2- Preparing before a trip

Preparing before a trip

The 2nd of an 8 part series on handling and preparing for problems.

Plan 15Once you have decided on your trip and made your booking or personal planning, you should start to think about the trip and how you would handle incidents or emergencies. We are not talking about detailed plans written down, that is not your responsibility unless you are the leader/guide, but it is your responsibility to do some basic research about where you are going, what you will be doing and how it may impact you personally. After all you are the best person in the world when it comes to knowing what you can cope with, and how you respond to problems. Your trip leaders or guides do not know you at all except what you have told them. Have you told them you are afraid of spiders and are prone to panic attacks?? Seriously though, they will be learning about you on the trip as you go along and cannot be expected to know exactly how you will respond to an incident. Help them by deciding for yourself that you will look after yourself first.

Everyone should have thought about what they will do in an incident or emergency. It is not expected that you plan in detail for every eventuality, but blindly putting your safety in the hands of another is never a good idea.

Simple possible scenarios you could think about include:

  • The Tea House / Refuge we are staying in catches fire – how do I get out? (Think about this before going to bed
  • All my travel documents get lost. (Where will I get spares?)
  • I know I will miss my flight home as we are running late. (What is plan ‘B?
  • I break my leg 2 days into the trek. (Where is the nearest medical facility? How will I get there?)
  • I break my glasses. (Can I cope without them?)
  • You wake up from a siesta and find your party has left without you and you are all alone. (Do you know which way they went and can you catch up?

There are many more, but this is just to give you an idea as to what everyone should think about. Which of the above are emergencies and which are incidents? Think about it…

More Practical Things I Can Do Before I Go

In the build-up to leaving on your trip – there are things you can do that are more practical which will not only prepare you for the trip, but set your mind at rest as it will know you are well prepared. The list could be endless, but a few examples of things you could do practically are:

  • Do an outdoors first aid course – this is useful anyway and should not be just for the trip you are going on.
  • Customise your personal first aid kit for the trip you are going on. What medications are allowed where you are going? What might you need specific to the area? (Anti malaria, Diarrhoea medication, Sunblock, etc.)
  • Ensure you have had any vaccinations you need
  • Prepare and double check any travel documentation is valid and up to date. (Passports, visas, foreign exchange. Have you told your bank you may use your bank cards out of your home country? Is your passport valid for 6 months after your expected return?)
  • Inform the trip leaders or guides if you have an existing medical condition requiring immediate care and where they will find the relevant meds in your pack. (Heart medication, Asthma pumps, Bee sting EPI Pens, Insulin etc.) Have your personal particulars on your person somewhere. They speak for you when you’re unable to.
  • Read up about the area and research anything which may cause a problem. (Monsoon season may block roads)
  • Start to get fit – walk as often as possible using the gear you plan to take with so that you can resolve any issues with gear before you leave.
  • Make copies of all your important documentation and place in online cloud storage. Also keep a copy in a separate part of your luggage.
  • Prepare an action plan and leave it with someone back home you trust to follow should anything prevent you getting home. This could be simple things like feeding your cat, or letting your boss know you have not arrived home as planned. But it could be more serious like reporting your non arrival home to the police. Or you could use trailnote.com An electronic watchdog for those whose friends might forget.
  • If you will be camping on your trip, and this is something new or infrequent for you, ‘camp’ on the lounge floor for a night or in the garden using the gear you are taking with. Make sure it all works and you know how to use it.
  • Prepare a few simple items which could assist you to cope with things that may happen…

Some Simple Things… Emergency KitsPlan 14

Statistics show that the people best able to weather incidents or emergencies are those who have planned and prepared themselves beforehand.

It would be beneficial for every person in a group to carry some simple personal items which could assist. Again these will depend on where you are going. We are not talking a full emergency preparedness kit, jut some basic lightweight personal bits which could help you cope. All the following would weigh less than 1kg.

  • 2 meters of 5mm nylon cord
  • A couple of energy bars
  • A few cable ties
  • Duct tape – Wrap around trekking pole
  • Map of the area you are going to
  • Multi-tool. Just a small one is fine
  • Personal first aid kit suited to your training & abilities
  • Rescue bag
  • Rescue sheet/blanket
  • Small sewing kit. Include a sail-makers needle and dental floss.
  • Something to start a fire with, and perhaps a few solid fuel tablets
  • Spare boot laces
  • Torch
  • Whistle

If you are lucky enough to be in a cell/mobile reception area. Ensure the phone does not have a security PIN enabled, so that if you are incapacitated and someone else needs to use the phone, they can switch it on.

Just having the above and a bit of ingenuity can go a long way to making your situation much better.


In the next Blog we will look at ‘Looking after myself on a trip’

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Andrew Friedemann

Author: Andrew Friedemann

Andrew holds qualifications in South Africa, Australia and the UK as an Outdoor Recreation Instructor and qualified Mountain Guide and Instructor. Passionate about developing the Adventure Industry in South Africa to make it safer and provide opportunities to a younger generation of adventurers. Represented South Africa on the World Mountaineering Federations (UIAA) International Training Standards Commission for 10 years and has administered the South African Mountaineering Development & Training Trust. A qualified Wilderness EMT and Emergency Care Practitioner. Qualified as an Skills Development Practitioner, he has been intimately involved in the development of Adventure based qualifications particularly with regard the quality management of adventure qualifications. Founder of Adventure Qualifications Network, he was instrumental in the development of National Vocational qualifications for the adventure industry in South Africa, but also worked closely with Australia where he attained the Cert IV in Outdoor Recreation Instruction. Currently resident in the Scottish Highlands - UK, with his wife, Michelle, they travel to many areas of the world gaining information and skills. A keen adventurer, Andrew has participated in mountaineering, skydiving and scuba diving among other activities.