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Intro | Content | Resources | Opinion & Disclaimer | Q & A

The Joy of Not Planning: CONTENT

by Phil Romig Jr.

Resources available today make it possible to embark on a pack trip in a new area knowing almost as much about what we will encounter as if we had been there before. Before every trip, set aside a couple of hours to do at least the following:

  1. Obtain maps with as much detail as possible about topography, ground cover, water (springs, streams and lakes) and existing trails.
  2. Determine whether trail guides or books are available for the area of the planned trip and obtain at one that provides good coverage.
  3. Analyze topography and review trail descriptions to identify potential hazards and impediments, evaluate difficulty and estimate travel times.
  4. Study satellite images and photos to understand what conditions will be encountered on each section of the trail and to create mental images of what you will see at each waypoint.
  5. Lay out a prospective route with the following in mind.
    1. Identify desired starting, camping, stop-over and ending points.
    2. Use established trails where possible
    3. Avoid hazards
    4. Identify the easiest way over or around impediments such as streams and rockslides.
    5. Be cognizant of the capabilities and limitations of heavily-loaded llamas.
  6. Locate and record coordinates of waypoints (landmarks and turning points) and destinations (Trailheads, campsites, fishing hotspots, etc.).
    1. Select trailheads and pickup points that are readily accessible by vehicles.
    2. Identify potential campsites that are open, level, sheltered and near water.
    3. Select dead-reckoning turning points connected by relatively-straight sections of trail.
    4. Look for recognizable landmarks that can help you verify your locations while on the trail.
  7. Measure compass bearings and distances (in paces) for trail segments between turning points.
  8. Plot all waypoints on a map and label with coordinates.
  9. Write bearings and distances between waypoints on the map to use in dead reckoning.
  10. If you did the route planning online or on a computer, print maps on waterproof paper.
    1. Print at different scales to provide both regional and local details.
  11. Make a duplicate of all maps and coordinates to leave with family or friends.


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