In preparing for a backpacking trip, especially outings that are beyond the normal weekend getaway in a familiar place, I rely on a handful of tools that collectively help me to be more efficient and thorough in my planning efforts. Previously I’ve posted about two of the most important:
I’d like to share a third: the Trip Planner, a single document that has two specific purposes:
1. It’s a “parking garage” for information that is otherwise scattered between books, blogs, forums, emails, and phone calls. And,
2. It provides my emergency contacts (and, God forbid, emergency dispatch) with details that would be helpful in recreating my trip and speculating about where I might be or what could have happened.
What should be in a trip planner? The major sections of mine include:
- The route, including entry/exit points and an itinerary (trails, off-trail sections, destinations, camps, plus potential alternates), as well as a link to my CalTopo map or some other map of the route;
- Entry and exit dates, and my grace period for contacting emergency services;
- Group members;
- Contact info for emergency personnel (e.g. sheriff, NPS dispatch);
- Wilderness, backcountry, or campsite permit information;
- Travel logistics, including reservations for flights, rental cars, and lodging;
- Route descriptions, if there is not a single definitive guide for the itinerary
Practicing what I preach
I formalized this Trip Planner tool for the guided trip and planning course curriculums. But I’ve been using it for many years, and thought I’d share two from past trips:
- Alaska-Yukon Expedition (the first 25 pages out of 117), from 2010; and.
- Yosemite High Route, a scouting trip in 2018.
Create your own Trip Planner
If you’d like to use this tool, I’m offering my 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.
Need more trip planning help?
The first session of our Planning Course starts February 22, and additional sessions will start in March and April.
During the 9-week online course, we guide you through a comprehensive planning framework, task you with multiple assignments so that you really learn the process (instead of just passively reading about or watching it), and give feedback about all your work.