Nine years ago, a friend of mine planned a backpacking trip for twelve hikers and asked if I wanted to go. Though I had been hiking, horseback riding, and camping most of my life, I knew little about logistics of planning a backpacking trip. In September 2007, I took an inexperienced and impulsive leap onto one of Canada’s most challenging and scenic trails.

My first West Coast Trail (WCT) trip, though memorable, was not one a finer example of backpacking skills. Due to inexperience and lack of planning, WCT 2007 was one of the best/worst experiences of my life. Failure is a better teacher than success. From an overstocked pack to poorly suited foot ware, the trip was a learning experience like no other. I broke a foot bone, sprained several tendons, had to borrow trek poles to use like crutches, and met a sports injury doctor who mercifully taped me back together long enough to survive the trail. All in all, I completed the trail because I had some great friends, a couple of trail miracles, a tenacious attitude (which defied common sense), and realized two feet and a heartbeat is the only exit off the WCT.

Planning Complex Trips: Best Practices. A photo of me in 2007 on the bus to the West Coast Trail before I found out how bad it was gonna be. Ironically I was sitting by the emergency exit.... I probably should have got off here.

Years later my planning skills are considered strong by my backpacking companions.  Most prefer to let me handle planning details. To my chagrin, I learned "the hard way" so my friends wouldn't have to. This year, I’m planning to backpack the West Coast Trail in British Columbia, Canada…again.

After a decade of trial and error, I will share the twelve crucial points of complex backpacking trips planning to avoid making common mistakes.

Some people have trust funded travel accounts.  Most of us have to budget and plan to head out. My first WCT was a whim; I vaguely knew where I was going. My friends were going, and I wanted to go too. I’d never seen the ocean or been to a rainforest. I loved and hated it. Time has numbed my memory of the bog (less aptly called a rainforest), but white sandy beaches remain engraved in my memory.

I am intentionally choosing to endure the muddy trudging to get to the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I know how bad the conditions can be, I'm mentally and physically prepared for what lies ahead: I could not say the same ten years ago.

Planning Complex Trips: Best Practices. A very young eighteen year old me, sits on one of my favorite beaches. The solitude I found here was indescribable, as were the blisters, bruises and fractures..... Thrashers Cove, West Coast Trail, Vancouver Island, Canada.

A backpacking trip is not the place to determine the trip mates on board are not enjoyable. If in doubt, take some shorter trips with proposed companions. Make sure being in high-pressure situations for several days, is workable for everyone on the trip.

Read on for the full story!

Article Outline

  • Lesson 1) Intentionally choose your destination
  • Lesson 2) Choose your companions wisely
  • Lesson 3) Know before you go
  • Lesson 4) Don't lose the schedule but remember it's not infallible
  • Lesson 5) Cash is king even in the backpacking world
  • Lesson 6) Test your gear
  • Lesson 7) Book early
  • Lesson 8) You don't know what you don't know, but you can find out in advance and learn
  • Lesson 9) If you don't like it at home don't take it backpacking
  • Lesson 10: Never neglect your most key piece of equipment: your body
  • Lesson 11: Confirm everything
  • Lesson 12: Plan your hike, you alone are responsible for your backcountry choices
  • Conclusion

# of Photos: 7; Word Count: 2775

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