try to avoid disturbing your family back home

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bobby49
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Re: try to avoid disturbing your family back home

Post by bobby49 » Wed Aug 01, 2018 10:41 pm

I have an inReach that I've used for several years now, so I've learned how to make it get good quick results. That results in me sending out a single "I'm OK" preset message every evening when I make camp, and it happens so quickly that it doesn't really drain the battery that much. I'll typically come home from five or six days and the battery charge is still at 96% or 97% full. There are other ways of using it and it drains the battery faster. Then when you really break your leg and really need the thing, you might have a semi-dead battery.








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BigMan
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Re: try to avoid disturbing your family back home

Post by BigMan » Thu Aug 02, 2018 9:00 am

mrphil wrote:I get alleviating worry and all, but let's say for a minute that you're planning to be out for 10 days. You've sent an "I'm OK" text for the first eight of them, then on the ninth, your batteries die/you're in a deep canyon/under heavy canopy/leave it on a rock... with no signal to be sent or received...Do eight days of comforting moments then get replaced with two more days of staggering panic because the established norm has gone out the window? You're otherwise fine, but a technical glitch or reliability issue (which is part and parcel to most devices with two-way communication capabilities) begins a situation where fear of something far more serious (worse case scenario) is then expected, and SAR teams are dispatched and potentially placed in unnecessary danger, and resources that could've or should've been better expended elsewhere are deployed on a "false alarm" when they didn't need to be. All because of a misunderstanding that was based, first on fear, followed closely by an overreaction to it. Lessers of evils? Realistic and rational scenarios aren't usually what an already worried mind will create and run with.

We hear way too many stories about the regular communication expectations of family members not being met and triggering SAR incidents needlessly. For example: Maverick recently posted a SAR report for a 70 year old PCT hiker. Not hearing from him for several days (as was the expected norm) after he resupplied in Bishop, his family became concerned and notified the authorities. They issued an inquiry and probably some sort of initial search. Herr Vitt was thankfully not in trouble, and who knows what happened with his comms falling off, but he was found absolutely booking it up by Burney Falls. So, what was the real problem that needed responding to?
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I've never heard of an instance where SAR responded due to a 1-2 day break in communication from a sat-based device. Until then, it's not a possible scenario to consider. Spot failed to trasmit for 2-3 days in August 2014. My wife was worried, yes, but "staggering panic"? No. And despite that incident, she still wants me carrying a device. She very much has a say in my decision.

Maverick posted the thread about Mr. Vitt 12 days after he was expected to be at Red's Meadow. I assume that Mr. Vitt told someone he'd check in with them when he got there. Not sure what this has to do with the decision to carry a PLB.

When I'm 70, and my family doesn't hear from me for 12 days after they expect to, I hope they contact the Ranger.

We often see stories of hikers missing for several days, but nobody knew they were missing because they didn't tell anyone where they were going and when they were expected to return. Searches sometimes begin only after authorities see the same parked several times, collecting dust. By then it's often too late.

There's a balance, and it's a personal decision. I just don't see how these scenarios are relevant to that decision.
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Re: try to avoid disturbing your family back home

Post by Cycleboy » Thu Aug 02, 2018 10:14 am

As I said previously, we initially got the InReach so my dad could be kept up to date on the declining condition of his mother, in the event he needed to exit the trip early and head home.

We had it come in very handy once when we decided to exit early due to bad weather. Texted family when we hit the trail and asked them to alter accommodations back in Bishop so we'd have a place to stay. Was that required? No, but it sure was nice to not have to drive 6 hours home after hiking and have to pay for rooms we didn't use.

It let us down once as I mentioned when my friend borrowed it and stopped sending points one day due to him not turning it on because of AMS. It didn't cause anything other than some worry by his wife and a little from me.

So we don't rely on it 100%, but it is an aid. These last couple of years my wife is with me in the backcountry and it is my parents and our kids who like a little reassuring message that we are ok. They also know not to worry if we don't check in, as long as we aren't overdue per our trip plan.

To the point about it being "several pounds of gear", the InReach is under 8 ounces.

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Re: try to avoid disturbing your family back home

Post by mrphil » Thu Aug 02, 2018 10:46 am

BigMan wrote: There's a balance, and it's a personal decision. I just don't see how these scenarios are relevant to that decision.
It most certainly is a personal decision, and for whatever the reason, I respect that right.

As I've said, I also carry a PLB in case of dire emergency. It hopefully increases my odds of rescue and survival. If that type of technology is available, I would almost feel foolish for not employing it to my advantage, if possible. However, I think for a lot of people, it becomes a matter of dependency and offers a false sense of security on the part of the user, as well as establishing a set of expectations on the part of loved ones for the user to remain in regular contact. I think those are both very dangerous propositions. On one hand, it is a rescue tool that serves both sides of the equation, especially the user. But on the other, the part that caters to assuaging fears of others (ie: text), these are increasingly becoming ways in which to capitalize on fear, hence, the high costs of annual subscriptions. Trading on fear always sells. We're backpacking in the wilderness. Certainly some will get into trouble and need assistance. But if the new, fully connected and expected norm is knowing what someone is doing and where they are on a constant basis, we might as well go to a nice, safe, sanitized resort or never leave home because, let's face it, the wilderness is just too scary and uncertain.

And while I also respect and understand the need to keep partners happy and secure, modern convenience aside, I have to ask, if they get anything other than that "I'm okay" text, what are they going to do about it that sending an immediate distress signal to a satellite with our coordinates isn't going to do better?

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Re: try to avoid disturbing your family back home

Post by rightstar76 » Thu Aug 02, 2018 11:13 am

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Last edited by rightstar76 on Wed Aug 14, 2019 3:32 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: try to avoid disturbing your family back home

Post by bobby49 » Thu Aug 02, 2018 11:42 am

Cycleboy wrote: To the point about it being "several pounds of gear", the InReach is under 8 ounces.
Mine, in a rainproof and padded bag, weighs 7 ounces.

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Re: try to avoid disturbing your family back home

Post by maverick » Thu Aug 02, 2018 3:16 pm

In a lot of cases, electronic makes a difference, in fewer cases, they can cause confusion. Having a sit down discussion with the prime contact person at home, the one making the level headed decision, on what and when to contact authorize is imperative for any clear cut communications and avoiding any confusions.

Here is an incident that spotlights the importance of having a contact person, who is aware of your itinerary and will contact authorities if you do not check in by the date and time agreed upon, this of course is before any of the more popular emergency locator devices, which are now available and/or more affordable:

A solo hiker from the UK (1989) who got off trail near Cloud's Rest, fell 30 feet, broke his femur, and lay there for 14 days before crawling back up the cliff to the trail (a seven hour epic). He was found by other hikers immediately, of course. He was on a three-day loop through Little Yosemite Valley. SAR never had a missing person report, possibly because his family in England got a postcard every few weeks and may have had no idea of his plan. He survived because the weather was warm, he had his back, food, sleeping bag, etc., and most important, he was able to crawl to a trickle of water and get about 1 liter per day. He tried signalling, unsuccessfully.
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Re: try to avoid disturbing your family back home

Post by paul » Thu Aug 02, 2018 11:02 pm

It's a very complicated thing, as I see it. My own personal preference is the oldest school possible. I would rather not take anything, and I would go (as I always did before these things existed) with the attitude that I am going to have to get myself out of there no matter what, and no one is coming to help me no matter what. In the extreme case that I would find myself unable to reach help or help myself, that would be it and at least I would have died doing something I loved to do. I am completely serious here, and do not say this without having thought about it seriously. I did not, in the old days, consider the idea that I would be putting rescuers at risk, since I had no intention of ever calling rescuers, and always assumed i was on my own or that if I was not alone my buddies would help me.
However, things change. I now carry a PLB, because my wife wants me to. I do not want a check-in feature, having been on a trip with someone who had that and experienced the issues of what happens when the messages you believe you are sending are in fact not going through. I have convinced my wife that the PLB is enough, and she is aware that I will not use it unless it is a question of survival. As long as I can move under my own power that is what I would do.
Of course I also realize that the PLB may fail, or I may be incapacitated to the point where I cannot activate it - unconscious, or otherwise. So nothing is a guarantee of safety or rescue. The "crumb" feature can fail, as has already been discussed.
The argument of carrying a tracking device for the sake of SAR safety has some merit, but again it relies on the performance of the device. My preference would be the ability to check a box on the wilderness permit that says "do not rescue" just like I can have an Advance Medical Directive that says " do not resuscitate". That way i truly avoid risk to SAR personnel. I am willing to take responsibility for my safety, and for my mistakes. Of course I can't do that, and so I leave my itinerary with my wife with instructions not to do anything until I am a couple days late.
I realize this sounds rather harsh, and I do not really expect anyone to agree with me on that part, but it is the way I feel. I sure as hell do not want a bunch of good people risking their own safety trying to find me and rescue me. I know what I'm getting into when I take to the mountains; I know there are risks. I also know the most dangerous part of the trip is the drive to the trailhead.
What concerns me is the trend that seems to exist toward people thinking that they can be assured of safety , or rescue, no matter where they go or what they do, as long as they have the right device or gear. It just ain't so. There is no guarantee. This is happening in the skiing world also, as more backcountry skiers seem to think they are safe just because they are carrying avalanche gear, and so they go out when the conditions are just not safe.That beacon and shovel do not prevent a thing.
Ok, rant over. We now return to our regular discussion.

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Re: try to avoid disturbing your family back home

Post by bobby49 » Thu Aug 02, 2018 11:14 pm

mrphil wrote:
And while I also respect and understand the need to keep partners happy and secure, modern convenience aside, I have to ask, if they get anything other than that "I'm okay" text, what are they going to do about it that sending an immediate distress signal to a satellite with our coordinates isn't going to do better?
I don't think that you understand. The receiving party can react to a routine message. For example, you might have an understanding that you would be home by 6 p.m. Then some ordinary trail event happened. Now you might send another routine message like "I won't be home until 9 p.m., so don't hold up dinner for me."

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Re: try to avoid disturbing your family back home

Post by mrphil » Fri Aug 03, 2018 5:43 am

bobby49 wrote: I don't think that you understand. The receiving party can react to a routine message. For example, you might have an understanding that you would be home by 6 p.m. Then some ordinary trail event happened. Now you might send another routine message like "I won't be home until 9 p.m., so don't hold up dinner for me."
I do get that part of the benefits of a 2-way device. That was the 'modern convenience' aspect of it I was talking about. I try not to cut things as close on time as 6pm..."don't hold dinner for me". If I'm at that point in my trip, I'm probably in the front country and can just use my cell phone to send a message like that. If not, oh well, I'll eat a cold dinner. When I'm out, I don't want to hear from anybody, check-in with anybody, or end up engaged in the inevitably mundane 30 text exchanges that my girlfriend and family find it impossible to help themselves avoid. My experience in this is daily at home, on top of having seen it when I've carried a sat phone in the past. Nobody cares about my time or that I'm sitting on a rock, exhausted, and still have to pump my water before I eat when they think it's critical to tell me that the cat threw up in the living room, or how they got their oil changed this afternoon, at $3 a minute. They don't get it, and could care less. In spite of my protests, they have ZERO perspective on this. They have an open channel to reach me, and By God, they're going to use it for whatever they think is necessary. My choice comes down to taking that luxury away from them, completely. My electronics live in my pack's lid. I want one and done, but that's not how that works out, so I have to stop, get it all back out, or hear about it later. It's just easier to say, "I'll be back __________. Emailed you my itinerary and emergency numbers. Call you when I can. Love you. Bye."

Just like others, I have my own preferences, and that is to carry a device solely for rescue purposes. I like the idea of 406 MHz of reliable transmitting power, straight to COPAS/SARSAT, exact coordinates, best chance of a helicopter over my head within a hour or so, and re-register for free every couple years, all with no middle man. To me, that's what rescue should be, and only needs to be, not $50 a month to Iridium so that I can chat about nothing, or send home daily reports of what should otherwise be obvious. I'll let NOAA make the calls for me, if and when the time to make them comes. I don't get why everyone's mind needs to go to dark places when they don't hear that "I'm okay". Assume that I am until you hear otherwise. Christ almighty!, I'm friggin backpacking. In that, I don't want to be connected and available...that's what I'm doing here to begin with.

Oh, and with my weight reference, let's just say that I have an InReach Mini, which then leads to needing to interface with my cell phone for typing and using most of the advanced functions, which then probably leads to my fam encouraging me to just go ahead and carry a sat phone for all those really important conversations...so yeah, it's a couple pounds by the time that all happens.

Now my rant is over...for now. :-({|=

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