lost, annoyed, and even in serious trouble.
With a few simple steps you can make sure you next trips (yes, that better be plural!) are not only safe, but enjoyable.
1. Choosing a location.
It’s easy to pick a spot, it’s a little trickier to pick a good spot. This really comes down to a few things. The proper environment must accommodate a series of variables.
What are you doing out there? Hiking, backpacking, biking?
If you’re hiking, make sure you can make it out in time, and make sure it’s a legal, non private, trail. Some trails are not maintained, or even closed during parts of the year and may not be safe to cross. Check ahead.
If you’re backpacking you must make sure you can actually backpack there. Are there predesignated camping spots? Are campfires allowed? Does it require a license or permit? Also, take in consideration group size. You can’t bring 10 people onto land that can only accommodate one tent. You also can’t spend ten days in a desert if there are no water supplies along the way. Starting to see where you can land into trouble?
Biking, that’s a whole different post, but do your homework. Trails should be clear, safe, and legal to have bikes on. Check your gear, and always wear a helmet.
2. Choose your company.
Think about it. What’s worse than picking a poor spot for your trek? Taking someone along who can’t finish the trail. Not everyone is built for 12 mile day hikes. Test the waters. If you haven’t been out with them before, test them out on some basic stuff anyone could do. You don’t want a trip to turn foul because you’re carrying your bud back to the car. Everyone has their limits, and consider this ahead of time.
3. Map it.
So many people cut this one short. Seriously, it can save your trip, or even your life. Get a good map of the area of where you are going. Get directions and have it all laid out before you leave. Print out a map that clearly shows the topography, the trial, and the surrounding trail. Highlight your trail, and estimate millage and set realistic goals. Also highlight water sources, and check ahead to see if they will be active when you are going. Streams, and even lakes dry up. Plan an emergency exit, and clearly mark it on your documents. Get a bearing and plan your direction before you even leave. Email a copy of the map and other information to your phone if you can. Maps fly away, and even dissolve in the worst of conditions. Laminate that thing to ensure it’s survival if you must.
4. Tell someone.
Take steps 1-3, make a copy, and send it to someone who you can rely on. Make sure you specify a window that you are expected to arrive home, and let them know to be expecting you to call when you get in. If you don’t call, have them know to wait a few hours and notify the park rangers or local police. If something happens, having someone out there who has your back could save you from devastating consequences if something goes terribly wrong.
5. Pack accordingly.
I’ll be posting more on this soon, but mostly, make sure you have what you need. At least a day in advance, make a list of what you will need. Envision what you will be doing out there. Cooking, sleeping, trekking, etc. Make the list, and check it off as you pack your bags up. To cut weight, coordinate with others who you can rely on (emphasis on the rely on part). Every man of a backpacking trip doesn’t need to bring a stove, pans, etc, but you may want someone to carry along an extra container of fuel. Plan on the weather at it’s worst. plan for the temperatures to be at least 15 degrees colder and hotter than you expect. That chump of a weather man will get you every time. Plan your meals, and bring an extra. No one ever complains that they have too much food. At least a liter of water per day is recommended, even if there are water sources. They can be unreliable, and even dangerous at times (bacteria).