There a ton of things to consider when  planning a backpacking trip into the wilderness. Moreover, the advise you get can be overwhelming. Bring this, don’t bring that, how much food, pack weight, the right gear. You can spend hours researching every “what if” situation out there. Still, there are the basics. Nothing better than having a good plan to ensure you have a wonderful experience. The 10 essentials of backpacking always remain the same. Of course planning for the terrain, and weather forecast is NOT to be underestimated.

However, one of the biggest mistakes people make when planning their trip into the wilderness is “who know’s I’m out here”. Do your friends and family know your specific plan? Who have you told where you are going to be, and when can they expect you (approximately) to return? This is one of the more important, if not THE important ingredient to your safety. Your choices out in the wilderness can be the difference between life and death. However, making sure people will start looking for you if something goes wrong can make all the difference and help guide your choices. Having a specific plan for your friends or family to follow can and will be crucial if something does go wrong.

There have been several shows and movies about hikers who simply got stuck on/in a boulder field or crevas, and no one knew where they were.  Their survival could have been greatly enhanced if friends and or family knew their exact route, their ETA out of the Wilderness and had a plan.

Here are some suggestions that will greatly enhance your survival if something goes wrong. It can be as simple as breaking a leg on the  trail and you are immobile. Being stuck in a rock crevas.

  • Tell a specific member of your family or a trusted friend, where you will be going, what trail(s) you will be on,  and what time you are expected to be out of the wilderness. Back that up with “I should be calling you by this time ______”. “If you don’t hear from me by _____ call the Ranger”.
  • Don’t deviate from the trail(s) that you have specifically told people you were going to be. You don’t want the Search Party looking on one trail when you have bushwhacked in another another.
  • Check and recheck your first aid kit and make sure  you have what you need for the “just in case”. I always bring a snake kit to suck venom out if I encounter a snake and get bit. They are small and very packable. Just recently I stepped right over a Rattle Snake and my foot landed 3 inches from it’s head. (He was kind enough to let me know by his rattle that this was his territory)
  • Most survival experts will tell you to stay put. However, they maybe more difficult if nobody knows where you are at.
  • If you see a Trail Register, sign it. This gives SAR a point of reference and puts together a geographic area that you maybe in.

Again, you can bring everything you need and have a great trip. But always remember to have people on the outside you can count on to make the call, and get SAR out to you if something goes wrong. Of all the things you do, this might just save your life.

For a good reference from a SAR Volunteer read Deb Lauman’s article on Common Mistakes to Avoid