[be sure to read the "addendum" I posted on whether to fight back]
> [California] Channel Islands
Yep, including Catalina. Typically you just have to be aware of rattlesnakes (on Catalina, bison)
> stats on other situations?
No, I don't have stats with me other than what I've already mentioned (i.e. hiking produces far more SAR missions (more than climbing, kayaking, fishing, etc.))
> falls, floods, etc...
As Ive said before, "In the wilderness, YOU are your biggest problem!" I would say IGNORANCE is a chronic problem: Ignorance of what to expect, ignorance of how to plan and prepare, ignorance of the need for proficiency (including being physically fit), etc.
> Bees and bears...
Yes, even with the incursion of Africanized honey bees, anaphylactic shock (allergy) more of a concern than actually being killed by the bee venom itself. As to bear attacks, the typical attack results in mauling injuries to the back of the head and raking injuries to the back from the bear's claws. If the bear manages to get a hold of an arm or leg, those injuries are typically puncture wounds from bites.
As to being killed/injured by FIREarms, remember that bear attacks are exceeding rare and deaths by bear are rare in the extreme! So, yes, I'm sure deaths/injuries from a firearm (i.e. hunting accidents) would be far more common.
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As an addendum, I thought I's add this: ONCE AND FOR ALL... DO I... OR DON’T I... FIGHT?! I find too many people get this part wrong, mainly because it’s a nuanced answer that requires explanation, and it REQUIRES people to educate themselves and remain calm (two traits I don’t attribute to most people) enough to correctly evaluate the situation. DON'T depend on any advice in a RHYME! First, learn how to tell the difference between a grizzly and a black bear (you’re more likely to encounter a black bear), black bears are typically far more timid and are more likely to be fended-off, grizzly attacks are far more critical. Next, bears in the frontcountry behave differently toward people than in the backcountry, meaning if a bear is used to seeing people (i.e. in the frontcountry), they are less likely to run away, but they are not necessarily more likely to attack. Backcountry bears are more likely to attack because they are more likely to consider you as possible prey. However, the REAL question is NOT whether it’s a grizzly or a black bear, it’s whether they are in defense mode or predatory mode! Examples of defense mode behavior are the bear may snort, vocalize (bears don’t “growl”), swat the ground, extend its lips or even stand on its hind legs (this is a sign its just trying to decide what you are or if you’re a threat). Black bears are more likely to make noises, bluff-charge, etc. because they are trying to warn you off. More serious/dangerous situations/behavior are a mother bear protecting its young, protecting food, a mating partner or simply being surprised by you. Presuming other steps/measures are unsuccessful, when a bear is in predatory mode, their demeanor reflects predatory behavior; they don’t make noise, instead they make an effort to be stealthy and they assume stalking behavior such as approaching you from behind with head held low and ears back. Overt predatory behavior includes entering a shelter/tent. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to be aware of your surroundings, particularly in the backcountry. Periodically look around, if your instinct tells you you’re being watched/followed, you're probably right, look around and make noise! If the bear is in predatory mode (more likely a grizzly), it means the bear does not see you as “human”, it likely sees you as possible prey (or at least is investigating you as possible prey). Fortunately, even a grizzly in predatory mode can be scared off by making noise, making yourself look big, throwing whatever’s at hand at it, etc., anything to snap it out of its predatory mindset. Now, here’s the critical part… If the bear is in defense mode, it’s attacking because it saw you as a threat for some reason, NOT because it’s "angry" or hungry! So the thing to do is to present as little threat as possible. This means taking a defensive position. Do NOT go strait to the “fetal position”, that's your fall-back strategy! Instead, get into “The Turtle” position: knees and elbows on the ground, arms and legs in tight, lowest possible center of gravity, and no matter what happens, keep your hands and fingers protecting the back of your neck!!! (if you are wearing a backpack, even better). The bear will likely try to flip you, but limit your defense to staying in position, DO – NOT – FIGHT – BACK!!! Fighting back against a bear in defense mode will just prolong the attack! If it manages to flip you over, then you can try the fetal position, but your injuries are likely to be much more severe. When the bear is satisfied the threat is over, it will move on. If the bear is in predatory mode, FIGHT – BACK! In this case, the bear has decided you are prey, period! Again, black bears are more likely to be fended off, if you can grab a rock, focus your attack on its nose, eyes, face.Grizzlies are larger and require more food, so it’s unlikely it will stop once an attack has begun. (But make no mistake, the smaller black bear is every bit as capable of decapitating a person with a single swipe of its paw!). In these cases, a gun may be your only defense. Also, I would urge caution when coming to another’s defense without a gun, unlike cougars (who have been known to maintain it's bite on a victim's head despite being stabbed in the eye with a pen by a rescuer), bears are known to leave a victim to go after a would-be rescuer, then return to the victim after killing the rescuer.
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@Philreedshikes Saw your video, you handled it correctly. Congrat's. Don't engage more than necessary, well done. Obviously an adult Griz', I could see it tense-up when it became aware of you and (rather casually) cast for a scent. It obviously had seen people before, it was not shaken enough to stop looking for food. "Circling" was its way to avoid you while continuing on its way.
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Obviously, there are several ways you can shelter, but far and away my favorite is hammock camping! If you use a hammock, or have already looked into it, you already know the advantages/disadvantages over other sheltering options so I won’t belabor the point here. But in the backcountry, the conditions (terrain and weather) are as varied as the people. So because you don’t always know what your campsite will look like, you need to be ready to adjust and even improvise the shelter [options] you brought. I always bring an ultralight waterproof bivy in case I want to camp cowgirl-style (you can still use a bivy in your hammock or tent to add a little warmth or waterproofness). But my hammock system is SO light I sometimes bring a tent as well. But here’s all you REALLY need to go hammock camping: An ultralight hammock (of course), a good r-rated sleeping bag/quilt (I use a Big Agnes, Roxy Anne, 15-degree, goose down, hybrid bag/quilt), and a good r-rated sleeping pad (I use a Thermarest, Extherm, rated 6.9). You still need a tarp, but I just use a few yards of nylon rip-stop from a fabric store, WAY cheaper! That’s pretty-much it!! You DON’T an under-quilt, an over-quilt, a “pod”-style bug net, a specially made/designed tarp system, or even an over thought, over built suspension system! I’ve had my system in TWENTY-degree temperatures, winds up to 50/60 mph gusts, and downpours and I have always been warm and toasty. In fact, I almost look forward to those conditions! (especially wind!!). Of course, there are some basic pro-tips to know… First, be SURE you have good clothing layers (base, outer, thermal, rain), particularly your thermal layer. Your clothing IS your insulation (and shelter in an emergency), so whether you choose fleece or down, don’t skimp on this layer when shopping! I always bring TWO goose down jackets (which I can layer). When temperatures approach the 20s, I stuff them into my bag and use one to cover myself from the waist down, and the other the waist up. Then my 15-degree bag becomes a 5-degree bag. Next, I never stake-out a tarp, I use the nylon rip-stop (it’s not particularly thick, you can’t see through it, but it is thin and breathable) to go over my ridge-line and tie the corners under the hammock. DONE! The result is something akin to what I call a “suspended bivy” or cocoon. The value of a tarp, is NOT to “insulate” you from the cold, it’s to keep the wind/breeze off you! I can actually feel the variations of temperature between me, my down jackets, my bag, my tarp and the outside and each difference is significant! My suspension system consists of a single length of Spectra cord. That’s it. It’s about half the width of standard 550-paracord, but it has TWICE the strength, and it was designed for wet conditions! (sailing). I pre-hang the hammock with the suspension loops already set and attached, so all I have to do is tie onto a couple of trees. That’s it. Hammock straps? You DON’T need them! “But what about protecting the tree?” If the bark is wet, yes, anything less than a 1-inch strap may leave an impression in the bark IF the bark absorbs water. Some trees are hard as rock, so you don’t have to worry about it. Oak tree bark may show a slight impression, pine tree bark more so. HOWEVER, it’s been my experience that as long as you don’t hang on the exact same tree in the exact same position, the bark WILL bounce back (especially if you’re only there for a night or two). “But where do I put my stuff?” Once I get into my hammock, I use a little carabiner (which I keep on one of my boots) to hang my boots on the ridgeline, under my tarp, then I just slide my boots out of the way toward my feet. I often add another line under my hammock, with two loops pre-tied, and hook my pack onto it with a couple of carabiners. Now, everything is off the ground, protected and within reach. “But what about the ants?” There are FAR more ants, spiders, bugs and beetles on the ground than on any tree trunk! Besides, there are things you can do; You can make an “ant bridge” to allow ants to avoid your lines, an ant bridge is just a [solid] stick or two placed next to the ant-trail, place your line across the top of the stick/s creating a bridge over the ants; You can also apply petroleum jelly to your lines, about 99% of the ants have NO interest in exploring your lines (particularly if they have an ant bridge), but occasionally a stray or two will start walking your line. That’s where the petroleum jelly comes in. I start by wrapping some toe-tape (like masking take) over a few inches of my line just before the hammock (this helps keep your line free of petroleum jelly), then I smear the petroleum jelly on the tape. Ants H-H-H-ATE petroleum jelly!!! Even the most persistent ants won’t cross more than about an inch of this barrier. A mosquito net? I find once I’m inside my hanging “cocoon”, bugs like mosquitoes are blocked by my tarp. I sometimes use a good no-see-um headnet as an alternative. However the tarp does more than “keep you warm” by keeping the wind off you, it protects you and your gear from bird droppings, falling bugs (like ants), falling branches (within reason) and even butter-fingered squirrels dropping acorns on your head. Of course, there’s nothing that says you can’t sew a little window into the sides so you can see what’s going on around you. Rain? (a dangerous condition if combined with wind and cold!) Here you have to understand that no matter the sheltering option, when you use waterproof materials, condensation becomes an issue Because my hammock and tarp are breathable, I don’t normally have that issue. However, rain presents a tricky problem, if I anticipate rain, under my tarp and over my ridgeline and hammock, I place a specially folded plastic tarp (cut from a 2mm plastic from a paint store). The head and foot are attached by loops secured with duct tape (only the foot of the plastic tarp is secured at this point). When the rain begins, because of the way it’s folded, it allows me to draw the plastic tarp over me like an awning, then I secure the head of the tarp over me. To address condensation, I use a “spreader” to allow airflow. There are additional finer points, to be sure, but these are what I consider the more essential recommendations and observations. Done correctly, and well, a hammock is a GREAT [ultralight] addition to any pack which gives you a fantastic sheltering option.
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Over the years, I’ve noticed more and more women in the backcountry, with a noticeable up-tick after Reece Whitherspoon in “Wild”, which is good, it’s about time. But even before that trend, I could always count on two questions; “You’re by YOURSELF?” and “Aren’t you AFRAID?” Typically, the concern comes from both men and women are wild animals, namely, bears. So first, let’s look at some stats for North America with a few familiar factors for perspective (NOTE: I recorded these stats a few years ago, but they should still suffice:
611,000 deaths per year by heart disease,
15,696 deaths per year by murder (2016),
100 deaths per year by scorpion,
30 deaths per year by pet dogs,
2 deaths per year by BEAR (40 since 2000),
1 death per year by Alligator (mostly on golf courses),
1 death per year by Orcas & Dolphins (i.e. flipping kayakers, etc.)
1 death every TWO years by SHARK,
1 death every THREE years by COUGAR (9 since 1990), and
1 death every EIGHT years by WOLF (2 since 2000, or in the last century).
Considering how often people enjoy the wilderness, you can see how wild animal attacks are exceedingly RARE! Wolves and Cougars (one of 40 different names for the SAME animal!) are incredibly shy. Cougars are even shy amongst themselves (except during mating season). As for bears, you are 300-times more likely to be attacked by an owner’s dog, and 3,000-times more likely to be attacked by a dog’s owner.
Black bears, are fully-equipped, natural-born, survivors: They can run as fast as a racehorse, swim like a fish, climb trees like a monkey, and have a nose like a bloodhound. Grizzly bears, not so much, which is reflected in their North American numbers (Grizzly bears, 55,000. Black bears, 600,000). Moreover, black bears are SMART! That does not mean they can reason (only people can do that), but being smart means they can learn.
One of the main features in their behavioral profile is they are hard-wired to AVOID potential conflict. That’s why they run or climb, to avoid injury/death. The only reason they attack is if they perceive a threat (NOT because they’re “angry”), which can happen if you surprise them when eating, mating, or even if you both just happen to turn the same corner.
As rare as they are, incidents do happen, but typically because the bear has come to associate human presence with food opportunities/rewards (often because the unknowing and/or inexperienced has left food, food scraps or food garbage out). When they become habituated, a bear-human incident is inevitable. Yet, it’s always “…the BEAR’S fault!”
IT’S ALL BEAR COUNTRY!
As I mentioned before, I’ve been a wilderness enthusiast (land and sea) for nearly 35 years and I’ve seen a LOT of bears at a distance (The way I like it) because I usually make a lot of noise. One summer, I was on my way into the San Gabriels when I stopped at one of my favorite trail camps for a few nights, Mt. Lowe Trail Camp (site of the old Mt. Lowe Tavern). It is regularly used and frequently visited, since there’s a restroom in the campground and there’s a great view from Inspiration Point a few hundred yards away.
I use a camping hammock of my own design (more on this in another post), and I tend to hang it a little high (no reason, I just like it that way). That night, I was awoken by what felt like a head bumping me from below. I thought, “Did I just dream that? I couldn’t have, my hammock is still swinging!” Just then, I heard a little noise near my gear about 2 or 3 yards away. I peaked out, shined a light, and there was a juvenile bear investigating the bacon grease I was saving to fry some potatoes (NOTE: I must accept some responsibility here by not making the grease inaccessible). I had put it in a double-plastic bag, but that’s no defense against a bear’s nose!
By the time I put my boots on and scrambled out of my hammock, the bear appeared to be gone. I thought, “No. I’m not convinced!” I normally don’t need or want a campfire, but I always set it up so I can light it with a single match. So I walked to the fire pit, lit the fire and began scanning the area with my light. About an hour later, I spotted him about 20 yards away, just waiting for me to go back to sleep. I coaxed him away, but an hour later, I spotted him again on the hillside overlooking the campground, STILL waiting for me to go to sleep!
- Lesson Learned -
Was I scared? (I’m always asked). NO! Not in the least!! Despite the bear’s unusual behavior (coming into an active campsite), I know enough about them and saw them often enough to know what to expect if I got to my feet (it would have been a different matter if it was a cub instead of a lone juvenile!) But after years of solitary backcountry experience, never coming within 50 yards of a bear, it’s ironic that my closest bear encounter would come in a camp frequented by hundreds of people every week. So, ALWAYS presume a bear is not far away, and conduct yourself accordingly. In the end, it was the best outcome possible; Nobody got hurt, no bear was blamed, and a bear who was obviously on the way to becoming habituated, learned that human presence does NOT necessarily mean a free/easy meal!
[BLACK] BEAR ATTACK
Some of you may have heard the story of Todd Orr, the Forester who was attacked by a mama bear not once, but TWICE about 20 minutes apart. When he arrived back at his truck, he had the presence of mind to film his injuries (which he later posted to YouTube, you may still be able to find it) before driving himself to the hospital. He is one of the dozens of survivors I have personally interviewed.
His story is fairly well reported, so I won’t re-share the gory details, in fact, the first thing I told him was I was not interested in those physical facts, I KNEW the story. I was more interested in knowing what he was thinking and feeling at every step along the way beginning with his background. His father was a Forester his entire life and taught he and his brother everything they knew about the woods and bears. He so idolized his father that he not only wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, he wanted to be just like his father. So it’s no surprise Todd also became a Forester.
During Todd’s 30 years as a Forester, he had seen, and been bluff-charged by, bears many times. He carried both a sidearm and a can of bear spray, and routinely practiced drawing the spray, pulling the safety tab, and pointing the spray. So on the fateful day, he spotted a mama bear escorting two cubs into the underbrush. Thinking the show was over, he continued on his way when he saw the bear running for him at full speed.
Todd drew his spray and laid a cloud in front of the bear, but the bear was moving so fast she blew right through the cloud and never slowed before she slammed into Todd! He barely had time to hit the ground with his knees and elbows. The bear gnawed at the back of his head, and raked his back, while trying to flip him over. He remained focused and aware of what was happening, as he countered the bear’s efforts to flip him over. When the first attack was over, Todd got up and started back to his truck. He knew advanced first aid, so he knew his injuries were not immediately life threatening.
Some minutes later, the bear appeared and charged him again (Todd did NOT feel the bear was stalking him, he felt the bear just happened to take a path that brought them together again). Again, the bear slammed into him at full speed, but again, Todd remained focused and aware of the bear’s actions. Yes, the thought that this MAY be it did cross his mind, but he remained present in the moment. When that attack was over, he understandably waited a little longer before moving, then again, assessed his injuries.
From the first attack to his arrival at the hospital, Todd remained calm, focused, aware, and ever mindful in his thoughts and actions. During a detailed interview, he described his father, the man he so admired and wanted to be like as a kid, as one who was not only well-liked, open and accommodating, but completely competent, knowledgeable, skilled…. I told Todd, “You know, you just described yourself, you ARE your father!” After a few moments of silence, he said, “You know, I think you’re right.”
- Lessons Learned -
Todd’s example of a parent/s’ early influence eventually saving their lives in a survival ordeal is not unique, the story of Juliane Koepcke comes to mind. The lesson here is these are wild animals, you may know what to expect, but you don’t know what to predict.
Most bear attacks result in maulings about the back of the head and raking wounds along the back from their claws. but deaths typically occur with a bite to the back of the neck, which is why you must cover it with your hands and finger REGARDLESS of the cost. You will not bleed-out from puncture wounds (bites), the wounds will simply close-up. What you need to be concerned with are lacerations, avulsions, compound fractures, etc.
As to the “The Turtle” position, THIS should be your initial defensive posture if an attack begins, Do NOT attempt to punch the bear! Limit your resistance to maintaining your Turtle position. The bear WILL try to flip you (it’s just a natural response, try that position with your dog, watch how it responds!), but that must be the LIMIT of your resistance, anything more will be perceived as a threat, prolonging the attack. ONLY if the bear manages to flip you should you attempt the fetal position (in that case, expect much more extensive injuries).
When the bear is satisfied the threat is over, it will move on. When that happens, don’t move until you’re satisfied the bear is gone. Like Todd, your next task is to assess your injuries. Stabilize as best you can, call/signal for help, and/or start walking.
The options for GRIZZLY bear attack is a dismal few.Grizzlies are much larger, generally the larger the bear, the more unlikely they can climb trees, Still, ALL bears are skittish to some degree, including grizzlies, black bears even more so. But even grizzlies have been scared off by standing tall with arms stretched up and out, with loud noises, and by throwing things, etc. But the best advice is always aimed at avoiding interactions; know the mating and hibernating seasons, handle food, food scraps and food garbage correctly and MAKE NOISE!
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@hikermor(not sure if my response went through the first time, still getting used to this system/board) By, "REI is in a position to effect that change... If they chose to.", I mean the people who are responsible for the VAST majority of [rather expensive] SAR missions are highly concentrated within a single group of hikers (day hikers). Moreover, the vast majority of those SAR missions are begun on Saturdays and Sundays, this makes finding these people fairly easy. Next, with the closure of stores like Adventure 16, more of these people are likely to come to REI for day hiking gear (clothes, shoes, etc.), meaning they are even more likey than ever to literally walk through REI's front door at some point. While acknowledging it is not possible to protect people from themselves, particularly those who do not exhibit much care or concern for their own safety, I'm guessing it may be too much to hope these same people will be proactive enough to seek-out the "Expert Advice" pages of a retailer's web site. Even one as preeminent as REI. All that's left then, is to take the opportunity (both in store and at trailhead) to stuff their sweaty little palms with some helpful, reliable, advice and information to help them stay out of trouble! And what form would that helpful, reliable, advice and information take? Perhaps not unlike the booklet I'm drafting based on my UPDATED "10 Essentials" and my Five Essential Steps, which I plan to have the Altadena Mountain Rescue (Sherriff's Office) and the Forestry Department endorse in time for a possible seminar before summer. So I repeat your question.... Could REI? Should REI?
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@PhilreedshikesLOL, some good observations! I agree, in my experience (and while many may COME to love the great outdoors), those I find most appreciative and respectful of wilderness areas are those who seem to be naturally dawn from a younger age. As time goes on, the more serious and committed they become, the more they spend their own time and resources toward their next outing. I sometimes tell those in the 'survival community', "Wilderness survivalists are wilderness enthusiasts, wilderness enthusiasts are wilderness conservationists, wilderness conservationists are wilderness activists." Trust me, I do NOT consider myself a "tree-hugger" and I'm not particularly fond of granola or GORP, but I find once you spend enough time in the backcountry, you can't help but develop that appreciation and respect. Conversely, it irks me to no end when I see graffiti sprayed on rocks and even TREES! I don't even like seeing random carins that serve no real purpose, it's just another form of graffiti!! Nevertheless, people who find themselves in trouble tend to be people who don't spend much time thinking, THAT'S why they get into trouble. Consequently, any SAR team member (particularly those in helicopters over mountainous terrain) are absolutely risking their lives for people who appear to care little for their own. Nobody wants to see anyone get hurt or worse in the wilderness, least of all me. But from my perspective, wilderness survival is just an extension of wilderness safety, and wilderness safety is all about risk management. Being safe in the wilderness is no fluke, it is an intended, calculated result of proper planning, preparation, proficiency, etc. The longer you're out there the more this is true. Otherwise, I vote for the Darwin approach.
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It’s been nearly 100 years since the 10 essentials were first written down. Today, most people have heard about it, there are even a number of YouTube videos on the topic. Unfortunately, it seems human nature to simply pay lip-service to a subject and/or merely regurgitate what has already been said/written many times before, and sadly, REI is no exception. Simply stated, it is inaccurate and irresponsible to suggest a short list of items is all you need to be safe (particularly when suggested to day hikers!) Being safe in ANY wilderness area, frontcountry or backcountry, is no fluke, it is an intended and calculated result which begins with a fundamental change in attitude: In the wilderness, YOU are your biggest problem. Either way, it starts LONG before you get to the trailhead. This topic is a good starting point for day hikers since they get into trouble more than anyone else. Far and away, fatigue or lack of physical condition are cited most in about 30% of SAR missions. About another 22% cite error in judgment or insufficient information as the reason for the rescue. Think about that a moment, if day hikers were to get in shape and actually plan their outing, before they went, more than HALF of all SAR missions wouldn’t be necessary. This points to the biggest problem with most day hikers, they are JUST - NOT - READY! More important than a handful of things, is dependable instruction on how to BECOME ready. That’s where The Five Essential Steps comes in (more on this in a separate post). I’m not going to waste keystrokes by repeating the “trite 10”, the following is my UPDATED 10 essentials, more-or-less in order of importance. MY 10 essentials: 1- Survival kit (Carry on your belt, NEVER in a pack) 2- Smartphone (in a waterproof-shockproof case & spare battery or battery bank) 3- Water for the day/duration (may include water filter/treatment) 4- Appropriate clothing (base and outer layers PLUS a thermal layer and a rain shell) 5- Sleeping pad with a good R-rating (head-to-hip mandatory, head-to-heel optional) 6- Area topographic map (printed on waterproof paper) 7- Personal Locator Beacon (feat. ACR RescueMe, Garmin inReach Mini) 8- Food for the day/duration 9- Necessary prescriptions (i.e. glasses, medications, etc.) 10- The Five Essential Steps 1- SURVIVAL KIT A good survival kit is a good idea ANY time you go on an outing! However, it MUST be big enough to make a difference AND assembled with a three-day ordeal in mind (those sardine/mini and paracord/bracelet kits are C**P, spend your time and money on assembling a GOOD kit!!!) A good survival kit already has most of your "essentials" including: A folding knife, Mylar bivy, head net, some first-aid items, UCO Titan Storm-Proof Matches, lighter, compass, reflector, whistle, Micro-Maglite with 3 AAA batteries, water treatment pills, bullion cubes, survival sunglasses, needle and thread, and MUCH more (my survival kit also has an ACR RescueMe PLB 1 attached to it). More on this in another post. 2- SMARTPHONE Victims have used Personal Locator Beacons in about 2% of SAR missions, satellite phones about 4%, but cellphones have been used to call for help about 37% of the time! I have even read a story of survivors, unable to call for help in the Alps, managed to call friends in the U.S., who then contacted SAR in their friends’ Alps location. And every year, coverage reaches farther into the backcountry. That's why I strongly advise people to take one along, in a shockproof-waterproof case with a spare battery (or battery bank). As an added measure, I would suggest keeping it tethered to a belt loop. 3- WATER You would THINK this is a "no brainer", but it is amazing how many people have to be rescued because they ran out of water, or had NO water! This includes for their kids and pets!! How much depends on where you're going, what you're doing, the temperature, etc. A filter, or other water treatment, is optional (it's a good idea to avoid giardia and crypto', but they are the least of your worries!) 4- CLOTHING LAYERS Dress appropriately, of course, but I recommend long sleeves and long pants always, and never cotton. Your underwear should be comfortable and nonbinding, then a base layer that wicks sweat and dries fast. Your outerwear, or mid-layer, is what everyone normally sees, it should be comfortable, functional, and appropriate for the conditions. On top of that, in your pack, you should have a thermal layer, including beanie and gloves (fleece, and/or down, depending on how cold you expect it to be), and a rain layer/shell including a rain hat and rain mittens (which can also improve your thermal layer and protect you from the wind). Your clothes ARE your shelter in an emergency, so don't skimp when shopping for these items! Don’t expect to be comfortable during survival (without a tent and sleeping bag/quilt), from a survival perspective, being miserable means being alive! 5- SLEEPING PAD Once the sun goes down, don’t expect rescue until after sunrise! SAR missions are not typically launched at night or in low visibility conditions. The only exceptions are if it is a life-or-death situation and/or they know precisely where the victim/s are. If worse comes to worst, and you have to spend an unplanned night in the wilderness, your clothing layers will protect you from most wind, cold and even rain, but you may want/need to sleep, in which case you'll need additional protection from the ground to avoid hypothermia (and be more comfortable). On this point, sleep is FAR more important than food. Short or full length, it's up to you, but the pad should have the highest R-rating you can afford. 6- TOPO MAP It goes without saying that if you are going to a wilderness area you should have a topographic map of that area, AND you should be able to read it (moreover, you should be able to use it with a compass). It doesn't take long to learn, or learn how to use it with a compass. I suggest downloading Backcountry Navigator to your smartphone, then download your area topo to the app. Then, buy a paper topo, but make sure it’s on waterproof paper (most are). Alternatively, you can download an area topo then have it printed on waterproof paper, but it has to be printed with a laser printer. Finally, before you go on your outing, commit as much information on your route to memory as possible including intersecting trails, possible water sources, outstanding land features, etc. Just remember, a topo map can tell you about the terrain, but it can’t tell you the CONDITION of that terrain; there may be substantial treefall, landslide, overgrowth, etc. 7- PERSONAL LOCATOR BEACON As I mentioned, I keep an ACR RescueMe emergency beacon attached to my survival kit (and my survival kit on my belt), but I ALSO keep a Garmin inReach Mini attached to my pack. This may seem redundant, but they serve very different purposes. The RescueMe does only one thing, but does it well, it sends an emergency SOS signal. The inReach Mini can also send an SOS signal, but I use it more for communications purposes (i.e. area weather reports, sending/receiving texts/emails/messages, share tracking points, etc.) One word of warning, the Earthmate map S-S-S-U-U-U-KS! You’ll be far happier with Backcountry Navigator! Fortunately, you can Bluetooth-pair with your smartphone. But here’s the considerable difference between the RescueMe and the InReach; once you buy the RescueMe, and register it, you’re done! Just keep it with you, the battery lasts about 6 years, and there are no additional costs. With the InReach, before you go out, you have to remember to activate it, pay for a monthly/yearly/seasonal subscription and keep it charged while you’re out. 8- FOOD If you intend the day hike to last the entire day, chances are you are already planning to bring food. However, you should still bring a few emergency rations to keep your energy up, just in case. There are a few brands on the market, but I prefer May Day. To reiterate, sleep is more important than food. 9- NECESSARY PRESCRIPTIONS Again, you would think this is a no-brainer, but too many people assume they will only be out a few hours, then find themselves without their heart medication for days, or are essentially blind without their glasses, then lose them after they get lose their bearing. If you have ANY special concerns, pack for the possible BEFORE it's an issue! 10- THE FIVE ESSENTIAL STEPS Yes, number 10 is not a "thing" to be packed, but it weighs nothing, costs nothing, and unlike the other "essentials", this is more likely to keep you safe and out of trouble in the first place. This particular topic deserves a post of its own, so for now, The Five Essential Steps are: 1- Planning, 2- Preparing, 3- Proficiency, Backups, and 5- Basic Survival
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You appear to be missing my point, some 470 (+) SAR missions over a 40 (+) year period IS significant, which is exactly why it's such a shame you apparently never took the time to access that data! (I can't believe your 'higher ups' didn't look for patterns to more efficiently deploy resources, or better yet, prevent problems). Also, and I can't believe I even have to say this, NOBODY expects ANYBODY to collect stats during a mission, that's just silly. But are you saying you never attended a mission review/debrief AFTERWARDS?
Regardless, for everyone's beefit (and your edification), not surprisingly, most SAR missions occur on weekends (slightly more on Saturdays) which jibes with the fact that most victims are "day hikers." As stated above, hiking accounts for the vast majority of SARs. But there are four types of hiking: day hiking, distance hiking, wilderness hiking, and bushwhacking. Although distance hiking rates as the safest (particularly in season) there are still the occasional deaths. Wilderness hiking and bushwhacking still rate safer than day hiking because these people typically take the activity (and their safety) much more seriously and are much more experienced. (content removed by moderator)!!
Day hikers seem to think a walk in the wilderness is a walk in the park! THAT'S why you get 'city-ots' (as I call them) drinking and doing drugs, not to mention getting lost, running out of water (or having NO water), etc. I'm all for people enjoying the great outdoors, in whatever way they choose, but NOT if it puts other lives at risk.
When I can't get away for an extended period, I can be found in the San Gabriel Mountains (north of Los Angeles) and my own experience jibes those stats. I can't count how many times I have come across people who ask "Where am I?" or "Where is the drinking fountain?" and on and on! The only redeeming quality of day hikers is they tend to limit themselves to the frontcountry, the backcountry tends to be the wilderness hiker's domain.
The "flyover" information/experiments you allude to is also nothing new, from the air, it can be virtually impossible to spot a victim, even on flat ground (i.e. the desert), at as little as 100 to 200 yards (even at 200 yards, you may spot a vehicle, but not the victim standing next to it). On the ground, in high brush or wooded areas, you may have to contend with a "sound shadow" effect. With a victim in the water, a rescue boat may have to be as close as FIVE FEET to ensure the victim is spotted. Experience is fine, but without information, you're working hard, not smart!
Of the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of survival stories I've read and the dozens of survivors I've personally interviewed, not ONCE has any of them ever said "Oh, I KNEW I was going to be in a survival ordeal and I wanted to do it anyway." The more common [day hiker] response is, "I was only going to be out for a few hours." But here's the thing, while subjects like stats, lost person behavior, etc. are invaluable to the SERIOUS hiker and SAR team, (content removed by moderator).
REI is in a position to effect that change... If they chose to.
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The biggest problem with survival "instructors" is there is no state license to practice, no diploma from an accredited college or university, and no standardized certification course. So, it's up to the potential student to educate themselves BEFORE they pay their money! Even so, you would be hard-pressed to find a survival instructor who is CLEAR on what the curriculum should include (or NOT include!). There are some warning signs to look for; if they tout their military background/approach... FAKE (as in a previous post, military survival is irrelevant!). If they are obese... FAKE (They don't have to look like a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, but they DO need good lower-body strength and good cardio). And if they can't even adequately explain the difference between bushcraft and survival... FAKE! In fact, "lessons" typically take the form of wilderness hiking/camping outings. Moving on, here are the subjects that should be included: - THE FIVE ESSENTIAL STEPS: 1- Planning (research intensive), 2- Preparation (gear and supplies), 3- Proficiency (physical and abilities), 4- Back-ups (active and passive), 5- Basic Survival (strategies and concepts). - THE FIVE BASIC SKILLS: 6- Signaling (standardized and improvised), 7- Shelter (types and techniques), 8- Fire (methods and materials), 9- Water (sources and treatment), 10- Food (sources and science) - THE FIVE ADVANCED SUBJECTS: 11- Wilderness Survival Psychology, 12- Mind-Body Sciences (nutrition and neuroscience), 13- Wilderness Survival Case Histories, 14- Advanced Wilderness First-Aid, 15- Wilderness Conditions (terrain and weather). And especially... 16- Wilderness Survival Training (physical and survival). THE FIVE ESSENTIAL STEPS I have read hundreds, perhaps thousands, of wilderness survival stories, AND interviewed dozens of wilderness survivors. Once you've read about 100+ cases, you begin to notice there is a certain pattern of behavior among survivors both in what they did before they went out, and what they did after their ordeal began. The Five Essential Steps, then, are NOT a random collection of suggestions, they are the result of the noticing the commonalities I've noticed both in they way wilderness survivors behave and how they got into trouble in the first place. But it's much more than that, The Five Essential Steps should be compulsory among ANYONE who ventures into the countryside! (That goes double for day hikers!!). THE FIVE BASIC SKILLS This is where the unsophisticated confuse "bushcraft" with "survival." In essence, wilderness survival includes basic bushcraft, but bushcraft does NOT include wilderness survival! Bushcraft is typically about STAYING in the wilderness in some creative comfort, in other words, it's a CHOICE. As mentioned, wilderness survival is a life threatening EMERGENCY situation that MUST be ended as quickly, as efficiently, as safely, as possible. Anyone trying to vet a potential instructor should be clear on the similarities and differences. THE FIVE ADVANCED SUBJECTS While The Five Essential Steps should be compulsory for anyone/everyone (especially day hikers!) wanting to hit the trail, and The Five Basic Skills should be included in any/every student's course, The Five Advanced Subjects are primarily for instructors and those who simply want to know more about what they're doing. TRAINING Of course, NO course is complete without regular, varied, training in an environment similar to that which the student is anticipating on a future outing (which is why there are NO obese survival instructors!). As I often say, The Four Cornerstones of Survival include knowledge, skill, experience and common sense. Knowledge (through study) is the mental database about a thing. Without it, you cannot hope to completely understand a thing. Skill (through practice) is the application of knowledge, without it, you cannot test what you've learned. Experience (through training) is the practical application of knowledge and skill, without it, knowledge and skill is just theory. And finally, common sense. Common sense is intelligence, but it's PRACTICAL intelligence. It's what allows you to think about alternatives, think about and apply alternative solutions in place of standard solutions that don't/won't work. LOTS of room for further discussion here!
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