Planning a Trip如何策劃戶外活動

winter catskills

This weekend I am going to lead an overnight backpack in the Catskills. As always, I conducted a trip write-up for reference. While I was completing the write-up, I kept thinking maybe it would be a good idea to talk about the general trip planning process – So, here it comes. The information this article provides is specialized to a 2-5 day backpack; however, most of the principals apply to other activities too.

※Pre-Trip Research

Before I start to research for my trip, the first thing I always do is evaluate myself. What do I expect? What can I do? I need to make sure that I will enjoy the trip and I am capable of finishing the trip and also leading the trip. Otherwise the trip will simply be a disaster for both me and my participants. (My club, AMC, suggests leaders to reserve 15-20% of energy to prepare for what might happen during a trip.)

Once I have no more concerns for myself, I then open up my calendar and set aside a weekend or a longer vacation for this trip, and start to investigate the following topics:

1. Trip Content and Expectation

Where are we going?

Does our destination reside in a national park, a state park, or state forests? Is the destination local or overseas?
(I had two articles (part1, part2) providing some ideas about backpacking destinations on the east coast. Right now those articles only have Chinese versions, but some of the links in the article might be useful for English readers.)

What is the general weather condition in that area?

How much is the precipitation?
What is the temperature like?

What kind of activity will we do?

Is it a 3-season backpack or a winter backpack?

If it’s a 3-season backpack: Will there be left-over ice or newly melted snow so that the trail is wet, muddy, and slippery? Will there be many bugs so that it is better for us not to sleep under a tarp? Also to bring along bug repel?

If it’s a winter backpack: Is it early winter, mid winter, or late winter? Do we need to prepare snowshoes? How much clothing is enough?

How difficult is this trip?

The difficulty of the trip involves these three factors – distance, terrain, elevation change – and as well some unseen ones. It is better to think of this issue in parallel with time management: How much time do we want to spend on trail everyday?

A rule of thumb says this: start with 2 miles per hour and add another hour for every 1,000 feet of elevation gain and another 0.5 hour for every 1,000 feet of elevation loss. This equation works fine in 3 seasons but is a big under-estimation in winter time. In winter, be flexible; give yourself more time. It’s much better to arrive at the campsite much earlier than have to hike in the dark.

How much time do we want to spend on trail everyday?

It’s nice to have an estimated travel time. With the sunrise and sunset clock in mind, you can avoid to hike in the dark unless you want to get an alpine start or bath in the moonlight.

In addition to the walking time derived from the above formula considering distance, terrain and elevation change, it is also important to include time for any form of resting (water stops, snack stops, layer changes, and natural calls). By the way, throw in some buffer time too.

What are the highlights for this trip?

To me, sleeping in the woods already qualifies a good reason to carry the weight; but sometimes people like to have goals, such as learning the history or ecology of the area, investigating air crash sites, bagging some peaks etc.

When I just started to backpack in the east coast, I never seriously logged the miles traveled or peaks collected. After meeting and talking with so many peak-baggers, thru-hikers, and section hikers, I looked back and counted. Surprisingly I have almost bagged 1/3 of the peaks in the Catskills, and I’ve hiked more than 300 miles of the Appalachian Trail (AT) even though it is not my favorite trail. (Maybe some day I’ll do the Triple Crown.)

2. Other Resources

Permits and Regulations

These are certainly not the fun part but we need them to make a trip work. Usually permits and regulations are there to prevent people from abusing the land, and we outdoor enthusiasts with no doubt all bear environmental ethics in mind.

Apply for permits as soon as possible; some popular destinations require early reservations.

Besides Leave No Trace, different areas will have different rules. Consult guide books or local ranger offices. Some regulations I’ve encountered in the east coast are:

Don’t stay consecutive nights in a shelter or a lean-to.
Thru-hikers have the priority to use the shelters on AT.
In the Catskills, never camp above 3500-foot unless it’s winter.

Hunting Seasons

Hikers share land with hunters. If you hike during hunting season, wear an orange vest, use an orange pack cover, or wear an orange hat. Of course, you can avoid going out to the woods during the hunting seasons, especially when hunters use rifles.

Local Hospitals, Emergency Cares, and Rescue Services

We don’t want to use all this information, but we need it handy. In the backcountry, we can’t just call 911 and expect an ambulance to show up several minutes later. If we have knowledge of closet help we can get, when an accident happens, we know how and where to retreat.

※Trip Write-up

I usually provide my participants a detailed write-up with a gear list and a screening form. A write-up explains the plan of the trip to your participants, and provides their family the whereabouts of the group. If something happens, they will know what they should say when calling for help.

In a write-up, these are the common things I include:


Which trails will we take? Where is the starting point and where is the end point? Is it a turn-around, point-to-point, or a loop? If we need to bushwhack, what is the general plan?

Many unexpected things happen in the backcountry, you need to plan alternative routes and bail-out routes: (You don’t have to include this information in your write-up – at least I don’t – but you have to keep it somewhere in mind.)

The water is too high for the group to cross a river.
The pace of the group is slower than you expected.
Your participant is injured, so you have to abort the trip.

Terrain / Elevation Change / Distance / Potential hazards

Is the terrain flat, steep, rough, exposed, slippery or …?
How long is the hike for each day?
How much elevation gain and loss will we have?
Will there be many stream crossings? Are they difficult?
Will there be many road crossings? Is the traffic busy?
Will we hike above the tree lines much and need to pay attention to lightening?
What kind of wild animals might we encounter?

People care about elevation change more than the total distance. I usually use software to generate an elevation profile since a graph is more explanatory than words.

Camps / Water

Where will we camp for each night?
Will we have water at the campsite?
Will we have water along the trail?

Meeting Time and Places / Driving Directions

These items are self-explanatory. Also, if we are doing a point-to-point backpack, we might need shuttle service or spot several cars at the end point and maybe one at a bail-out point.

※Other Matters


As the trip approaches, we should pay close attention to weather conditions, especially in winter time – driving might become difficult, trail conditions will vary. Check weather reports, call local outfitters, and ask local hiking clubs to check recent conditions.


This is not obligatory but is definitely a nice thing to arrange. Usually based on the screening forms gathered from the participants, the leader will have ideas about the geological locations of the participants and therefore can help arrange car-pooling.


I believe I included everything (everything which is not included is in the “unexpected” part) but feel free to tell me what unexpected things should be expected.





1. 行程內容與期望


















2. 其他資訊




除了Leave No Trace的原則以外,各地會有不同的規範,行前記得閱讀步道導覽手冊,或是打電話問一下管理當局以免誤觸法網。舉一些在東岸曾經遇到的一些規範的例子:













路況 / 高度改變 / 距離 / 危險因子

路況是平坦、坎坷、曝曬、濕滑、還是 …?


紮營處 / 飲水


集合時間、地點 / 開車路線




隨著出發時間的接觸,需要密切注意當地天候的狀況,尤其是冬季 – 開車可能變得較危險?步道的路況也會變好變差。上網調查一下天氣預報,打個電話到當地的戶外裝備店,或是詢問當地的登山協會都是不錯的方式。





7 thoughts on “<lang_en>Planning a Trip</lang_en><lang_zh>如何策劃戶外活動</lang_zh>”

  1. 這一篇寫得真好
    and 新年快樂!

  2. calixta和小帽,


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  4. One fun and helpful thing to do before a trip is to imagine and actually write out an emergency senerio. XYZ falls and cracks his head on a rock. What do I do? Visualize everything you would do.

    Or, use some accident reports of other hikers as case-studies, and imagine what you would do if it was you… what did their leader do right? What could have been done differently? What led up to the accident? How could it have been prevented? etc.

    While you most likely will not meet up with the same accident and conditions, it really puts you in a preventative and prepared mindset. VERY comforting and confidence building.

  5. bastish,
    Indeed, “worst scenario” simulation is very important. As a leader, we really have to work on contingency plans — know how to bail out or evacuate victims etc.

    One time when I was taking a leadership workshop, one of the role plays I had to perform was a leader with a first aid scenario — we had a group of six but one broke his ankle and the other passed out because of seeing him suffer. At that time I only had three others to deploy and it was windy and rainy in the White mountains. I have to say I learned a lot from that case.

  6. Pingback: Follow the leader

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