Trip Planning

Sometimes I’m sporadic. I have pulled up a map. Randomly picked GPS coordinates. And driven to said coordinates. Or, I’ve seen a random road on a trip and driven down it. This level of spontaneity can be fun, there’s a time and a place for it. I know how to do that.

Sometimes I plan. When I engage my thinker-planner brain, this document entails some of the things I think about.

At a high level, I want to know:

  • Where I can go
  • What is restricted and allowed
  • Emergency planning

... journey management can serve the journey. Understanding these dynamics can be meaningful:

  • Wind
  • Water
  • Wood
  • Fuel

Generally speaking, I always have:

  • Extra food in the event I need to wait for a recovery
  • Google maps offline mode in new areas I’m unfamiliar with
  • Clothing for temperatures down into the teens (F) or for warmer weather
  • Airtight bags for food in the event I’m in an area with bears


I suggest planning for all weather types and being mindful of the areas you’re going to be in. Different weather elements may require different “systems” (food prep / shelter / etc).


For example, if it’s raining, you might not be setting up a stove. For this reason, I have cereal, salad, and meals that don’t require fire. This also comes in handy in windy environments.

Flash floods

Rain can influence flash flooding. Looking for washed out areas, streams or rivers that arise during a flash flood on trail can serve camping/routes during flash flood incidents.

Snow levels

Snow levels are also a consideration. I’ve driven at 12,000 ft and needed to reverse 1/3 mile down a steep single lane road due to snow covering the road. With rocks on one side and exposure on the other, I had to bail. You can use a Gaia layer to gauge the depths of snow, too.


Fuel planning can be vital to life, depending on trail conditions and different environments. Sometimes fuel is needed, sometimes not. I like to have fuel whenever I’m in a new area and unfamiliar with the terrain (and especially if there are extremes in different climates).

Fuel can be used simply to traverse during the journey. Or it may be required if a tree is down and you need to turn around. Or it may be required if there’s a life threatening emergency and an evacuation needs to occur to the closest hospital.

Or there may be other issues, too. Think gas stations that are closed, credit/debit card readers that are broke or gas stations that accept cash only.

If in doubt, never pass a gas station without refueling.

Emergency planning

Accidents are called accidents for a reason. Whether someone cut’s themselves or there is a vehicle rollover, it’s important to have an emergency game plan in place.

I like to know:

  1. Who has first aid experience?
  2. What are nearby hospitals?
  3. What are bailout routes?

GPS beacons as provided by Spot, Garmin or Zoleo are also helpful to have in the event of emergencies.

Possibilities of emergencies could also involve forest fires or floods. Be mindful of these scenarios and what it may mean for your access and departure routes.

Trail Research

Understanding trail dynamics, technical levels, and other misc factoids that vary at different times of year could serve the journey. Here are a few options to gather data for the trails you intend to explore.

Call Ranger

While not always easy to get a hold of, I suggest calling a Ranger where possible to be informed from a credible source (ain’t nobody got time for “he said she said” dynamics on Facebook!)

Questions to ask a Ranger:

  • Any recent wildlife incidents or wildlife to be mindful of?
  • Any threat of human or theft to be mindful of?
  • Ask about campfire protocol or restrictions.
  • Ask about any special permits that may be needed for stoves, campfire or trail access.

If possible, swing by a visitor center. Read the information signs to understand various characteristics of an area, possibly including types of wildlife.

Search Social Media

  • Search Instagram hash tags.

If the areas you will be in have a distinct name you can search for hashtags on Instagram to possibly get a sense of an area. I sometimes leave comments to ask questions of recent travelers to an area, too. I’m always grateful for those who are willing to contribute and share with a fellow traveler.

  • Search Instagram places.

Similar to Instagram hash tags named after a location, you can search for the Instagram location of a place, area or trail.

  • Search YouTube

Searching YouTube for names of trails, sorting by date and reading comments could also be insightful about trail conditions, trail access and various other dynamics.

  • Facebook group search in areas

Sometimes there are local communities on Facebook that enjoy helping one another and sharing. You can search Facebook for different offroad or overlanding groups and share about the area you intend to travel.

Check apps

Various apps can also have their own ecosystems of information and resources. Such apps include:

  • AllTrails
  • Trailforks
  • Google Earth
  • Gaia
  • OnX

Timing options

If planning routes and gauging timing, I suggest being flexible. Various dynamics can affect time to complete a trail including mechanical issues, technical trails that require 4LO or drivers that are still learning the ropes and require spotting.

Off Road, Overland Expedition and Camping 4wd Vehicles Call rangers, ask about safety from people - guns/theft/etc

Nearby recovery groups

Should you need a recovery, it’s a good idea to understand what Good Samaritan groups may exist near your area of travel (as well as paid services should Good Samaritan’s not be available). Head on over to to learn more about a recovery network that spans North America (still in development).

Water planning

Water. More important than food. Water that I need and extra water for those “unexpected moments” (be it for myself or someone else).

I can go 7 days with no food (I’ve done this). That’s not possible without water.

Rule of thumb: 1 gallon of water per day per person. If you’re thinking of showering daily, 2 gallons of water per day. (Add more for washing clothes)

In the event carrying this amount of water doesn’t work logistically for your trip, you can map out water sources and have the proper water filtration systems.

Keep in mind, water can be used for:

  • Drinking
  • Bathing
  • Dish cleaning
  • Overheated rig
  • Washing clothes
  • Cleaning out wounds (although I suggest carrying saline for this)

Food planning

I have ideal food plans for what I’d like to make. And then I have backup plans for when Mother Nature says otherwise.

What I’m trying to say is sometimes I don’t get my way when it coms to cooking. As such, I usually have foods that I can easily whip up in high winds, rain or snow. This often includes:

  • Pre-packaged salads
  • Almond milk (which doesn’t need to be refrigerated)
  • Cereal
  • Snacks (nuts, fruits, etc)

Power planning

Depending on the duration of your trip and how many power-hungry devices you have, power planning may be important. If using solar panels, you can use Gaia to enable the satellite layer and gauge how many trees may be in an area (which may affect solar accessibility).