Greatest contribution to backpacker safety since the compass

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Betsy M
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Re: Greatest contribution to backpacker safety since the compass

Post by Betsy M »

I’m going to chime in here, and point out that even though solo hikers are normally cautious and careful, and perhaps hiking is not as dangerous as biking or driving a car, it is still plenty dangerous. And the potential for a minor incident to result in serious consequences including death is a lot higher if you are alone in the backcountry. If you get lost when you are driving, you will sooner or later find out where you are. If you fall and break your leg, usually you can get help. It isn’t that an incident is highly likely, it is that the downside is large.

To answer the point about how likely it is for something to happen to you while hiking, a review of recent incidents is helpful.

Two incidents that I know of, just in the Ventana, could easily have resulted in death. In one, a hiker became separated from a backpacking trip; the group thought the person had gotten home safely, and the person was wandering around lost, without food, for 10 days. If the guy hadn’t been found by hikers, he would have died. Incident 2: Jack English fell in his cabin, and was lying on the floor for 5 days before someone found him. Neither event by itself was life-threatening, but not being able to get help could be.

So is it irrational to take a safety communication device? Personally it seems like a pretty reasonable approach. I have always liked the quote in West With the Night: “White men pay for danger – we poor ones cannot afford it.” (p. 214)
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K Vandevere
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Re: Greatest contribution to backpacker safety since the compass

Post by K Vandevere »

All I know is that if the chances of hitting one's head in a bike crash were as slim as the chances of needing a SPOT in the Ventana Wilderness, very few women or men would bother wearing bike helmets.

And Carl, unless you also wear a firesuit and crash helmet to ride in that car you're being forced to drive (simple measures that would obviously do vastly more to enhance your personal safety than carrying your SPOT around with you in the woods), I would guess that your behavior is based less on the extreme aversion to risk that you profess and more on an irrational fear of the wild.
Carl Mounteer
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Re: Greatest contribution to backpacker safety since the compass

Post by Carl Mounteer »

First, nothing in my post suggests that men are in engaging in outdoor activities to "show off our masculine recklessness." What it says is that males are conditioned, through shame, that in order to be a man, self care and self-protection must become one of our lowest priorities. And if you fail to conform to that feature of the male role, you will be punished for it by even more shaming. This is not a matter of choice for men. It is a matter of conditioning that is so profound that this reaction is unconscious.

Second, let's use Keith's words in a different recreational activity than hiking and with a different instrumentality than the SPOT. Let's use his words for bicycling and bicycle helmets. This would go as follows:

"So have all of us who've been fooling around on bicycles for decades (at least those of us who are men) always been doing it to show off our masculine recklessness, or did that only become the reason when the bicycle helmet was invented (or at least when we heard about it) and we failed to buy one?...For myself, I believe the chances of getting into a situation where a bicycle helmet would help me are far too slight to justify the cost."

Does that sound like a person who is exercising a reasonable amount of self care? Of course not. So if I substitute hiking for bicycling and the SPOT for the bicycle helmet, I reach the same conclusion.

Therefore, my question is fair and reasonable: Why, with such a simple, easy, relatively inexpensive device to enhance one's safety, do people fail to do so? I am attempting one explanation: the male role forbids such self-protection.

Third, Keith seems to be suggesting that because we engage in more dangerous activities like driving a car, it makes sense not to take a simple protective measure in the wilderness like a SPOT ("...the things we do when not in the Wilderness (like driving cars) are much more dangerous and reckless than the things most of us do while traveling in the Wilderness.")

There are two problems with this reasoning: First, one has no choice today but to use a car. Therefore, one is forced to accept the risks inherent in that activity. But one has a choice whether or not to go hiking and backpacking. You are not forced to take those risks. Second, cars are loaded with safety devices to protect against the dangers presented by driving. So if you engage in a voluntary activity like backpacking, it seems logical and consistent to take similar protective measures instead of ignoring the potential danger and rationalize this, as Keith does, by the belief that it hasn't happened in "decades" so the chances of it ever happening "are far too slight" to take reasonable precautions to avoid an Aaron Ralston incident.

In my opinion this kind of thinking only proves my point: males are conditioned not to exercise a reasonable amount of self-care.
Matthew

Re: Greatest contribution to backpacker safety since the compass

Post by Matthew »

One of the happiest looking trail users I have ever seen had all the outward appearances of having spent two thousand dollars on his apparel and gear. He seemed out of shape, had a large, expensive looking compass swinging from his neck and a gps attached to his shoulder strap like a badge. He was sweating and breathing hard a short ways from the trailhead. He may or may not have been safer or better prepared but he was really happy and talked it up to us for a few minutes before we parted ways.

We probably don't agree on what is worth carrying and what is necessary, for survival or ethical reasons, but I don't see the need to begrudge him his enjoyment if it depends on these disagreements.
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K Vandevere
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Re: Greatest contribution to backpacker safety since the compass

Post by K Vandevere »

So have all of us who've been fooling around out there for decades (at least those of us who are men) always been doing it to show off our masculine recklessness, or did that only become the reason when the SPOT was invented (or at least when we heard about it) and we failed to buy one?

After all, the things we do when not in the Wilderness (like driving cars) are much more dangerous and reckless than the things most of us do while traveling in the Wilderness. For myself, I believe the chances of getting into a situation where the SPOT would help me are far too slight to justify the cost.
Carl Mounteer
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Re: Greatest contribution to backpacker safety since the compass

Post by Carl Mounteer »

I have some thoughts on John R's post:

Why would someone who backpacks alone, over long, cross-country terrain, refuse to employ a simple, easy, and obvious expedient that would enhance their safety? John R. sounds like he does this because he finds a certain degree of risk exciting or stimulating. To me, this is like riding a motorcycle and wearing a helmet. You can still enjoy the thrill of the risk involved in riding a motorcycle and simultaneously protect yourself by wearing a helmet. But riding without such a protective device is, aside from the legal prohibitions, an unnecessary and unreasonable risk. And if you travel in the wilderness, alone, without such an easy and available protective device such as a SPOT or other personal locator beacon you are also taking an unnecessary and unreasonable risk.

Why do people, particularly men, do this?

Because males in our society are brought up to believe that real men are reckless about their safety and because their entire self-worth is measured by their performance. In the workplace this is judged by how much money you make; in the wilderness, it is judged, at least partially, on how much risk you are willing to take. And if you step out of the male role by exercising a minimum of reasonable self care, you can be sure some enforcer of the male role, male or female, will be standing by to shame you with language like John R. uses: You are faulted because your attempts to protect yourself do not emulate John Muir, you are insecure, taking common sense self-protective measures is an "obsessive desire never to risk". Then follows the predictable, higher primate, chest-thumping about all the risks and lack of self care the shamer has logged. (See paragraph 3 of John R's post.)

Instead of weighing myself down with the impossible burden of the male role, I carry a seven-ounce SPOT.
John R

Re: Greatest contribution to backpacker safety since the compass

Post by John R »

All this technology is fine ... if one never wants to enter Wilderness. But ask yourself, would John Muir and ALL the other 19th Century and earlier trekkers have wanted to be so utterly safe at all times under all conditions in every place? What's the point of having a totally safe Wilderness? Perhaps we should honestly call it "Ventana Outdoor Recreation Park" now?

Though "not for me", I'll not begrudge other's use of such devices, especially for trip leaders with novices or in seriously dangerous terrain. For instance, were I to trek into Amazon jungle or some SERIOUS Wilderness like that, I think, especially at my age, I would want such security. But to me use of such in Ventana and, perhaps, anywhere in California's "gentle wildernesses", they bespeak a certain insecurity and perhaps obsessive desire never to risk.

On the other hand, when I hike alone, which is normally the case, though I really enjoy group trips or with friends, I find I am MORE aware and cautious than when with others. I concentrate better and weigh risks very carefully. I guess it's paid off -- so far, after some 10,000 miles of backpacking, perhaps 8000 solo (Sierra and BS), the worst thing that's happened is a torn calf muscle. After that happening, I cooked breakfast and rested an hour and then hiked 3 full days of mostly x-country -- 32 miles over 2 high x-country passes and over very rough terrain (back of the Kaweahs, Blackrock Pass, Glacier Pass). I would NOT have wanted to signal for a "spot" rescue. (Such a torn muscle isn't a very significant injury, anyway; should one want to know - just apply an Ace, take aspirin and keep walking, slowly at first).

In a word, the Planet is too small a place already. Such technology, certainly appropriate in some situations, probably affects our whole experience of wild country. Of course, one picks and chooses - I DO take a tent and sleeping bag and prepared foods, etc. I am not immune to critique. I don't want to be totally free of technologies.

It's a matter of where an individual wants to draw the line, I think. And I draw one line, at least, at using such navigation devices.
Jon

Injured hiker used ham radio and got lucky

Post by Jon »

Ham works but it may put you in contact with some one in very far away.

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/380 ... dio24.html
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jonl
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Re: Greatest contribution to backpacker safety since the compass

Post by jonl »

RE: "these twice-daily messages were an enormous relief to my wife."

Personally, I like to hike in the WILDERNESS unencumbered with electronic technology. My wife says that if I'm late returning, and she wants to know where I am, she'll look for the condors of TV's. They are way more accurate than satelites.
ted
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Re: Greatest contribution to backpacker safety since the compass

Post by ted »

It seems like SPOTs will eventually be integrated into regular GPS units so that you can navigate & track your route yourself and send a message if needed, all with one thing.
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