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    Default What is the safest way to hike?

    Seems like there are many threads that start out with a simple question, but always become argumentative for the sake of safety, i.e. Hanginí food, carry a map, carry a cell phone, Donít hike aloneÖ

    The problem is even I see in my own posts what seems to be a little hypocrisy, but in reality itís probably just my own comfort level.

    Example I have in the past gotten frustrated by people saying things like "a map is not needed because the trail is well markedÖ" (I always carry a map). However, Iíve like wised irritated people by saying "I keep my food in my tent" people then warn me that I could lose an eye.

    So who decides if your style of hiking is negligent? The question is simply academic, until you need a rescue. I think itís almost seen as a necessity to carry a cell phone nowadays (judging by some posts Iíve read), so when will it become a necessity to carry a spot-like device or whatever else technology provides us? Is hiking alone reckless?

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    The safest way to hike is to hike within the limits of your own personal knowledge, experience, equipment, and physical condition. When you have to extend those limits, either by hiking in a new area, or a different time of year, or because you have changed equipment, or be

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    ... or perhaps because your physical conditioning has changed, then you have to account for that, and make the neccessary adjustments. Always, you have to be prepared to discover that you were unprepared. Self awareness is essential, but you can't always assume that you have it. Whatever knowledge, or advice, or equipment, you gather from others, you have to test it, and make it your own. Own it, then hike with it. If you don't own it, then bring it, test it, but don't rely on it until you do.

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    Who decides if your actions are negligent?

    1. The environment, and chance.
    2. You.
    3. Your family and friends and hiking peers.
    4. Authoritative experts, where they have jurisdiction.

    You should never blindly follow the advice or instructions of authoritative experts,
    but if you do something contrary, you should have a good reason for doing so.

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    I hike alone. I don't carry a map or detailed summary on the AT. I do carry a phone. I do let others know my whereabouts. I DO hang my food. I DON'T allow food smells in my tent or on my equipment. I'm cautious at road crossings. I am woman; hear me roar.
    It works for me.
    That being said, I got scared one night. I hung my hammock at dusk one evening. A hiker came through at dark and said he just saw a bear in the vicinity and I shoud move camp. That was out of the question. One call to my husband, and he reminded me that I am very cautious with my food and that I should just have a light and shoes ready for flight if need be. He was right, and it calmed me down.
    Another time this summer, I was taking a 2 mile approach trail to the AT. Again, no map. I will say that I felt uncomfortable on that 2 mile stretch without a map. I seemed to be losing direction, and realized if I got lost , I didn't have the tools to get back on track. Once I hit the AT and saw the familiar white blaze, I was relieved. I have a comfort on the AT.

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    Super Moderator Ender's Avatar
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    Good question.

    Quote Originally Posted by john gault View Post
    The problem is even I see in my own posts what seems to be a little hypocrisy, but in reality itís probably just my own comfort level.
    I know exactly what you mean. I wouldn't worry about it too much though, as everyone here on this forum is guilty of that to some degree or another. I think it all boils down to personal experience and style... some people just consider some things more important that others. The problems on this forum arise when people are unwilling to even consider the conflicting opinions of others.

    Quote Originally Posted by john gault View Post
    So who decides if your style of hiking is negligent?
    Simply put, I think it depends on the indivdual, and it being individual choice. To use your example, I also often sleep with my food, unless I'm in certain areas where I know bears to be in numbers. Same with maps... on the AT I don't carry them, but on other trails I do. In the end, it's up to the individual.

    Quote Originally Posted by john gault View Post
    I think itís almost seen as a necessity to carry a cell phone nowadays (judging by some posts Iíve read)
    I would disagree with that, but I will say that I always carry a cell phone. Not for safety though, but just to call my wife back home. Still, not carrying one, especially in the deep back country, will make little difference when there is no cell service anyway. On the AT, given how many people are out there, I also don't see it as a neccessity. But again, that's just me.

    Quote Originally Posted by john gault View Post
    Is hiking alone reckless?
    Maybe? Doesn't stop me from doing it all the time though. There's no doubt it's not as safe as hiking with a partner, but on the AT, with so many people out there already (at least in the summer), wait a little bit and someone will come by eventually.

    So to answer the original question, I think the safest way to hike would be in a group, with a SPOT device and a cell/sat phone, maps and GPS and compass, with a trained EMS or doctor with you, and enough disposable money in your bank account to pay for an evac chopper if one is needed.

    That's not really realistic though, and each one of us accepts varying degrees of threats to our well being when we go out into the woods. And it's up to us to decide what degree is comfortable to us, and to accept to consequences of failure.

    Anyway, again, good question! Would love to hear what others have to say.

    Quote Originally Posted by john gault View Post
    people then warn me that I could lose an eye.
    You'll shoot your eye out kid...
    Don't take anything I say seriously... I certainly don't.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ender View Post
    That's not really realistic though, and each one of us accepts varying degrees of threats to our well being when we go out into the woods. And it's up to us to decide what degree is comfortable to us, and to accept to consequences of failure.
    I think that sums it up nicely. In everything we do we accept risk, and the key is to manage that risk. There is no way to live a risk-free life. Even if you stayed in bed all day you're at risk from health problems.

    People I used to work with would chide me for solo backcountry travel. And they're driving urban freeways everyday with NASCAR-wannabe idiots driving two-ton machines at 75 mph all around them. They're comfortable with that insane risk that I chose to never expose myself to. I always chose to live where I never had to commute on a freeway. And they would never take the risk of hiking a trail in the woods.

    What risks do you accept and how do you manage them?
    "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." John Muir on expedition planning

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    I think that hiking alone, or various other safety compromises, are "reckless" only if the odds get high enough that you're going to screw up other people's happiness or safety with your actions. For example, SAR calls to pull my butt out of a situation that I shouldn't have been in, or ruining the trip of kindly strangers that take care of me when I did something dumb.

    I think that's far from saying that hiking alone is reckless (!). It's ultimately a balancing act like everything. I drive my car alone, and if I do something dumb behind the while I can certainly injure myself and/or others.

    I guess my pet peeve when safety issues get discussed is when there's an underlying (or explicit) idea that "we shouldn't compromise with safety". I think that's utter nonsense. We always, and constantly compromise with safety --- the example of driving somewhere comes to mind. It's certainly a safety compromise every time I get behind the wheel. I think there's a big difference between making a safety compromise and making it badly.

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    Use common sence and trust your instinsts.When I was young I was warned I was to young , now I'm told "your too old" I ignore and enjoy hiking and living.

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    The AT is well marked, mostly. You will know if not taking a map (I don't) is a bad idea when you get lost.
    You will know if keeping your food in your shelter (I do) is a bad idea when you are attacked by a bear.
    You will find out that filtering / treating your water (I don't) is a good idea, just as you run out of TP.
    You will know that you should hike with a partner (I don't) when you get lost and are eaten by a bear,,,, during a bout of diarrhea.

    Hypocritical? Probably. What I suggest people who are new to hiking should do, I usually do not. Yes, that is funny! I never truly thought about it before. WoW!
    Curse you Perry the Platypus!

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    Super Moderator Ender's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doctari View Post
    What I suggest people who are new to hiking should do, I usually do not.
    Something I've always said about carrying maps... if you need to ask if you should carry maps, then you should carry maps.

    Thinking about it now, the same principle can be applied to most everything. "Should I hang my food?"... if you have to ask, then yes, hang it until you learn how to safely store it otherwise in a way that makes you comfortable. "Should I filter my water?"... if you have to ask, then yes you should, until you learn to identify safe sources and are willing to accept the risk of the trots.

    Just a few thoughts.
    Don't take anything I say seriously... I certainly don't.

  12. #12

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    The greatist risk of injury while hiking is from falling. That can result in a twisted/sprained ankle or knee or even a broken bone. Slips and falls often occur when the trail is wet with slippery mud, roots and rocks. Going down hill when your tired after a long day is another time many people fall.

    The greatist risk of dying is from hyperthermia.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

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    Quote Originally Posted by john gault View Post
    Seems like there are many threads that start out with a simple question, but always become argumentative for the sake of safety, i.e. Hanginí food, carry a map, carry a cell phone, Donít hike aloneÖ

    The problem is even I see in my own posts what seems to be a little hypocrisy, but in reality itís probably just my own comfort level.

    Example I have in the past gotten frustrated by people saying things like "a map is not needed because the trail is well markedÖ" (I always carry a map). However, Iíve like wised irritated people by saying "I keep my food in my tent" people then warn me that I could lose an eye.

    So who decides if your style of hiking is negligent? The question is simply academic, until you need a rescue. I think itís almost seen as a necessity to carry a cell phone nowadays (judging by some posts Iíve read), so when will it become a necessity to carry a spot-like device or whatever else technology provides us? Is hiking alone reckless?
    All a matter of personal opinion. If you die, it'll probably be viewed as reckless.

    Seriously though, we aren't completely incompetent here- we can all hike alone. Okay, hiking up Everest I wouldn't go alone, or somewhere I had no experience, like really unfamiliar ground or dangerous weather. But hiking the AT? Come on.

    And I think SPOTs are ridiculous for hiking the AT in hiker season. Maybe in winter, in a heavy snow and ice area, and less populated areas. I only take a cell phone grudgingly.
    2010 AT NoBo Thru "attempt" (guess 1,700 miles didn't quite get me all the way through ;) )
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    I mostly hike alone, I carry maps, I almost always bear bag food, carry a compass, carry a cell phone (which is always off), and I haven't died yet.

    The one thing I am more concious of is hitching- as a solo female, I try only to hitch with other hikers. (Or if a day hiker and his/her many children are out and they offer me a ride, I usually figure I won't be kidnapped.) It's a matter of instinct, for the most part.
    2010 AT NoBo Thru "attempt" (guess 1,700 miles didn't quite get me all the way through ;) )
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    I carry maps not only for safety reasons, but because I really like maps.

    It's cool to be able to see where you are on the trail and what's ahead and around you.

    I don't mind the extra few grams of weight.
    "Katahdin barada nikto."

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    Same for me. There is always the case where you may need to find a fast exit, but I carry maps because I love to look at 'em. And you can see where the side trails go, and all that.

    Last time I didn't hike with a (current) map, I went down a side trail to get water. Half a mile, almost straight down. I was tired. I would've liked to know it was going to be so steep before I went down.
    2010 AT NoBo Thru "attempt" (guess 1,700 miles didn't quite get me all the way through ;) )
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ender View Post
    Something I've always said about carrying maps... if you need to ask if you should carry maps, then you should carry maps.

    Thinking about it now, the same principle can be applied to most everything. "Should I hang my food?"... if you have to ask, then yes, hang it until you learn how to safely store it otherwise in a way that makes you comfortable. "Should I filter my water?"... if you have to ask, then yes you should, until you learn to identify safe sources and are willing to accept the risk of the trots.

    Just a few thoughts.
    The above aptly sums it up. OTOH, if everyone paid attention to the above, we'd miss on those scintillating threads about knives and water filters!

    Me? I hike in bubble wrap. You can never be too careful. Plus, the sound of popping bubbles is quite entertaining.
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    I get the impression that some here believe it to be reckless to hike without a cell phone, am I right?

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    Nope. I just do it so my folks'll be satisfied. (Well, I'm sure some people think so. But I've noticed that most of the hikers in the 70's- 90's got through alright, and I don't think they had cell phones.)
    2010 AT NoBo Thru "attempt" (guess 1,700 miles didn't quite get me all the way through ;) )
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    Quote Originally Posted by john gault View Post
    I get the impression that some here believe it to be reckless to hike without a cell phone, am I right?
    Not me. Never owned one, and I hope I never do. Getting away from the damned phone is one the reasons I love hiking.
    "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." John Muir on expedition planning

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