Planning Tips

A lot of people are daunted by the idea of planning.


  1. Have a “Wish List” for trips: Include trips of varying difficulty and length. Some trips should be a short drive while others can be further from home. Sometimes you might want to kayak, other times you might want to backpack. If a weekend suddenly frees up, you can easily find a trip to fit in. And don’t feel bad about finding a local spot you have never “had time” to visit; these are great if you only have one day or a small budget.
  2. Have an adventure map: We have the National Geographic Adventure Atlas that we keep in the car. Sometimes GPS does not work and the atlas can be a huge help. NatGeo also includes public lands. Need a nearby National Forest to sleep in? Just refer to the map.
  3. Get organized at home: Laminate a comprehensive packing list. This might seem anal but if you are packing last minute, the list will minimize forgotten items. The list should be separated into sections; clothing, group gear, kayaking gear, bike gear, ski gear. Also, keep gear in tupperware; frequently used in one bin, cookware in another, winter gear in yet another. You get the idea. We can pack for a 3 day weekend in under an hour.
  4. Keep stocked: Fuel, batteries, energy bars and other non-perishables are great to keep on -hand for those “last minute no time to run to the store” type trips.
  5. Plan BIG: Have one week in Montana? Research the area thoroughly; read blogs, visit the NPS website, map out plenty of things you want to do. Sometimes we plan on 20 sites we want to do even though it seems unlikely we can fit it all in. Why? Well things never go as planned. Maybe the weather is horrific or roads unexpectedly close but if you research lots of options, you don’t loose out. Knowledge and flexibility ensure trip success.
  6. Know the rules: Where can you sleep for free or cheap along the route? Does the park require bear canisters? Will you need permits? Get cash for fees before leaving. Stress out about this stuff at home so you don’t need to on the road.
  7. Buy guides/maps for frequented areas: We spend a lot of time in the Sierra Nevada so we have a wildflower book, geology book, hiking guides, and many maps of the area. These tools will help you find obscure spots and trails. We can pick up and go and have a fun trip no matter where we stop in “our Sierras”.


  1. Department of the Interior: Thats right, we go straight to the source! National Park Service, National Forest and BLM websites are all at the top of our list.
  2. Lonely Planet: Seems crazy but we get confused in cities. All the hubbub really throws us off. Lonely Planet has some great walking tours included.
  3. Other people like us: Blogs, Twitter, other social media, others pictures, hikers met on the trail, Backpacker Magazine, even the AAA Magazine. If something sparks our interest, we make note for later.
  4. Chamber of Commerce: Websites and offices have tons of information not just on restaurants but also trails. When we went to Sedona, AZ the Chamber of Commerce was a big help.
  5. Park Rangers and Volunteers: These people know their stuff. They live at or near these parks and have explored a lot. Ask questions, they are incredibly helpful. A VERY valuable resource.


  1. Hiking California’s Desert Parks (A Falcon Guide)
  2. Hiking Death Valley: A Guide to it’s Natural Wonders and Mining Past by Michel Digonnet
  3. California Natural History Guides (options from wildflowers to geology)
  4. The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada by John Muir Laws
  5. Roadside Geology Series
  6. California Place Names: The Origin and Etymology of Current Geographical Names by Erwin G. Gudde
  7. Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills