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What makes a good trip report?
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Justin Baccary
What makes a good trip report? on 09/17/2011 13:55:36 MDT Print View

Dave's "insurgent trip report contest" got me thinking - what makes a "good" trip report? The five finalists in the contest each have their own style. Do you like lots of pictures, lots of text, video, etc? On the flip side, what makes a "bad" trip report?

To me, the nature of the trip being reported has some influence on whether I think the TR is "good" or "bad" - given a choice, I'd probably rather read about an epic adventure in Alaska than about a 24 hour trip in the Midwest, but that only carries a TR so far. I've read about epic adventures that are mediocre TRs at best, and plenty of TRs about less epic trips that are awesome reads.


Dustin Snyder

Locale: Southeast
Re: What makes a good trip report? on 09/17/2011 18:56:43 MDT Print View

Lots of pictures! Pictures of there gear. Pictures of them hiking. Pictures of them not hiking. Pictures of the surroundings. And pictures of any thing else that would be interesting.

Edited by DustinTSnyder on 09/17/2011 18:57:19 MDT.

Patrick S
(xpatrickxad) - F

Locale: Upper East TN
Re: What makes a good trip report? on 09/18/2011 05:46:27 MDT Print View

I'm guilty as much as anyone for just throwing up a handful of photos on their blog or in the forum and just a few small basic thoughts, but I'm trying to get a bit more engaging with my reports as of late.

Don't make it like every report. I'm talking "We started at 3,000 ft and had a 1000 ft gain in the first mile and a half. I was sore afterward." Get into what your experience is! If you're smiling on your hike tell us why! If you had a tough time tell us what was going on in your head building up to it and what you were thinking when things got bad. Don't just "stick to the facts." I could also really do without the pictures of your backpack next to a rock or a photo of your new fancy quilt layed out on your pad. If you have gear in the photo it should be because its an interesting photo. When you're about to upload a photo look at it and ask yourself if a stranger posted that picture would you give it more than just a passing glance. Sometimes you see a picture in a report and can't help but wonder what the photographer was even trying to capture in the frame.

If I open a thread and its just a few stale paragraphs I won't bother reading past the first couple lines.

I like video, but can't sit through a music slide show. Video should be video and not just still images. Show video of you and your group (if you're not alone) having fun, smiling and basically doing what we love to do. And if you're using music for god sake please stop using the same 3 Explosions in the Sky songs everyone has used for the past 8 years. They're not the only or even the best post-rock band.

*edit* I just wanted to add a link to Alastair's video on photography tips that are very relevant.

Edited by xpatrickxad on 09/18/2011 06:54:41 MDT.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: good TRs on 09/18/2011 12:07:55 MDT Print View

LOL on the music comment Patrick. I agree.

When I think about writing anything (even if it's writing with pictures and/or video) I try to think about the thesis of the trip, or the one thing which stood out most and was the take away moment that will stick with me into the future. Then I try to figure out the best way to communicate that to whomever I want to, and go forward from there. For me, the rule here is to not rush, cut corners, or be less than honest with myself. Sometimes the lesson of a trip is nice and makes me look good, sometimes not. Cutting corners rarely works out well.

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Re: What makes a good trip report? on 09/18/2011 12:15:14 MDT Print View

Good writing can carry mediocre pictures. Conversely, pictures have to be great to adequately compensate for poor or little writing. From my POV, engaging writing is a must. Pictures come a close or far second depending on the level of the writing.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Re: What makes a good trip report? on 09/18/2011 12:21:38 MDT Print View

I'm with spelt. Good writing is a must.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
"What makes a good trip report?" on 09/18/2011 12:34:06 MDT Print View

Make it your own.

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
Trip reports on 09/18/2011 13:34:03 MDT Print View

I look to trip reports for inspiration- places I'd like to see, techniques I'd like to try, or just a different way of viewing the world. Like reading a good book, I want to be drawn into the story. What was the purpose of the trip, who were the main characters, how did the story play out. Details like enjoyable meals or difficulties encountered definitely add to the story. Pictures are definitely needed to support the written descriptions. I love great scenery, and like it even better if the main players are in the scene. I also like a good campsite shot because these make me feel like I'm along on the trip, and I may learn a new trick or two.

Some great examples include anything by Dondo, Eugene, or Dave C (amongst others).

Alex H
(abhitt) - MLife

Locale: southern appalachians or desert SW
Re: What makes a good trip report? on 09/18/2011 15:14:20 MDT Print View

I agree with all the above about good writing and supporting pictures (video is less important to me). I also want some detail about the data (sorry Patrick) not every milepost or anything but some idea of how far, how long, how difficult. This is especially important if I am thinking of going to the same area and want to know the details and not just the pretty pictures and hyperbole. The more remote or off trail the more I want to know facts, if it is on a well used trail (like the AT) then I can find that info easy enough.

It also depends on who you are writing the report for. Mine are mostly for my friends, family and various hiking partners so there are some common themes, characters and story lines that tend to be included that wouldn't be if it was just for the mostly unknown masses (like BPL).

I also like to know the conditions (temps, wind, precipitation) but am less interested in he exact equipment used unless it is something unusual or perhaps failures. I almost never take equipment pictures unless it happens to be in a shot for some other reason.

Chris Jones
(NightMarcher) - F
Gear list... on 10/17/2011 00:40:54 MDT Print View

Perhaps I'm just being greedy but... a gear list, plus some commentary on gear items that worked extremely well for the trip (given the climate, conditions, personal circumstances, etc.), as well as items that didn't work so well. If you're trying out a new item, then that would be worth a mention as well.

That said, a TR shouldn't be all about the gear, but a few mentions here and there with a gear list at the end somewhere (appendix) would be appreciated...

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
What makes a good trip report?" on 10/17/2011 01:03:23 MDT Print View

(1) Eye candy!

(2) Descriptions of how the trip affected you, not just a description of the trail.

(3) A quick summary of where the trip took place! Remember that some of your readers may be at the opposite end of the country! They might even want to go there!

(4) Not an entire gear list, but a quick rundown on what worked and what didn't.

Edited by hikinggranny on 10/17/2011 01:04:46 MDT.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: What makes a good trip report?" on 10/18/2011 13:38:02 MDT Print View

I think that a good trip report is one that provides you enough information so that you can safely duplicate the trip taken by the person who created the trip report.

The trip report would provide:

1. Trail head locations for entering and exiting- Date of Trip/Season of Year

2. Elevations of the trail head, passes, rivers...major land marks

3. Temperatures/weather encountered when the trip was taken day & night

4. Location of important water sources along the trail, pointing out dry spots

5. List guide books or maps that would be needed/useful for taking the trip

6. Photos to show the terrain and conditions to be encountered and to inspire

7. Photos showing gear used & taken to complete trip safely

8. Commentary to give a sense of what it was like to be on the trail, trip

9. Commentary aimed at the reader as tips and suggestions to make the trip better

10. Honesty in commentary, showing the good and bad moments

Maybe good timing, but here is an article that I wrote that was just published on this topic. It talks about how I take photos on the trail, what I am looking to capture in those shots, and the process of editing and posting online.

Not that I think I know everything there is to know on this topic, but it might give you some insight to what I think I am doing.

P.S. +1 On Eugene's trip reports. Love em!


Edited by Valshar on 10/18/2011 14:43:12 MDT.

Kat ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
"Who makes a good trip report?" on 10/18/2011 14:46:02 MDT Print View

Eugene Smith ;)

oh.."What makes a good trip report?" a different angle.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: What makes a good trip report?" on 10/18/2011 14:55:10 MDT Print View

Many of us are not great writers, many cannot post pictures, some do not take pictures, and some do not have detailed gear lists.

I like to see TRs where the writer was excited about the trip and had a great time. If that enthusiasm comes across, it is a good trip report IMO.

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
What makes a good trip report? on 10/18/2011 15:24:42 MDT Print View

Good pictures!

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: What makes a good trip report? on 10/18/2011 15:38:49 MDT Print View

Yeah, like we can take pictures like yours :)

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
Gear? on 10/18/2011 20:08:45 MDT Print View

Seems like the reoccurring theme here is "Want to know gear"

Maybe I'm abnormal, but knowing what gear a person used is far, far, far less important than the person's experience, the writing, the photos, etc.

When Grandma made a great meal, I enjoyed the interplay of the garden fresh vegetables, just the right balance of herbs and spices, the way that simmering it for just so long can make perfection and how everyday ingredients can make something magical.

And while I sometimes would ask how she would make a dish, it never occurred to me to ask what knife or pan she used. ;)

In the same way, for a trip report, I enjoy all of what I noted above concerning writing style, photos, etc (enjoyment of meal) and sometimes want to know how to get there and what map to use (recipe) ...but what tent, stove or shoe a person used? ((pot/pan/knife)

Figure that's what a gear review post and/or gear review article is for.


Adan Lopez
(Lopez) - F

Locale: San Gabriel Valley
What makes a good trip report?... on 10/25/2011 20:37:55 MDT Print View

Use words and photos to make me feel something.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Re: What makes a good trip report?" on 10/25/2011 20:45:49 MDT Print View

"I like to see TRs where the writer was excited about the trip and had a great time. If that enthusiasm comes across, it is a good trip report IMO."

+1. And this is why I enjoy Eugene's trip reports so much, his enthusiasm is evident in every paragraph.

Steve S
(idahosteve) - F

Locale: Idaho
trip report feedback on 10/29/2011 18:16:54 MDT Print View

Well, being a writer, its interesting to hear what the "readers" would like to see in a trip report. From a writing standpoint, its always on the forefront of my mind to describe the trip, and try to show the beauty of what and where I'm going and doing... and at the same time, while being a hiker, throwing out some of the "speeds and feeds" that all of us gear heads love so much! Combine with technology ie really cool pics, and for the most part the TR is pretty fun to read. I hope that my trip reports encourage and motivate others to get out there, as the reports I enjoy do to me.

For those of you who don't typically post a trip report, GO FOR IT! Its a great way to rehash a trip, show friends and family what you enjoy doing, and to further the info exchange that we are always rooting about for.

For those who read them, thanks for taking a minute to read, and a double thanks for jotting down a quick note showing appreciation and/or what you enjoyed about it!