How to Plan a Self-Supported Adventure
Guided hikes. Trail races. Mountain bike races. Organized events in the wilderness are wonderful because they add a level of comfort to a long and difficult day—people will be marking your route, checking on you, feeding you food and liquids, and congratulating you at the finish.
But sometimes you don’t have the option for an organized race or hike, whether it’s because there happen to be none available, you don’t have the extra funds to pay for it, or you need to fit something into your training schedule now.
That’s where self-supported adventures come in! Yes, they’re more challenging because you have to plan all the logistics yourself and then keep yourself alive, but they also make you feel more accomplished. And summer is an ideal time for self-supported adventures and to practice your adventure survival skills. The weather is (usually) better, the stakes are (usually) lower, and it’s (usually) easier to find friends to come along with you. Here are some ways to make sure you’re prepared.
Do your research
The first (and most fun) step is deciding where you want to go and what you want to do! Will you be gone for a morning, an entire day, an entire weekend? Will the trail be open along the entire route? Will any stores or gas stations be open when you need to access them? Be sure to obtain any permits needed for everyone coming along.
Figure out the logistics
Once you know your route, you’ll need to sit down and plan everything as meticulously as possible. How will you supply your food and water—doing loops, dropping a few coolers and water jugs in advance, stopping at stores? How will you get back to your car when you’re finished—a shuttle, a car dropped the day before, going out-and-back? Will you have bail-out points if things go awry?
Friends always make long days more fun. Plus, it’s safer to have more people with you. But you need to make sure you invite the right friends—people who are up for adventures and willing to be flexible as plans inevitably change and can laugh in tough situations. You also want to be clear about abilities so that everyone is either willing to stick together the entire time or stop and wait at certain junctions.
Pack your gear
Your list of 10 Essentials will rapidly grow when you’re on a self-supported adventure. Rather than carrying a bottle of water, you’ll need to have a hydration bladder and a clear plan of how you’ll get more water. Instead of one Snickers bar, you may need 10 or 12. You’ll want extra clothing in case the weather changes, and an emergency blanket or bivy sack in case you need to spend the night outside. Absolutely bring a paper map along with any downloaded maps on your phone.
Keep safety in mind
The stakes are higher when you’re planning a self-supported long day, so you need to be more mindful of safety precautions. Be sure to leave your plan with a few people so they know your estimated finish time. Leave a note under your car seat with your plans in case the worst happens and people need to look for you. If there are rangers, it doesn’t hurt to tell them too so they know why your car is at a trailhead for an extended period of time.