In the event that something goes wrong in your hike and you are unable to return to your car, an Intentions Plan allows a timely search to start in the right area to maximize the chance of finding you.
The plan tells searchers where you are intending to go, what you are intending to do and when you intend to return, and is left with somebody who is not on your trip, and can be relied upon to be;
- Contactable by phone at your expected trip finish time.
If you don’t make contact via a phone call(*1) by the expected finish time, it is that persons job to follow a written plan that includes;
- Attempting to make contact with you all the ways they can.
- If unsuccessful in contacting, to report you missing and provide the intentions information to the NZ Police.
For those carrying a Personal Locator Beacon(PLB) its is a good idea that the person holding your intentions is the same person you nominated during your PLB registration, so the intentions plan can be connected to the activation. (if you activate your PLB your nominated person is contacted.)
What is in an Intentions Plan
The first intentions plan I used was by the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council(NZMSC) and which included;
- Instructions for the person holding your plan what is expected of them and what to do when you don’t cancel your plan.(small font and appears a bit complicated.)
- The date and time you expect to finish your trip
- The start date and time, and the activity you are doing
- The intended route: track names, huts
- Alternative tracks if unable to do the first.
- Your personal details, contact numbers, medical problems
- Personal details for any one else with you
- What emergency gear you are carrying
- How you are travelling from the area and where you intend to go after.
Eventually, I wrote my own Intentions Plan in a check list format, (very useful for double checking I have every thing) as I wanted to include maximum useful information consistently.
In addition to the information in the NZMSC Intentions Plan I added;
- Simplified and bullet pointed instructions to the intentions holder at the top with the final alert time and date.
- Coordinates(*2) for car parking, off track features you intend to visit.
- My knowledge of that area ie: first time there, or many trips
- Identifying features /colours (make/ Model) of clothing, pack, boots
- Gear that give me the capacity to:charge electronics, cook, camp, navigation, signal.
- How many days food and back up supply
- A photograph of my boot tread (another reason for walking through mud on a track rather than around it!)
- A photo graph of hiking clothing( always use the same combinations of high vis clothes.)
Specify your Route
It is important to also specify your route you intend to take, (and stick to it)using track names in the order of the direction you intend to take. Also list any detours to places of interest that you may intended on.
If tracks do not have a name, note their position on a photo copy of the map you are taking, or use coordinates(*2) identify them.
Submitting an Intentions Plan
I keep my own intentions plan as a document template,(ie: openoffice or word)on which all my hiking gear and details are already listed, then when I am going on a hike, i open the template and;
- Fill in the trip name, and details, coordinates etc(blank spaces)
- Delete gear names and photos that i am not taking on that trip.
- Print to a PDF document and email it to my self and my intentions person.
- Follow the email up with a call to confirm they have got the plan.
The New Zealand Mountain Safety Council Intentions plan can be accessed via the Adventure Smart website;
- You can choose to download, print and give your plan to somebody
- Fill out on the Adventure smart website and email directly to your the person holding your intentions.(Adventure smart doesn’t monitor your Intentions plan)
(*1 )Text messages can’t be relied upon, they are sometimes delayed or never arrive at all depending on how busy the network is or the signal strength.
(*2) Depending on your knowledge, Maps and Navigation gear there are two mainstream methods for marking position when hiking / planning;
Universal Transverse Mercato,(UTM) also known as Northings and Eastings, which are most typically calculated straight from a paper Topographical map, and is the most useful to hikers in the field / best for beginners to learn.(they can also be viewed in google earth) UTM is expressed a pairs of 6-8 numbers only depending on your location, prefixed by the Map sheet no which can be found under the Map Title/Name. (ie: NZ topo50-BX34)
Latitude and Longitude: (lat/long)More common when using GPS devices and Digital Maps, but can also be calculated from on Topographical maps. The coordinates are expressed in one of three formats Degrees, Degrees Minutes, or Degrees Minutes and Seconds.(2 pairs of 7-9 numbers.) (Google Maps uses Degree format by defult.)
Which every method you are confident to use, it is vitally important when including these coordinates in an intentions plan, that you clearly identify which format you are using and then continue to use that format for all coordinates. (Ie: Map No. /UTM, Degrees, Degrees Minutes, Degrees Minutes Seconds.)