LNT Principle #1: Plan Ahead and Prepare

Poor planning often results in miserable campers and damage to natural and cultural resources.  Trip planning important is important as it:

  • It helps ensure the safety of groups and individuals.
  • It prepares you to Leave No Trace and minimizes resource damage.
  • It contributes to accomplishing trip goals safely and enjoyably.
  • It increases self-confidence and opportunities for learning more about nature.

Elements to consider when planning a trip

  • Identify and record the goals (expectations) of your trip.  Is this a ‘jamboree’ or are members of the group trying to accomplish specific goals.
  • Identify the skill and ability of trip participants.  Are there members of the group that are winter camping novices and how will they be mentored?
  • Select destinations that match your goals, skills, and abilities.
  • Gain knowledge of the area you plan to visit from land managers, maps, and literature.  Use trail guides and the internet to perform as much research as possible prior to the trip.
  • Choose equipment and clothing for comfort, safety, and Leave No Trace qualities.
  • Plan trip activities to match your goals, skills, and abilities.
  • Evaluate your trip upon return to note changes you will make next time.
  • Know the weather forecast in advance
  • Understand the terrain you will be traveling.  Bring maps and photos along to help locate your journey on the terrain.
  • Understand any regulations/restrictions that may apply, including parking.
  • Understand and respect private land boundaries
  • Anticipate the average hiking speed of group and anticipated food consumption
  • Plan to accommodate the group size (does it meet regulations and trip purpose)

You can prepare by:

  • Educating yourself on the area you plan to visit. Learn about winter regulations, closures, and weather hazards.
  • Taking a winter back country course to gain experience.
  • Expect extreme weather and gear up for it.
  • In mountainous country, carry an avalanche beacon, probe, and shovel.
  • Never explore alone, but keep groups small. A group of four allows one to stay with an injured person and two to go for help.
  • Leave your excursion plans with two people, including your expected return time. They can begin a rescue if you do not return in reasonable time.
  • Trail markings may be hidden in snow. Use a map and compass for navigation. Batteries in GPS units may not work in cold temperatures.
  • Plan a route appropriate for the experience level, size, and goals of your group.
  • Anticipate changing weather that may obscure or cover trail markings, tents, and gear. Make sure you know where you are and where your gear is at all times.
  • Night falls early. You will have much less time to travel and set up camp, so plan accordingly and understand that everything takes longer in cold weather.
  • Ensure you have appropriate gear for the worst-case environment. Use layering of clothes to keep warm and prevent overheating followed by freezing.

For more information visit www.LNT.org.

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