Ramble On

Friday, November 13, 2009

Tech-watch geek: Outside Magazine's Survival Issue

Last month in Tech-watch geek I wrote about some hikers who had taken on a Grand Canyon hike that was over their heads with no more preparation than buying some gear, including one of those GPS beacons, like the Spot Messenger. The full post is here: http://hawksbillcabin.blogspot.com/2009/10/tech-watch-geek-those-gps-trek-tools.html.

At the time, I had not seen a review in Outside magazine - there is an update in this month's issue, which carries the "Survival" theme. Outside confirms it is a fan, and highlights a "350 rescues in 51 countries" history, in a review of the second-gen tool. Improvements include a safety cover on the "get me outta here" button. (The image will take you to the Amazon page for the gen-one version, where the 80+ reviews of the product are mandatory reading if you are in the market for one of these).
There are two additional compelling articles in the magazine this month - the first, a case study, "Anatomy of a Rescue" tells of a snowshoe outing in the back country near Santa Fe, where an experienced social worker got lost on one of her favorite trails and wasn't found for three days. This article includes a lot of helpful tips - carrying a headlamp, for example (which Chris and I - and our other hiking friends who set out on the moderate day hikes with us - now require as part of our preparation); staying on known trails; and sending text messages on your cell phone, since less signal is required and the messages are more likely to transmit than calls.
A second item in the magazine is "The New Rules for Survival" - which talks about the trend for charging for rescues. States such as Oregon, California, Hawaii, Maine, Colorado, Idaho, Vermont and New Hampshire charge the rescued. The Outside article discusses an example in New Hampshire where the charge was $25K for a rescue - and that in that state, the amounts can be arbitrary, difficult to fight, and will hold up in court if there is any hint of "negligence" - and taking a short cut justifies this. Most of the other states have charges, such as Colorado's $300.
While the article concludes that knowing about these charges will mean that people are more afraid to call for help, so there is the risk of delayed rescue, more serious injury, and a more complicated rescue operation, the true moral of the story is that even in the Northern Virginia region we need to go out prepared for the adventure we've planned.
It's true that many times you can find cell coverage up in the Shenandoah National Park, but more often it is spotty. As they'll tell you on Old Rag Patrols (http://oldragpatrolsbyrsl-blook.blogspot.com/) even there, in sight of civilization, a rescue will generally take at least four hours (a special shout out to these volunteers, by the way, that is awesome work they are doing). So if you're doing anything more than the easiest of day hikes some minimal preparation will be required.
I can't put my hands on some advice resources about what to pack this morning, so I'll do some more research for a few recommendations. The easy ones that come to mind are a basic first aid kit, head lamps, and water to spare. And oh yeah, leaving your itinerary with someone, with expected ETAs. I'll get back to this topic over the next few weeks.

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