CDT Prep Part 1: Fuel Planning

Well, at the time I am writing this, I am awaiting retirement orders from the Air Force signifying the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. This also means that I will likely have the opportunity to take a trip that I have wanted to take for a long time, the Continental Divide Trail. Here is a little bit of information regarding fuel planning and what some of my considerations are when planning.

In an airplane, fuel is the main concern for any flight. The same can be said for these overland trips and while it may not be life-or-death, I’d rather not deal with that problem.


I started the planning with a route study that involved breaking down the route into ~250 mile sections and placing waypoints on the route to easily follow the route study while on the trail. During this route study I noted every town that looked like it had a working gas station and where that town was in relation to the beginning of that particular leg of the trip. That left me with a mileage breakdown of the whole trip and the beginning of a good fuel plan.




This next part takes into account your vehicles mpg rating and the size of your tank so don’t take my numbers, they may not work for you. My jeep averages pretty good mileage on the trail and worse mileage on the highways.


Not having done this trip before, I wanted to exaggerate how bad my mileage was so that I would not even come close running out. I used a 17 gallon capacity at 15mpg to get a 255 mile range.


I planned to not have more than 250 miles between stops and I will have 10 extra gallons with me as an emergency reserve but I don’t plan on considering that as usable fuel.


FUEL PLAN-min.jpg


For the most part, there are ample fuel stops but the study proved to be very valuable. I found two instances where I would have not needed fuel but had I continued, I would not have a stop when I needed it. This means that I may have to stop to top off before going on those sections, something I would not have known had I not completed a detailed route study.


In the picture you can see that on the left, I have developed a matrix to get a quick reference distance between points so I don’t have to sit and measure it out. This will help me on the trail by telling me how far it is to the next point and whether or not I should stop for the day or continue.


On the right side of the page you can see that I have planned fuel stops and the distance from each stop to the next. I also have the distance to the next possible stop should I miss the first stop. I marked the ones in RED that I will definitely not make if I miss the first stop. That tells me to just turn around and go back and not risk it.


It also tells me that I need to top off before continuing, no matter what the gauge shows, just in case.



I know a lot of people like the idea of hopping in the vehicle and winging it but that may have gotten me in trouble on this trip. While it is a lot of prep work, I’d rather do that work sitting at my desk than trying to tell someone how to bring me more gas in the middle of nowhere. My office is much more comfortable…


As always, I’d love to hear from you guys to see how you plan and let me know if I missed something or if you think I am too conservative. I’m here to learn too!

One Comment on “CDT Prep Part 1: Fuel Planning

  1. Pingback: CDT Prep Part 2: Communication - Mission Overland

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