The Basics Of Trip Leadership

Not only will the trip’s leaders need to know how to use the equipment correctly, they need to be able to teach the group’s participants how to use the equipment correctly. Not only must the trip leaders know about what to bring on the trip, e.g., clothing, personal items, boots, sleeping bags, etc. (as well as group items such as stoves, fuel, tents, etc.); they must ensure that all members of the group have what they need for the trip (no more and no less).

Not only do the leaders need to know how to pack gear, hike over different types of terrain, to set a pace, and manage their daylight hours; they are charged with the responsibility to carefully provide this information to the group.

Comprehensive planning means that leaders of any hiking/backing group, should know their emergency resources and be able to seek emergency assistance (as much as possible) anytime throughout the trip. A detailed trip itinerary should be filed with the organization before departure. And, prior knowledge (ideally actual experience) of the usual and unusual features of the trail, and noted quickest routes to shelter and/or leading out of the woods are essential. Further, organizations would serve their programs well to require all trip leaders to be certified in wilderness first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Concept Four: Excellent Preparation

Excellent preparation includes ensuring that each person going on the trip, leader or participant, is highly prepared. I like to consider this preparation in three ways: Body, Mind, and Spirit.

I am both a Springfield College graduate (MS and DPE), and a former YMCA profession; where such terms are commonly used when considering physical activity and programming. Investing in excellent trip preparation means that the trip leaders ensure each individual in the group is ready to participate as a member. And, it means that the leaders and the group have already worked together to plan and prepare for the trip experience.

Regardless of how competent the leaders and regardless of how talented or experienced the participants, everyone in a group should have some planned period of time together to build a culture that promotes a unified effort; thereby achieving a safe and enjoyable experience for all…a successful hiking/backing experience!

Body:

Physical (psychomotor) preparedness is the ability to meet the everyday requirements of the hiking/backpacking experience as well as the extreme or unusual physical requirements of a weather or injury emergency. Physical preparedness can begin before a group trip, individually. The organization should consider sending-out a recommended pre-trip training regimen along with health history form(s), several months before the trip; and as soon as pre-registration is complete.

Participants are to return the completed health history form(s) along with a signed commitment to physically prepare for the trip; prior to acceptance into the program. In addition, for the group to truly bond some period of time should be set aside before any group hiking/backpacking experience, that allows the members of the group to train or prepare together. And, a good sign that the group is ready to begin a trip is when everyone understands that the pace they travel should be no quicker than one that is enjoyed by every participant.

Mind:

Mental (cognitive) preparedness expects that all members of the group understand how to be safe and how to manage the challenges of the experience, as a group. Again, prior to leaving on the trip, the group leaders must be prepared to teach and mentor the members of the group so that they are able to acquire both the basic skills of hiking/backpacking; and develop the an understanding of what working-together really means (when things are going well and when they are not).

I like to think that organizations that are striving to prepare leaders are also working to develop followership.

Allen (1998) describes followership this way: “As a follower you should know what is expected of the leader in order to understand his or her role… Surviving an outing in the mountains may hinge on the leader’s decisions, but decisions made by a follower, or the group can be just as critical. Usually, the follower’s decisions relate to whether or not to speak up about difficulties being encountered or to give other input” (p. 21).

Spirit:

Spiritual (affective) preparedness expects that all members of the group are willing and able to co-exist with others, especially those who are in their immediate group. They have learned and demonstrate the values of honesty, justice, responsibility, beneficence (do no harm), and respect. They appreciate and celebrate diversity while working together to affect a culture of fellowship. Organizations often strive to build character through hiking/backpacking programs.

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