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Trip & Route Planning Process
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Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Trip & Route Planning Process on 01/27/2011 11:16:28 MST Print View

I'd like to solicit some feedback from you about how simple or complex your route/trip planning process is.

1. What do you do (e.g., checklist of your trip/route planning activities?)
2. How much time do you spend on it?
3. Why do you take this approach?
4. If you were to totally ditch any sort of route/trip plan, what would be your main concerns with doing so?

wander lust
(sol)
route planing process on 01/27/2011 12:47:51 MST Print View

1. planing a route using maps, google earth,reading trip reports, maybe asking for help our advice on forums, checking the official park homepage, deciding on a packlist and food

2. depends, sometimes a lot, especially for long trips I'm eager to do

3. it's part of the adventure for me, I like to plan things, tools like google earth are fun, might give me more confidence to do a certain route, might save me time / money on the trip, cause I can ditch certain parts, figure out how the get to the trailhead faster or cheaper,

4. I could spend less time on planing, maybe reading less trip reports, I wouldn't be concerned though, cause sometimes it's just better to start a hike and see what happens, well be prepared for it of course

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
re on 01/27/2011 12:50:04 MST Print View

1. What do you do (e.g., checklist of your trip/route planning activities?)

I hear about some area - here, or portlandhikers.org, or whatever.

Go to bookstore and look at guidebooks. Look at contour maps, etc. online.

Print out some sort of map and make sure that area is downloaded to my GPS.

Decide on a pretty specific route, although I may actually go less than planned or do less one day and more another day.


2. How much time do you spend on it?

A few hours


3. Why do you take this approach?

Over analysis doesn't improve results, just causes anguish, e.g. "the vortex of fear".


4. If you were to totally ditch any sort of route/trip plan, what would be your main concerns with doing so?

My wife would worry excessively.

In the event something went wrong, it's nice for Search and Rescue to know pretty much where I might be.

This works for trips of a week or less to common areas in the lower 48 states. For more expeditious trips to more wild areas I'd probably do more planning.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Trip & Route Planning Process on 01/27/2011 13:07:30 MST Print View

1. What do you do (e.g., checklist of your trip/route planning activities?)
I locate an area of interest, that looks like there will be few people using it. I then get a USGS topo map (print or online) to review potential routes and estimated time. Also research water availability online most time or distances between known sources. My basic equipment is already packed. I will substitute items based on time and weather/season. Then I compare it against my Excel equipment list.

2. How much time do you spend on it?
Depends on the length of trip. Longer trips require more time, especially to estimate time of return that I will communicate to my wife. 2 day trip is usually just a couple of hours.

3. Why do you take this approach?
I am an old dog, and it is hard to learn new tricks. I have been doing this a long time, except for the spread sheet. Used to use a typewritten list.

4. If you were to totally ditch any sort of route/trip plan, what would be your main concerns with doing so?
Getting to my exit point on time, plus re-routing that would put me in areas that I did not communicate I would be. However, I am usually remiss in all of this, except getting to my exit on time. On some trips, I plan an extra day and communicate that to my wife, and if I get done early that is okay. I would rather be a day early, than a day late.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Trip & Route Planning Process on 01/27/2011 13:54:10 MST Print View

1. What do you do (e.g., checklist of your trip/route planning activities?)

Most of my trips are weekend trips in the east, so generally just read about a trip in some guidebook or other and figure out entry/exit points. Then try to get others interested in joining me. My pre-trip packing is usually just sitting in my gear room the night before the trip with a glass of scotch and stuffing those things I think I'll need into whichever pack I choose for that trip. This, for me, probably takes longer than the actual planning of the trip (the scotch may have something to do with that, I don't know..)

2. How much time do you spend on it?

Maybe an hour or two planning. At least an hour lazing around in the gear room packing.

3. Why do you take this approach?

I'm not a planner. Never have been. And, truthfully, short trips in the east don't really take much planning, everything is so fricking well blazed. But I like to play with my gear pre-trip.

4. If you were to totally ditch any sort of route/trip plan, what would be your main concerns with doing so?

It would depend on who I was with. If by myself or with someone I had confidence in, then no real concerns. I've got a 'if I die or get lost who takes care of my puppy' plan in place, and that's the only thing I really have to take care of or worry about. In fact, the one trip I did that was along these lines - the Wyoming trip where we looked at the map each day, and during the day, and decided how we'd move forward as we went along, was one of the most rewarding trips I've ever been on. Not completely unplanned, but certainly closer than I'd ever been since backpacking.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Re: Trip & Route Planning Process on 01/27/2011 17:08:36 MST Print View

1. What do you do (e.g., checklist of your trip/route planning activities?)
On all trip I have a food plan. On most trips I will plot the route on my GPS software. For long trips such as SHR, JMT or the PCT I develop a very detail route spreadsheet that allows daily mileage and elevation gain An example of the JMT is https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0AnPAvE17zQtydFVyODBwc2p6TGR5LWVpNXhsejFaVlE&authkey=CPDzhyM&hl=en#gid=0
2. How much time do you spend on it?
On minor trips maybe two hours, On JMT probably 8 hours or more. Some of my off trail trips - 8hrs. PCT, days.
3. Why do you take this approach?
On short trips, I'm generally not pushing the envelop of things like mileage or I have escape routes if needed. On the longer trips I generally have very aggressive schedules.
4. If you were to totally ditch any sort of route/trip plan, what would be your main concerns with doing so? I would ditch it because I need a food plan, I want an elevation profile and known mileage. If computers stopped existing I could get by. But I would be spending the same time pouring over topo maps.

Finally, I am absolutely not a planner in any other area of my life. Almost to a fault.

Edited by gg-man on 01/27/2011 17:11:04 MST.

Steve S
(idahosteve) - F

Locale: Idaho
Re: Trip & Route Planning Process on 01/28/2011 11:21:25 MST Print View

Ryan, I am such the wrong guy to ask this question! I am the total obsessive compulsive trip planner. Hmmm, think Monk?! I need a 12 step group to help me! ;) I belive it is because of my climbing background. We always needed more info back in the day, as there wasn't much to find, especially on routes in the backcountry, and most was word of mouth. Lots of surprises were in store, but we seemed to make it work most times!

1. I spend an inordinate of time reading trip reports, checking guidebooks, poring over maps, asking others thru the forums... I have 6 states at last count on the computer, and easily a hundred actual topo maps from all over. (k I admit, I wrote a guidebook once) A huge shelf full of books and guidebooks. Make long lists of each and every item to bring, even went so far as to have printed directions on menus and when and how to cook them.
2. I could easily spend tens and twenties (ok, maybe even thirties) of hours for a big trip/climb. (made a 2+ inch thick binder for Denali, ok,ok thats all I got)
3. I wanted every advantage of being successful on the routes we were attempting. Typically one chance was all that we had.
4. I am actaully becoming a bit better at my planning compulsion (I'm still in denial I know) since retiring from climbing, I'm not as worried about the details, my day, or my food. I still do all thats necessary to prepare, and I do love playing with spreadsheets now, but I feel less inclined to be bound to any particular path. Overall, the freedom that I've experienced the last season with UL has just been pivotal in my outlook on time spent in the backcountry. Lots of smiles and I am much more flexible throughout the day and trip! Sometimes, I don't even know where I will camp!

not so driven anymore

(BTW, Ryan, the old compulsive planner e-mailed you THREE times about getting a TOPO file for the Teton High Route... haven't seen it yet...dig dig! Anyone know where that 12 step group meets in Idaho? )

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: trip planning on 01/28/2011 11:54:53 MST Print View

1. What do you do (e.g., checklist of your trip/route planning activities?)

I think of trip planning (or at least trip conception) as a long and gradual process. Having a big topo map of relevant areas on the wall at home is crucial. The germ of an idea can, once off the map, germinate for quite some time before I actually do it.
Once I'm actually packing for a trip, I usually don't spend much time doing it. For big trips where I'm concerned I might forget something, I like to lay all the gear out in the corner of a room 4-5 days in advance. I see it as I walk by, and have time to think it over, and add and subtract as needed.
I often "accidently" undercount the miles. It's an oddly subconscious way of talking myself into doing silly things. Always works out well, with sore feet and bit of hiking in the dark the only down sides.

2. How much time do you spend on it?

Big picture dreaming: hours and hours. Putting things in a pack: maybe an hour or two max. For a weekend overnight I can probably pack in about 20 minutes total.

3. Why do you take this approach?

It's fun! (the daydreaming) As for actually packing I try to balance being methodical without being obsessive.

4. If you were to totally ditch any sort of route/trip plan, what would be your main concerns with doing so?

Having a less than ideally interesting trip!

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Trip & Route Planning Process on 01/28/2011 16:01:02 MST Print View

1. What do you do (e.g., checklist of your trip/route planning activities?)

I try to plan at least my longer trips the winter before, mostly to get an idea of how much food to dehydrate for spring/summer/fall--running the dehydrator on a 100*F day in July is no fun! I find an area I'm interested in and do some research. I may start with area online forums and websites just to get an idea of what's there and what it looks like. In the Pacific Northwest, those are portlandhikers.org (which has an excellent Field Guide), nwhikers.net (Seattle) and wta.org (Washington Trails Association, which has a hiking guide similar to the one on portlandhikers). Often this is all the info I need other than topo maps. If I'm going to a different region, I may get a trail guidebook for the area (great for daydreaming!) and will certainly get a larger scale trail map for planning (such as a USFS map of a specific wilderness area). Once I've narrowed down to a specific trip, I'll print out topo maps that cover the trip. I then work out a tentative itinerary based on such items as distance, elevation gain, water sources that show on the map, potential camp sites. I try to plan at least one layover day to allow for contingencies such as horrible weather, blisters, sick dog (I had to abort a trip once because he kept on barfing), or just wanting to spend an extra day enjoying a particularly beautiful spot. This tells me how many days I need. I plot the number of days into my handy-dandy master gear list, which I tailor to the specific trip, and print it out. I also print out the itinerary to give to a family member just in case.

2. How much time do you spend on it?

Probably too long! Planning is half the fun of the trip, particularly on a dreary, rainy January day! For some trips, it's months of daydreaming and reading of maps and guidebooks. For others, I may decide a few days before (whim, "always wanted to go there," interesting-looking online trip report), print out the maps and checklist, and go.

3. Why do you take this approach?

Meal planning--I try to plan, dehydrate and prepackage my meals the winter before so that at trip time I can just grab the needed number and go. I've never quite gotten to this point, but I try! For each trip, I want to take the meals I need and no more.

Gear planning--I check off the items on my list, load the pack and go. I'm old enough that I need to do a thorough job of this, so I don't find out in the middle of the trip that I've omitted something essential due to a "senior moment"!

Itinerary--since I backpack solo, my family wants to have some idea where to send SAR in case I don't come back. This keeps family off my back! I don't necessarily camp at the places noted on my itinerary (in fact, I usually don't!), but at least the route is the same.

4. If you were to totally ditch any sort of route/trip plan, what would be your main concerns with doing so?

I wouldn't ever not make some sort of plan, just because it's half the fun of the trip!

The two main issues are where to go instead of the original route and notifying the family member who has my itinerary.

On a trip to Wyoming a few years ago, a forest fire closed part of the area of my trip the day before I left (I didn't find out until I did a last minute check late in the evening). I tossed my guidebook and maps into the car. In the motel that night I figured out a replacement trip in about an hour and then called the designated family member with the new itinerary. I enjoyed the replacement trip as much as I would have the original! Since then, I've always had a "Plan B" for all longer trips, and take the needed maps. This is mainly a problem for trips a long way from home. I'm familiar enough with my own region that I can change at the last minute, as long as I have the maps and can phone the family.

I try not to change a route mid-trip because of the emergency issue. Two years ago I did have to turn around and go back out the fourth day (the barfing dog problem) of a one-way trip. That was the last time I planned a trip with no layover days! I now plan a bail-out route or two, which I note on the itinerary. If I think I may vary a trip, I will list possible choices on the itinerary.