If you’re considering a wilderness experience, you’re no doubt an adventurous sort—one willing to get outside your comfort zone.  But there are things you need to know before you embark on your trip—things to enable you to have a more enjoyable trip and things to keep you safe.

1. What are the facilities like?

Will you be staying in a drafty yurt, a cozy cabin, or sleeping under the stars? Will you be sharing space with others or going it alone? Are there showers with flush toilets, an outhouse, or a shovel with which to dig your own latrine? If you’re adventurous enough to consider a wilderness trip, none of these should be showstoppers, but it helps to know what you’ll be in for so you can plan accordingly.

2. What type of clothing and equipment is required?

You don’t want to be hiking the High Sierras in the summer in heavy jeans and a flannel shirt.  And you don’t want to be the only person without a cook stove if you’ll be preparing your own meals. While you probably won’t have to spend too much on new clothes or equipment, there may be a few things to pick up that will make your trip way more enjoyable. You’ll only know if you ask someone who’s gone before you.

3. What is experience level of the leaders or guides?

Your first trip is not the time to head out into the wilderness with Rookie Ronnie. Be sure your leaders have experience not only in the area you’ll be visiting and the activities you’ll be doing, but also in leading wilderness trips with people who are new to the activity. You want leaders who will be helpful and understanding with newcomers, not those who expect everyone to be as experienced as they are and who show little patience for those who aren’t.

4. What skills or experience level do you need?

If you’re a beginning climber, tackling Mount Everest is not the trip for you. If the longest walk you take each day is from the couch to the fridge, a 10-mile-a-day backpack trip is a no-go. Not only will you not have an enjoyable time if the activities are over your skill level, you’ll risk the possibility of injury. You’ll also be sure of annoying your companions if they feel they have to watch out for you at every turn.

5. What food will be served?

If you’re one of the growing number of people with food sensitivities, you may need to know what you’ll be eating−and how often. Will the food work for you or do you need to bring snacks and supplements? If you don’t have any special dietary needs, ask anyway. It could be one more reason to get excited about your trip!

6. What happens in case of an emergency?

You don’t need to know all the terrible things that might happen on your trip, because the chances of them happening are slim. But you do want to know that the group leaders are well aware of what can go wrong and that they have a plan of action in case something does.

Asking these simple questions can help assure that your first wilderness adventure will be the exciting trip you hope for. Now go climb a mountain!

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