Plan ahead & prepare
Of all the skills and training I have in various sports and activities that I do, the most important skill I possess is my ability to plan ahead & prepare. Usually listed and taught in many outdoor curriculums and prominent in “Leave No Trace” principles, the ability to plan ahead & prepare for ALL of your outdoor outings is the single most important step you can take. There is a direct relationship to the amount of time you are away in the outdoors as to the importance of your planning. A local trip to the playground from your house has low consequence so very little planning is required, but a week-long hiking or canoe trip requires a lot of planning. With so many outdoor recreation activities moving to the front-country, or resort & day based, the plan ahead & prepare concept has been replaced by “I’ll pick something up while we are there.” This can be a great concept when you have products available to purchase, but not so great for remote areas or when you may need to buy specialized outdoor equipment or clothing.
Over the years I have found great success with using a couple key lists when preparing for teaching courses, guiding trips or doing my own personal trips. I have one list for all my clothing & equipment, and a second list for my menu & food. By using the same lists year after year, and never taking for granted that I will remember what I have packed and not use the list, I have been successful in not forgetting items and always being prepared.
Another tip that works great for me is to consistently use the same clothing & gear items trip after trip which saves time and stress while preparing for my outings. Using the same Smartwool T-shirts, the same zip-off pants, and the same thermal layers and rainwear year after year have proven to keep me warm, dry, and comfortable many times before.
This consistency also helps me to pack up my items in the same size of compression bags I used previously, which then fit into the same backpacks, or canoe packs ensuring I am packed up light & small, but still have everything I need trip after trip. Having a great packing system & routine then allows me the flexibility to add a new item of clothing or camp gear to test out without compromising my basic needs, which then allows me to evolve my kit as new items come to market or to use. Seeing and sharing clothing & equipment ideas takes place on every outing with other outdoor enthusiasts and is always a fun part of each adventure or course.
With guided trips, paddling and camping courses put on pause this year due to the health restrictions, I can’t help but feel that many folks could be getting shortchanged on their outdoor training. Even though plan ahead & prepare is not always listed on course descriptions, it is always being taught. From equipment lists that get sent out by instructors, to lists of what to bring for the participants, success on our outings is based on the preparations we take ahead of time. Before & during courses, clinics, and outings, samples of gear lists, menu plans, grocery lists, group equipment, route plans, and risk management plans are all shared with participants so they too can see the cause and effect of this vital step.
I look forward to being able to teach courses again, hopefully sooner rather than later, and be able to pass on the valuable lessons that I have learned from my instructors and mentors over the years. After all, wouldn’t it be great to be able to pack up to teach a white-water canoe course in 20 minutes or less! Until that time, I am always happy to help people with advice for their adventures as best I can over the phone, at the store, or via email as everyone prepares for their summer adventures.