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How to write a trip report

Writing is an adventure

Have you experienced a seafaring journey in a long, skinny boat? Well, we’d love to hear about it! Writing a trip report about your kayak trip, whether it’s two days, two weeks, or two months, solo, or with other kindred spirits, not only lets you share your experience with others, but also entices readers to get out there and try it themselves. You don’t need to be a skilled writer, and your trip needn’t have been a near-death experience. A trip report can be short and sweet, or deep and heady. It’s your call—the most important thing is that it’s true, and it’s fun for you to do! 

Writing can be intimidating to some folks, so below are some tips to tuck up your soggy sleeves and spin a seafaring yarn for BCMT’s Coastal Café.

Embrace the Five Ws of reporting: Who, What, When, Where, and Why

Who were the paddlers?

What did you experience?

When did you go?

Where did you go?

Why did you chose this particular journey?

Having a background in journalism, I tend to approach my trips with the five Ws in the back of my mind before, during, and after. During the trip, I’m thinking how can I best document this experience to share with others?  To more efficiently do that, I like to have at my wet fingertips a few items. 

  • I keep a waterproof notebook, such as Rite in the Rain handy.
  • A voice memo app is helpful for those in-the -moment moments.
  • Taking photos can help tremendously with a trip report.

Not only will photos show readers what you saw, but to also bring you back to a specific place/feeling/memory to more easily recount it to others. So be sure to have a camera at the ready (ideally waterproof)

I reached out to Philip Torrens, BCMT member and kayak blogger extraordinaire for some input on this topic. Here are his words of wisdom

The best advice I would give to would-be raconteurs is to keep a journal, and write it up at least once a day. In the moment, you swear you're never going to forget a particular event or detail, but then you're distracted by the next wonderful or urgent thing. I've got journals from as far back as 1987. Reading them and being reminded of details I had in fact forgotten unlocks a flood of memories and puts me right back in the moment. Without a journal, you only get to take each trip once; with a journal, you can experience every trip over and over again.

Combine the Five Ws with a fun narrative

This is about balancing information and creativity. While providing practical information, infuse creativity into your writing to make it enjoyable and memorable. Craft a compelling narrative by weaving personal anecdotes with vivid descriptions, allowing readers to vicariously share your adventures and start planning their own (and write a trip report!) Philip used the word raconteur—I absolutely LOVE this word and the following description nails what this noun means.

Unlike a historian or journalist who is bound to facts and evidence, the raconteur instead is a master artist who concentrates on the aesthetics of the story and the emotions it evokes in the listener. To hear a raconteur tell a story is like listening to a virtuoso musician skillfully playing with tempo and dynamics.

With that in mind, paint a vivid picture with your words. Instead of saying “beautiful beach,” describe the powdery white sand, emerald green waters, and the creaky limbs of the Sitka spruce swaying high above you. (or, perhaps more likely, the incessant buzz of the mosquitoes and the non-stop rain pelting your tent.)

Inject your voice into the writing, sharing your perspective and emotions. Humour is great, too!

Keep in mind what paddlers want to know: where did you camp, what’s the access like, what are the dangers/exposure/currents, highlights, time of year, length of trip, miles covered, skill necessary, etc. Include practical tips, points of interest, crux moves, crossings, wildlife encountered, weather, camp recipes, whatever floats your boat.

Include Resources

What did you use to plan the trip? Consider listing charts, guide books, adventure books, online resources, other blog reports, etc.

A tracking device, if you used one, can provide detailed information such as waypoints, exact time you transited a specific area, distance from one waypoint to the next, and so forth.

What gear makes your trip more comfortable? As an EXPED ambassador, I love to share the benefits of their quality paddling and camping gear.

books and charts

Include Visuals

sunset photos with trees and islands
map with route

Enhance your trip report with images, videos, or maps to supplement your words and provide a more immersive experience for paddlers. People love to see photos of your adventures! Decide if you want to tell your story chronological or thematic and include lots of photos to bring people along on your journey. Visuals can give your trip report a focal point and keep it propped up, like the pole at the center of a tent.

A map of the route you paddled is always helpful. This can be as simple as drawing in your route on a chart and taking a photo of it, using a screen shot from a digital source, or exporting your waypoints from a tracking device if you used one (such as inReach or SPOT) and importing that image into your article.

We are keen on trip reports from trips you’ve done in the past, but if you’ve had a recent adventure, chain yourself to your computer and get this information out while it’s still fresh—when there’s still dirt under your nails, salt encrusted in your hair, and sand in all your orifices. Write it up, then let it breathe, like a good bottle of wine, for a day or two. Return to it when you’re fresh, then edit and revise if necessary. Then send it in to and the editors at BCMT will work their magic with it and make it live on the Coastal Café.

Above all, have FUN with the story!

Check out these examples of well-done trip reports:

Some photos I’ve used in past trip reports

Need Inspiration? Read about my adventures

Inside—One Woman’s Journey Through the Inside Passage, a five-time award-winning memoir

Wildly Inside—A Visual Journey Through the Inside Passage, a photo book featuring the places, spaces, and faces of the Inside Passage

Inside My Sea of Dreams—The Adventures of Kami and Suz, a children’s book based on the true story of her memoir.

Susan Conrad

Susan Conrad is an author, adventurer, and EXPED ambassador who has paddled extensively throughout the Salish Sea—and beyond. Her primary passion is long-distance sea kayaking adventures and her all-time favorite place to experience that is the Inside Passage. She's completed two approximately 1,200-mile solo through-paddles from Washington State to SE Alaska and has authored three books about those adventures. Inside—One Woman’s Journey Through the Inside Passage, a five-time award-winning memoir; Wildly Inside—A Visual Journey Through the Inside Passage, a photo book featuring the places, spaces, and faces of the Inside Passage; and Inside My Sea of Dreams—The Adventures of Kami and Suz, a children's book based on the true story of her memoir. She’s also contributed to Sea Kayaker, Canoe and Kayak, Adventures Northwest, Harbor, and Figure magazines. Countless newspapers, guidebooks, and historical journals also feature her work.

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