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Backpacking: Before You Leave Home Before you head out the door, give someone you trust a written copy of your trip plans.
Before you head out the door, give someone you trust a written copy of your trip plans. This written plan should include:
Make plans to contact the person holding your trip plan when your trip is over (or at specific intervals during longer trips). Agree on a procedure for contacting the authorities if you do not report in by a certain time.
Leave a photocopy of your itinerary in your vehicle and under your seat. If a search and rescue team undertakes a mission on your behalf, every second counts. It's possible team members will attempt to enter your vehicle in hopes of finding any scrap of information that may help them find you. If you change your plans, call your contact before you start and give them the update.
Know the conditions of the route to your chosen trailhead. Inquire locally to verify that your vehicle can handle the roads (or ruts) that lead to it. If the route is isolated, unpaved or only seasonally maintained, contact a ranger, park manager or a local before you leave to make sure the route is passable all the way to the trailhead.
Plan for the unexpected "what ifs?" Those would include: What if I get delayed? Lost? Injured? Am I prepared to cope with that? Make sure that you are.
If you don't already own a compass, at least pick up an inexpensive beginner's model (reliable models start around $10) before you leave town. You need to understand basic map-and-compass navigational skills. How do you learn? Two starting points:
Take out your map at home, when you're under no pressure, and study your intended route in advance. This gives you time to become more familiar and comfortable with the distinctive markings of a topographic map.