Planning the Impromptu Hike



This is part three of a three-part blog written by three backpackers (Dane, Rob, and Lance) all answering the same question: How Do You Find Time To Go Backpacking? 

Planning the Impromptu Hike, by Dane

With all of our kids either in college or out on their own, one would think that my wife and I would have all the time in the world to do whatever we wanted.  The truth is, however, that we are busier than we’ve ever been.  In addition to both of us working full time jobs, we are active volunteers at our church and at the county jail. Almost every evening is taken up with some type of volunteer activity.

As with my many of my backpacking friends, my wife doesn’t join me in the woods.  This adds an additional challenge since it means that time on the trail is also time away from loved ones.  Adding family time back into the mix also has to be a focus.

For me, planning a backpacking trip centers around two unrelated elements, which result in two different kinds of trips.  These are impromptu trips and carefully planned trips.

Planned trips are generally longer for me (a week, or extended weekend), and are often farther away from home (like my upcoming trip to Colorado).  They are special events, and require a lot of detailed planning, like finding a shuttle to and from the trail, or a shower when done.  These trips are affected by the availability of friends, shuttles, vacation time, and, of course, money.  They don’t just happen.  We have to make them happen.  Most of us are familiar with these kinds of trips.

But there’s another kind of trip that I often find myself taking.  These are my impromptu overnight hikes.  They occur when I find an unplanned opening in my schedule.  They are almost always to an area that I can drive to in under an hour.  These hikes require flexibility, as well as having easy access to a trail or outback area.   I almost always do them alone.

Even though I call them “impromptu hikes,” they actually require a little advanced planning. By taking just a few, easy steps, you can be ready to hit the trail with very little notice.

Here are some simple steps to take in order to plan for an unplanned getaway:

  • Select a suitable location that can be accessed easily and quickly.  Consider prearranging with a private landowner as I did in this video.
  • Pack at least three meals and snacks in a separate storage bag.
  • Organize your gear in a way that allows you to locate and pack everything quickly.
  • Have a backpacking checklist ready to use. Click here for a sample.
  • Plan your itinerary and write it out before hand, making certain someone is left with a copy.
  • Wait for the right time, then go.

We all enjoy those big, planned adventures to new places.  However, for me, being flexible and deliberate enough to remain spontaneous has meant a few extra nights in the woods each year.


Dane Cramer is a backpacker, Christian blogger, jail chaplain, amateur filmmaker, and author of two books: Romancing the Trail and The Nephilim: A Monster Among Us.



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