Two weeks ago, I received a random message on Facebook of lost hikers in need of help. A father and two sons went missing in the Ouachita Mountains, they only told their family where they were goin and nothing more. They promised to call but there was only limited cell service and the only text the sent out was "we are LOST." My frequent posts of the pictures helped a friend of their family locate me which I helped them initiate a search for them. They were later found safe and sound after being lost for 2 days. To make a long story short, a hiker found them along the trail and led them back to their car. That was a story of luck, but when we venture into areas we are not familiar with we risk the possibility of something going south. With cell phones being unreliable in most backcountry areas, a solid plan left with a friend or family could be a last hope if something did go wrong. I have been asked several times what one of my trip plans look like. So below is the contents and a real example of one that we distributed to persons that have both a level head and trust.
12 things you should have in every trip plan:
Names and contact info of the traveling party (this should also include sat phone number or locator becon if traveling with one)
Duration of trip
Location of your transportation
Starting point & end point
Hazards along the way
Forecasted camp locations, daily mileage, direction of travel, etc.
Local contacts, guides, groups
GPS way points or route of trail, river, camps, etc.
Links to any important info (river gauges, local weather forecasts, etc.)
You want to communicate you plan in an easy way to understand. If cell phone coverage is limited or non-existent, renting a satellite phone or purchasing a GPS locator beacon is an effective but not always reliable way to reach out for a rescue or help.
Here is an example of a trip plan we used on one our river expeditions:
To Whom It May Concern,
We will be embarking on a river trip on March 20 – 25 down the Pecos River
Attached are GPS coordinates for the trip we are headed out on this week and can be loaded on google earth to review. We have outlined our camps by each day and have several alternate camp grounds marked as backup plans. We have also marked several points of interest and hazards that we will be exploring or facing. Our put in location and take out locations are also markeed. We are utilizing a shuttle service and they will be keeping are vehicles at there house and will be available if need be. The contact information is at the end of this email along with other resources.
There will be Four Persons in our group and here are their names and contact info:
Local Person Contact and shuttle: ******************
We will have a satellite phone but it will not always be on. The canyon walls can affect the reliability of it but we take multiple hikes to the rim during the trip so this will be the best time for us to receive and communication or contact you. Please Store this number and Answer immediately or you need to reach us. This phone does accept Text messages and this will be the best form or communication.
Satellite Phone Number is (863-***-***)
The Drainage area for the river is very large and we will be taking every precaution necessary for our safe return. There is rain in the forecast but I feel it will be safe as it is only isolated in a small area of the drainage area.
The following links are as described:
We need to be contacted immediately if any Flood Watches or Warnings are in effect for any of the Gauge points or areas these gauges are located
River Gauges – There are always uptick with any amount of rain please use your best judgement not to alert anyone unnecessarily as false rescues can be very expensive and the stress of waiting for a no rise in water levels can be tough on persons. If water levels are expected to rise let us know via text and we will contact you all to discuss. I am thinking any Amount in a rise Past 300 CFM or a 1-3 foot Rise (pending Gauge, see details Below) will need to be of low concern but still would be nice to know so we don’t wake up in a puddle of water
Pandale Gauge – This is where we are putting in- This link will forecast if any Flood warnings or watches are in affect for the area. It will be shown as a dotted line. We need to be Contacted immediately if any Flood watches or warnings are in effect.
Panda Gauge Info and Descriptions - these will tell you what we will face at different water levels
(8.2 meters), Life threatening major flooding occurs below Sheffield downstream to Amistad Reservoir. Flow at Pandale Crossing is over one third mile wide and two hundred thousand cfs. Flow inundates the channel bottom above Pandale to Amistad Reservoir and is life threatening to campers and river recreationists.
(7.0 meters), Major flooding is well into the flood plain and can wash campers, vehicles and gear downstream. Roads and crossings in the Pecos River flood plain and tributaries are extremely dangerous to motorists. The Pecos River at Pandale Crossing is near 1/3 mile wide.
(5.8 meters), The Pecos river at Pandale Crossing is over one quarter mile wide and extremely turbulent. Campers, river recreationists, and RVs camped near the river can easily be swept downstream as the major flood wave moving downstream causes very rapid rises.
(4.6 meters), Major flooding makes low water crossings along the Pecos River and tributaries potentially deadly. The flood wave moving downstream causes rapid rises dangerous to campers on the low banks below Sheffield to Amistad Reservoir. Autos and gear can be swept downstream.
(3.0 meters), Moderate flooding is well into the flood plain making secondary roads and crossings along the Pecos River and tributaries very dangerous to travel. Swimmers and tubers should leave the river as flow is dangerously turbulent. Campers vehicles and gear in the flood plain can be swept downstream.
(2.1 meters), Minor lowland flooding is a significant threat to swimmers, tubers and campers on the low banks of the Pecos River above Pandale to above Langtry.
Lowland flooding makes low water crossings at Pandale on the Pecos River and tributaries flooded and impassable.
Sheffield gauge – Upriver Gauge from Pandale Use Above Link to navigate to it – Important Gauge
This gauge works off and on and needs to be monitored, as it’s a good indicator of what is going to happen at the Pandale Gauge.
Independence Creek – This Is a major Drainage area for the Pecos if this is forecasted to Flood. We need to be notified of the extent of flooding or water rise. The gauge typically does not Work but if the area is in a flood warning or watch, we need to be contacted.
Girvan Gauge – This is quite a distance upstream from our put in site this will be an indicator of what the river will do downstream and we will need to be notified of any Forecasted Water rise or floodwarnings or watches are in this area.
Local Rescue Personnel – Border patrol
We will be in limited Contact with Our Wives and family and will alert everyone in case of an emergency. In case they are predicting minor Flooding or a drastic water rise please do everything you can to contact us through the Satellite Phone ( text message and Calls)
I would be very careful who you send this information to, they will need an understanding of many things including river Gauges, Water levels, forecast, weather, and local area all play huge factors in predicting what a river will do. Small upticks on a river gauge graph can look like a massive flood but only be an inch or two. The projections are showing no forecasted rise in water level, things can change very quickly and we need to be notified and prepared. This is not to scare persons but these are the realities to spending time in the remote wilderness and needs to be said and understood.
Thanks for keeping an eye out for us see you in a week!!!
I send these plans to my Father only, for I feel he will not alert anyone unless completely necessary and will stay calm and be very calculated in his decisions. If rain was not in the forecast, I would still only send this to him. You too will need to choose people that will stay controlled in there thinking but know when a danger may present itself that could lead to a situation out of your hands. If you want to know how a well planned trip turned bad but survival was possible due to a prepared and well executed plan continue here