Planning can make or break your overland expedition.
Have you heard the stories about someone running out of gas on the trail? Or stuck in the snow for days before someone finds them?
The absence of a plan may be alluring based on the idea of unplugging on an overland expedition. However, the lack of a plan can result in sleeping in a less than desirable place or much worse!
Overland expeditions can also present a vast array of challenges and could ultimately be dangerous depending on your location. Miscalculating fuel or water could certainly create a situation that could otherwise be avoided.
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Overland Contingency Planning
All of my overland trips in the military started with detailed planning.
If you’ve never been a planner, here’s a quick crash course on some thoughts for your next overland trip.
Planning can be basically broken down into a GOTWA or 5-Point Contingency. This was commonly used for dealing with enemy contact, but my family and I have been using this for our trip planning. I know you’re going to love it.
The GOTWA is an acronym that stands for
- (G) where you’re going
- (O) others you’re taking with you
- (T) time of return
- (W) what to do if I don’t return
- (A) actions to take if I don’t return.
We decided to make it easy for you and created an editable Route Plan template for your next trip. You can take this concept and go as detailed or as basic as you’d like.
Marie and I opted for the detailed option so you can decide on how much information you would like to add.
What’s in the Overland Route Plan?
The Overland Route Plan is free for you to use and we made it as comprehensive as possible.
It’s a four page editable document you can customize for your family and trip. You can include information on your vehicle and up to six members in your vehicle. We, of course, added our sweet GSP as one of our family members. So, don’t forget your furry friends in the trip plan.
First, we start with the basics.
- Where are you starting and ending?
- How many people are going with you?
- How much fuel and water are you starting with?
- How many meals are you starting with?
Then, we expanded the route section into a daily plan which includes start/ending points and a notes section.
The notes section is a great place for must-see stops or the number of miles on this leg. We had a ton of great must sees when we visited Capital Reef. I also include hazards and anything else worth noting on this page.
The next section is a place for you to schedule periodic check-ins. This should be with a reliable person in the frontcountry who can keep tabs on where you’re going.
They should also be able to arrange for help if something goes wrong.
Sure, you may not need them to do anything, but it sure would be nice for someone to know your plans should something go awry! It’s that old adage your momma told you, “better safe than sorry”.
You can have as few or as many check-ins as you’d like.
There is place to number the check-ins and a place to provide a date and time. The time block might be left blank as we often encounter areas in the backcountry that lack cell signal!
Another option is to use an InReach or other type of communicator to send updates on your location.
We like to space check-ins days apart. I don’t want our frontcountry person calling in Search and Rescue if we miss a daily check-in because we found an awesome place, but had no signal.
This is the part of the plan that we all hope never goes into action. But you will glad that you prepared if something does go south! We tried to make this as customizable as possible.
You dictate what your reliable frontcountry person does and when, if at all.
Some criteria for initiating the action plan could be:
- if we miss 3 check-ins
- if check-in is missed by 48 hours
- if you receive a “911” text code word
If your person has been keeping up with check-ins and trip progress, they can hand-over this entire packet to Search and Rescue teams.
This would give them a ton of relevant information to get them searching in the right area!
Notes and other Miscellany
If you run out of space for important notes in any other section, you can record those here. We like to use it as a place to record must-see spots on the trip and leave the rest of it open to take notes while out.
This could be things that other overlanders tell us that we must-see or fantastic local eats or activities. We also might use it to make notes on our roadschooling topic!
We have also included an expansion page for you if you will be on the road for more than 4 days.
This next section may be the one that is
the most overkill or the one that could save your life!
You can describe the people on your trip and what vehicle that you’ll be driving. This page is mostly only helpful if something goes horribly wrong.
We all hope this doesn’t happen and try to mitigate it entirely, but it’s better to be prepared!
This would also be useful if, God forbid, one of your kids get lost.
The manifest includes descriptions of everyone on your trip and known medical conditions. It also includes photos of passengers, your vehicle, and it’s tire type.
Search and Rescue mantrackers will often ask for footwear type/size and the same for vehicle tires. So don’t skip out on adding this important info.
Obviously, this allows them to focus their search for that specific person or vehicle.
This would be an invaluable resource, from my experience, on a missing person search. Combine this page with the trip itinerary and you have a greatly increased the odds of being located!
Putting it all together
Your frontcountry person should be available for the entire length of your trip. You should also keep a copy in your vehicle.
We would also have a secondary person who would take over the responsibility on a certain day and time, likely on a predetermined check-in. Another CYA kind of thing.
This would be especially useful on a long trip.
Those two people would need to conduct a proper hand-off of responsibility to ensure that all parties know who is now responsible for tracking progress.
Keeping a copy in your vehicle will give you the detailed trip breakdown. You would also have a copy of the manifest, should something go wrong.
Without further ado, grab your editable Overland Route Plan!