Multi-Day Trip Planning

You’ve got yourself a solid camping kit, you are comfortable on overnighters in Algonquin Park, and now you are looking to push your way into some multi-day trips in the backcountry!

This is a fairly common progression for the outdoor enthusiast; however, even eager campers may be hesitant to tackle a multi-day trip in the backcountry.  It’s a good thing to be hesitant but I’m here to tell you that, with a good plan, your first multi-day trip can be a success. I am currently working on writing a trip plan for a bikepacking trip in Utah, and it amazes me just how much information is needed and how easily it is to forget something important. The best part is trip planning is universal. Once you understand just how in depth you should go with your planning, it really becomes a matter of filling in the blanks… and a bit of research.

Establish A Goal

Before I start thinking of a location, time, or type of trip, I find out what I want from the trip. If you are going in a group, sit down together and decide on a few goals that everyone agrees on. A goal can be something as simple as “I want to camp on McCraney Lake in Western Algonquin Park” or “I want to hike 50km in 5 days”. Both goals are attainable, and by establishing a goal other aspects of your trip will become clear. For example if you are set on camping at McCraney Lake, you will probably be canoeing in, which means you won’t be going during the winter months, and the lake can be accessed from a few different directions. Already we’ve established a location, a potential time of year, and the type of trip. Not too tricky, eh?


Provoking Lake loop in Algonquin ParkCreate A Timeline & Route

This is when it starts to get a bit daunting, but once you sketch down a simple timeline for your trip, you can take a deep breath because your trip is really shaping up. Keeping your goal in mind for the trip, hop on the Internet and see what kind of routes other people have already done. This is especially important for those just getting into multi-day adventures – don’t expect to create a revolutionary new trail directly through the centre of Algonquin Park. Stick to pre-established adventures with proven research or “beta”, as some seasoned outdoor enthusiasts like to call it. Create a simple daily itinerary.

Example Timeline:

  • Day 1: Drive from Ottawa to Highland Backpacking Trail parking lot. Hike to North Provoking Lake.
  • Day 2: Hike West to Turtle Lake campsite.
  • Day 3: Take South loop back to South Provoking Lake (lunch at Boundary Lake).
  • Day 4: Retrace Day 1 hike back to parking lot. Return to Ottawa.

Get Detailed … Really Detailed

For this step, it really helps to have a computer (and some free time!). After you’ve locked in a potential route and it meets your goals, you need to get specific with each day on your trip timeline. Personally, I like to split the day into three chunks of morning, afternoon, and night and have location and points of interest for each.

For our Utah bikepacking trip, we are flying out of Toronto, landing in Grand Junction, and busing to Fruita, Colorado, where the bike shop and trail head are. How are we getting to the airport? Who is driving and how long will it take? How much is the bus to Fruita? Where are we camping and eating our first night out? These are questions I needed answers to, and I found 99% of the answers online and by speaking to knowledgeable locals I connected with through the bike shops.

Sure, you might not be flying across the country, but the approach is the exact same. It also helps to find maps and local beta, essentially creating a mini trip plan for each day.

Everyone’s Favourite Gear

The style of trip you decide to embark on will determine the gear you will / can bring. For example, a canoe trip in Algonquin Park will allow your group to carry quite a bit of stuff, but a hiking trip will require a more minimalistic approach. Most outfitters will offer planning guides and packing lists (an example of the Algonquin equivalent can be seen here). Some things to consider are group gear, personal gear, equipment, sleeping systems, shelter, food, and water. The amount of each will be determined by the length and location of the route.

Winter Camping

Plan For The Worst, Expect The Best

Arguably, the most important step is creating an emergency response plan for your adventure. From Day 1, there are potential hiccups that may occur. For example, a flat tire in between Ottawa and Algonquin Park, maybe one of your friends doesn’t show up, or you leave all of your water at home on your kitchen table… the list goes on. The idea is that we should all get in the habit of planning for the worst possible outcomes. This way you are responding to problems, rather than reacting. This also allows for some flexibility during the trip, because the best trips won’t go as planned.

Items in this step should include backup plans, emergency contacts (who should have a copy of your plan), nearby hospitals, water sources, alternate routes, and evacuation routes. It may seem like a lot of work, but you can rest assured knowing you are prepared for whatever might come your way.

Enjoy Yourself!

Even if you don’t end up making it to that awesome campsite on that crystal clear lake, you forget your Snickers bars, or you end up leaving a day early, it pays to plan ahead and will set your group up for success (whatever that ends up looking like).

Stay tuned for more about my bikepacking trip and what this new trend is all about!


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Miles Arbour

Miles Arbour

Bio: After graduating from Trent University with a Business Degree, Miles enrolled in Algonquin College’s Outdoor Adventure program. He is always looking for ways to merge his love for outdoor activities with business and marketing… when he isn’t biking of course!



Twitter: @MilesArbour

Instagram: @MilesArbour

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