By Tej Mehta
Planning is an extremely important aspect of outdoor trips, a solid plan is necessary to have a safe and enjoyable experience.
However, I have found that I am not very good at planning - more specifically I am not very good at making accurate predictions as to how long an activity will take. I always end up returning from a trip much later than I should have.
So, drawing from my past failures, I’ve assembled a brief list of important things to consider when estimating and allotting time for an outdoor trip.
The first thing to consider is the distance or size of the trip. Judging the length of the trip (i.e number of miles planned to travel) serves as a preliminary sketch for the amount of time a trip may take. For example, if I want to do a 15-mile bike ride or 1.5-mile hike, I will probably only need an hour and a half. Meanwhile, if I want to do an 80-mile bike ride or 15-mile hike, I’ll probably need to block off a whole day.
After getting a general idea of how much time an activity will take based on its size, you can consider specifics to get a better approximation of how much time the activity will take. I’ve realized that its important to consider factors such as who you are going with, the place or terrain you are going to, the gear you have, and the weather of that day.
Firstly, think about who you are riding with. It’s easy to become overambitious (especially if you are faster than the group you are going with) and believe that you can complete the activity at your personal pace the entire way. However, when moving at the pace of the group your time goal may no longer be valid. Therefore it is important to consider the abilities of your group to plan and allot time accordingly.
Next, it is a good idea to factor in the terrain you plan to traverse when considering the amount of time an activity will take. If you are hiking a trail that has a steep incline and is extremely rocky, it will take longer than a trail of the same distance that is entirely flat. If you are mountain biking, it will probably take longer than biking on a flat road. This idea seems self-explanatory and almost obvious, but it is often overlooked - especially in cases where one is unfamiliar with the location they are going to. Therefore, make sure to do proper research on the place you plan to visit and base the time your activity will take off the landscape of the spot.
Thirdly, consider the gear that you (and others in your group) may have. On a biking trip I once went on, a group member was on a fixed gear bike that couldn’t keep up with the other riders. Therefore, we had to wait for this rider and it increased the amount of time the entire trip took. I made the mistake of assuming that we’d all be capable of maintaining a certain pace, but with that bike we ended up hours late to our destination. This serves to show that the gear that you have can have a significant impact on the time it takes for a trip and it is important to understand your gear’s capabilities as they relate to the speed at which you can complete an activity.
Finally, look at the weather of the day you plan to go out. If the temperatures or humidity are extreme, more breaks may be necessary and this may slow you down on your trip. Additionally, if rain is expected and your activity could be delayed by rain, plan for potential breaks that may need to be taken as a result of inclement weather.
In summary, a good plan with a good time estimate is one that considers as many factors as possible, being finely tuned with as many additional details as possible. Next time you are preparing for a trip, consider thinking about some of these variables as you schedule your activities.