In the event that something goes wrong on 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.
A good intentions plan contains includes a detailed overview of your trip information, including;
- When and how you are getting to your hike
- Where you intend to go – the tracks, alternatives (side tracks), accommodation you will visit or pass, duration of the trip etc .
- The gear you are carrying (a helpful indication of how you may cope in an emergency also)
- When your trip is intended to finish, where you intend go after that.
- The contact information of every body you are hiking with, and the location of their vehicles.
How to write an Intentions Plan
The first intentions plan I used was by the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council(NZMSC) (*1)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 (and stick to it unless you can make contact with the intentions holder)
- 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.)
View an example of my Intentions plan here.
Submitting an Intentions Plan
I think its important to keep your Intentions Plan in the same format every time, so nothing gets missed and your intentions holder has all the information they need.
I keep my plan as a document template on my computer with ready written titles and a list of all the clothing and gear that I have for day, overnight and multi day hikes all included.
Writing a new plan I open the Intentions template and fill in the “free text” boxes;
- Calculate and fill in the Intentions time and date ( usually about 4 hours after my expected finish to allow a bit of wiggle room)
- Add the free text information
- Delete the gear, clothing items that are not part of that hiking trip
- Print to a PDF document and email it to my self and my intentions person.(*3)
- Follow the email up with a call to confirm they have got the plan.
Activating and Intentions Plan – Intentions Holder
The job of your intentions holder to make sure they are contactable on the day you said you were finishing your hike.
It is a good idea to use an intentions plan that includes a list of steps for the Intentions holder to take in the event that you do not cancel your trip and they need to Activate the plan.
These steps instruct them to try and contact you via a phone call, together with a text message(*4) and if unable to try other members of your group.
With a failure to make contact after two tries a couple of hours apart, the intentions holder needs to report you missing with the Police, (in New Zealand they are the lead agency in search and rescue ) and hand over your intentions plan.
(*1) The New Zealand Mountain Safety Council Intentions plan can be accessed via the Adventure Smart website, where you can choose to download, print and pass to your Intentions holder, or write your intentions on the Adventure smart website and have it emailed directly to your intentions holder.
(*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 number 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 default.) 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.)
(*3) Ensure the person holding your Intentions plan can be relied upon to check your expected time home and active the plan if you are un accounted for.
(*4) 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.