Preparation for Backcountry and Wilderness Travel

All photos by Matt Butler

How to better prepare for all your outdoor adventures.


By Matt Butler


The outdoors have become a respite for many during the challenging times of covid and exploring your backyard has now become the travel norm. But with the increase of outdoor adventurers comes the inevitable increase in mishaps and emergency rescues, many avoidable and relating to a lack of preparation.

When planning a trip into the outdoors, there are several forms of preparation that needs to be considered. Each equally valuable and potentially lifesaving.

I like to categorize them into three sections: Prepping, Planning and Packing.


It all starts with Prepping. Not the “build a bunker” in your backyard kind. This prepping is essential in ensuring you understand where you are planning to adventure, what it involves and when you will be doing it.

It’s both important to select your location to suit both your ability and the conditions. For instance, hiking an exposed mountain for the first time may be within your skill level, but should you during low visibility? Or during a windstorm? Or just damp from previous rain?

These are just some of the questions you must ask yourself BEFORE you embark on the adventure, not while you’re halfway up the mountain.

Most incidents can be avoided by just taking the time to consider this type of preparation. It doesn’t take much time to question your intentions of where, what and when.



Now that you’ve considered the fundamentals of your trip, next up is the planning. This part is very important, as it can easily be the difference between returning home safely or being lost in the wilderness for days.

Planning takes into consideration your prepping decisions and then builds upon the details.

These can be anything from the path you will take, what time of day you will depart and return and what resources you will need to carry. Once you have considered all these options, the most important thing is that you inform someone of your intentions and when/who they should call for help should things not go to plan or they don’t hear from you.

This small detail can literally mean the difference between life and death, as every minute counts when you are lost or injured in the wilderness. The chance of rescue teams finding you is greatly increased if they understand your detailed trip intentions.


Lastly, we come to packing. This brings together all of your detailed prepping and planning and allows you to be confident you’ve put together the necessary resources for your adventure.

Taking into consideration the previous steps, you are now certain of what you must carry with you to be safe.

Do you need that extra pair of warm clothes? Do you have a sufficient water/food supply? Are you carrying all the essential safety gear to get you through should you become lost or injured?

Packing can also come down to personal preference and the battle of the survivalist vs the ultralight backpacker. Do you want to take everything to ensure your fully prepared or are you trying to reduce pack weight?

One thing to consider here is that leaving important things out to save on weight/space is not a fair justification for being unprepared. You should always prioritize your safety over ideology.

So, before you embark on your next adventure, take a moment to consider your Prepping, Planning & Packing and endeavour to prepare better.

Doing so will be allow you to explore with the confidence and peace of mind, knowing that should something go wrong, you are fully prepared and ready to respond.

Packing Recommendations:

As discussed, it’s important to take your preparation seriously and not compromise on safety just to save a little bit of space/weight. These are some of the essentials we recommend. You can piece things together or often buy a kit all ready to go, such as the KEA KIT.


Medical: No one should head into the wilderness without a comprehensive first aid kit. The kit should be suited to your length of trip and have enough supplies for everyone in your party.


Water: Always carry a backup water supply/filtration option. It’s important you have a means of filtering natural water, should something happen to your primary water supply.


Tools: These are dependent on your trip and skills. But a good base level is:

  • Multi-Tool/Knife
  • Duct Tape (for gear repair)
  • Torch/Head Torch,
  • Fire Starter
  • Whistle & Compass (in case you become lost)


Shelter: A quick change in weather can have serious consequences if you’re not prepared, so it’s important to carry an emergency shelter. Either a small rainfly tarp or mylar shelter is sufficient and can also act as a pack/gear cover in bad weather.


BHA member Matt Butler is an outdoor adventure guide in New Zealand and the creator of the KEA KIT: The Ultimate Outdoor Survival System, a new survival kit that helps you better prepare for all your outdoor adventures. 


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