Adventures come in every shape and size, your adventure might be finding a new walking trail, running 10km off road or packing your bike for a weekend of wild camping. Whether it is a micro, mini or mighty adventure, you’ll be pleased you did a little planning in advance.
7 Top Tips on Planning an Adventure
I’m a big believer in adventure. It is in adventures that we explore, dream, discover, and, most importantly, challenge the limits of our comfort zones. I’ve learned some of my life’s greatest lessons (so far) on my outdoor adventures, not to mention created some of my most cherished memories in exploring this wonderful planet of ours.
While some of my adventures have been mega, multi-week or multi-month challenges, I also enjoy a lot of smaller adventures closer to home. In fact, recently I’ve turned to making my regular training runs or rides into adventures, searching for new trails and challenges around our Scottish playground. I think this adds a lot of joy to my week, and inspires my fitness by breaking routine.
If you’re planning an adventure, big or small, local or afar, here is some essential planning advice to help you organise your outdoor challenge:
1/. Find inspiration
There are tons of resources both online and in books/magazines for adventure challenges that others have had, and it’s great to get inspiration from the experience of the outdoors community. You probably already know what region you want to explore, so start searching online for adventures in that area. Reading trip reports is one of the best ways to learn about the particular challenges and get advice on an area.
2/.Make a plan
Settle on the what, why, when, where, how. Pick your route, figure out how long it will take you, and plan your logistics accordingly. For example, if you’re planning a weekend bike packing around the Cairngorms, can you make it to the bothies every night, or would you prefer to camp in isolation? How frequently will you have access to supplies?
Planning your daily mileage as best you can, and marking what logistical support (ie public transportation, water, shops, campgrounds/hotels, shelters, etc) exists along your route will take you to the next step…
3/. Make a list
Now that you know exactly what you’re doing, you can decide what you need to bring. Always – always – bring more food than you need, as well as emergency layers, even if bad weather isn’t in the forecast. At this stage of adventure planning I usually make a spreadsheet (don’t judge me) to make sure that I don’t miss anything. I plan what I’ll need each day, under the headings of Food, Camping Equipment, Clothing, and First Aid/Safety. Naturally, I use old lists to make sure I don’t forget the essentials, like a lighter or head torch (I have disastrously forgotten both in the past).
4/. Go light
Don’t overpack. Please. Your challenge will be made more enjoyable by having to haul less stuff, not by having more. Take a look at what you’re planning to bring – is there anything that doesn’t serve a specific purpose? Do you have three changes of clothes when one will do? Are you bringing 1L of sunscreen for two days? Reducing your pack weight isn’t always easy, but believe me, it makes all the difference. If you’re still not convinced, let me put it in these terms: you can only carry a finite amount, and excess ‘stuff’ means less space for essentials like water and chocolate.
Getting to a minimal pack weight takes work, and can feel uncomfortable at first. I get it. One of the easiest places to reduce your pack is on clothing: everyone takes more than they need. Of course, you need weather-appropriate attire, but beyond that, you don’t need to get changed every day. Merino wool is a saviour, as you can wear it for a multi-day trip without needing another top (I have managed multi-week trips wearing the same merino wool top every day!). Another tip I can offer is to reduce your toiletries to the exact amount that you’ll need. Get some small liquid containers (available at outdoors shops) and decant things like sunscreen and bio-soap.
5/. Go lighter
Before I head out the door, I always remove one more item (never from my first aid or food kit, though!). Being lighter on the trail not only makes it easier, but also helps you move faster and more agile, which beyond being lots of fun, does come down to your safety: if you need to get somewhere, you need to not be held back by your stuff. Simply put, if it’s hard to move, you need to reevaluate the plan.
6/.Tell someone your plans
Make sure someone back home knows your plans, and that you can get in touch with them if things change. Even if you’re heading out with a friend or a group, it’s really important that someone with access to communications knows that you’re out there. For seriously backcountry adventures, I take a GPS tracker (investment piece!) in case of an emergency.
On a similar vein, make sure that you understand the access to emergency services and have a plan if something does go wrong. Know what’s in your first aid kit and how to use it, and always be conscious of where the nearest road access point is from where you are. If you’re adventuring away from well-marked trails, freshen up on your compass navigation skills.
7/. Take pictures
I always, always, regret not taking enough pictures. Even if you aren’t going to make a Facebook album or invite all of your friends around for a slideshow presentation afterwards, having those photos for yourself to remind you of the awesome challenge you took on will bring smiles to your face for years to come. So while you’re out there, enjoying the great outdoors, remember to take a few minutes to capture the moment for your future self to look back on.
Now go find an adventure!
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