Matching trips and groups

You may have decided to do a particular trip and have in front of you the task of selecting a suitable group, or you may have been ‘presented’ with a group wanting to do a particular trip. These two situations demand different approaches, and at times the distinction between these two situations may become blurred, but the principles given below still apply.

Fitting the trip to the group
In this situation you could be the leader of a club trip, a school group or a scout troop. The trip may have been mooted and advertised by others. You may have had limited control over the advertising of the standard of the trip, and limited rights of veto over who may participate.

If this is the situation then:

  • You must ensure that the trip will be within the capabilities of all the group members.
  • The speed and strength of the slowest and weakest member will determine the length of the daily stages and your timetable should be flexible to allow for this.
  • If group members’ equipment is inadequate it may preclude certain route options.
  • If group members are very young or very old the trip may have to be specifically tailored for them.
  • If the group is large progress may be very slow. It may be worth considering splitting the group, if adequate sub-leaders are available. Each subgroup should have a mixture of experienced people and beginners.

Fitting the group to the trip
In this situation, you as leader should be very careful that you really do have complete freedom in selecting your group. If there is any exception at all, then the opposite strategy of fitting the trip to the group should apply. The importance of careful selection of group members increases in direct proportion to the length of the trip and to its degree of difficulty. For example, group selection would not be of major significance for an easy spring weekend walk in the Adelaide Hills, but it would be of the utmost importance for a three-week trip in southwest Tasmania.

For all trips, but especially for longer and harder ones, the following factors should be considered in the selection of group members:

  • Size of group - six persons is a good number, four is the minimum and more than eight starts to become slow and unwieldy.
  • Age - the trip may be inappropriate for the young or the old, e.g. you would not take a group of young teenagers on an extended winter traverse of the major high plains of New South Wales, Victoria or Tasmania.
  • Compatibility - this is especially important if conditions are likely to be adverse. You should know all group members, particularly their strengths and their weaknesses.
  • Fitness - fitness should be adequate for the trip and preferably as uniform as possible between the group members. The fittest should have demonstrated their ability to control any racehorse tendencies.
  • Special skills - there should be an adequate and balanced level of skills such as navigation, first aid, campcraft and bush skills in the group as a whole.
  • Equipment - this should be well proven. Do not allow your group members to take new or borrowed equipment on a long trip without trying it out first.

A short pre-trip training or trial walk is highly desirable if there are any doubts about potential group members for the long trip. It also helps to promote team spirit if the group does not usually walk together.