Activity Plan 1 for Plan Ahead and Prepare


Exploring Pretrip Planning

This activity will take approximately 65 minutes.

What Your Group Will Learn

After participating in this activity plan, which is designed to help participants learn about backcountry travel, they will be able to

  • Identify at least three reasons why trip planning is important.
  • Describe the key elements included in successful planning and preparation.
  • Create a planning and preparation checklist to use in making future travel decisions.
  • Explain how planning can help leave no trace.

Group members will participate in three activities. “Are You Ready?” demonstrates the importance of trip planning. Next, “Will You Make It?” reveals the key elements to consider when trip planning. Finally, participants create a “Planning and Preparation Checklist” as a focal point to wrap up the activity plan.

Materials and Preparation


  • Pictures depicting a local or regional environment (high alpine, desert, river) for the “Are You Ready?” game. A collage of pictures works well.
  • One photocopy of the “Will You Make It?” handout for each participant.
  • One photocopy set of “Will You Make It?” travel cards per group of three to five participants. (See the end of this activity plan.)


  • Read the entire lesson plan and the Background on the Principles of Leave No Trace thoroughly.
  • Ask participants to bring a backpack packed for a day hike to the meeting. (Don’t reveal a destination or suggest contents—explain it is a practical drill.)
  • Photocopy and laminate (optional) handouts and cards.
  • Cut the “Will You Make It?” travel cards into individual sets.
  • For best results, pick a meeting place that allows small groups to spread out to work.
  • Consider practicing the activities beforehand with family or friends.

Grabbing Your Group’s Attention (15 minutes)

Are You Ready?

Use “Are You Ready?” to get the group energized. Break participants into groups of three to five. Explain that you are going on an imaginary day hike. Build suspense by asking participants to guess the destination. Show the destination pictures and describe (weather, terrain, etc.) the location you have selected. Explain the goal of the trip—for example, wildlife viewing or fishing. Ask the group to unpack their packs and discuss answers to the following questions. (The leader must read the questions below to help facilitate discussion.)

  • How well do the contents of your pack properly prepare you for this trip?
  • How well do the contents ensure your safety? Check for proper clothing, maps, compass, small flashlight, water filter, first-aid kit, etc.
  • How well do the contents ensure you will leave no trace—that you will not damage natural resources? Check for stove, repackaged food, cathole trowel, plastic jug for water, no hatchet, etc.
  • How well do the contents ensure your trip will meet your goal—for example, wildlife viewing or fishing—safely and enjoyably? Check for binoculars, camera, bird book, etc.
Note: Because participants packed their packs without information, it is unlikely they will be adequately prepared. The “Are You Ready?” activity will demonstrate the importance of planning before packing.

Ask the small groups to briefly share the answers to the above questions. Key facilitator discussion points:

  • How would the contents of your pack differ with different destinations? The equipment, clothing, and food chosen would change to suit the intended destination.
  • What other information do you need to pack properly for a trip? There are at least seven elements described in the Background on the Principles of Leave No Trace and “Will You Make It?” handout.
  • What is the value of knowing this information before packing? It helps ensure the safety of the traveler, helps accomplish trip goals safely and enjoyably, and minimizes impact to resources.

Steps for Teaching the Activity (30 minutes)

Travel Card Key

Event Card
Solution Card
12 1
2 9
15 3
4 11
14 5
6 13
10 7
8 16

Will You Make It?

This activity will teach participants how to identify events that can interfere with a successful trip. These are real-life scenarios contributed by experienced field rangers who see poorly prepared groups suffer because they do not plan ahead. “Will You Make It?” emphasizes the need to plan solutions to potential problems before a trip.


1. Match events and solutions. Evenly distribute the travel event and solution cards. Some group members may need to share cards if the group is larger than 16. The goal is to have participants find the group member with the corresponding event or solution card and form a pair. The leader may want to use the key to ensure correct pairing.

2. Plan a presentation. Once all solutions are matched to the corresponding events, have each pair plan some way to teach the plan-ahead concept. Allow group members to be imaginative. Some ideas include pantomime, acting out, lecture, and drawing.

3. Give a presentation. Have each pair use their chosen presentation method to teach their concept to the rest of the group.

Facilitate learning by discussing the scenarios after they are presented. Make sure each event is discussed. Emphasize the key elements of trip planning presented in the “Will You Make It?” handout and the Background on the Principles of Leave No Trace. Tie these key elements to the importance of good preparation.

Why Is Trip Planning Important?

  • It prepares you to Leave No Trace.
  • It helps ensure the safety of groups and individuals.
  • It contributes to accomplishing trip goals and having fun.
  • It increases self-confidence and opportunities for learning.

Elements to Consider When Trip Planning 

  1. Identify the goals (expectations) of your trip.
  2. Identify the skills and ability levels of trip participants.
  3. Select destinations to match the group’s goals, skills, and abilities.
  4. In advance, gain knowledge of the area you plan to visit.
  5. Choose the proper equipment and clothing.
  6. Plan trip activities to match the group’s goals, skills, and abilities.
  7. Evaluate your trip upon return—note needed changes.

Planning and Preparation Checklist

Create a “Planning and Preparation Checklist” you can use to plan your next trip. Use the answers to these questions in creating the checklist.

  • Can your group identify at least three reasons why trip planning is important?
  • Can your group describe seven key elements included in successful planning and preparation (“Will You Make It?” handout, Background on the Principles of Leave No Trace)?
  • Do solutions to planning elements change depending on the environment visited (i.e., desert versus high alpine areas)? Reflect on conversation that resulted from the imaginary day hike to the desert and alpine environments.

Congratulations on conducting a well-organized meeting for your group!

Wrapping Up the Activity (20 minutes)

Your group has participated in three activities—one identifies the importance of trip planning, another identifies key elements to consider when planning a trip, and the third can be used as a tool for planning a trip. How well has your group learned the importance of trip planning? If the group needs additional help, try these activities.

  • Create new event and solution cards as you learn new Leave No Trace concepts.
  • Discuss these topics. Ask participants
    • If they have seen resource damage that may have resulted from poor planning
    • To recall safety concerns they have experienced or witnessed as a result of poor planning
  • Have participants share the planning process with their families and use it to plan a family vacation or birthday party.