You can never have too much information about a place you are going to. Contact people who know it already, read books, study maps and make sure that you have reliable and up-to-date maps to take with you. Find out about the local people, Are they likely to be friendly and helpful or are they wary of strangers? What are their local customs and taboos? The more detailed your knowledge of the way people live….particularly in non-westernised societies, where life is linked much more closely to the land, the more survival knowledge you will have if you come to need it. Local methods of shelter building and fire making, wild foods, herbal medicines and water sources will be based on an intimate understanding of the surroundings.
Study your maps carefully and get a feel for the land:
This should be done even before you see it to gain as much knowledge of the terrain as possible: river directions and speed of flow, waterfalls, rapids and difficult currents. How high are hills and mountains and what are their slopes like. Are they snow covered? Which way do the ridges run? What kind of vegetation can you expect. What species of tree and where? What temperatures and how different are day and night? When are first light and last light? What is the state of the moon, the time and height of tides, the prevailing wind direction and strength? What weather can be expected?
Divide the project into phases:
- Objective and
Clearly state the aim of each phase and work out a time scale. Plan for emergency procedures such as vehicle breakdown, illness and casualty evacuation. Nominate people for particular responsibilities: such as cook, medic, linguist, special equipment, vehicle maintenance, driver, navigator and so forth. Ensure everyone is familiar with the equipment and that there are spares where needed, such as batteries, fuel and bulbs especially. If lost, in estimating the rate of progress, especially on foot, allow plenty of time. It is always better to underestimate and be pleasantly surprised by doing better. Pressure to keep up to an over-ambitious schedule not only produces tension and exhaustion but leads to errors of judgement and risk-taking that are frequently the reason for things going wrong.
You cannot carry all your water requirements with you but you must replenish supplies as you travel. Therefore water sources will be a major factor in planning any route. When the route is planned and agreed make certain that others know about it so that you can have expectations of rescue if anything goes wrong. If you are hiking in the hills inform police and local mountain rescue centres. Tell them your proposed plan and give times of departure and expected arrival. If touring by car log the route with the respective motoring organisation. If sailing check with coastguard and port authorities.
Always make sue that someone knows what you are planning to do and when and keep them informed at prearranged stages so that failure to contact will set alarm bells ringing. Boats and aircraft are strictly controlled in this respect and, if overdue, a search is raised and the route checked out, effecting rescue. Get into the habit of telling people where you are going and what time you expect to return or reach your next destination.