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Guidelines for Adventure-Based Activities

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With so much accessible land and public spaces in California, adventure-based activities are a great way to get outside and explore! However, they also often require more planning and preparation - campsite reservations, park entrance requirements, weather, and the complex nature of adventure-based activities are just a few of the things to consider. This set of guidelines is meant to help various campus groups plan and prepare for undertaking adventure-based activities.  

“Adventure-based” activities might include camping, hiking, backpacking, climbing (all forms, including ice climbing), canyoneering, mountain biking, gravel biking, backcountry travel, mountaineering, snow camping and travel (skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing), and river, lake, or ocean travel (including surfing). If undertaking activities that require technical skill competency, it is necessary to ensure that a qualified professional is leading the activity.

Travel for Adventure Based Activities

Adventure based activities often take place in areas that are devoid of reliable cell phone service and further than one hour from a hospital. They often are away from major highways and on country roads, without street lighting making it harder to navigate to desired locations. Having a travel plan that includes information about the group as well as local emergency resources is a necessary component in managing the risk of the activity.

Time and Distance Recommendations

To minimize the risk of travel to remote wilderness-type locations that are often rural and away from main roadways with limited or no cell service, the following practice is recommended:

**The time spent at the destination must be at least 3 times the amount of time it takes to travel to the destination.

  • Estimates can be made using mapping applications such as Google maps - but should take into account travel time of day. 
  • Travel should factor in a 20-30 minute rest stop for every 4 hours of driving.
  • No driving should be planned between 12am and 5am

For example, a trip to Joshua Tree National Park  

  • Google maps suggests 8 hours and 15 minutes for travel leaving at 3 pm
  • Need to plan to a minimum of one rest stop for 30 minutes, making the travel time 8 hours and 45 minutes each way
  • Round-trip travel estimate 17 hours and 15 min (including minimum rest stops)
  • You would need to spend around 52 hours at the destination.
  • Leaving at or after 3pm would not be appropriate because it would require driving after 12am.

Emergency Preparedness

It is highly recommended that groups engaging in adventure based activities have some level of preparedness for an emergency, should one occur during the outing. At a minimum, trip organizers should consider compiling and carrying a list of important contact information, which may include: phone number for local ranger station and/or local authorities, address and access information to closest hospital/emergency services, and relevant contacts at Stanford (such as the Resident Dean). Other emergency preparedness measures may include: letting the appropriate people on campus know your travel and activity plans, carrying an emergency contact device (InReach or SPOT Device), having basic first aid training and carrying a first aid kit, maintaining an appropriate ratio of ‘leaders’ to participants, having alternate routes or activities if conditions prohibit the intended plan, knowing participant skill levels, and ensuring that all participants are prepared for the activity.

The likelihood and potential severity of emergencies during an adventure-based activity should not be underestimated. A well-crafted plan and preparation for the unexpected are essential to engaging in adventure-based activities.   

Weather and Conditions Considerations

Weather can change rapidly and have significant impacts on the safety and risk of an adventure based activity. Organizers of an adventure based activity should check weather diligently, with a recommended final check around 24 hours before the scheduled trip departure to ensure that the trip will not be impacted by incoming weather. In all cases, trip organizers should make sure that all trip participants are prepared for predicted weather conditions. Some recommended websites to check, Weather.gov and AirNow.gov

Similarly, trip organizers should check road conditions and ensure that all vehicles traveling to the destination are equipped with appropriate equipment (for example: tire chains). Trip organizers should also take into account how road conditions may affect travel time to and from the destination.Check road conditions and closures

If planning any trips that will require access to or travel on trails, check the relevant land manager’s website for trail conditions and closures. You can also call the associated ranger station for more details. 

Any specialized conditions (such as, but not limited to, surf, snow/avalanche, or river water levels) should also be checked prior to trip departure. 

Camping and Park Requirements

It is recommended that groups have reserved campsites on public land. First come first serve  (non-reservation sites) are often occupied in many of California’s popular campgrounds.

Some backcountry areas require permits that need to be obtained prior to departure. Many backcountry areas require campfire permit (for gas stove use) and can be obtained through this website. ReadyForWildfire.org

Camping reservations generally require planning several months in advance. Most State and National Parks open campsite reservations 4-6 months in advance and fill up quite quickly. Local (city or county) and privately-run campgrounds vary more widely in when they allow booking. Trip organizers should make sure to consult with specific campgrounds to obtain details on reserving campsites. 

California State Parks    National Parks and Forests

It is also important to note that most parks (city, county, state, national) require either an entrance fee/reservation and/or parking fee. All trips should be prepared to pay the associated fees required for entry and use of a park. 

Group gear rentals are available through the Outdoor Center. Please see our Group Gear Rentals page for more information. [Link to group gear rental page]

Adventure Activity Decision Tree

The Adventure Programs team can be consulted during the planning process for adventure-based activities. Please consult the following decision tree to see if talking with the Adventure Programs team could be useful.

Email slowley@stanford.edu or visit the Outdoor Center at AOERC for consultation.