Trip Planning

Aldaron

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Jun 16, 2012
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I've learned something about myself when it comes to trip planning, and I would like to see if other people do the same thing.

First, I love planning a long backpacking trip. I read lots and lots of trip reports and guide books, and I pore over lots of maps. I then painstakingly plot out a trip that I expect to be great.

And then I get on the trail and my plan rarely survives much past the first day.

I end up adjusting the plan for things like views I decide I want to see, climbs I decide I don't want to make, weather exposure I decide I want to avoid, or a host of other things. I almost spend as much time over the map while on the trail as I do back at home planning the trip. In fact, I recently noticed that many pictures of me out on a long trip are of me hunched over the map...adjusting the plan.

So, I'm wondering, is this normal? Do you pretty much stick to your plan except for extenuating circumstances? Do you adjust your plan regularly? Or do you even make a detailed plan for a long trip?

I'm starting to wonder if I should even bother with making detailed plans...it just seems like I never stick to the plan, so maybe I should just pick my trailhead and basic destination and head out on long trips.

But I might be a little too OCD for that.
 

Udink

Relax, slip away...
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Jan 17, 2012
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I also meticulously plan all of my outings, but I prioritize each part of the trip so that I can easily exclude parts that don't fit the conditions I encounter. I like planning almost as much as I like the actual trips, but adjusting (or not) to what you find out there in the wild is often what makes or breaks the trip.
 

BJett

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May 3, 2013
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I've been planning a trip to southern Utah in May for the past 6 months. That's half the fun. Being flexible and allowing for last minute changes helps, I like to have backup options especially if I'm traveling long distances to a destination.
As a cartographer/GIS Analyst, I can, and do, stare at maps all day. Never gets old.
 

pixie1339

Desperately Seeking Sandstone
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Jan 21, 2012
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Like Dennis, I love planning trips almost as much as I love taking them, and like Keith, I spend a lot of time reading trail descriptions and trip reports before the trip. I plan out my perfect trip, but also keep some back up ideas in mind. Sometimes everything goes as planned, and sometimes for one reason or another it doesn't. It used to really bug me when my plans had to change, but I've learned to roll with it and try to make the best out of a trip no matter what I'm given. The longer the trip, the greater the odds are that you will have to adjust your plan. If you enjoy planning the trip, you should keep doing it. Just keep in mind that it's not always feasible to follow the plan, and that's okay.
 

IntrepidXJ

ADVENTR
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I've done some planning in the past, but to be honest I really don't do too much of that anymore. There are weekends when I leave my house with no particular destination in mind...I end up where I end up.
 

DAA

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Jun 14, 2012
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My experience pertains more to car camping, which I have 100 times as much experience with as backpacking. But it depends on how familiar I am with the area I'm going to and what my goals or intentions are for the trip.

If it's somewhere that I have already been on all the dirt roads in the area, I don't bother to look at maps or plan or anythying. I just head out to do whatever it is I have in mind to do. That's what I'll be doing this weekend. I'm going to hit the Henry's and Cedar Mesa (solo). There really aren't any legal roads left in those areas that I haven't travelled - not that I'm interested in this time, anyway. I have an idea of what I'd like to do and see for the weekend, so I've not looked at a map or made any plans beyond where I intend to pitch my tent Thursday night and what time I want to be on the road for home on Sunday.

If it's a new to me area, or one that still holds untravelled roads to be explored, I'll look at maps for hours and hours before going. So that I'm familiar with the universe of possible route options. But I'll plan my days very loosely. Leaving lots of room for spontaneous changes in direction. Most of my trips like this are solo, or with just a passenger and no other vehicles, so I'm free to set my own pace and go where I want to go. That's my favorite type of trip - an area I haven't thoroughly expolored yet and several days to just wander it as I will.

I guess i just don't like a whole lot of structure associated with my recreation.

- DAA
 

fiber

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May 18, 2013
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If you are changing your plan a lot during the trip, it means your plan was no good in the first place and you should work on your planning skills. Plans are essential on trips over 3 days. On a two day trip, you can always go back the way you came. But after the second day that is no longer an option on a loop.

Plans should include what to do if things do not go as planned. I carry a first aid kit and know how to use it. I have planned for someone to get hurt, but am happy when they do not. You should always plan trip bailout points before hand as well as what you are going to do if the weather turns south and your dry canyon route ends up filling with water. I do not consider having to bailout of a trip as a plan change, if you followed your bailout plan:) .

@Aldaron I would be curious to know what parts of your plan you change and what is making you change the plan. I know a lot of people end up changing their plans in route because they either did not bring the right equipment or planned something that was too physically demanding.
 

Aldaron

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If you are changing your plan a lot during the trip, it means your plan was no good in the first place and you should work on your planning skills.

With all due respect, I'll have to take exception with this comment.

I like planning almost as much as I like the actual trips, but adjusting (or not) to what you find out there in the wild is often what makes or breaks the trip.

Yeah, I almost think that I enjoy adjusting the plan as I do making the plan. It's like I get to keep planning even longer! :)
 

Nick

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With all due respect, I'll have to take exception with this comment.

:roflmao: I was waiting for something like that! Hahaha!

To the subject at hand - I'm kind of an erratic planner. I'll find all I can leading into it through trip reports, books, etc. Check maps, print topos with back side sat views, etc. But then I get out there and I largely forget about it and just go with where the trip takes me. Aside from knowing where I absolutely have to be by when, I don't really set specific targets going into it so it's not really 'changing plan' when things don't happen how I might have loosely imagined. It works pretty well. That trip we went on to Atlantic Canyon is a great example.

To sum that up - who cares about plans. Plan just enough that you'll be safe and then ride that thing.
 

Bob

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The length and places most of my trips are in if I changed on-the-fly we could get in real trouble. I always have 'an escape' planned in as well in case the unforeseen happens. Like, the Winds at 13 days and 115 miles there is no room for freelancing to get to your pickup point. Weekend or car trips, yes I can do those with little planning. But each his own, what you are comfortable in preparing for.
 

Yvonne

I lava it!!!
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Jan 19, 2012
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I plan a lot and do all the typical pre-trip planning stuff like ordering maps, studying maps, reading trips reports, guide books, other helpful sources.
I plan for all eventualities, back up plans, Plan A , Plan B etc. It's the fun I need during the long winter months so I can look forward for the next season with the upcoming trips in mind.
But I often end up completely different than originally planned, especially when going solo where my mood and curiosity dictates the direction.
 

Aldaron

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But I often end up completely different than originally planned, especially when going solo where my mood and curiosity dictates the direction.

Yeah, I think that's my experience: when I get on the ground, I realize there's something else I want to do. It's not that I haven't planned well, I think it's that I over-plan. I think I try to make decisions of exactly what I want to do based on armchair information, and then when I get on the trail, I decide that something else looks more appealing. Sometimes that's because weather forces me to stay low. Or the scree climbing up a pass looks too sketchy. Or a trail is too crowded. Or a trail is too muddy from horses. Or I feel like I can do more miles than I estimated. Or I see a basin in the distance that looks inviting...or, or, or...a hundred other variables.

I guess what I'm saying is that I love the act of planning at home...and then I love the act of planning on the trail. I like adjusting the plan...as we did when hiking Atlantic Canyon. As @Nick pointed out, that's almost exactly the kind of planning and adjusting I regularly do: I make a plan, and then I get to a trail intersection and think: man, it looks pretty cool that way...I think I'll go that way.

I certainly don't think I'm doing anything wrong...I adjust the plan because I want to...not because I have to. I just wondered if others hiked the same way :)

Here's the trend I noticed in pictures that got me to thinking about it:

pic2.jpg


pic1.jpg


pic3.jpg


It's also obvious that I wear exactly the same clothes on every trip :)
 

Dave

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I guess what I'm saying is that I love the act of planning at home...and then I love the act of planning on the trail.

For me, the planning at home also takes on the role of daydreaming. It doesn't really start as planning, but more thinking how cool it would be to go to location x in order to do activity y. If that feeling lasts, it's time for Google Earth/maps/guidebooks.

_MG_1237.jpg


Once on the ground, I'll roll with what the world provides. Sometimes that means grinding out miles to reach a place I hoped to camp. Other times that means turning back due to weather or whatever. I don't think adjusting one's itinerary is a sign of poor planning. To the contrary, I believe over planning arms you with the information to make informed decision once out in the field. Having alternatives in your head makes decision-making much easier and safer.

It's also obvious that I wear exactly the same clothes on every trip :)

I have this problem in all my outdoor shots. Having my go-to hiking/camping gear makes planning and packing a lot easier. It also makes for boring pictures. The problem became so bad I went out of my way to take a self portrait the other day that didn't include me in camping clothes. Pretty sure I didn't have a photo of myself in anything else for the past several years.
 

Nick

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I don't think adjusting one's itinerary is a sign of poor planning. To the contrary, I believe over planning arms you with the information to make informed decision once out in the field. Having alternatives in your head makes decision-making much easier and safer.


Well said!
 

slc_dan

Desert Rat-Weekend Warrior
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Jun 7, 2012
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For me, the planning at home also takes on the role of daydreaming. It doesn't really start as planning, but more thinking how cool it would be to go to location x in order to do activity y. If that feeling lasts, it's time for Google Earth/maps/guidebooks.

This is me too. I love google earth so much.
 

Jammer

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There's a great quote somewhere that I mangle more and more every time I repeat it, but it goes something like this:

"It's vital to have a good plan. It's even more vital to know when to abandon said plan with the willingness and confidence to do so."

I also LOVE planning my hikes. I used to pre-plan where I'd camp for a full moon three weeks into a long hike. I eventually learned that that really never panned out, but often I've landed at a good back-up spot. In fact... I would argue that alternate plans are part of the original plan! Maybe not a detailed route per se, but enough of a familiarity with a general area that one can deviate with confidence.

- Jamal
 

fiber

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May 18, 2013
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Just remember that when something goes wrong, and it will, the plan you left with your family will be the only thing SAR has to go on when looking for you. Modifying your trip in route is a very good way to make sure SAR will never find you.
 

Aldaron

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Luckily, many of us have enough experience to ensure we have other options to mitigate against some of those threats.
 

Aldaron

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I do agree with you in principle: a plan left at home is a basic safety suggestion for people heading out into the backcountry...especially if going out solo.

But if a plan is changed, and it will be, there need to be ways to adapt to that.
 

Bob

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Disagree........ I've only had to change one trip plan in route to an alternate (which had allowed for in case) out of 35 years of backpacking. And we have always made our pickup time within 1 hour either way.
 
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