Step 1: Timing and Time
Figuring out both time and timing for you trip will depend on a number of factors, such as the availability of your group members, preference, and the environment. You’ll have to figure out two things: When and for how long do you want to go? Ideally, you should figure out your timing at least 6 months in advance of your trip, or when your boss needs to know when you’re taking vacation, whichever comes first. Again, the planning process can be a cycle back to previous steps, but the reason this step is first is that it can have a huge influence on the trip. If your timing is flexible, you should use this step to keep timing considerations top of mind as you step through the rest of your plan. On the other hand, if you’re limited to a specific time, it will dictate the rest of your planning.
When to go?
Some people love to get out there as soon as the frost is off the ground. Others want it to be nice and hot – or at least not cold at night. The time of year affects the environment in many ways, so it’s important to consider when you want to plan your trip. The temperature, the likelihood of rain, the amount of bugs and the popularity of that time period are the major considerations. You can see some more specific examples here. If your timing is flexible, consider going at the best time of year based on your preference. Or to put it another way, choose the lesser evil element to deal with. If you can’t choose a different time of year, try to choose the best place to go for that time of year.
All things being equal, I prefer September. I’m not a fan of heat, so this time of year is a little more mild. So is the spring, but the fall has a few advantages over earlier in the year. For one, the rain isn’t as much of a factor. Secondly, the lakes have been heated all summer so getting in the water (on purpose or by accident) is still pleasant. Also, the bugs are virtually gone. That’s always nice. The most important though: Summer vacation is over. Most people prefer to go out in the summer because of the heat, or because it’s the only time they, or their kids, can get the time off. I like to take off on Labour Day and see all the slow moving traffic going in the opposite direction.
How long do you want to be out there? How long can you be out there? How long can you stand to be out there? This is very important for your plan. Unlike car camping, you can’t just decide to get in the car and go home. Remember that the longer you go, the more stuff you have to pack in with you, the more worn down you’ll become, and the less enamored you may become with your friends. If you’ve been portaging, or any type of back country camping, you know what I mean, and you’ll have a good sense of how long you’d like to be out there. If you haven’t, I’d recommend limiting the first couple of trips to 2-3 days. That should be a safe amount of time to get a feel for portaging. Having said that, I should also say that you’ll love it and you’ll want to go more often, I promise. But the next time you’ll go, you’ll have a better sense of the activity and either want to go longer or at least more often.
The Little Things
As you go through the rest of the plan, be sure that you factor in the time it’s going to take to get you to the put in. First, you’re going to have to get yourself to the outfitters to pick up your gear. Then you need to get to the start of your trip. You don’t want to have a strictly planned three day trip ruined because it takes a day or two just to start the trip. You can find some tips to save time here.
In short, before you begin planning, get a sense for when you will be taking your trip, and how long you’ll be out there. Once that’s done, let’s figure out where you want to go.
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