Pre-Trip Planning for a Hiking & Backpacking Trip

One of the most important parts of any hike or backpacking adventure is your Pre-Trip Planning. Planning will help ensure your trip goes smoothly, and will allow you to account for any dangers that you may face on your adventure.

Hiking on a Trail

Here are the first things I do before planning any hiking trip.

  • I analyze what the weather conditions, environmental conditions, and route conditions will be like.
  • I think about the possible threats and dangers I may face on my trip.
  • I come up with a plan to deal with any obstacles that I may encounter on my trip.

Hiking Gear Considerations

Hiking Gear on a Backpack

The gear I choose is directly related to my pre-trip planning. By analyzing what conditions and obstacles I will likely face, I can then start to put together a bag that will compliment my skills, and keep me safe in the face of any potential dangers.

Route Considerations

Hiking Route Maps

  • What water sources are along my planned route? This will tell me how much water I need to carry, how many water bottles I need to pack, and what type of filtration system I should carry.
  • What are the average temperatures and weather patterns that I can expect along my route? This will tell me what type of clothing, shelter, and weather related gear I need to pack.
  • What threats might I face along the route?  This can be anything from route related dangers (extreme climbs, flash flooding, avalanche dangers, difficult terrain, etc.) to wilderness dangers like wild animals or poisonous insects. By knowing what threats I’m likely to face, I can get a better idea of what precautions to take, and what type of gear is necessary.

Communication & Navigational Considerations

Communication Equipment

  • How well do I know the route? Have I traveled this route before, or do I need to take extra time before my trip to study Topographical maps? This is also where I decide what navigational items I need to take, such as extra TOPO route maps, GPS devices, pacing beads, a compass, etc…
  • How can I communicate to the outside world during an emergency? Are there portions of the route where cell service will be unavailable? Do route conditions warrant bringing another form of emergency communication such as a shortwave transmitter?

Intelligence & Recon

Bear Country Trail Warning Sign

  • Are there sources of information that I can obtain about my route before I leave? This can be everything from trail associations websites and guidebooks, to online forums, hiking clubs, and historical data.
  • Are there experts that you can consult before setting out? This can include park rangers, search and rescue experts, or other hikers that have first-hand knowledge of your route.  This is invaluable knowledge that can help you avoid the pitfalls and dangers associated with your planned route.

By taking the time to plan out your routes, you give yourself a much better chance of staying safe when facing dangers on your trip.