I’m a planner. It’s one of the qualities my wife finds most endearing about me. She’ll have the great idea, and I’ll take over from there. That being said, below are just a few things I do before just about any trip, especially if it’s my first time going to an unfamiliar destination.
1. Look at a Map
There’s really no excuse for not looking at a map anymore. Gone are the day when you had to rely on picking up a trail map at the trailhead, or digging the one from your previous trek, before you could get a good idea of what lay ahead of you. There are tons of trail maps available online, and if that fails, many trails are even depicted on Google Maps.
Get an idea of the distance you’re going to cover, what the terrain looks like, and any interesting things you want to see along the way. This doesn’t just apply to hiking, as even a quick overview of a river can at least give you an idea of the distance you’ll have to paddle. Sure your put-in and take-out points might be 10 miles apart by road, but if that river serpentines for 20 miles you’re in for a much longer day on the water!
This tip also applies to your drive to your adventure! Don’t just rely on your GPS to guide you to the right spot, especially if you’re going through some backroads.
2. Do a little research
Some quick online searches should find you at least a little additional info on your destination, and a little bit of knowledge about what to expect might be the difference between an enjoyable trip and a experience you won’t want to repeat. Websites, magazines, blogs, guidebooks etc are all wonderful resources. Use them!
3. Tell someone about it
Don’t just wander off alone without telling someone where you’re going. Have a friend or family member who’s your designated check-in person before and after your adventure. Even if you’re going with other people it’s prudent to have someone outside the group who knows where you’re going, and when to expect you back.
This is by no means an all encompassing list, but at least these few steps lay the groundwork. One of these days I’ll get around to writing about a particularly epic misadventure in Alaska where I’ll point out some of the various points in both planning and execution that led to a crazy day on the river.