May 5, 2010

Pre-Adventure Planning 101 :: with guest blogger Justin Lichter

Hi everybody! I was honored when I was asked to write a blog entry for National Geographic Maps so hopefully this is informative and entertaining.

For the first blog entry we thought it would be a good intro for me to talk about the planning stages, training, and of course map work that takes place prior to an expedition or adventure. If you want to find out more on my personal adventures you can check out my website at A quick recap of a few of the main adventures would entail hiking unsupported 1800 miles through Africa, hiking across Iceland, hiking south to north across the South Island of New Zealand, swimming unsupported around Lake Tahoe, and hiking over 10,000 miles in one year.

All of these trips start with a dream and a desire to see these landscapes. I feel that you see and get to know the terrain, scenery, and culture on a personal level when you undertake a trip under your own power with no support and no aid from motorized equipment. Many of these trips followed my own route that I devised and made up trying to connect existing hiking trails, little used dirt roads and jeep roads, and cross country travel in order to stay off of paved roads and highly traveled roads as much as possible. Initially I research what areas I would like to see and what hiking trails are in the area. Then I try to get an overview atlas map or road map and a slightly more in depth overview map (like something in the range of 1:250,000 to 1:500,000). The overview maps help me locate potential places to connect and areas with few roads that I would want to go through. After I have a good idea of the route on those maps, I then put a number of potential routes down onto smaller scale maps (1:24000 to 1:100,000). I then tweak it from there, but in a few places I usually keep a number of route choices on the map in case I think certain areas need alternates in case of high water fords, technical spots, potential cliff areas, or anything else tricky the landscape may throw my way.

I’ll then go through the maps and figure out what roads I cross and towns that I come near. I’ll figure out distances between these points and use these towns to resupply from and get more food.

During these planning stages I am also training for the hike so that when I set out I am ready to do 25-30 miles per day from the start. Usually for training I end up doing a lot of cross training since it is usually the winter when I am training to set out on a hike starting in the spring. As a result I normally do a lot of skate skiing, classic skiing, backcountry touring, telemark skiing, snowshoeing, and some short walks on the road. After so many hikes I think that my body is pretty used to that type of work so if I can maintain my fitness level then that helps in the break in period on the hike. However, I usually try to carry a loaded backpack a little bit so that my shoulders and hips get used to the weight on them prior to the hike.

I think that is a little recap of the initial stages of the pre-adventure planning. Hope that helps and was interesting. I’ll be blogging more on the site about some adventures, tricks and tips, and many other things, so come back and check it out!

Blogger Bio
Meet our guest blogger, Justin Lichter

I grew up about an hour north of NewYork City and have since lived in Santa Barbara, CA, southern VT, Dillon, CO, and I am currently living in Truckee, CA. When not hiking, I am a ski patroller and enjoy backcountry skiing, nordic skiing, snowshoeing, mountain biking, and pretty much anything else relaxing. Since 2002, I have hiked over 20,000 miles. In 2002 doing a cross-country map and compass trip through the canyon country of southern utah, in 2003 hiking from Georgia to Cap Gaspe, Quebec following the Appalachian Trail and International AT, 2004 hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada and then the Pacific Northwest Trail to the Washington coast, 2005 the Continental Divide Trail from Mexico to Canada then continuing on the Great Divide Trail from the Canadian border up into northern Alberta, 11/1/05 to 10/23/06 completing the Eastern Continental Trail (cap gaspe, qc to key west, florida, incorporating the AT), Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail in under a year, a total of over 10,000 miles, and in 2007 a traverse of the Southern Alps and the south island of New Zealand. As well as amazing trips each year after. You can check out my website at for more info.