One of the most important parts of pulling off a successful trip or expedition is figuring out what to pack. This is just as important of an exercise as getting your itinerary correct. A well written gear list is essential to a successful trip for all the participants. In the 16 years of working professionally as an international mountain guide, I have seen the results of poorly written gear lists and will teach you how to build optimal gear lists for your clients and how PathWrangler makes this all work smoothly.
Here is my process for building the best list using PathWrangler:
1. Building your initial packing list – An excellent packing list will show your participants the exact gear that you find beneficial and give them the boundaries needed to pack efficiently. It will also set the stage for making sure your customers do not bring too many extraneous items. The Gear Manager categorizes the items in your packing lists in a way that makes it easy to build as well as easy for your fellow participants to absorb.
Just Right: building the perfect gear list is just like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Participants need to bring the amount of stuff with them that is “just right” – not too much and not too little. A vague and loosely written gear list that leaves too much room for interpretation makes it difficult for them to pack “just right.” Pack too little? Then upon arrival, you are on a frantic last minute shopping hunt aimlessly wandering the outdated and overpriced gear portals of a foreign city when you should be enjoying your first day exploring the cultural and surrounding landscapes. Pack too much and you are leaving stuff behind at your hotel, or worst case scenario, you have to pay extraneous luggage fees for overweight luggage or you have to ditch expensive gear at an airport, train or pier because you can’t meet the weight/volume requirement.
2. “Red-Tape” – a significant part of the list is not just the gear, but also the documents, currency, vaccinations and/or permits that are required for a trip. Forgetting one of these items could cut a trip short before it begins. An important part of the PathWrangler packing list is a provision for listing these “Red-Tape” items.
3. Item Notes – Give a detailed description of the item you are recommending in the “save a note” field. This can be a sentence or short paragraph to bring a clearer explanation of what exactly you are expecting them to bring. These notes help you convey information you anticipate clients will have questions on. If you are getting multiple questions on an item, you should convey that information in the notes field.
3. Product Recommendations – You can add visual clarity by suggesting a product. There is a multitude of terminology for gear items, so a visual can clear up any confusion. PathWrangler is currently integrated with Amazon and provides users not just with pictures of items, but also a portal to purchase these items they don’t have. This saves time with lessening the amount of trips to the store or greatly assists those who live in a demographic where stores may not have these items readily available for purchase. This is especially helpful to the last minute packers!
4. Collaboration – Ultimately, gear lists are a means of communication. Currently, tour operators or guides will send their gear list on a static PDF or Word Document. These static documents severely limit the communication required between the expedition leaders and the participants; they don’t facilitate an easy way to ask questions or share information after they have been received. Plus, if there are changes to the list, version control becomes a big issue. PathWrangler brings these documents to life and encourages a clear way to communicate better with each other.
Let’s consider our audience. People who pack for an expedition usually fall into one of two categories:
- Planners: those who begin their planning and preparations months in advance.
- Procrastinators: those who begin mere weeks (if not days) in advance.
This means that clients going on your trips will be on different timelines. Almost every expedition is going to have people playing “catch-up.” With static documents, the procrastinators will unintentionally multiply the amount of work you have to do answering repetitive questions over email and the phone.
On a recent expedition to the Khumbu Valley of Nepal, my clients were able to utilize the comments section to catch up on the discussion and ask questions that had been asked previously by other participants. Because the lists are interactive and centralized, the Q&A prior to our group’s departure better engaged my clients in a fun way, but it also significantly cut down on the amount of time I would normally spend answering repetitive questions prior to the trip.
5. Preliminary Gear Checks – Another benefit of collaboration is that you can do a very important preliminary gear check before people arrive. The application allows participants the ability to virtually “check” the items off their gear list during their pre-trip preparations. The team leader can then in turn see exactly what items have been virtually “packed” by each participant. If diligently facilitated, you can virtually oversee that everyone has checked off all the items on their gear list.