Trip planning

It’s that time of year now where everyone is busy planning and preparing for their first canoe trip of the year. My regular canoe mates call our get-togethers “Map and Flaps” and meet the same night my canoe partner’s wife gathers together with her “Stitch and Bitch” club. It’s usually held on a Wednesday evening and hosted by the proclaimed leader of the so-called expedition. It begins with a show-and-tell of all the new gear purchased for the upcoming season, with each item being heavily scrutinized and debated over. Then all the maps and relevant guide books are spread out or displayed on the kitchen table and route choices discussed. Arguments begin to erupt almost immediately of course, usually due to the fact that each member has a totally different reason for tagging along.

The squabbling continues when the host serves samples of new camp recipes, none of which taste as good as last years. By the time dessert is served, and washed down with a generous amount of spirits, the route has been altered, the length has been changed, the scheduled date has been rescheduled, and somehow a couple of new members have been added on the list without the consent from half the group. It’s obvious at this point that the trip is destined to fail.

To avoid the trip planning season, as well as the trip from going sour, try following these rules and regulations:

Who is going is definitely the first thing decided upon since everything else has a direct bearing on it. Group dynamics is number one. When choosing the crew, always lean toward skill and the ability to communicate with the other team members rather than going with the age-old friendship thing. Obviously, friendship is one of the reasons groups go out together in the first place. But not having the proper skills, friends or not, can get you into some real jams out there.

The group should consist of at least four but no more than six people. Any less and it’s not a safe trip. Any more and you’re just asking for compatibility problems (not to mention being unable to find a large enough campsite).

Selecting gear (who is bringing what) is carefully planned out. And remember, no belittling someone else’s new gear during show-and-tell. If you do happen to make fun of the gear you are definitely not permitted to borrow it while out on the trip.

Members are split up into small cooking groups (two or three). For each meal, the team leader taste-tests the individual recipes, and the group with the worst meal does the dishes and the group with the best meal gets to tease the losers unmercifully while they’re doing the dishes.

Cooking groups share items such as a tent or a canoe. However, each member must be self sufficient when it comes to everything else. Borrowing items, such as toilet paper, is strictly forbidden.

The route chosen best depicts, as much as possible, the group’s general “trip philosophy.” Having everyone agreeing is next too impossible of course. The important thing, however, is that you’ve tried to at least accommodate everyone’s needs. This process will help control the frustration (and reduce the blame) when something goes wrong – and something will definitely go wrong.

A trip leader is chosen and agreed upon by all members of the group, as well as the leader themselves. The voyageurs always had a trip leader, titled the “Bourgeois,” who made all the important decisions and good judgment and fair consensus, especially between groups of friends, can be easily swayed by fatigue or bravado. A trip leader can quickly solve this issue. Or, at best, be the one to complain to.

Each crew member is given a separate task or duty so the leader knows who to blame when it’s not properly done, or not done at all.

Once the date of departure is set, it’s set. Period!