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by Staff | 2009-04-30 10:04:00-06


UPDATE 5/2/09 4:07 PM:


: Ken Knight
Height: 5'4"
Weight: 180-200 lb
Point Last Seen: Punchbowl Mountain on the Appalachian Trail in VA
Time Last Seen: Sunday, April 26, 9:00 - 10:00 a.m.
Unique Characteristics: wearing a dry-bag style backpack with a bright orange packbag, hiker is vision-impaired.

If you have info, please contact us:

Photo above taken Wednesday, April 22 on the Appalachian Trail.


"*** ALERT *** APPALACHIAN TRAIL HIKER FOUND!," by Staff. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2009-04-30 10:04:00-06.


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Ron Hedlund
(papamuskrat) - F
Re: GPS on 05/09/2009 04:32:17 MDT Print View

I was using a Garmin Colorado 400t GPS while searching for Ken. We were under some heavy cover on AT and on side trails. Never once did I even have a weak signal, let alone no signal. That thing is awesome. Great mapping software and good display. Just wish the coordinate numbers displayed in a larger font. Yes, battery life could be better. It improved with the software update last year.

Re: the iphone. I had one along as well. The battery life sucks. Did have occasional reception, but very sparse. None near where Ken was found. But it has an airplane feature that improves battery life by eliminating the search mode for a signal when you are out of range. there are also battery boosters available (essentially an external spare battery).

Many of these techno items (GPS) are less meaningful in a limited sight capability setting.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: GPS on 05/09/2009 06:42:49 MDT Print View

@papamuskrat et al.,

We had a 400t in our group as well, and we had no problems under heavy cover. We were using it to track our sweep searches. Pretty cool, being able to have a high level of confidence that we were covering densely vegetated areas thoroughly by looking at the GPS tracks.

We had awful luck communicating with an iPhone, even up on the divide. I had a Verizon phone (Blackberry) and we'd use that to communicate to base via SMS when we couldn't reach it by radio. It was very reliable. We were also able to exchange photos (at one point we were emailed a photo of the sole pattern of one of Ken's possible boots during a tracking task).

P. P.
(toesnorth) - F

Locale: PNW
Re 400t on 05/09/2009 09:30:14 MDT Print View

Since this thread has branched out a bit, I'm going to jump in with a couple of thoughts. {I have so few ;-)}
It looks like I'm going to have to get a new GPS if the 400t is performing that well in dense cover. I only found one review on BPL. Any others out there?

I was thinking about comments some made about Ken being financially responsible for his rescue. I know in some places and in some circumstances this happens.
I was in a nasty auto accident in the middle of the night once upon a time but had the 'good fortune' to crash across from a fire station. My car had caught fire after the crash and I was unconscious. I would have died before help arrived had rescue not been so close. They heard me crash.
They were not volunteers, but paid firefighters. They saved my life. They did not present a bill, even though I was at fault for driving while tired and falling asleep at the wheel. I have been giving a donation to firefighters every year since.
I carry a PLB with built-in GPS with me on all hikes. I am often in areas where the trails are overgrown or non-existent. If something happens, I want to make it as easy as possible to find my location. That helps me AND my rescuers. Yes, it is HEAVY, really heavy, but worth it for my family's greater peace of mind and, to a degree, mine.

I've been out there for over 40 years and I like to think that experience might help keep me safe but you just never know..............

Robert Speik
SPOT Personal Messenger might have facilitated Ken's rescue on 05/09/2009 16:08:38 MDT Print View

Hello Greg-
You posted:
"Regarding SPOT, as recently as November on a Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim run (not by me), only 30 out of 198 tracking signals were successful and only 9 out of 33 OK signals were successful. This was a Bright Angel/Tonto run, with a fairly large exposure to the sky."

Greg, the following is from one of 82 comments published on the REI website, under SPOT "reader reviews".

"I backpack the Grand Canyon twice a year, and recently read about a local hiker who injured his ankle in the Canyon and was successfully evacuated by helicopter in two hours after using his SPOT (his companions hiked up to a ridge before activating it)." While this respondent did not like his SPOT for use in the Grand Canyon, 55 of 82 user reviews were positive.

Greg, since the example of SPOT non-performance you noted was from a running race in the Grand Canyon, please note that it is very unlikely enough time was used to send any of the messages. It is very likely that the SPOT was used incorrectly

The following is how the SPOT can be used effectively. Remember, if you are stranded, Greg, you may have lots of time to use it properly. You are not in a race.

Greg and others, the following might be helpful:


People standing around the unit, hooking it on your belt or placing it standing upright next to a boulder may also block the line of site of the electronic signal. This is not a "design fault".

GPS receivers, for best results, must be standing up straight with the the users hand clear of the top and at the lower part of the unit and with no people hovering over and around it in order to see what is going on.

To re-state it, SPOT is best at connecting with the DOD GPS satellites and to the satellite phone communications satellites when it is comfortable lying on its back for a few minutes with the label up. The antenna needs to see the entire sky and not just half or less off to one side. This is kind of explained in the booklet packed with the unit. I have checked this information with SPOT Customer Service and I have heard this explained by a SPOT distributor. Clip the SPOT to the top of your summer day pack or take a rest and give it too, a chance to get comfortable on its back on a rock.

My wife and I are Federally licensed General Class Ham Radio Operators and we have studied the way "antennas" work. They are directional, and that is why the GPS and the SPOT must be oriented correctly. This is not a design fault. I agree with some that the SPOT User Guide should be more clear. I agree that the nice big belt clip should be removed by the operator. Place the SPOT in the top pocket of your day pack (yes, on top of the extra hat, gloves and ClifBars). Or turn it on when you stop for lunch, camp or a 15 minute break.

Some folks expressed concern because their Spot did not report their possition 100 percent of the time. I will bet their SPOTS were clipped on belt or pack and not HAPPY.

One person described how he got a good contact when he laid the SPOT (flat) on the hood of his car. And another described how his balky unit was oriented: . . ."keep spot upright . . . "

An important improvement of SPOT over PLBs is its ability to "real-life test" the communication system where the user actually hikes, hunts, sleds, climbs and wanders. Try it out in slot canyons, under heavy wet tree cover, in a snow storm, on the PCT or the AT, where ever you personally play. If the user programmed message "Hello, I am exactly here and I am having fun" gets through, so will the message "911 Rescue Services are on the way, but don't worry Honey" on another less happy day.

The traditional PLB cannot be tested for whether the signal has actually been sent and received without triggering a Search. PLB users can be fined big bucks for sending a false alarm.

Edited by trad_guy on 05/11/2009 10:11:13 MDT.

Robert Speik
Re: Re 400t on 05/09/2009 17:23:50 MDT Print View

Hello Ron, Ryan and PP-
The Garmin line of personal GPS receivers seems to have cornered the market. I use only Garmin GPS receivers, so I am a fan, too.

The least expensive new Garmin is the eTrex H, available everywhere for about $100. The only step up I suggest is the eTrex Venture HC, often available for about $175.

The Venture HC has the latest "H" antenna system so it provides the same speed and accuracy as all the many more expensive new Garmin models. It is packaged with a USB cable to your computer; the eTrex H does not come with a USB cable. I actually like the color screen ;-))

Why pay more for the same fast accurate UTM NAD 27 coordinates? Use it with a USGS Quad topo map or equal (1:24,000 with the UTM grid and elevation lines at 20 to 40 feet).

For long haul truckers: buy trail map trip ticks with waypoints in UTM coordinates and print your own 8.5 by 11 maps to your resupply points off the trail.

Kendall Clement
(socalpacker) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: @ Lorraine Pace on 05/10/2009 00:33:02 MDT Print View

Lorraine Pace -

>But who knew that being legally blind was a get out of jail free card?<

Wow... That is just mind-numbingly ignorant. I thought I was done with this thread, but I have to add my two cents. Your post is one of the most cruel and insensitive comments I have ever heard. And, I have heard and been the target of MANY cruel, insensittive and simply brutal insults... It almost leaves me speechless.

Edited by socalpacker on 05/10/2009 00:43:14 MDT.

Kendall Clement
(socalpacker) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: GPS on 05/10/2009 00:56:29 MDT Print View

Ryan and GPS Users,

Thank you for your insights regarding GPS units. I too have been considering getting one for the same reasons as P.P. I'd like it just as a back-up since I'm alone most of the time and I wouldn't want to be lost several days. Also, Ryan I appreciate your article regarding the Garmin Oregon 550t as well as your comments about the Geko. I don't want to spend $500 to $600. As you guys have mentioned I would just like to have the added security and peace of mind.

Edited by socalpacker on 05/10/2009 14:11:29 MDT.

Robert Speik
Re: Traditions, GPS, SPOT, Common Cells, SAR reimbursement and more on 05/11/2009 21:05:48 MDT Print View

Hello Ken-
We await your trip report with anticipation. We hope you will help your many friends learn from your experience.

This thread seems to be winding down and the "Learning from Ken's Ordeal" thread in Philosophy and Technique has attracted only two pages of comments. I will try to sum up my comments in this post.

Paul Haan summed up my comments on the failure of your group's leaders to do their traditional duty and sweep you along. Or, perhaps they offered, but you said no, "I am not part of your group and I will go my own way. You are not responsible for me in any way." Paul Haan summed these traditional obligation of leaders and organizers more completely than I and no one objected to his local words.

A GPS has become almost mandatory for backcountry travelers in recent months. The advent of the $100 Garmin eTrex H and the $170 Garmin eTrex Venture HC make "staying found with map compass and GPS" as affordable as $136 to $206. Both are equally accurate as the high priced models with unnecessary magnetic compasses that turn off as soon as you start moving and barometric altimeters that need constant adjustment to the newly accurate geometric altitude reported on all GPS models.

It is too bad that all of the GPS units mentioned in this post cost $600 and more. No wonder that folks don't need a GPS - at $600 and up, I might not need one either. No one mentioned having $6 Quad maps (or equal) with the UTM coordinate grid in NAD 27. PC maps cost $99 for all 1,900 maps in Oregon, for example. The "best compass for backcountry and mountaineering" is the clear base plate, declination adjustable Suunto M3 costing about $30.

The small SPOT Satellite Messenger costs just $149 plus the annual satellite telephone service. If used with care, it can call 911 and take the Search out of Search and Rescue.

People use their common digital cell phones every day to call for help. Take it along and save the batteries. Don't believe the naysayers. They aren't heavy!

Lastly, don't fall for the propaganda of Conservative talk show hosts like Bill O'Reily and Rush Limbaugh who demand that Mt Hood and Mt Rainier should be closed down for the winter to save the expense of rescuing the fools who risk their lives climbing to the summit.

Each State has laws governing reimbursement for SAR services. In Oregon, the maximum charge is $500 per person if laws were broken or reasonable care was not taken. ". . . evidence of reasonable care includes:
(a) The individuals possessed experience and used equipment that was appropriate for the known conditions of weather and terrain.
(b) The individuals used or attempted to use locating devices or cellular telephones when appropriate.
(c) The individuals notified responsible persons or organizations of the expected time of departure and the expected time of return and the planned location or route of activity.
(d) The individuals had maps and orienteering equipment and used trails or other routes that were appropriate for the conditions.

The elected County Sheriff responsible for SAR can declare that the "individual did nothing wrong" even if the individuals failed to do everything required by Statue such as carrying a cell phone. Goverment agancies seldom charge for rescue services.

"He who knows naught, knows not that he knows naught."

"Hiking the hills and scaling peaks have risks that are hidden to the uninformed and in part, these risks can be mitigated by opening the mind to learning the traditions, current skills, the use of great gear and from the experiences of others.

This knowledge can be learned from wonderful books such as Mountaineering, the Freedom of the Hills, from the world wide web and by the mentoring of others. Classes given by volunteers and offered by the major Outdoor Clubs of the world are a wonderful way to gain knowledge and meet informed companions.

I hope that posters will use as much thought as I have in commenting on this post. Please emulate the sweetness of Kendall Clement. I am new to this web and have nothing to gain from posting here.

A friend who has been a member of BackpackingLight for four years, emailed me with an apology for some of the posted replies I have received.

I can tell you that I was given a complementary subscription by BackpackingLight, so I am trying to pay my dues in this way. My posts require a lot more work than one line zingers.

Edited by trad_guy on 05/11/2009 21:21:34 MDT.

Ashley Brown
(ashleyb) - F
cheap, light GPSs... Easy Showily vs eTrex H on 05/11/2009 21:26:23 MDT Print View

Hey Robert,

I'd agree with your comments on GPS units. Can't understand why someone in Ken's position wouldn't have one. I suspect he may be taking one on future trips. I'm sure he could have got himself back on the trail if he'd had one.

Having said that, I don't own a GPS unit. But I've considering the eTrex H.

I'd be interested in your, or others, comments on the "Easy Showily" unit. Here are the specs. I'm sure this unit is no where near as sensitive as the eTrex H but it is a whole lot lighter, and has a very nifty functionality that lets you just plug it into your computer when you get home to automatically display all your waypoints on google maps.

Anyway, I'm interested in how well this unit might actually work for giving coordinates in the field.

Cheers, A

ps. Andrew Skurka seemed very satisfied with the performance of his SPOT in Iceland, although I guess there was very little tree cover (if any). But it was out in the middle of nowhere.

Edited by ashleyb on 05/11/2009 21:27:44 MDT.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Affordable PLB on 05/11/2009 21:49:42 MDT Print View

Until SPOT sorts out the bugs, a PLB is the more conservative and far more dependable option for soloists. No check-in functions, but more robust, trustworthy and proven technology. Size and weight have been effectively halved.

I've been a GPS fan for years, like using them and find them very useful. For some unknown reason consumer GPSs are regrettably growing in heft and unneeded feature sets. But, GPS chips are in so many products now that they've become commodities (cheap!) so all the hardware has to do is catch up with the tech. I'll bet dollars to donuts (mmmm, donuts) within a couple of years we'll be able to buy a usable digital camera/navigation-ready GPS that's all of five ounces. Or heck, how about a GPS Kindle?

My underriding concern is the lack of field-swappable batteries in a lot of the current cross-function devices. Who carries extra batteries for their cellphone?

What I'm getting to is my sense that what we "need" is a GPS with PLB function. Make it six ounces with a 2.5x4 inch OLED screen and AA battery power, and I'll be happy.



Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Traditions, GPS, SPOT, Common Cells, SAR reimbursement and more on 05/12/2009 02:11:48 MDT Print View

> A GPS has become almost mandatory for backcountry travelers in recent months.

I am sorry to be so blunt, but that's total rubbish. Ask any older walker how he navigates and he will tell you, with some pride I imagine, that he KNOWS how to use a map and compass. And so did we all before the GPS was ever invented.

What's more, I strongly recommend that people still learn how to use a map and compass. You can do far far better navigation and route planning with a map than with the tiny screen on an expensive GPS. And you can still do it when the batteries run out. In some respects, this is a safety issue.

I grant you, if all you do is walk on signposted tracks then you may not need to know how to navigate with map and compass. But then you are just a follower of other people's navigation. And who knows what sights and places you are missing out on? I am not criticising anyone for doing that: hike your own hike.

Following a GPS through a series of waypoints means that all you are doing is walking along staring at the screen. People who navigate with maps really see the country and understand it. With those skills they can often navigate without using the map much at all. My biased personal opinion is that you are far safer when you know how to navigate properly.

Roger Caffin
Speaking solely on his own behalf, and not for BPL.

Keith Selbo
(herman666) - F - M

Locale: Northern Virginia
precautions on 05/12/2009 08:13:40 MDT Print View

I hike the AT in that area frequently and I know how easy it is to overwalk a switchback and can certainly understand how difficult it would be for a visually impaired person to quickly catch a mistake of that sort, let alone find his way back to the trail.

Since I know that, I'm not sure I understand why a visually impaired person who's an experienced woodsman would undertake a hike alone without taking precautions commensurate with his disability. I seem to recall that even the able bodied Ryan Jordan took a satellite phone on one of his longer treks to assure his survival.

The money and effort expended on Mr. Knight's rescue by the public sector and private individuals would have purchased locator beacons for platoon of blind hikers. I hope Mr. Knight hears this and out of consideration and gratitude purchases one for his next hike.

Buck Nelson
(Colter) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
GPS: Another tool on 05/12/2009 08:53:40 MDT Print View

I don't think it has to be all or nothing. I'm a firm believer in doing my best to avoid getting down to my last option. Maps skills are very important. So is basic knowledge of compass use. A GPS is another option.

I usually carry a GPS in remote backcountry and I tend to use it as a backup. I don't follow my GPS around but try to keep an eye on the big picture, being aware of where I am on the map. I use the GPS mainly to reorient myself. All of us who have spent much time in the boonies have experienced the feeling of "this doesn't make sense." A GPS can help quickly sort things out. It's just another option to me, a sometimes invaluable option that can show me exactly where I am.

I recognize that it is another piece of technology, but with a GPS I can can actually spend more time appreciating the world around me and a little less time navigating and backtracking.

Relying solely on a GPS is dangerous. Adding a GPS to a map and compass increases the margin of safety. Unless there is a factor I'm unaware of, it seems that in this case a GPS could have been used to easily recover the trail.

Robert Speik
Re: Roger Cafins advice to use Map, Compass and GPS together on 05/12/2009 09:44:02 MDT Print View

Hello Roger-
Thanks for your comment. You under score an important point.

However Roger, you have misquoted from my post ;-(( Here is my full statement:

"A GPS has become almost mandatory for backcountry travelers in recent months. The advent of the $100 Garmin eTrex H and the $170 Garmin eTrex Venture HC make "staying found with map compass and GPS" as affordable as $136 to $206."

Roger, if you Google the phrase "map, compass and GPS" you will find that there are at least 295,000 documents with those three words used together!

A few sentences further on in my post I write:

"No one mentioned having $6 Quad maps (or equal) with the UTM coordinate grid in NAD 27. PC maps cost $99 for all 1,900 maps in Oregon, for example. The "best compass for backcountry and mountaineering" is the clear base plate, declination adjustable Suunto M3 costing about $30."

Let me restate our shared advice: You must use the correct topo map and a real compass together with your GPS.

As subsequent excellent posters have noted, you can carry your GPS shut off in your pocket and use it only when you want to confirm your position to an average accuracy of 4.1 meters.

Note that I use the Garmin Geko 201 when weight trumps utility ;-))

Thank you all for your support in getting informed discussions of this important subject.

Edited by trad_guy on 05/12/2009 13:31:47 MDT.

Kenneth Knight
(kenknight) - MLife

Locale: SE Michigan
Map, Compass, GPS on 05/12/2009 10:22:31 MDT Print View

OK, this is getting a bit out of hand so I am going to break my silence ahead of time and nip some of this discussion in the bud.

I did have a compass. I also had the regional AT maps. I also, as has been noted elsewhere, had a variety of other gear to help make me more "findable."

Assertions are being made that you will not get lost if you have a GPS, map, and compass. This is nonsense. If it were true the need for SAR would be greatly reduced. Even with these tools once you do find yourself in trouble their usefulness may not be as great as you first might think. After all, a GPS even loaded with waypoints, will only tell you an "as the crow flies" direction to travel. That direction could easily be impassible.

All tools have limitations. This applies even to the venerable compass and map. I know people who have had compasses fail. I know of at least one instance where a person was hiking a trail he knows well with a map that turned out to be wildly inaccurate resulting in him becoming lost for a time. If you do not acknowledge and understand the limitations of the tools you have in the circumstances you find yourself you are more apt to make a bad situation worse.

I will have more to say about what happened in the future. May I suggest though that a more fruitful discussion would be focus on issues that are often glossed over such as what information should be left with people outside of a particular trip (e.g., route plan, gear list, photo) and what can be done when bad things happen. After all while I may be the latest person to need SAR services I am definitely not going to be the last.

Jim Yancey
(jimyancey) - F

Locale: Missouri
Map, compass and GPS on 05/12/2009 12:14:19 MDT Print View

I learned navigation with map and compass (I guess I am one of the "old hikers" Roger referred to.) I quickly became map-obsessed, and I love having a full-sheet USGS topo to orient myself to the country I'm walking through. It literally gives me a big-picture view of where I am, something that a tiny screen GPS just simply can't do. I normally use just the map and compass, along with terrain reading, to keep myself "found." With that said, I do carry a GPS as an additional navigation tool that I use to get occasional "fixes" that I can then use with a UTM grid to pinpoint my location on the paper map. It seems the best of both worlds, and it's fun for me.

Incidentally, I use a Garmin Foretrex 101 without the wrist strap. It's very accurate, but very minimalist (comparable to the Geko.) It weighs next to nothing, uses lithium batteries and displays UTM coords in several datums. That's all I need with my trad paper map and compass. HYOH

Michael B
(mbenvenuto) - F

Locale: Vermont
GPS on 05/12/2009 13:45:10 MDT Print View

Ken, I was psyched to see you get out and don't let the quarterbacking here get you down.

As for GPS, I navigated for about 20 years with map and compass, but now take my geko along as well. I would like to get a mapping GPS, mostly for fun. The GPS is great at confirming you are going in the right direction. But there have been 2-3 times in the past several years in which I was sure the GPS was "wrong" and was pointing me in the wrong direction. Each time, I pulled out my map and tried to figure out what was going on, only to realize each time that the GPS was right and I was wrong.

There have also been 2-3 times in which the GPS has "failed". I have seen the display freeze in super cold temps. The geko also has a bug in which a certain button combination reduces the contrast to zero, and in the field I didn't remember how to undue that setting. The geko has mediore reception in heavy woods, but that has never been a more than an annoyance for me.

So I think a GPS is a useful and helpful tool; but not required and not a replacement for map and compass, but a supplement.

Robert Speik
Re: cheap, light GPSs... Easy Showily vs eTrex H on 05/12/2009 14:37:29 MDT Print View

Hey Ashley-
Thanks for your post confirming that cheap, light GPS units can work well too.

You mentioned the Wintec WPL-1000 and asked whether it might work on a long hike:

"Wintec WPL-1000 is an auto-show track logger that records track data from the received GPS signal. It is not only the best companion for sport and recreation but also the ideal application in fleet management and after tracking on PC.

All recorded GPS information can be downloaded to the computer quite simply, just plug-in the USB connector to computer and the recorded track will be shown on Google Maps automatically."

This GPS tracker might record your track for download to your computer for display on Google Earth, but it does not do what the Garmin and other "On the Trail" units do.

Many folks actually do not know that they can use the UTM location coordinates (in NAD 27 to match the Quads) shown by all hiking units to find themselves on a required map.

Ken posts "Even with these tools (USGS Quad topo map or personal computer generated equal) once you do find yourself in trouble their usefulness may not be as great as you first might think."

"After all, a GPS even loaded with waypoints, will only tell you an "as the crow flies" direction to travel. That direction could easily be impassible."

Clearly, a tool that can show you your precise location on your topo map, is a very good thing.

(Your unit should not be loaded with waypoints, just a few marking important points on your walk such as water, a shelter, etc. Store your 500 waypoints on your PC. ;-))

Recently a tragedy occured in the mountains near Bend. A father died of hypothermia and his son was cruelly hurt by freezing. They might have found the trail back to their car located not far from their original stranding but having only a GPS, (they did not have a map, compass or the skills to use these tools) they headed for a recorded GPS waypoint miles away down a restricted drainage.

A correctly set up GPS can show you exactly where you are on your map. You can follow your map back to trail or car.

Edited by trad_guy on 05/12/2009 14:43:22 MDT.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Map, Compass, GPS on 05/12/2009 14:37:49 MDT Print View

In that backcountry safety plan sheet I posted, the route and gear are included. SAR would see the type trip and length of time out to figure out what gear/food is carried at a minimum. I did add a spot for communication gear for that general trip plan.

A separate personalized safety plan could be devised that included more stuff like clothing specifics. Or, a person/group could take a cheap digital camera, take a pic of themselves or group at the trailhead, and leave that in the car.

Edited by jshann on 05/12/2009 15:25:16 MDT.

Robert Speik
Re: Map, Compass, GPS on 05/12/2009 14:59:18 MDT Print View

Hello Ken-
We all look forward to your "incident analysis!"

You suggested:

"May I suggest though that a more fruitful discussion would be focus on issues that are often glossed over such as what information should be left with people outside of a particular trip (e.g., route plan, gear list, photo) and what can be done when bad things happen. After all while I may be the latest person to need SAR services I am definitely not going to be the last."

Here is a message that has been offered to over 7,000 people in Oregon. It is short and sweet-

Four simple responsibilities of the backcountry traveler
Hikers, backpackers, peak baggers, alpine climbers, backcountry skiers, snowshoers, snowmobilers, horsemen, hunters and more
1. Tell a Reliable Person where you are going, what you are going to do and when you will return. Search and Rescue personnel will want to know where you planned to park your vehicle, its description and license number, what gear you have, the names, cell phone information and experience level of your companions. Of course, you must agree that you will call the Reliable Person when you return to town. Also, this encourages your thoughtful setting of a "turn-around" time for your adventure.
The Reliable Person must accept the responsibility to call the local County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue through 911 with the above information if you do not check in by an agreed-upon time. Experience tells us that the Reliable Person may not understand the importance of this responsibility. Your life may depend on a timely call to 911. Oregon Statutes require that you have left this information for Sheriff’s Search and Rescue services or you could be charged up to $500 per person.

2. The Second Responsibility of each individual backcountry traveler or climber is to be equipped with a light weight daypack and enough extra clothing, water, food and selected gear to survive an emergency stop of several hours or overnight. These Essentials are seasonal and should focus on keeping you hydrated and dry, eating simple carbohydrates, and able to stay in one place. If you become lost, signal your location, perhaps with colored tape or a reflective "space blanket", and stay still or exercise your large muscles at your marked position to stay warm. Do not try to find your way until you become exhausted, cold or dangerously wet. Wait at your marked location safely for rescuers. If you are not “prepared”, you could be charged in Oregon for Sheriff’s rescue services
Experienced mountaineers carry the traditional "Ten Essential Systems"!

3. The Third Responsibility is to have a topo map of the area, a declination corrected base plate compass (seventeen degrees currently in Central Oregon) and an inexpensive GPS.
A small simple accurate Garmin eTrex H GPS receiver costs only about $100 everywhere, a compass $35 and a 1:24,000 USGS Quad topo map, $7, total $137. If you do not have a “topo map and compass”, you could be charged up to $500 per person for Sheriff’s rescue services.
Experience tells us that you cannot get by with GPS alone – you need a topo map and declination adjusted base plate compass, and new skills to use them together!

4. The Fourth Responsibility is: Carry your common digital cell phone. Insure that you have the personal option to call for medical or rescue services. I would prefer to call for help on Friday morning at the time my leg was broken and not have to wait until Sunday at 6PM when I will be reported missing. In our experience, there are very few areas in our Oregon Cascades where a cell phone is out of contact. Several cell phones in a group are far better than one. Phone rescuers on your cell phone with your exact UTM (NAD 27) coordinates from your GPs or your map, your current condition and proposed plan of action.
An important new free service is the ability of Rescuers to request from your mobile phone Provider under FCC E911 Regulations, your general location triangulated from cell phone ping records. Another option for some is to carry a $150 SPOT Satellite Messenger which can give your friends or 911 your exact UTM location. Oregon SAR Statutes require you carry a means of communication such as a cell phone.
Copyright© 1995-2009 by Robert Speik. All Rights Reserved.

Edited by trad_guy on 05/12/2009 15:15:04 MDT.