The 7 P’s of readiness – more than an amusing adage?

canoe and kayak coach
Richard Moses

I was first introduced to the 7 P’s as a young soldier back in the late 1980’s and like many things, they have stood me in good stead throughout life and continue to feature as a framework utilised in the delivery of Red River’s services.

When it is explained, the humour and shock of the mild expletive included as the fifth P helps make the adage memorable but for obvious reasons, is often switched out within the civilian context!

Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents P**s Poor Performance’ has therefore morphed into ‘Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Painfully Poor Performance’.

So what significance do the 7 P’s have within adventure planning? If I look to the next few weeks of Red River’s activities, they have a very real place in ensuring that the expeditions and coaching we are delivering are run successfully and give our participants the very best experience whilst ensuring safe and effective use of resource and environment.

As a working example, I turn to an expedition being delivered in the Western Highlands of Scotland in the first week of December. Planning for this trip commenced several months ago and looked at the macro or ‘big picture’ requirements of our participants. The brief was simple; a Scottish winter canoe adventure with at least three nights under canvas which must include opportunities to solo and group sail and learn basic bushcraft skills.


The macro planning at this stage looked primarily at logistics – ensuring that the right equipment would be in the right place at the right time. Given the relative inaccuracy of long-term weather forecasts, a general environmental footprint was agreed with specific location being firmed up as more accurate weather forecasts became available.

As well as previous experience and local knowledge, good sources of information can be gathered from guide books and if venturing onto sea lochs or coastal stretches, tide times and the Admiralty Tidal Almanac are also taken into consideration.

paddle scotland

A fantastic learning resource for coastal paddling is British Canoeing’sCoastal Navigation & Tidal Planning course. Although aimed at sea kayakers, it has significant relevance to open canoeists embarking on coastal expeditions or trips and is available as a course delivered by Red River.

On the final approaches to the expedition date, more detailed planning commences and looks at aspects such as personal and group equipment; are we traveling swift and light in readiness for multiple portages or are we looking at establishing a base camp and carrying more ‘luxurious’ equipment into a static location? More detailed potential ingress and egress points as well as possible campsites (are we planning to use hammocks or tents – a hammock is of little use on a Rannoch Moor crossing!) are researched and marked up on maps and expedition plans.

emergency phone

In the week immediately prior to expedition commencement, weather interpretation becomes a major consideration and defines the final paddling location relevant to participant experience and aspiration. We will always have a Plan A and a Plan B in the event local conditions on arrival don’t match forecast conditions, particularly in more remote or coastal areas.

If you’ve enjoyed this small window into trip planning I invite you to consider attending one of our Trip Planning & Preparation courses which are run regularly throughout the year with bespoke courses available for clubs and groups with a minimum of six participants.

Upon completion, participants will be able to apply relevant aspects of trip and expedition planning allowing onward progression with confidence and a sound knowledge-base of resource information.

A great course for aspirant Canoe Leaders looking for a framework to operate well planned experiences for their guests from.

For full information about all of the courses, trips and coaching services we provide, please visit