Outdoor Safety: Planning the Route

How do you safely get from your home to the hiking the peak of that mountain? This is Part 3 of my Outdoor Safety Series.

People do not Associate with Outdoor Safety: Planning
Here are a few essential planning tips, which are elaborated more in my blog.

  • Plan Your Routes Before Leaving Your Home
  • Know Exactly Where you are Going: Trailhead to Start, Trails to take, and Where to Park
  • Know if the Park has any Fees. Have Proper Payment Available
  • Schedule it out: Schedule a Start Time, The Estimated Time you will Finish (2MPH), and the Estimated Time you will Return to your car and Leave.
  • Have Your Pack Ready and Filled with everything you need (maps, food, water (1L per 2 miles), hydration tablets, phone, first-aid, etc.)

Planning helps us set up for success, but it also allows us to have a safe journey without getting lost. It gives us peace of mind and loved ones because we are prepared and will know when we will return.

At first glance, it may seem too simple or not necessary, but trust me, it doesn’t allow fear to drive you. Instead, it will enable you to pay attention to your surroundings and appreciate nature without unnecessary pauses. I feel the adrenaline is rushing through my veins. I’m getting hyped up since I’ve been planning this for 24 hours+. Let’s goooo!

Planning and excitement need to be discussed more online because I know that specific hikes require time, effort, and planning to make it happen. It gives everyone the illusion you just wake up and hike 10 miles. It doesn’t work out that way.

Therefore, it is another reason I plan to show you step-by-step how I plan for hikes.


My 300+ section hike step-by-step guide is on-hold since I am in Texas, and I need my partner with me. I had thought I could do it without him but are you kidding me? I need him, and it is something I want us to plan together, and he feels the same. Stay tuned for that!

Going back to these steps of preparing. 

Plan your Routes Before you Leave your Home.

I recommend planning the exact route you plan to take the day before your day-hike, and earlier than that for backpacking. Backpacking is a different beast. We need a few days to plan out our traveling plans, packs, and food.

Know exactly Where you are Going: Trailhead to start, trails to take, and Where to Park
For hiking, I look at the map, and I study it. It reminds me of school, but I want to remember all the turns, switchbacks, and if there are weird junctions, I need to keep an eye on it because it seems like a place I will get lost. If it becomes too complicated I plot a map onto google maps, https://www.google.com/maps/about/mymaps/.

I download the map onto my phone to make sure I have a copy. If you have a printer, I will print it out. I love paper maps, and whenever I find one at the park, I take it! There are apps to use for trails too. Alltrails is a favorite from friends. One plus for the paper maps includes historical information, geology, and biology of the park. It’s fun to read, and it is nice to have a heads up of what animals I might encounter.

For backpacking, we plan it to the T on exactly when we plan to leave our apartment, and exactly when we plan to be home. It revolves around our work schedule, which is the reason we have to be on point.

Know if the Park has any fees. Have Proper Payment Ready.
People always seem to forget about fees. Some places require cash only, and it can throw off your hike by running to the store, atm, or bank to get some money out. Do your research, or maybe always have cash-on-hand. It has set us back 20 minutes for a hike, and when we had returned to the park, the parking lot was full.

Schedule it out: schedule a start time, the estimated time you will finish (2MPH), and the estimated time you will return to your car and leave.

Schedule out your hike! The night before our hike, I usually have everything set up, so I can wake up, press the start of my coffee maker, and leave early before sunrise.

If it is a longer hike, I plan it backward. 

Example: We are doing a 10-mile hike. The estimated time will be 5 hours (2MPH). It gets hot at noon, so let’s get there and start hiking at 7 am the earliest. I haven’t been there in a while, so let’s aim to arrive at 6:30 am. The 30 minutes allows us to park, pay for parking, use the restroom, etc. We are finished by 12, and we can get home by 12:30 pm. It takes 30 minutes to get there, so we will need to leave by 6 am and get up at 5:30 am.

That’s how in my head I plan for our hike.

I do something similar for backpacking, and we determine how long it will take us to reach our destination. We factor in weather, altitude, elevation gain, and a lunch break. We decide what will be the best time to wake up.

Have Your Pack Ready and Filled with everything you need (maps, food, water (1L per 2 miles), hydration tablets, phone, first-aid, etc)

I will go into what exactly you need in your pack. Regardless, have it ready the night before, and have it with everything you need. The last thing you want to do is be ready and not have food, water, cash, phone, or the map you had printed.

Going back to Safety:

All of this helps set us up for success. It allows us to be confident in our school, and it helps take out the fear and replace it with excitement. Additionally, we are timely, and we can notify a family member of our trek, and they are confident in our planning. They don’t have to worry (as much for parents because parents always worry), and they trust us to make it back safely.

And if you made it this far, congratulations! I hope this inspires you to see planning as something beyond setting up for success, but as a way to put aside that fear and hike with more confidence that you will do whatever you plan out and with Safety.

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