Outdoor/Wilderness Outings: PLAN!

Every year, I have highlighted this admonition, usually for my fly fishing brethren that trek in to be alone while fishing. Be prepared. And part of that is pre-planning and also worst case scenario planning regardless of how competent you are. I am attaching a couple pieces here: one at Traditional Mountaineering and the other re The Spot, a GPS Messenger doodad.

The Traditional Mountaineering post details the 4 personal responsibilities of a backcountry traveler. Note, it is relevent to all backcountry travelers not just mountaineers. These are culled from the State of Oregon Search and Rescue (SAR) protocols and are worth reading about your responsibilities and ‘liabilities’. Although this references Oregon law, I imagine it is similar in many parts of the country/if not also abroad.

Rescue Drills_Smit

4 Personal Responsibilities of a Backcountry Traveler

1. Tell a Reliable Person where you are going, what you are going to do and when you planned to 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 numbers and provider information and experience level of your companions. Of course, you must agree that you will call the Reliable Person when you return to the trail head. Also, this encourages your thoughtful setting of a “turn-around” time for your adventure.

The Reliable Person must accept the responsibility for calling 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. Your life may depend on a timely call to 911. Experience tells us that the Reliable Person may not understand the importance of this responsibility.

2. The Second Responsibility of each individual backcountry traveler or climber is to be prepared 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 specific trip related and should focus on keeping you warm and dry, hydrated, eating simple carbohydrates, and able to stay in one place. If you become lost, signal your location, perhaps with colored tape or an ordinary bike flasher and/or with a reflective, water and wind proof plastic 9 ounce “SOL Emergency Bivy” sac, and exercise your large muscles at your marked position to generate warmth. Do not try to find your way -becoming exhausted, cold or dangerously wet. Wait at your marked location for rescuers. 

3. The Third Responsibility is to have a detailed topo map of the area, a declination-corrected base-plate compass . Experience tells us that you cannot get by with a cell phone “GPS” (no matter how smart) or a hand held GPS radio receiver alone – you need a paper topo map and a declination-adjusted base- plate compass, and the simple skills to use them together!

4. The Fourth Responsibility is: Carry your common digital cell phone and periodically turn it on to learn where you can contact nearby cell towers.  Insure that you have the personal option to call for medical or rescue services.


This last point re communication touches upon how to reach out and this is where The Spot comes in to assist searchers to rescue you and not waste time searching.

Hiking, photography, fishing, climbing, camping, rafting, mushroom hunting….plan and take responsibility. All the ‘you could be charged’ warnings aside….just out of self respect and respect for the rescuer’s safety too, think about the basics and plan. Being near your car is not enough. A bad fall, heart attack, etc. will probably cut you off from the shelter of your car.

3 Responses to “Outdoor/Wilderness Outings: PLAN!”

  1. July 26, 2014 at 22:03

    Great post with wise words. Most of my adventures are by myself and this is a topic of discussion with friends and family often. Thanks for the info. I would be curious to know how many people actually know how to use a compass with a paper map these days. My Dad always told me to never be in a hurry and never jump rock to rock. These words I repeat every time I go out.


    • July 26, 2014 at 22:17

      I agree…few know to bring a map/compass let alone orient themselves to the map while moving. It is definite wishful thinking to assume casual hikers would know this…but, if you spend much time out in the woods/desert then we really should think tactically about learning these skills. Last December, on a very cold day, I went on a ‘short’hike alone up the Columbia Gorge. I told family where I was going. Hopping rock to rock I stepped upon leaves only to sink down an 18″ hole and badly sprain my ankle, which hurts every damn night still. No rock hopping!!! I was hopping and at my age, out of shape, I was tired while doing so…not a good combo. Anyway thanks for visiting James. I love your site…very inspiring.


  2. July 26, 2014 at 18:46

    love ‘The Spot’ device.


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