Top tips for expedition planning

So, you have a big dream…good. 

No matter what expedition, adventure or challenge you can imagine, it can be achieved with a simple planning system that we use at Echio Adventure. This article is written to help you dream bigger, and guide you through the process to making your boldest trip yet, a reality. We’ll cover everything from the idea, to the execution, so that you can have the confidence to go and do it.

Just like Elon Musk’s mission to Mars, Steve Jobs’ ipod, or the first guy who put peanut butter and jam together, all the best things in life start with an idea… So let’s start with that.

Big dreams, worthy of awards

Any common schmuck can think of an adventure idea. Take any random mode of transport and any distance between two points and, poof!..you’re on a space hopper on the way to Paris. But, what it takes to come up with a really good idea, starts with your soul. Passion and inspiration are the two key ingredients to finding that journey that clicks, the one that you can’t stop thinking about. You imagine yourself at the end, soaking up with “ooo’s and ahhs” from your friends, updating your Linkedin with “First ever person to…” and receiving your MBE. But something tells me that if you’re reading this, you probably already have an idea and you want to make it happen, right?

Well let me ask you one question… Why? Why do you want to do you want to go on this adventure? I ask this because it does matter, not to cast doubt on your motives. Any motivation to take on a challenge is good in my books… To win the affections of a crush, just to see if you can, to gain some great stories, learn, grow, get famous, they’re all great. But each one has an impression on how you should plan your challenge, right? If you’re climbing Everest to get famous, you’d best think of some ways to make sure people know you’ve done it.

Your motivation to take on the extreme shapes the way you build your expedition, who you involve with it, what support, routes, and supplies you use so it’s important to think of this now. Make a note.

Realisms

Once you have your idea jotted down somewhere, and you know clearly why you want to do it, it’s time to start being realistic. This process isn’t supposed to quell your fire, but to help you realise your vision and understand your limitations. Being realistic simply means removing from your expedition all the elements which will be physically impossible within your limits. You might not yet know you physical limits, but you certainly do know your time and financial limits, so these are a good place to start. Now, it’s important not to throw away an idea just because it will take 4 weeks and you can only get 2 weeks off work, there are always work-arounds within reason. Make sure you explore your limitations, ask questions and figure out your true upper limits before you start to cut things out. 

Cutting things out, and trimming things down can be a great way to make things more exciting too. Cutting out your flight to Antarctica and opting for the cheaper, longer route by sea via the treacherous Drake Passage for example is a sure way to gain some stories and save some cash. Thinking dynamically will help you to maximise your time and money spent, and to deliver your dream accomplishment. 

There are two things which I wouldn’t recommend being flexible with, first is your fitness, and second is your knowledge. You can never, ever, be “too fit” or “too brainy” for an expedition, and nature has a way of throwing curve balls at you when you least expect it. So you need to be realistic with your current fitness and knowledge levels, and then halve it, just to be sure. In extreme environments, even small changes in air salinity (amount of salt in the air) can have a huge impact on the success or failure of your quest. Even in “unchallenging” environments, there are always things that come your way that you wouldn’t expect. Learn, train and grow as much as possible to increase your chances. 

Gap analysis (check those cracks)

Now that you’ve been realistic with where you are now, and the max limitations on your finances and time, you can start to plug the gaps. Ask yourself, where am I now Vs where I need to be to make this happen. These things make up the basis of your expedition prep. They can include the following:

  • Fitness (have I thought about every angle?)
  • Technical theoretical knowledge (knowing how to tie a knot, read a map etc)
  • Technical practice and actual experience (knowing when you’re exhausted, too hot, too dehydrated)
  • Mental toughness (how long before I crack under pressure? When I crack what do I tend to do?)
  • Equipment (do I have the right stuff, is it modified for the specific purpose I’m using it for)

This part of the process is all about theory, and acquiring knowledge. Once you have a list of ‘gaps’- things you need to improve, you should start researching, watching videos, reading and speaking with people who’ve done it before. We have a bunch of articles at Echio Adventure that can help, or check out our podcast Expedition REAL

If you have a list of things to learn/improve, you should also prioritise these things in terms of their importance and the time required. Improving your fitness is a process that might take months or years, whereas buying some equipment and wearing it in might only take a couple of weeks. Be real with yourself, and listen to advice.

Preparation: the practical side 

The difference between planning and preparation is that one happens in your head and on paper, and the other happens in real life and with your effort. The preparation section of your expedition is the longest part and leads all the way up to your departure date (and sometimes even during an expedition). 

Take affirmative action. It’s really that simple. Start your training plan now, and progressively make it tougher over time. Book onto the appropriate courses to gain theoretical knowledge of the outdoors, and then take on some much smaller challenges to gain some real exposure. You might join some clubs, or charity events, or pay to go on a specific course in mountaineering, ice climbing or kite skiing. The main thing is to start small, and work your way up in phases. Don’t try to run a marathon on your first day, start with a jog, then a run, then a loaded run, then a loaded run pulling some tires and so on. You will be amazed how quickly you can progress. Check out joining the scouts, the territorial army, your local canoe club, martial arts centre, running club and so on. Any step you take, is a step in the right direction if you learn something transferable to your expedition. And don’t procrastinate!