Travel Insider: When and How to Hire an Outdoor Guide

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If you want to hike England coast to coast or know what it's like to trek Patagonia, Pete Long is your guy. Long has been guiding tours with American outfitters Mountain Travel Sobek for three years and has backpacked in Nepal, Bolivia, South America and Europe. We spoke with Long about what it takes to survive a multi-day outdoor hike, go backpacking solo, and what will always be the first thing to go wrong on a trip.

What is the biggest mistake people make when planning and preparing for an adventure in a remote location?
For multi-day trips through difficult terrain it's got to be people underestimating how tough it can be and overestimating their fitness and capabilities. Good planning and preparation will help prevent poor performance. My personal gripe? There are always some backpackers on the guided trip who think, for whatever reason, that the carefully planned, tried and tested kit-list sent to them doesn't apply to them.

If budget is a concern, when does a trip require a guide, and when is it okay for people to plan their own solo backpacking trips?
If you're not completely sure you can do the trip safely and you're not willing to manage all the logistics and cope with unforeseen and likely problems, then get a guide. When hiring a guide you're buying into a wealth of experience and knowledge. Once you have gained this for yourself, plan your solo trek.

When you are traveling on-foot and without a guide, what are the most important things to consider?
First and foremost — and all times — is safety, for yourself and others. When planning think 'What happens if…' then work out 'What will I do….' Know your hiking capabilities and those of the group and match these to what you want to do, but be willing to push your limits. You don't know where they are until you've been past them. And remember, the first thing to go wrong will be the plan.

Do you have advice for traveling in places with ecological concerns, like rare animals, plants, or changing ecosystems?
Work to use 'best practice' techniques when in the field, for example: Leave no trace. Understand why we respect and adhere to rules and laws. Share the concept that we are guardians of these places for future generations and ourselves.