When I go day hiking or backpacking, I begin preparing a few days in advance by watching the weather forecast and documenting my trip plan. It’s a good habit to get into especially if you hike in the mountains or on more remote trails. I make a point to leave a copy with a relative or trusted friend, who knows when to call 911 or the State Police if we’re overdue.
Here are the things I research and document in my trip plans:
- Weather forecast and weather front trends
- Recent trip reports
- Routes and major landmarks
- Elevation gain
- Special gear needs
- Water crossings and water level
- Water sources
- Look up time estimates in local guidebooks
- Sunset time
- Turnaround time
- Bail out options
- Parking spot
- Group review before the hike. Everyone should know the plan.
- Leave a trip plan with a reliable person who will call the State Police if we’re overdue. This includes the precise time in which they should call for help. It depends on the route and time of year, but I usually add specify a time that’s about 12 hours later than when I expect to finish. I also carry an inReach mini 2 satellite messenger on my hikes so I can contact search-and-rescue earlier if required or send my emergency contact a text message with the inReach mini 2 if we’re running late and I have satellite connectivity.
This kind of preparation is critical when you will be hiking above treeline or during the winter, which can be very dangerous in New England if conditions degrade. If the weather turns suddenly or someone in your party needs to bail, it’s best to have an escape route pre-planned so everyone knows what to do and you don’t waste any time getting down or out to safety.
How does my trip planning method compare with yours?SectionHiker is reader-supported. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.