Contingency Planning & Coordination: Step 7

Further along in our pilgrimage planning, we need to consider contingency planning. That is, what will we do if we forget something or if things go wrong?

Ever watch that show Alone? When those contestants choose only 10 items to take with them to help them survive alone in the wilderness, they have to think through likely problems in advance and plan accordingly.

In daily life, most of us are so immersed in convenience, it’s hard to imagine not being able to have what we need with just a short drive or a click. And most pilgrims do bring their phones along to keep in touch or troubleshoot.

That said, not every spot on the pilgrimage path has a great signal (Can you hear me now?) or is suitable for Amazon next-day shipping.

Particularly on longer paths, you’re going to go through shoes or socks or run into unexpected weather. For instance, going through the Alps on the Via Francigena into Italy, you can go through about three different seasons in the course of a few weeks. It’s like winter in Missouri on steroids. (Snowball fight today, shorts and sunshine next week.)

Contingency Planning for Likely Events

As mentioned earlier, there are certain events you may not be able to schedule 100%, but they’re very likely.

  • Shoes & socks on long pilgrimage
  • Coats or jackets & winter gear for mountain segments
  • Shorts or warm-weather gear for a segment that’s typically hot

Much as with multi-month hikes like the Appalachian Trail, you can stage these kinds of supplies along the way. 

Also, scout out any out-of-the-ordinary vaccines that may be a good idea for where you’re going. You may not opt for every one of them (based on risks/benefits), but at least it will be an informed decision.

Contingency Planning for Nasty Surprises

Maintaining awareness of resources and keeping up with the weather can go a long way for this one. If some unexpectedly nasty weather is about to hit, but you’re aware of it, you can either gear up at your current stop or simply stay another night or two until things clear up. 

Sometimes, however, you won’t have that opportunity or things just sneak up on you. That’s why contingency planning means carrying a few emergency items at all times:

  • A map of your route and a compass. Even if you prefer GPS, sometimes devices fail, break, lose signal, or run out of juice. 
  • Consider carrying some kind of satellite- or GPS-guided messenger device that doesn’t require a signal to work. These can serve as locators or SOS devices if you get lost or injured.
  • Flashlight or other kind of illumination
  • Quick-dry insulation layers or emergency blanket. Weather can change rapidly, and if you can’t get to the next stop (or back to the last one) quickly, you could be in real trouble. Plus, the emergency blanket could serve as back-up shelter, should you need it.
  • Raingear of some kind. If you’re wet, you’re that much more susceptible to hypothermia or chafing.
  • First aid supplies. I’d include a little bit of duct tape in this kit.
  • Fire flint, or some other fire-starting mechanism. Also, be sure you’ve practiced using it before you need it!
  • Always, always bring some kind of food & hydration, even if it’s just Cliff bars.

Inspiration for the journey ...