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Changes Backpacking Habits

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Changes Backpacking Habits

Postby maverick » Sun May 26, 2013 4:22 pm

After our fellow HST member Larry went missing last year it would be negligent
of me to not to address the following subject, saftey, before this season
gets into full swing.
I do understand the shortcomings of the current crop of safety devices available,
the cost prohibitivenss of such devices, and the attitude some have towards bringing
these devices with themselves into the backcountry (i belong into this group myself).
After having time to weigh the consequences of my action or inaction on this subject
matter, have come to the only conclusion that can be had, which is that either some
sort of device (Satphone/Spot) will be coming along on my trips or I will not deviate
at all from the route description left at home with my wife.
Besides the obvious reason, which is not wanting my loved ones to suffer the agonizing
pain of not knowing where and what happened which can go one indefinately, but
also having SAR personel risk their lives for several days, and then the emotional toll
that it has on these folk when the person is not found, something which I have learned
about firsthand in my dealings with these fantastic folks the last several months, it
would make any other decision impossible.
Has anyone here since Larry's disapperance considered or has brought any safety
devices?
Hope my opening up here on my decision to change in these regards will plant a
seed in those who have not done so as of yet, and if your on the fence hopefully this
will give you push to the side of purchasing such a device.
Last edited by maverick on Sun May 26, 2013 4:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Changed Text
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org



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Re: Changes Backpacking Habits

Postby balzaccom » Sun May 26, 2013 9:49 pm

We always hike as a couple, so we have that additonal layer of safety.

I don't think that we'll change much in our planning...but If I were to hike solo, I would certainly follow your lead on this one: The EXACT route described in the original trip plan.

And assuming I didn't get lost...
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Re: Changes Backpacking Habits

Postby oldranger » Sun May 26, 2013 11:08 pm

If you are more than a couple of miles from the trailhead another person or even a dozen other people do not provide much of a margin of safety for critical injuries or serious illness. Some kind of communication device may offer the only chance for survival. If you are at Tunemah lake with a few other people and have a serious heart attack or another acute illness, or life threatening internal injuries all the people in the world are not going to get you to medical care in time--a spot loctator or sat phone, might--there are no guarantees. But after 50 years of backpacking I have come to the conclusion that being in a group is a false sense of security and the main benefit is that someone knows where your body is. Sorry if that is a bit callous but for truely life threatening events another person has limited ability to help except to summon aid and when time is of the essence that means calling on a sat phone, or operating a spot locator or similar device.

Personally I carry one because that is the condition my wife sets for me to be off for 40 or so days a year, not for safety. But I have said this all before........

Mike
Last edited by oldranger on Mon May 27, 2013 2:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Changes Backpacking Habits

Postby giantbrookie » Mon May 27, 2013 9:41 am

My take on this is much like OR's. My habits remain the same. When it comes to safety, the biggest impact a wilderness disaster had on my thinking came back in the early 70's--the horrific Mt Ritter disaster (see thread on graves below Ritter).

I backpack with others not so much for safety but because I like to share the experience with my friends and family. I just enjoy trips more with others. I do not carry any sort of locator device or the like on my dayhikes, on which I still commonly go solo (more diffcult to get folks with me for spontaneous day hike). The one rule imposed on me by my wife is that I will not do such dayhikes with a significant off trail component.

I must confess, though, that my geology mapping missions tend to be both off trail and solo and commonly include some potential human hazards (folks guarding things they're growing in some areas; urban drama in others) in addition to the usual natural ones (slip and fall, etc.). It gives me some sense of the relative hazard of various things we face when we go outdoors. I am fairly sure that if we were to statistically analyze this (and I'll bet someone has) the highest risk activity (for any given hiking trip) is driving to and from our kickoff point, followed by hazards during the hiking operation, whose relative ranking depends on the area (in some the hazard of getting shot is higher than falling off a cliff, for example). As I have gotten older, I have tended to become more cautious in both my recreational hiking/mountaineering and geology-hiking choices, but it is also true that two of the most extreme geo-hiking missions of mine (both solo) were done within the last year or so (slip and fall was biggest hazard in both). I am still more concerned about getting t-boned by some driver running a stop sign than a field accident. Memories of all of the near misses I've had on the road (serious accidents avoided due to luck and/or quick reflexes and defensive driving) over the years serve to underscore this point.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: Changes Backpacking Habits

Postby rlown » Mon May 27, 2013 10:27 am

i guess a SAT phone or a SPOT makes sense if you are more than a party of one.

If I had a heart attack or stroke or fell into a giant talus pit, I doubt I would be able to operate a SAT phone. I doubt a helo would be there in time to assist deep in the backcountry in the golden hour.

The SPOT at least gives last known position unless you have it mounted somewhere on your pack and tracking turned on. And you're burning up to 20 mins just waiting for it to validate that maybe a message was sent.

Still think the buddy system is a good thing, and only enhanced with the comm devices if everyone knows who has it. I do not intend to get one.. yet..

Russ
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Re: Changes Backpacking Habits

Postby LMBSGV » Mon May 27, 2013 10:30 am

I’m also in agreement with oldRanger and giantbrookie. I will save oldranger’s first paragraph to show my wife in 3-5 years when she tries to tell me that continuing to go solo is not a good idea for someone over 65. When I’m not with my wife, I prefer going solo. For me, wilderness travel is not a social occasion. It is an opportunity to experience a transcendent connection with the natural world, a connection that requires solitude.

Also, I am now rather set in my ways when I travel in the backcountry. I walk at my own pace, choose camping sites based on privacy and photographic opportunities, and eat what and when I want to. Since we’ve been together over 40 years, these aren’t an issue when I’m with my wife-–we share the experience on the same level (though she writes while I wander off taking photos).

Since the SPOT resides in my camera case, I do take it with me on solo day hikes. There are some trails and fire roads around where I live where one can hike for hours and see no one. I also agree with giantbrookie that the drive to and from the trailhead poses far greater danger than backcountry travel.

I totally agree with Maverick’s initial post about how people should carry something as a comfort to their family and to assist SAR. Except for the cost, I don’t think there’s a good excuse not to. The cost has always been an issue for me since I started carrying a SPOT at my wife’s insistence when they were first introduced. But I just cut back elsewhere to pay for it since being able to go solo in the backcountry is a major priority in my life.
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Re: Changes Backpacking Habits

Postby maverick » Mon May 27, 2013 2:31 pm

Balzaccom wrote:
We always hike as a couple, so we have that additional layer of safety.


The only real safety a hiking partner can offer, besides basic first aid,
is to activate/call one of these signal devices. It is my experience that most
folks going into the backcountry have very limited training in first aid,
most have read a book or took a class years ago, and have never taken
a refresher course. Doctor friends of mine who backpack regularly take only
a somewhat beefed up first aid kit because they say that all they can do is
possibly stabilize a patient till a chopper can medevac them out if they
sustained a serious injury. If your partner has no first aid experience they
can do more harm then help. What if you sustain an injury or medical
emergency far in enough that would require your hiking partner to hike at
least a day till they can get to the car, it will not help you if your emergency
requires medical attention within a few hours to survive. Plus having
a person there brings comfort to the injured party and if they know what
their doing can prevent shock from setting in which could again save your life.
What happens if you have a mild heart attack at night or early morning (when
most folks suffer heart attacks), is you partner going to try to get help in the dark.
Your partner then becomes a solo hiker once they go for help and can get injured
in their zeal to get you help.
Would not want to put a hiking partner, even worse my wife, in a situation
where my life depends on them hiking out several miles over rough terrain,
jeopardizing their own life, because of my unwillingness to carry such device
which would have prevented them from having hike out to start with, and
increased my chances in surviving.
I do not want SAR to risk their well being during a search for me because of not
having one and definitely would not want to put my wife or friends through it.
Last edited by maverick on Mon May 27, 2013 3:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Text added
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Changes Backpacking Habits

Postby Baffman » Mon May 27, 2013 4:40 pm

I have used a Spot for several years now and don't leave for the hills without it. I carry it for multiple reasons that I don't need to carry on about. I will continue to carry it and would go with a sat phone if the cost wasn't prohibitive. My family loves the tracking feature so I'd have to carry both!

I will tell you all that I had this same conversation (via private message) with the one and only Larry Conn. He obviously chose against it or hadn't decided yet. I and everyone who cares about his life and his location must wish he had gone with one.

If not for yourself, carry it for others.
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Re: Changes Backpacking Habits

Postby balzaccom » Mon May 27, 2013 7:16 pm

Point taken about my wife being able to save me if I have a massive coronary (or vice versa) but at this point we tend to think more in terms of trauma, primarily a bad leg injury that would prevent one of us from hiking out.

And there is at least one element that a second person always brings to a trip--a second opinion about safety. We do tend to talk each other out of things that I might have done on my own...and I don't think that's unusual for married couples.

I don't think we're sold yet on the idea of taking a SPOT on every trip, though. Maybe as we get older, that will seem to make more sense to us...
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Re: Changes Backpacking Habits

Postby Jimr » Mon May 27, 2013 7:45 pm

My habits will change. After my own adventure last year, I promise my wife I would secure more life insurance and start bringing a spot device. It goes against my nature, but it is not just me that I must think about. After 20 years of my wife having an emergency plan in place for each and every hike, having to execute the plan was traumatic for her.

I have now secured more life insurance and will be in the market for some kind of spot/locator device, then I need new boots because I no longer have any, then I'm set for more Sierra adventures next year,,,with my son.

There is absolutely no way to cover any and every calamity that may raise it's ugly head while away from civilization, but that is no argument against being better prepared for the many that are less than completely debilitating.

It's all a personal decision based on our level of risk and the people we hold dear to us. I did much more solo stuff when I was young and single. With a wife who is a homemaker and two teenage kids, my responsibilities have compounded, so in spite of my preferences, I am willing to take a few extra steps in case of emergency.
What?!
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Re: Changes Backpacking Habits

Postby rlown » Mon May 27, 2013 7:55 pm

all really nice sentiment. some observations. Helicopters do not fly at night so you're down for that period. If you're solo, and you fall into a talus hole, you might not reach your sat phone or SPOT.

I love the solo spirit, and also appreciate Balzaccom's input on discussing it with a co-hiker.

I'll stick to the buddy system. We actually discuss scenarios before a trip every year. I bring it up. Stabilize. And go (or call, i guess) Think late in the day when you're tired and fall into a hole. There's a lot of work there, and the Sun just went down (yes this is how i think it happens),, and you cant reach your phone or plb, but your friend can, and calls/activates.. now it's dusk and no helo as they aren't allowed to launch until morning and maybe a storm coming in.

Get trained in stabilizing your partner. It's gonna be a long night regardless of your technology.
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Re: Changes Backpacking Habits

Postby sparky » Tue May 28, 2013 9:25 am

My family is used to my antics. My significant other and her family is a different story. I will be getting a PLB when we can afford it. Until then I will have to stick to my planned routes. Larrys situation was the main influence to this decision.
There is a million ways to be human, all are worthwhile.

True happiness is the absence of striving for happiness.
-Chuang Tzu.
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