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Hiking Tip That Could Save Your Life

Hiking Tip That Could Save Your Life

You are excited about this up-coming weekend day hike up in the mountains. It is going to be a strenuous hike up to a waterfall that you have heard about. No worries you think, you have been hiking for years and you consider yourself an experienced hiker. You carry the “10 essentials for hiking” on every hike and you have never had a need for at least ¾ of it but you carry it anyway.

Does that paragraph describe you? It actually describes about 50% of the backpackers/day hikers out on the trails. The vast majority of the people out on the trails are ill prepared to totally not prepared and really shouldn’t be out there alone. A very small percentage of backpackers/day hikers are actually prepared for just about anything that mother nature can throw at them.

So, let’s look at what sets this very small percentage of individuals apart from the rest.

They have a written biography of each individual in the party.

  • Name, age, height, weight, build, hair color, eye color and color passport photo. Also include your vehicle information.

  • Boot brand and size with a scanned copy of the tread pattern.

  • A quick rundown of your hiking/outdoor/first aid skills.

  • What are you carrying? Not per item just generic, example: “10 essentials for hiking.”


With the above list I will use my information that is in my hiking biograph.

  • Chris Imperial, 56 years of age. 74” 204lbs. Muscular build, brown hair, blue eyes, see photo included.

  • Vasque sneaker boots, see photo of sole/tread included.

  • Skills: Retired Army Special Forces, Ranger, national search and rescue crew leader certified, avid ultra-light back packer.

  • Carrying modified 10 essentials for hiking with a focus on ground to air signaling devices.

With those four short bullet comments do you have a mental picture of me?


Another important bit of information is your “hike plan”, what is it? Start point, name of trails and the finish point.

Just a “cliff notes version” of what your plan is.

The last written item is one that most people don’t even think about.

My intentions if something goes wrong.

If I can move.
I will move to nearby high ground and place out a ground to air signal. If night time I will build a signal fire and await rescue personnel.

If I can’t move. I will stay in place and try to put out a ground to air signal. If night time I will try to build a signal fire and await rescue personnel.

The intentions portion is an important part of your informational packet. It can help the search crews decide where to look for you first with limited resources and time. By me saying if something goes wrong while I am hiking I will attempt to move to high ground and put out a signal or fire the first thing that might happen is they get someone in the air to look at the high ground for my ground to air signal or fire.

The reason why I will move to high ground is that the vegetation is thinner along the ridges and hill tops. Hunters and search crews know that animals move along the ridgelines for ease of movement. By being up there I have a clearer view of my surroundings and whatever signal I display up there can be seen further away. While someone is in the air looking at the high ground they can have ground search and rescue crews move along the trails on foot and go to area’s that they know to be dangerous areas for hikers. Along with my biograph the search and rescue/police have a pretty good idea of what my capabilities are and how I am thinking.

So, let’s look over what we have so far, shall we? I leave the above electronic copy with my contact person, someone I will stay in touch with and the same person who is going to report me missing if something goes wrong. They can forward my paperwork to who needs it, police, park rangers, whoever.

Something happens to me on the trail and my contact person notifies the police that I did not contact them yesterday late afternoon like I was supposed to and now it’s late morning the next day and still no contact from me.

Now you are the police officer receiving this information.

My contact person says they have an electronic copy of:

My hike plan, description of me to include a photo, description of my vehicle and what were my intentions on the trail if something went wrong.

Would that information speed up the process to?

  1. Contact officers on the road to look for my vehicle.

  2. Contact park rangers in the area I was hiking in.

With this information people who are involved in looking for me have a mental and physical picture of me, my outdoor skills, my hiking plan and more importantly what is my intention if something goes wrong. The searchers now have a much higher probability of locating me in a shorter period of time. 

There was just an incident where a 40-year-old male did not return from a day hike near Mt. St Helens in WA state. He was found almost a week later alive. He kept moving the whole time and actually walked out. Do you see a problem with that? He had no written plan, no packing list, nothing. The searchers didn’t have a lot of information to go on to look for this guy. How much did this search cost the state of Washington? After 3 or 4 days what do you think the family was thinking?

My “hike plan” is the only thing that really changes each hike, so really there is no reason to not have a small informational packet on you for the just in case scenario. I keep mine on a USB drive that I can give to my contact person. You could email also.

With this informational packet and knowing what to do, you now move one step closer to joining the very small percentage of prepared backpackers/day hikers.

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Modern Warrior Disclaimer: At the Modern Warrior Project we value the benefit gained by leveraging various experts in the field. One of the many ways we do this is by sharing post from a number of guest authors on our site. Like most things our opinions may vary on different topics, techniques, and various other things in which most of us hold deep opinions. While we may not always share the same opinion of any given author we think it is important to let it be heard and let the reader determine their position on any given topic of discussion. Provided the material does not fundamentally go against our values or we consider it to be ‘Bad’ advice we will alway lean towards publication. Bottom line: The opinions and statements expressed in our blog are those of the author unless clearly stated it is an MWP  positon on the given subject. 

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