Preparing for the Worst Case Scenario

Most of us spend hours planning for our adventures but that doesn't mean everything is going to go perfectly. Things get forgotten, Mother Nature rebels and wild animals get a little too friendly. We cannot prepare for every aspect of any given worst case scenario, but you can be prepared to survive any worst case scenario that comes your way. Here are a few tips to ensure you don't make any of these deadly backpacking mistakes and make it back to your car, safely.

worst case- storm

1. Read Trip Reports + Ask Questions
You'll know where you're headed long before the day you leave so spend some time online reading trip reports about the area. You'll learn about the best routes to take, good sites to camp at and where water is usually accessible. While you're reading take into considering when the report was written — if you're planning a fall trip reading about a trip someone took last spring may not be that helpful. You'll still get useful information about the area, but remember...water sources dry up, vegetation hides trails and weather tends to have seasonal patterns.

Also, ask questions! If you're reading a trip report on a blog, comment. If you're browsing a forum, post questions. If you're talking to friends who've done something similar, annoyingly pick their brains. Then take every bit of advice you get as a grain of salt! You know what your goals and abilities are — take the information you've gleaned from trip reports and conversations into consideration while you plan but never forget who is actually taking the trip!

camping in a storm

2. Research a Backup Plan
Sometimes life happens. Before you even get out of the car things can go awry. Rather than let a major traffic delays or full campground squash your weekend plans start out prepared. Have a go-to backup plan prepared. Know where closer campsites are if you're backpacking or have other area campgrounds in mind should your preferred one be overflowing. And do this research BEFORE you leave the house. Heck, you may even want a Plan C, just in case Plan B falls through as well — you may still survive with made-on-the-fly plans but after one weekend of this Lynne learned the hard way that having a Plan C is a good idea!

trail covered in hail trail covered in hail

3. Tell People Where You're Going
So, you've planned everything out and have maps of the area along with a car full of gear and food. You're all set to go, right?! Almost.

You know where you're going, but does anyone else?! More importantly, does anyone know exactly where your Plan A + Plan B (+ Plan C?) is taking you? The beauty of adventures is getting away from the reality of life but don't forget to give someone all the boring details of where you'll be! Chances are they'll never need it but if you don't check in on your drive back to civilization they need to know where to start looking! Give them ALL the details — the trailhead you're parking at, what you're driving, who is going with you, where you hope to camp, where you'll camp if the original plan doesn't work, what mountains you'll be summiting, what trails you'll be hiking, when you hope to be back and anything else that may be helpful if it is necessary to send out Search and Rescue to find you!

Personally, I write all the details for my mother then think about the things she'll worry about and add those details too (Yes, I have a bear canister. Yes, it's a dry season but recent reports say we can find water at X, Y or Z. No, there isn't any snow yet so avalanches aren't a risk.). That way ALL the details are included and I know she'll worry less! I also make sure someone who understands trail lingo gets the email so they can provide good information to both SAR and my mother should anything go wrong.

4. Pack the 10 Essentials
If you are headed out for any sort of adventure that takes you into the backcountry or away from general civilization you'll want to take a look at this list of ten essentials and start packing! The exact items you'll need will vary slightly by where you're headed but they are all deemed essential for survival. Of course, you'll want to keep your pack light so get creative — duct tape wrapped around your water bottle can be used for repairing gear and for first aid!

10 Essentials photo by Lynne Petre

5. Take Classes or Workshops
The importance of classes or workshops varies depending upon your current knowledge base. If this adventure is going to be your first trip into the snow covered backcountry you'll want to take at least one avalanche safety class before you leave. If it's a weekend backpacking trip in the summer to an area you know then classes may not be necessary. You know your skill set and you know what you're comfortable with...but if you get the chance to take classes the knowledge you'll gain will come in handy!

A few topics to consider include: Avalanche Safety, Wilderness First Aid, General First Aid, Compass + Map Navigation, Mountaineering and Rock Climbing. A quick Google search will give you great information on local organizations that host outdoor related classes — and these organizations can be great resources for questions and new adventure buddies!
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