Planning for Adventure and the Unexpected
As I sit down with a cup of coffee to write this, I can’t believe that 2022 is more than half over. I’ve already had so many great adventures this year, and there are many more to come before we get to December.
This got me thinking about a question I get asked a lot; how do I get to have so many incredible adventures? I’ll let you in on my secret. Planning.
Maybe my affinity for a good plan comes from spending more than two decades in the military and learning that planning is key to every successful endeavor.
A few of my close friends like to joke that I’m an “over-planner.” And that’s fine by me because I’ve learned a lot over the years by meticulously planning many multi-day overland trips. Trips those same friends have greatly enjoyed, I might add.
As I consider the lessons I’ve learned over the years, there are three that stand out, that I apply every time I plan an excursion, and I thought I’d share them with you in the hopes that you find them useful too.
Left: Brad (second from right) in a planning meeting during a deployment to Iraq in 2006.
Right: Master Chief Hospital Corpsman Brad Kowitz, senior enlisted leader for Branch Health Clinic Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) Parris Island, shakes hands with Brig. Gen. Frederick Padilla, commanding general of MCRD Parris Island during a visit April 13, 2011. Padilla presented a certificate of commendation to the clinic sailors for their quick actions stopping the spread of a life threatening communicable disease.
1. Plan Time for Adventure
When I first started overlanding, it was all about driving. Driving for miles and miles to get to the dirt. Driving for hours on the trail before getting to camp late in the evening. I’d eat, hit the rack, have breakfast, pack up, and roll out to do it all over again.
Sometimes, overlanding requires a lot of time in the driver’s seat. And that’s fine because it’s part of what we love—getting to spend quality time with our rigs. But it’s so important that you don’t do this every day. Now, I include days with shorter drive times in my trip plans. These are days when we have time to stop and enjoy points of interest, history, or culture. When we have time to venture down a branch in the trail just to see where it goes. When we have time to take a hike to stretch our legs and appreciate the beauty all around. And when we get to camp early to relax with family and friends.
It's good for the soul to plan some down time.
Above: Friends taking time out from off-roading to explore the mud caves in Anza-Borrego.
Top left: Marco and Brad on an off-road camping adventure in the desert.
Top right: Cooking and relaxing at camp during an overland excursion in Sandstone Canyon.
2. Plan for Backup Campsites
Sometimes, no matter how much research you’ve done to find the perfect camping spot, something goes wrong. Maybe when you arrive, someone else has already set up camp in your spot. Or maybe it’s not as exactly what you were expecting—it’s too small for your group or there’s no protection from the wind. Or maybe your projected time-distance didn’t work out and you can’t get there before dark.
Experience has taught me it’s always a good idea to plan for a few alternate campsites. There are several ways you can find great places to camp and I start by gathering information from guide books, maps from ranger stations, and websites, including Google Earth, which is a tool a use the most. Then I put it all together on Gaia GPS, adding my own routes and waypoints for points of interest and campsites, including backup locations. When I'm ready to go, I download everything and sync it with my phone so I have all that information in the palm of my hand when I'm off the grid.
I’d like to point out though, that some of the most amazing places I’ve camped at weren’t planned—I found them just by doing a little exploring (see tip 1 above).
Left: Camping on the beach in Baja.
Right: Camp set up with the space age looking ShiftPod tent.
3. Plan for the Unexpected
I know this seems like an oxymoron—if it’s unexpected, how can you plan for it?—but you can prepare for unforeseen circumstances, like having a rig get stuck or someone getting injured on the trail. I can’t stress how important it is to ensure you have the basic safety equipment to manage these situations. Recovery gear, a first aid kit, and communication equipment can keep a bad situation from getting worse. These tools might be able to save your carefully planned adventure and, more importantly, they might save your life.
Another thing that will help you deal with the unexpected is your attitude. Having a positive attitude and resilient mindset will not only help you go further in your overlanding adventures, but in life too. When things go wrong—and things will go wrong—what matters most is how you react to them. I choose to see challenges as opportunities to learn and grow. When I encounter a problem, I always do my best to remain flexible, look for solutions, and focus on a positive outcome.
There’s no such thing as a perfect plan and I’ve learned that the most important thing standing between a terrible trip and a great adventure, is attitude.
Left: Unexpected snow during an overland adventure at Merus Adventure Park in Texas.
Right. Using recovery gear to help and overturned off-road vehicle.
The Most Important Thing About Planning
I hope at least one of these tips helps you as you’re planning and executing your future overland adventures. And don’t forget the most important thing, what the planning is all about, is to just get out there, have some fun, and make some amazing memories.
Left: Brad and Devyn on Black Bear Pass during an overland adventure to Colorado.
Center: Brad, Regena, and Justin during a trip to Big Bear to wheel Jeeps in the snow.
Right: Brad, Regena, and Jordan during an off-road camping trip to Anza-Borrego.
Below are a few videos in which we discuss planning your overland and off-road camping adventures.