Nineteen years ago at the start of my first real backpacking trip — an over-my-head thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail — I was simultaneously over-, under-, and mis-prepared, and had justified many decisions on the basis of what if and just in case. For example, I had three methods of purifying water but only “water-resistant” rain gear; and I’d packed a signaling mirror to flag down a helicopter, not realizing how many other hikers I’d see or how many roads I’d cross.
My trip planning was a case study in what not to do. Among other things that I failed at, I hadn’t thoroughly researched the environmental and route conditions that I would likely encounter, which made it difficult to determine exactly what gear, supplies, and skills I truly needed.
Template: Conditions assessment
My goal in sharing this template is to help you avoid the same mistakes. It includes specific prompts for each conditions category:
- Sun & moon cycles
- Navigational aids
- Sun exposure
- Water availaiblity
- Problematic wildlife
- Biting insects
- Natural hazards
To help you complete a conditions assessment, utilize some of my previous posts on this subject:
- Why & how to research the conditions
- Sample: Conditions assessment for Yosemite in June
- My go-to resources for conditions research
If this exercise is new to you, expect it to take several hours. Future assessments will go faster, since you’ll know where and how to look for information.
Create your own copy of this template
Start by opening this Google Doc.
If you are logged into your Google account, go to File > Make a copy. That will save a copy in your own Drive.
If you’re not logged in or if you prefer Microsoft Word, go to File > Download > Microsoft Word.
Other trip planning templates
With the posting of this template, I’ve now shared the three cornerstones of my trip planning process.
These are living documents, updated regularly as I get deeper into the planning process. And additions or changes to one will often have repercussions for another.