Trip Planning Essentials
Whether you're planning a weekend camping trip with the family or an epic overland adventure; there are a few things to consider to be prepared for Murphy's Law and to stay safe while enjoying the outdoors responsibly.
Are you familiar with the area you are traveling? If not, do some research on the area you are camping or plan on traveling in/through. These might seem like common sense questions but they often get overlooked and leave travelers in uncertain situations. If you have a desire to travel into remote areas, it's highly likely you've see photos of the beauty. What pictures won't tell you is how they got to those picturesque locations. Here's some things to consider: what type of terrain will you be traveling on (paved roads, dirt fire roads or extreme offroad trails) and what time of year will you be traveling (summer, winter or somewhere in between). Carrying basic maps and possibly a GPS unit will aid in navigation while on your adventure. If you currently employ the technology and numerous features of a GPS then you already have a good idea of how useful they can be. Personally, we use GAIA Maps to plot out our travel routes. It's a simple tool that, over time, will become more and more useful in your travels. Using the GAIA routes we set up and the GPS unit while traveling we can monitor progress and mark anything we encounter along the way. ie: cool landmarks, epic camp spots or anything else you find interesting and would like to mark and return to one day. We use paper maps while planning trips and as a backup while on the trails.
How long are you gonna be gone and how many people are traveling with you? This is probably the biggest planning decision in the whole process. It combines numerous elements of the trip and could prove costly in extreme circumstances. Planning out meals for your family during trip planning will give you the basic requirements for your food storage needs. Do you want to have fresh meals cooked every day? Or does a good PB&J work for you? Having a plan will help determine how much food you will need on your trip. For our family, we do one cooked meal a day, usually dinner. For breakfast we do something simple like oatmeal. It's quick, easy and allows time to pack up and move on quickly. If you plan on staying in one place for a few days then you can afford the time to cook every meal. PRO TIP: If you prepare most parts of the meal prior to leaving...your food storage requirements can be dramatically decreased. We use storage bags for our fresh cut vegetables. Carrying fresh uncut vegetables isn't always conducive to space saving. What ever method you choose is perfectly fine and there are drawbacks to each one.
Are you gonna be aggressive on trail selections and how many vehicles are traveling with you? Two is always better than one. This goes for many things but this part involves vehicles and recovery options. It's always fun having friends to enjoy new adventures with. Those friends/family could come in handy if you find yourself in a tough situation. Anyone who travels to the far reaches or completely out of cell phone coverage should have a basic understanding on how to be self sufficient. Especially in a recovery situation. If you get stuck how are you gonna get yourself free again? The options are endless when you research recovery gear. Be simple, be effective. You can carry the latest and greatest traction boards but if you can't employ them properly, they're useless. Having an understanding of what you carry and how to use it, in my opinion, is the single biggest factor when it comes to recovery. The more you know, the more effective you become. For example, if you have a winch but can't rig up a winch line, it's useless and could become very dangerous. Here's a few items that have proved very useful in multiple situations. Tow rope and two shackles, a set of recovery boards, shovel, tree strap and a hydraulic jack. All of these items are not necessary from day one but could prove useful as your experience level increases and you start planning trips that take you farther and farther away from civilization. Put some thought into what you want and need when picking gear for your adventure.
Hopefully this helps in becoming better prepared for your adventures. Every trip is a learning experience. Over time you will hone down what you need to bring, how you pack and employ what you have. Having fun is the end game and being prepared will help you get there.