If you’re not prepared, get lost
During the last few years, stories about lost hikers seem to be appearing with greater frequency in the media.The age range of these lost souls is across the board from pre-teens to old farts who you would think should know how to take care of themselves.My comments today are not directed to the kids who lose their way in the outback.The responsibility for teaching children how to survive in the wild rests squarely on the shoulders of parents and guardians.The problem, of course, is you have to possess knowledge yourself before you can impart wisdom to others. Children are eager to learn about the mysteries of Mother Nature, and they learn best by example.My four daughters have grown into young women without so much as even one incident of fearing for their lives because they couldn’t find their way in the woods.So what’s the secret to not becoming another search-and-rescue statistic?It’s quite simple. I learned it first in my early years as a Cub Scout. Be prepared.First and foremost is something you don’t leave home without, but you leave it at home.Tell someone who loves you exactly where you are going and when to expect you back, down to the very hour you plan on returning. I told you it was simple.It goes something like this, “If you don’t hear from me by 9 p.m. Sunday night the 12th of June then call the Sheriff’s Office and report us missing.”If you missed the “us” above then I can’t really help you. The buddy system is your best outdoor insurance policy.In my more than 40 years hiking in the wilderness, I can count on one hand the number of overnight solo trips I have made. Almost all of them were well-structured survival skills training exercises.Next is the well-stuffed pack that goes with me whenever I head outdoors to play for the day.Inside the pack are a few essentials: water, food, fire starter, rain pants and the best rain/wind outer shell parka money can buy, a Brunton compass, knife, first-aid kit and a 7.5′ USGS map in a large zippered bag.The water is at least two quarts and oftentimes four, depending on time of year and how long I plan on being out.The food includes a hearty and healthy lunch plus what I call emergency rations.That translates to a separate sack of something I’m only going to eat in an emergency: tuna fish in those handy bags, cardboard tasting power bars, etc. Enough for two good meals.Fire starter can mean matches in a waterproof container, but for me it is a firefighter fusee used to start backfires. An emergency roadside flare purchased at a surplus store works fine. The Brunton compass has a built in mirror; otherwise carry a mirror for signaling. Know how to use the thing properly.Space blanket? If it makes you feel better.Have fun finding yourself … unlost.After 25 years of experience in the backcountry with federal land management agencies, Bill Kight, of Glenwood Springs, remains unlost. His column appears every other week, and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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