Planning an Overnight Hike

With everyone staying at home and feeling overwhelmed and negative I think it’s a perfect time to dream and plan for future days. If there’s one thing I love it is planning an adventure. The only thing I like more is actually doing my adventures. I’m sure there’s other things I like but in this moment that’s my statement and I’m sticking to it. Warning – this is a very content heavy post and it is extremely lacking in photos because taking selfies of me on the computer, taking notes and researching didn’t seem to interest me.

This summer I have an overnight hike planned and I figured I would share my process of planning my hike and how I organize for it.

The first thing I do is get a general idea of the hike I want to do. I look at lots of photos and read some blog posts on people’s experiences. If I know someone who has done the hike I get their thoughts on their experience. This typically gets me really excited and then I start planning that hike.

I like to start by looking into the basics of what is required by asking myself:

  1. What does it take to get to the start of this hike?
  2. How long does this hike take time-wise?
  3. How many km will this hike be?
  4. Is this something I physically have the skills for or are there parts that might be unsafe for me to attempt?
  5. Do I have all the gear required for this hike? If not am I able to get it before I go?

I’m going to go through my planning process with a trip that I’m going to do this summer – Garibaldi Park.

  1. How long does it take to get to the start of this hike?

From Victoria BC it takes a ferry and a few hours of driving to get to the park. With this information I looked at ferry times as well as driving times and gave myself a couple options. We could either go over on the ferry at night and spend a night before hiking the next day, or we could ferry over in the morning and do a short section of the hike that morning. We could take the ferry from Victoria and drive through Vancouver (cringe) or we could drive the peaceful island to Nanaimo and ferry over to Horseshoe Bay bypassing the bulk of Vancouver. I looked into the timing of these options (selecting the correct dates and times as seasons effect timing) on google maps and realized that the difference in timing is quite small. From here I chose to drive to Nanaimo and take that ferry over to save the stress of driving through the city.

The “how to get there” was now decided.

2. How long does this hike take time-wise? How many km will this hike be?

This question took some research and time. You can easily look at a trail map and figure out km, however, with planning to do both the Black Tusk and Panorama Ridge within one weekend we needed to look into sectional specifics on this trail. There aren’t many trail maps that show ALL the distances, rather they show general and overall distances. This meant googling trail signs throughout the park which ended up being the most helpful in the end.

From here I had to decide how we wanted to separate out the trail. I chose our campground and found that it was 7.5km into the park. I then utilized the trail map in cohesion with the trail sign photos to decipher all the small distances to really break down sections of the trail to see what was possible for us. In doing this I discovered that from the campground to the fork in the road between Black Tusk and Panorama Ridge is 2.5km. I saw then that the trail sign said from this spot the Black Tusk is 3km and Panorama Ridge is 4.5. I used these numbers to construct a few different scenarios to make choosing easier.

Scenario one would be to hike the 7.5km into the campground in the morning, set up camp really quickly then hike to one of the locations and back to the campground for the night. This would total out the day at 7.5 + 2.5 + 3 (or 4.5) x 2 + 2.5km. This meant 18.5-21.5km first day. The next day doing the next hike would be 11-14km to do the other and then 7.5 out of the campground either that day or the next morning. This would total the weekend at 40km. The likelihood of being burnt out after the first day would be pretty high too and it might be a bit discouraging to try and go up again on day two.

Scenario two would be to hike the 7.5km into the campground and set up camp and then stay there for the day. The next day do both summits and stay at the campsite that night hiking out the third day. This would mean 7.5km the first day leaving us ready and excited for the second day. We would then wake up and hike the 2.5km to the cross roads, hike to either viewpoint, back to the cross roads, to the second viewpoint and then back to the campsite. This day would total out at 20km which to me seems manageable. There is a lot of elevation change in this for sure and after considering which route to take first I was thinking that since Panorama Ridge has less km change over slightly  more distance we would just re-caffeinate before the fork in the road and power up the 3km to Black Tusk before heading back to the campsite. The next day we would have plenty of time to pack up and hike the 7.5km out of the park. This would total the weekend at 35km, saving us 5km of hiking from scenario one.

In going through options this way you can see your distances totalled out and find which scenario is best for you.

3. Is this something I could physically and safely attempt?

This question is really important when looking into a hike. There are plenty of hikes on my list that we are well aware that we’re not ready for. There may be sections where you have to rope in and belay to safely get to the top. While I love boulder climbing in a gym I am definitely rusty on my belay skills and have yet to test them in an outdoor setting so climbing sections mean a hike is currently off the table for me.

Another example of this is the Black Tusk that we are planning. While it isn’t necessary to belay or clip in for the chimney of the tusk we do know that Ann has a very strong fear of heights and in scenarios like this she has frozen up and panicked before. While she has overcome so much over the last few years it is important to know personal limits with things like this. If there’s a chance that you might panic in a section it may be best not to push that. Know yourself before going on these hikes.

A last thing to think about when planning a hike is what is the weather going to be like and how will that effect the safety of this hike? Is there sections where you have to cross ice that would be better done in cooler seasons when the ice isn’t shifting and breaking? Is there sections that may be dangerous or impassible when wet? Looking into these specific details should be part of your panning.

4. Do I have all the equipment for this? Can I acquire it before attempting?

When organizing your hike you’re going to need to sit down and make a list of everything you’re going to need. Check everything off your list to ensure you have something for everything and make sure to think about every aspect. What are you going to sleep in? What are you going to eat? How much water will you need and will there be water accessible?  Will you need to filter that water? How many changes of clothes will you need? Do you have all your hygiene products?

This is my example Garibaldi packing list:

  • Backpack
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping mat
  • Pillowcase – fill with your clothes for a pillow
  • Headlamp and flashlight
  • Camp stove with fuel
  • Lighter
  • Cup, fork, knife, paper plates, pot with flat bottom
  • Food for two full days and snacks for a third partial day
  • Camel pack of water
  • Water bottle
  • Water purifier
  • Vega Sport energizer
  • Juice crystals or Vega electrolyte packets
  • Extra socks and cozy shoes for being at the campsite (sandals or sneakers)
  • Clothes for two days of hiking – hiking boots, extra socks, hiking pants or shorts, hiking shirt, long sleeve, rain jacket, rain pants? Sweatpants, warm night clothes and jacket, toque, hat for hiking in the sun, bathing suit for a dip, underwear for 3 days
  • Sunglasses
  • Small plastic bag for putting dirty clothes in to keep them separate from the rest of your things
  • Small plastic bag to hike out garbage
  • Print out of trail map with personal markings and notes
  • Campsite papers
  • Toilet paper just in case
  • Toothbrush + toothpaste
  • Cleansing wipes
  • Deodorant
  • Battery pack and phone cord
  • Phone
  • Headlamp charger cord
  • Luci light
  • Go pro
  • Car clothes that we’ll leave in the car for the drive (sweatpants or cozy clothes)
  • 2 car water bottles
  • CBD muscle cream
  • Sunscreen

When making a list I find it is easiest go through the activities you’ll be doing throughout your weekend to ensure you have everything for them. You can sort of see that I had done that when making this list. What do I need to sleep? What do I need to eat? What do I need to have when hiking? What do I need to keep myself clean? And you should ALWAYS pack toilet paper.

Then, because I’m type A, I type all this up in a word document, send it off to my hiking partner and make sure that they’re comfortable with everything involved. I often type up the different hiking scenarios seeing what two days versus three days would look like as well as different options for what each day looks like so we can make our best and most educated choice.

It’s really important to know exactly what you’re getting into when going on a hike to make sure you have no unwarranted surprises on the trail. I once did a hike without looking into it thinking it was 10km and then finding out that it was actually 12km one way, a bit of a surprise that I wasn’t exactly prepared for. Knowledge is power and when preparing for a hike it is definitely important to use it.

Is there anything else that you like to do when planning a hike?

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