How to start planning for your next adventure

By Sam Drawbridge,
Expeditions Manager

Want to get back out there and on your next adventure? Not quite sure how to start or go about it? Don’t worry – here you’ll find plenty of inspiration and advice to help you plan your next adventure.


Safety is paramount

First off, let’s talk safety. The safety of all our Young Explorers, Leaders, Members, and everyone else we work with is of paramount importance to us here at British Exploring Society, and you should make it your primary concern when planning your next adventure.

I love mountaineering and anytime I head into the hills I have three guidelines I constantly consider. In order of priority, these are:

1) Get home safely;
2) Have fun;
3) Reach your objective.

Having fun and reaching your objective mean nothing if you do not return home safely.

This mantra has kept me safe over the years and I always tell it to others I explore with, as let’s face it – we can all be prone to a little summit fever. This can be extremely dangerous however, so by sharing it with others you explore with, you permit them to remind you about it while sharing the responsibility for you and your team’s safety.

At the end of the day, the more people in your team that take responsibility for safety, the safer you all will be.


Consider how you might safely overcome obstacles, and practice so you are prepared.

Start small 

Extreme adventures to wild and remote places may not always be possible, but that doesn’t mean you can’t explore – adventure can be found everywhere. Alastair Humphreys coined the term microadventures, which you may have heard of before. He describes them as “an adventure that is short, simple, local, cheap – yet still fun, exciting, challenging, refreshing and rewarding”.

The premise is to stretch yourself, to do things and go places you wouldn’t normally. You don’t necessarily need loads of kit, lots of expertise or to plan ‘an epic’ – start small and build on that experience.

You could explore a park near to you that you’ve never been to, go for a jaunt in the woods or even perhaps try wild camping. Whatever you choose, just make sure you carefully consider the risks and how you can mitigate them. And if you need help with this then why not drop us a line – we’d be happy to offer some advice or words of encouragement.


Leave a route card

Once you have decided on what you are doing and where you are going (more on those below), be sure to tell someone about your plans. Tell a trusted and reliable friend or relative exactly where you’re going, what you’re doing, when they should expect to hear back from you and what to do if you don’t check in with them when you’ve told them you would. They should know how to raise the alarm if you do not check back in with them at the agreed time.


Other factors to consider

When planning for your next adventure there are several factors to consider that will ensure you can challenge yourself appropriately, have fun, but most of all so you can do so safely and responsibly. Here we explore these in principle, and in the section ‘Bringing planning to life’ below, we provide you with a real-world example.

  • Location: Often one of the first things to consider, along with who you are going with (below). After all, deciding where you want to explore is core to planning your next adventure. Is it local or far away? Is it the hills or rivers? Where have you always fancied exploring or visiting? Bing maps are an awesome resource for this planning stage. By clicking on the drop-down menu under ‘Road’ and selecting ‘Ordnance Survey’, you can then zoom to any location to display the OS map for that area. Free OS mapping – score!
  • Team: Who might you go with? What skills, knowledge and experience do they have that will be useful for planning, activities, and safety. For example, do you/others have any relevant first aid training that would come in handy in an emergency?
  • Logistics: How will you get there? Who might be able to support you? How long are you going for and what provisions for food/water/shelter do you need to make? What are your emergency evacuation options? (more on this last part below).
  • Activity planning: Are you simply going for a jaunt somewhere, or do you plan on doing some cycling, scrambling or urban adventuring? What specialist equipment will you require for these activities?
  • Kit: The specific type of kit you require is dependent on what you choose to do. What kit will you need to have fun and keep you safe? Remember, it is better to have and not need, than need and not have. Two things, in particular, come in handy for most adventures, these being a mobile phone (though don’t rely on being able to get a signal) and a first aid kit (the contents of which will depend on what you are doing). If you would like any advice about suggested kit for your adventure, get in touch with us.
  • Safety: Essential to consider when planning your next adventure, how you approach it when planning will determine how safe you can keep yourself (more on this below).
  • Risk assessment: Identify the hazards and the risks they pose. For example, a lake could be a hazard, with drowning or hypothermia being just a couple of the risks that hazard poses. What control measures can you put in place to mitigate these risks or control these hazards? Does anyone know first aid for example, and what could you include in a first aid kit to help mitigate the risks you might face. For more examples see the ‘Bringing planning to life’ section below.
  • Planning: Consider your contingency plan – identify your escape routes, what kit might you need for communication, warmth, and safety, if you have to stay out longer than planned. Leave a route card with a trusted friend/relative, who knows how to raise the alarm if necessary. Look at the weather forecast, but also the level of certainty of the forecast. Does this change what kit you need to take?

Remember, adventure is all around you – Nunhead cemetery (South-East London), less than 2 miles away from where I used to live, was great fun exploring.

Planning for your adventure and taking the appropriate kit will ensure you stay safe while having fun.


Be responsible

The countryside code is a great resource to help you consider how to protect the places you visit, helping ensure they remain unspoilt for nature, landowners and others that use the area. The code says: Respect – Protect – Enjoy, and you can learn more about it here.

Can you spot where my friends and I slept the night before?

We would also encourage you to be mindful of the current restrictions and government guidance about exercising outdoors, to help keep you and others safe. Remember, these restrictions will ease eventually so it’s a great time to start planning your adventure so that you’re ready to go once it’s safe to do so.


Bringing planning to life

At this point, I thought it would be useful to give a real-world planning example to help bring the theory to life. To do this, I have laid out below the planning stages I have done for an upcoming kayaking microadventure, to help add ‘more flavour’ to the theory.

  • Location: Using Ordnance Survey mapping on Bing maps, I was able to recce the River Lea and find an area I could easily get to from my starting location, see what interesting side trips I could do, and identify any potential dangers such as weirs and locks. Switching the view to ‘Aerial’, I was able to get a better idea of what the area would look like, and thus pick out wild-looking places where we could stop to have lunch or breaks.
  • Team: Next I had to decide on who to go with – an easy decision for me. I am doing this trip with my partner, Hayley. We recently purchased our kayaks and have yet to explore with them, which we are itching to do. However, we have varying levels of experience, and no formal kayaking training or qualifications, which I will come back to below in ‘Safety’. I have recent first aid training and Hayley has also had relevant first aid training, though received it some time ago. I am also a qualified mountain leader, aiding with navigation – though if we get lost on this stretch of the two-way river, it really will be an epic fail!
  • Logistics: Probably the easiest part of the planning process for this trip. We live on the river already so just need to get our kayaks into the water and away we go. Doing a recce of the river on Bing maps I identified some nice points where we could stop to eat lunch, explore and take breaks. We will take lunch, plenty of snacks for energy and enough water for the conditions – the hotter the day is, the more water we will require.
    There are several locks and weirs on the river where we plan to go, for which we have taken note of their locations. We will have to get out and carry the kayaks around the locks, and to be mindful of the weirs and from what direction they feed into/off the river from. We’ve taken note of any points along the route that might make self-evacuation a challenge, so we can take extra care at these points – where roads might be far away, for example, making it more difficult for us to get to help, or help to get to us. More on this later though.
  • Activity planning: Paddling is our planned activity, but we also plan to stop and explore other places along the route. We will require some specific kit for the kayaking, which I get into below.
  • Kit (for both of us):
    2* kayaks & paddles
    2* buoyancy aids
    2* whistles, attached to each buoyancy aid
    2* mobile phones, each protected in their own sealed food bags, within dry bags
    1* first aid kit, stored safely in a dry bag, containing: sun cream; paracetamol; ibuprofen; plasters; bandages; sterile wipes; eye-wash solution; zinc-oxide tape; torch; pencil and paper; whistle; space blanket; survival bag; anti-bacterial gel; rehydration salts.
    2* waterproof jackets (weather dependent, but likely we will take regardless)
    2* sun hats (weather dependent)
    2* long-sleeved tops
    2* spare change of clothes
    2* warm fleeces
    Water (amount weather dependent)
    Lunch & snacks
  • Safety: Remember rule #1 – Get home safely!
    We have told our neighbour our plans, who we can trust to raise the alarm if we’re not back at the agreed time or if he doesn’t hear from us. We have carefully considered the kit we will need to take to keep us safe, provisions for nourishment and hydration and the contents of our first aid kit. We have also completed a full risk assessment too.
  • Risk assessment: As I have previously mentioned, we have limited experience and no formal kayaking training. This led me to create a thorough risk assessment (below) so we can take the necessary precautions to keep ourselves safe. We also told our neighbour where we are going, what we have planned, what time to expect us back and what to do in the event we are not back by then.

  • Planning: I have already covered above in the ‘Risk Assessment’ our contingency plans should we need to leave the kayaks, escape routes and having left a ‘route card’ with our neighbour. The only thing left to check is the weather before heading out, to help us determine our final kit list, not to mention whether we should wait for a sunnier, warmer day if necessary.

I’ve got my next adventure sorted – how about you?

Get yourself out there and explore

I hope this has helped you consider your next adventure, and how you might start planning for it. Remember – start small, be safe and have fun.

If you need any help, have any questions or just generally want to tell us about what you’re exploring next then please do get in touch – we would love to hear from you about what you’re planning.


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