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  1. #1

    Default When is a hiker overdue?

    I always leave a detailed hiking itinerary with my sister before every hike but I'm not sure what to tell her about when to call authorities if I am overdue. What do others think is the appropriate amount of time to wait before reporting an overdue hiker - On a day trip? On a multi-day trip? Would it be different for a solo hiker vs. 2 or more. Not sure it matters but I do carry a SPOT but would only use that in an extreme emergency.

    Thanks.

  2. #2

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    For day trips I have informed my wife to call if I am not home for work the next day. On longer trips it is about the same, 24 hours after I plan on being back. I carry a cell phone and had a spot for one trip cause she was worried, it was the first long trip after a stroke and I had to check in at least once per day. in my younger years it was two days after expected return, when I was a youth, my mom would call minutes after the expected time, just learned to add time to the expected time to not bother the police. Dad on the other hand was always hoping I would be late so I would have good stories to tell the grandkids.

  3. #3

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    Set the ground rules with the person at home and follow them. If you agree that two hours late on a day hike and 12 hours late on an overnight are the rules then that is when they call. It is also when you had better find a way to let them know you are OK if you don't want to be "rescued". Both parties should agree to the rules and follow them or the system falls apart

    Personally I really hate spending the money, but have been using an inReach for many years now. My wife knows where I am, how I'm doing and sometimes has to tell me to shut up because she's trying to work while I am out climbing mountains. If I change my plans she is the second one to know. Phone service just isn't an option most of the places I hike so despite the expense it just makes sense.
    “The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait until that other is ready...”~Henry David Thoreau

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  4. #4
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    That's a tough one. I don't think there is a right answer, just a range of working answers depending on the people involved and the trip.
    And then, with modern satellite communication options, there's another whole twist to include in the calculus.

    If you're in real trouble on the first or second day of a week long winter trip, rescue a week later may be a little late.

    If you're part of a competent group, the likelihood of nobody getting out to call for help, if needed, is smaller and the likelihood of unexpected delays tends to be higher, so I would push out the overdue time quite a lot.

    If I'm out on a multi-day winter trip I plan the trip itinerary pretty pessimistically. So if I'm not out by my "expected time", something sure as heck went wrong even if I don't actually need help to self-rescue. My longer long winter trips almost always end up being a day or two short, not the other way around.

    In practice, on day hikes, being in contact by the next morning would be my "overdue time" in most cases.

    On an overnight, depending on complexity of the trip, season and expected weather issues, I'd probably recommend getting worried if not in contact by mid-way through the following day. Give me time to get out of a tough situation over a second night, but if I'm not out by mid-way through the next day, something's wrong.

    My wife pretty much doesn't worry even on solo overnight & longer winter trips. That being said, I generally give her an expected itinerary. Luckily, to this point in time, she's never had to call for help. AND, she's smart enough to NOT want me to keep in contact with her via satellite, even if I'm carrying a communicator, because she knows a missed communication and/or fear of a missed communication would unsettle her peaceful and ignorant bliss.
    I'm not lost. I'm exploring.

  5. #5

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    It's good to have limits set beforehand but what if there was an actual emergency due to incapacitation of some sort? You can get a plb that works and there is no monthly fee.Check our ARC ResQlink.I usually carry mine even when with a group because I can see where it might make a difference in a real emergency because time could be critical in the event of serious injuries etc.

  6. #6
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    i always told my work that if i was not in monday morning, and didnt call in sick or have a vacation day, that
    only meant one thing------that I was lost....

    happened once...

    got a little misguided in the snowbird wma area off the skyway and had to spend an additional night
    out...

    my work called the sheriff's department to look for my car------but they thought i was in the GSMNP......

  7. #7
    Garlic
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    Default

    I'll just add a little tongue-in-cheek advice--Tell your plans to two people; One you love, and one you trust.

    Most posters so far referenced a spouse, and that's what should dictate the appropriate emergency response. My wife is a very experienced hiker, has a higher tolerance than most. (The story: I was long overdue on a day-hike, well past dark, with a friend. His wife kept calling my wife, worried sick. My wife kept assuring her that we were well prepared to spend a night out if needed (indeed we were), and there's nothing that can be done until morning and she'll alert authorities then. When we arrived home in the wee hours, my wife wanted to hear about our fun adventure (25 miles and six Rocky Mtn lakes). I can't write here what my friend's wife said.)

  8. #8
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    For every trip I set out alone, I'll give my wife an intinerary and expected date&time to be back, plus advice when to call the Mountain Rescue if I'd be overdue.
    This most likely will be one or two nights after the regular return date, depending on how severe the conditions are and how much spare food I'd carry.

    During the trip, I got accustomed to give my wife short messages every once in a while about where I'm going in the moment so she can roughly follow my progress.
    This is what the Mountain Rescue will do first when alarmed:
    - go look for the car parked (if there is any in use)
    - go look up to every summit (usually by helicopter) along the proposed trip and look if there is an entry in the Summit Book
    Both tasks in order to follow the route of the missing hiker - which I intend to shortcut by giving my wife some rough knowledge about my progress

    When I was younger, I'd never tell anybody where I'm going and when I'd expect to be back.
    Now having family and after having survived cancer I'm much more cautious and take every reasonable means to stay alive a bit longer.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Leo L. View Post
    For every trip I set out alone, I'll give my wife an intinerary and expected date&time to be back, plus advice when to call the Mountain Rescue if I'd be overdue.
    This most likely will be one or two nights after the regular return date, depending on how severe the conditions are and how much spare food I'd carry.

    During the trip, I got accustomed to give my wife short messages every once in a while about where I'm going in the moment so she can roughly follow my progress.
    This is what the Mountain Rescue will do first when alarmed:
    - go look for the car parked (if there is any in use)
    - go look up to every summit (usually by helicopter) along the proposed trip and look if there is an entry in the Summit Book
    Both tasks in order to follow the route of the missing hiker - which I intend to shortcut by giving my wife some rough knowledge about my progress

    When I was younger, I'd never tell anybody where I'm going and when I'd expect to be back.
    Now having family and after having survived cancer I'm much more cautious and take every reasonable means to stay alive a bit longer.
    Family at home does change the equation for me as well. Before they came along I never told anyone where I was headed. Now I not only have a responsibility to not die, I also like to keep them from worrying. As backpackers themselves they know what its like out there and are happy I make a point of letting them know I'm not dead yet

    I actually run a track on my inReach while hiking. Even if I don't press the SOS button, they can report my last known location if the dots stop moving on the map. It uses up battery needlessly, but I like the idea of making it easier to find my body if those poor SAR folks ever have to drag my corpse off the mountain.
    “The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait until that other is ready...”~Henry David Thoreau

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  10. #10

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    when I am out there, I really don't want to come home unless I have to do so. If I am needed, my wife leaves me a voice message on my phone, and a text message on my phone, that says "come home safetly" asap. When I get cell service, she tells me why. Next, I have InReach. I am a solo hiker and 81. My kids just look at the track. If I am moving in the right direction day after day, the meaning is clear, I am ok. I really will share all events upon return. Safety issues are solved. Social islsues are solved. I am left with only how soon do I run out of food. With all the money I have spent of transportation, and cost of what is in that pack, InReach is an easy dollar option. Funny down side of InReach is that they don't sell you that fantastic extra insurance policy on evac costs after you are 70. You wil be surprized at what you think is funny when you are 81 and going back to continue the AT NOBO shortly.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by clay pot View Post
    when I am out there, I really don't want to come home unless I have to do so. If I am needed, my wife leaves me a voice message on my phone, and a text message on my phone, that says "come home safetly" asap. When I get cell service, she tells me why. Next, I have InReach. I am a solo hiker and 81. My kids just look at the track. If I am moving in the right direction day after day, the meaning is clear, I am ok. I really will share all events upon return. Safety issues are solved. Social islsues are solved. I am left with only how soon do I run out of food. With all the money I have spent of transportation, and cost of what is in that pack, InReach is an easy dollar option. Funny down side of InReach is that they don't sell you that fantastic extra insurance policy on evac costs after you are 70. You wil be surprized at what you think is funny when you are 81 and going back to continue the AT NOBO shortly.
    Thanks for sharing that. I like your perspective and the system you've worked out with your family. Good luck on the trail!

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by garlic08 View Post
    I'll just add a little tongue-in-cheek advice--Tell your plans to two people; One you love, and one you trust.

    Most posters so far referenced a spouse, and that's what should dictate the appropriate emergency response. My wife is a very experienced hiker, has a higher tolerance than most. (The story: I was long overdue on a day-hike, well past dark, with a friend. His wife kept calling my wife, worried sick. My wife kept assuring her that we were well prepared to spend a night out if needed (indeed we were), and there's nothing that can be done until morning and she'll alert authorities then. When we arrived home in the wee hours, my wife wanted to hear about our fun adventure (25 miles and six Rocky Mtn lakes). I can't write here what my friend's wife said.)
    Getting people to do a search if necessary, and staging resources, can be done at night so that they can start searching early the next day. So, not always the right answer. Though given that y'all were prepared for a night out I understand her lack of concern. But what if y'all had been injured? That would have changed the dynamic.

    I think the best advice is that when the HIKERS set a time table and give it to a person to call in help, they need to be specific about WHEN to call for help. Along with WHO to call and WHAT INFO to give that agency. Also, make sure you describe the gear you are wearing - color of jacket, backpack, etc. - and carrying (prepared for cold but NOT snow, etc). And then there needs to be a "weather watch" included. What happens if the mountain/trail you are hiking gets hit by a "freak storm" (snow/lightning/etc)? Does that change the time table for calling for help or not? And while it may be more difficult in some areas, frequent updates or at least an update if the hiker is behind schedule can help change the time table to call for help. Because maybe a delay is just that the hiking/climbing took longer than expected but everything is fine.

    This summer I will likely be hiking in CO and surrounding states a lot. Even just day hikes. I think I may actually get an inReach Mini because cell phones don't work very well in many of those places. This is after reading about disasters in the 14ers. The author pointed out MANY times how persons needing rescue did not have cell service and that something like the InReach would have worked to send for help in many of those cases.

    So "overdue" is based on expected length of hike, ability to/frequency of check in, where the hike is, weather, and personal health history can also play in to that.
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  13. #13
    Some days, it's not worth chewing through the restraints.
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    I leave myself some room in my "home by" or "call by" time, and make damn sure I make it. I'm expecting that if I don't make it, I need help as soon as possible, which as One Half noted, might mean starting/preparing tonight for an early start tomorrow.

    Even on day hikes, I'm prepared to spend the night. I can't count on the injury - or whatever may befall me - happening at a convenient time.

  14. #14
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    One of the reasons I purchased an InReach several years ago is because it allowed not only check ins but also two way communication and verification that messages were successfully sent, both of which are glaring limitations of the Spot device. I only use it twice day to check in on longer trips. Still, there could be times when I cannot send a message, such as if the device is lost or the battery is dead (the battery lasts a long time the way I use it). I have told my contacts that I shouldn't be considered missing unless I do not check in for a day AND my location is more than one day from a trailhead. This is sometimes true in the Sierra Nevada. I don't want to trigger a search & rescue operation if I've merely had a mishap with my equipment. The flip side is that I could be in trouble but no one realizes it. I view this risk as inherent in the pastime of backpacking - a risk I am willing to take.

  15. #15
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    I think it's interesting how much value we put on overdue dates on short trips while hundreds of others hike for months on these long trails without any kind of meaningful overdue dates. I do this too. I bought an InReach for my son with Type-1 diabetics, when he hiked the PCT a couple years ago. It was helpful in coordinating overnight shipments of insulin in areas where he didn't have cell service. In the end, knowing he had the communication device was a big relief to us, to know that if it wasn't being used, he was okay. We only really needed it two or three times during the five months as cell service was adequate most of the time. But, mostly, I loved following his progress day to day as long as I could get him to turn on his bread-crumb trail.

    Now, a couple years later, neither of us have used the InReach since. My family has no interest or time to follow any bread-crumb trail I post on the internet and having spend so much time in the back-country without one over the years, my mindset just doesn't seem to want to bother to add one more piece of gear or one more device to my back-country experiences - it also requires renewing a subscription and paying some money . . .

    The biggest reason I can think of to carry an InReach, at this point in my life, is to make it easier and safer for any rescue team that had to come out and find me. For me, part of the experience has always been accepting and managing the risk. I don't think the InReach necessarily spoils that, it just changes it. And, for whatever reason, I don't seem to feel the need to change things that way, at this point. We all have to die somehow, and I'd rather it be doing what I love than nursed in a bed for the last several years of my existence.
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  16. #16
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    Do not wait until dark(or almost dark) not wanting to make a false alarm.

  17. #17
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    The one time when I was injured, I very slowly walked on for about 4 days before reaching what had been planned as my first overnight. I was pressured mentally that, if I didn't make contact with my family by the next day, the notification would be made. A couple came by as they began their final day of their hike. I gave them my family's name and addess, explaining my concern that my family would faithfully make "the call" the next day/. Bless their hearts--the hikers contacted my family as soon as they got home. I did not count on that. So, as soon.as I reached cell service, I called home. My family had known for 24 hours that I was okay. So, trail magic and the kindness of other hikers...yeah.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by nsherry61 View Post
    I think it's interesting how much value we put on overdue dates on short trips while hundreds of others hike for months on these long trails without any kind of meaningful overdue dates.
    Possibly since most of these longer trails tend to have more volume? Thus, it would be unlikely that if someone was in need of help that another hiker wouldn't be passing by within a reasonable amount of time who could either help or at least go and contact someone for help. Where those out on more "remote" hikes may not encounter others nearly as much (if at all in some places).

  19. #19

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    Before my wife got me an Inreach Mini for Christmas, I used to leave detailed directions with her. Car description, license plate number, route to be followed, and so on. I would then give her two times - one when she should expect me home, and the other "Call the sheriff" time. I agreed that if she had not heard from me by the "call the sheriff" time, she should do exactly that.
    We used to refer to the first time the "start to worry" time. I have missed the "Start to worry" time a few times, usually no more than 15 minutes or so. I have never gotten close to the "call the sheriff" time.
    I still leave a detailed itinerary, and include the times, but put a bit more trust in the Garmin.
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  20. #20
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    I think it's interesting how much value we put on overdue dates on short trips while hundreds of others hike for months on these long trails without any kind of meaningful overdue dates.


    i think its also the notion that most thru hikers announce their intention to loved one/friends long before they
    actually set out on the trail.......and know that, even with a FKT type person, will still need a month and a half before they
    are done with the trail and coming back home...

    for people that go out for a weekend hike, or a week long, or whatever length-----those people
    are telling their loved ones/friends that they will be away for this length of time before
    having to go back to work or some other type of responsibility.......


    and on the other hand, and i learned this through covering multiple incidents of people missing-----after the
    age of 18, one is on their own......

    and they dont need to let anyone know what they are doing and why they havent gone back to their home....

    if a legal adult just wants to up and leave their family, it's their right to do so.....

    and that all plays into how law enforcement decides their strategy of how to handle a missing persons situation...


    there was a guy about ten years ago-----legal adult. who told his family he was leaving and dont bother to look
    for him because he wasnt going to be found...

    and then set off from newfound gap going north on the AT....

    they figured that out after seeing security cameras from a store where he purchased camping gear...

    and then rangers were looking to see if his car would be parked anywhere....

    they found the car-------started doing the search......

    search went on for a few weeks before they called it off.....

    and to this day-----he hasnt been found....

    so without a body, they dont know whether he is alive or not....

    i believe the family has taken the legal steps to declare that his is dead after a few years of him being gone,
    but potentially, he could still be alive...

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