Assessing Your Adventure Expectations
Picking the perfect outdoor outing
By Charmian Christie
Whether you plan to kayak glacial lakes or trek the well-worn national park trails, an outfitter can make or break your trip. Make the right choice and you'll be taken to hidden gems, guided down rivers you've only seen in National Geographic magazines or sample food no guidebook has yet covered. The wrong outfitter, and you could end up bored (if you're lucky) or badly injured if you're not.
Don't assume that just because you're paying a guide you'll be safe. Outfitters are professional risk-takers and consider some activities exciting, not dangerous. In some countries, the prevailing attitude is that if you're willing to risk your life it's your business, not theirs. They only care about getting paid.
Most disappointing outfitting adventures result from a mismatch rather than unprofessional habits. Picking the right outfitter to suit your particular journey will not only ensure you have a safe travel adventure, but you'll experience the kind of trek you want and expect.
Evaluating Your Exploration Expectations
The travel opportunities are endless, and so is the potential for miscommunication. Regardless of how long your intended trip is, be sure to know your minimal requirements and ask about the specifics.
- Fully or partially outfitted: Do you want a fully outfitted trip where the guide leads the whole thing, or a partially outfitted trip where the guide gets you to the backcountry and leaves you alone to explore?
- Accommodation: Do you want to camp overnight or return after a long day outdoors to a lodge or cabin? Do you mind if the accommodations are shared? How would you feel if it weren't heated / air-conditioned?
- Beds: Do you need an orthopedic mattress or is sleeping under the stars mandatory?
- Luggage: Are you willing to carry a full backpack or do you want to tote a day pack only? Are you strong enough to haul all the gear yourself or do you expect the outfitter to provide a vehicle to cart heavy equipment?
- Plumbing facilities: What do you require in bathroom facilities? Flush toilets, running water, hot water? Do you need privacy or can you live with unisex bathrooms?
- Food: Do you want all meals provided? If you have a special diet (vegetarian, food allergies, kosher, etc), can you cheat or do you need to stick to the program? Are you willing to help cook over a fire or do you expect restaurant meals?
- Drinking water: Do you expect it to be provided? Are you willing to drink gritty water if the purifier fails?
- Free time: Do you want free time or are you more comfortable with having every minute scheduled? Is exploring on your own scary or mandatory?
- Wake-up calls: Do you want to rise at dawn or roll into the day at 9:00?
- Type of sights: Do you want a mix of culture and nature or would you rather avoid concrete for the entire trip?
- Exertion level: Are you fit enough for the trip of your dreams? If you're cycling, can you handle hills and rough terrain or level ground only? How many miles a day are you prepared to log?
- Social aspects: Do you want a mix of ages? Are you okay with teens or young children on the trip? Do you want a gender-specific trek or singles-only tour?
Once you know your expectations, you can ask your outfitter some specific questions and decide if they're the right fit for your travel adventure.