Whether you’re traveling to one of the highest mountain peaks in Europe, or you’re sticking to something more local, here are 6 things to do before you launch your adventure:
1. Know the climate you’re traveling to
If you haven’t spent much time outside of your hometown, you’ll be surprised when your warm clothes make you cold elsewhere.
Cotton will keep you cozy in a moderate or mild climate where it gets cold, but stays relatively dry. However, if you’re headed to the mountains in a wet, snowy climate, cotton and down-filled clothing are the last materials you should wear.
In a wet climate, you want to wear wool and fleece. These two materials will keep you warm and dry. Wool can absorb up to 30% of its own weight in moisture without feeling damp. It’s also a great material for wicking away moisture, and it regulates body temperature. If it makes you sweat looking at people wearing wool in the summer, try it out. Wool is truly an all-season fabric.
Save the cotton for your bath towels, not your snowy outdoor adventures!
2. Make sure you arrive at your destination safely
Before you leave, check your vehicle to make sure your tires are in suitable condition for the roads ahead of you. Check the weather where you’re headed before you leave. Mountain ranges are at high elevation and many experience snow year round.
Depending on the climate, you might be required to carry snow chains in your car (or use them in certain areas). No matter where you’re going, be sure your car insurance is up-to-date. Both snow and unfamiliar territory can be more hazardous than you think.
If you experience a car accident without insurance, you’ll be footing the bill. Especially if you live in a no-fault state where you’re required to use your own insurance first, even if the other person caused the accident.
3. Tell someone about your plans
Part of arriving safely at your destination is having a lifeline to your hometown in case something goes wrong. Always tell someone else about your plans in advance. Tell them when you’re leaving, how long you plan on staying, and when you expect to return.
It’s also a good idea to tell them exactly where you’re planning on hiking or climbing. Mountain ranges are vast and have many entrances, trails, and parks. If you get lost, you’ll be found much faster.
For instance, Mount Rainier in Washington state encompasses 368 square miles, has over 260 miles of maintained trails, and more than 147 miles of roads. Rainier has five developed areas to visit, and some entrances are on opposite sides of the mountain.
4. Thoroughly check your gear
Although unexpected circumstances do arise, you can still prepare for a safe arrival. If you’re headed to the mountains to do some climbing, rafting, or other outdoor sport, check your gear. Even if it’s only been a month since you’ve used it, make sure it’s in good condition and in working order.
Professional climbers know the reality of how quickly extreme environments can wear out gear. If you’re new to climbing, heed the advice of those who have been doing it much longer.
If your goal is to enjoy a good hike and catch the view, you won’t have much gear to check. However, anything you plan on using – including an emergency shelter or camp stove – should be thoroughly tested prior to leaving.
5. Manually map your route
Most of us rely on directions given by GPS or our smartphone apps to get us where we need to go. This isn’t always an option when you’re traveling to distant regions of land. While GPS is more reliable than your smartphone, don’t count on it.
Write down the directions on a piece of paper before you go, and draw a simple map. Take a big map with you, too. You won’t regret it.
6. Give someone a key to your homeMake sure someone you trust has access to your home while you’re away, for several reasons. If you have pets, you can’t always trust a gravity feeder, and cats are notorious for knocking over water bowls for no reason.
Additionally, it's a good idea to set up a pet insurance plan like Bivvy, if you don't already have one, to make sure your pet is covered in case of an emergency.
Also, if you get lost, you don’t want your door getting kicked in to find out where you might be.