Personal Locator Beacon Use

2:59 p.m. on August 20, 2009 (EDT)
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I have a general question / concern about the appropriate use of Personal Locator Beacons.

During solo mountain bike riding situations I frequently find myself out of cell phone coverage during the ride. Some of the trails I ride are not heavily ridden and on some day-long rides I may not see anyone. I realize it's best to always have a riding partner but in some situations it's not feasible.

Even with the best plans, accidents do happen. If an accident occurs and say I break an arm, suffer a collarbone break or some kind of head injury, is activating a PLB considered appropriate? Or in such a situation should I tough it out and walk the six to ten miles out to find help? The odds are 50-50 someone may pass on the trail, but again those are odds, not guarantees.

People state that PLB's are only for "Life and Death" situations, and while a collarbone injury doesn't fall into that category, they can be extremely painful.

Any advice is appreciated.

Thanks,

Dan

3:59 p.m. on August 20, 2009 (EDT)
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rtpbiker welcome to trailspace

Just so you know there has been a few discussions on PLB's in the past few months so if you look in the previous posts you may find some usefull information in them. I don't have one so I cant add any info other than I think for some people or groups they are a good Idea.

4:25 p.m. on August 20, 2009 (EDT)
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If I was immobilized or badly injured and had one, I'd probably set it off. If I was just tired and wanted a ride, definitely not (you can get fined for that-it has happened). Otherwise, it's a judgment call, isn't it?

An alternative is a sat phone, bigger, more expensive and more to operate, but it does give you more choices. I'm thinking of renting one for my next trip next winter since I camp alone.

Personally, I wouldn't be going anywhere on foot with a head injury.

4:33 p.m. on August 20, 2009 (EDT)
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..... If I was just tired and wanted a ride, definitely not (you can get fined for that-it has happened).....

Tom

Good point, yes this has happened

9:40 p.m. on August 20, 2009 (EDT)
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rtpbiker,

You will find a lot of information in my Trailspace review of the SPOT device. For your situation, this sounds like the best approach.

The basic answer to your question is this:

1. Can you evacuate yourself without causing further injury? To answer this, I strongly urge you to take a wilderness first aid class (WFA). You state your situation is that you will be some distance into "wilderness", meaning "greater than 10 minutes from emergency help" (the canonical 911 response time).

1a. "break an arm" - you are dependent on your bike for transport and you are more than a few minutes from the trailhead in the scenario you gave => use the PLB, cell phone, ham radio, etc. This is a serious emergency

1b. "break a colarbone" - well, gee, Geprge Hincapie finished a major uphill stage of the Tour de France last month with a colllar bone, so since you are getting paid thousands of dollars for your trail ride, you should do the same. Oh, you aren't on salary? Then, as above, you are dependent on your bike for transport and you are more than a few minutes from the trailhead in the scenario you gave => use the PLB, cell phone, ham radio, etc. This is a serious emergency, again.

1c. "head injury" - this is potentially really serious! You do wear a helmet, don't you? If you are on solo rides in the wilderness, you really should wear a helmet, and considering how serious head injuries can be and how easy it is to get one riding a bike (says the Old GreyBearded One from experience), you should always wear a helmet. This is a very serious emergency, so use the PLB, cell phone, ham radio, etc.

You begin to get the idea. Even dislocated shoulders, elbows, and such can qualify as serious enough.

As Tom noted, some road rash or getting tired is not serious enough (except ... how tired? Are you significantly dehydrated, or getting into heat exhaustion?).

The SPOT, which is a slightly different class of PLB, has an option in between the full PLB emergency activation and extracting yourself. In the current version, you can set up a "team" of up to 5 people to receive pre-programmed "OK" and "Help" signals (you can have 5 different people for OK and for Help, or have both for one set of 5 people). These include your location (from the GPSR chip in the SPOT) and are sent directly to the person via email or texting (depending on how you set it up for each person). You should, of course, give your "team" your intended itinerary, but you can send a "Crashed, Injured, Send help for evacuation" message for the lower level emergency and push the "911" button to call on a full-scale S&R activation, which you might want for a life or death situation (but your "Help" team might be faster if they are close to the area you are in - the SPOT 911 group is a worldwide commercial company that receives the message, then contacts a S&R group local to the area you are in).

The 70cm band PLBs activate the COSPAR-SARSAT S&R system as the only option. This is a consortium of governmental S&R organizations, with the response being the responsibility of the country in which your PLB is registered. Like the SPOT "911" call, it is a big deal. You could use it for some accident in which you are immobilized or will do further serious injury, as well as a full-on life or death accident. Note that not all COSPAR-SARSAT PLBs give the GPS-derived position and may require 20 minutes of so before getting a passable location, which is needed before the appropriate S&R group can be notified, then activated.

The basic thing is - ride smart and reduce the probability of injury in the first place. Do that and you won't need to use the PLB or SPOT you brought for backup.

10:42 p.m. on August 20, 2009 (EDT)
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Thanks Bill for clarifying what I meant by "tired." The first use of a PLB was by a canoeist in NY who got caught in a snowstorm and set it off. He was rescued, but had to leave all his gear behind. A few weeks later, he went back to get his gear and set it off again. That time, the rescuers decided he really wasn't in danger and was just a doofus, so he was arrested after they rescued him. That's what I meant.

Story- Not sure if he was found guilty or not-but the story is kind of entertaining.

http://www.equipped.com/plb_first_use.htm#second

Here is an interesting analysis by Ryan Jordan who owns the BackpackingLight website of the first rescue with a followup discussion board. He gets into when to use the beacon, which is the original question posed here.

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/00205.html

In particular read the post titled "Sat Phone Worked."

11:25 a.m. on August 21, 2009 (EDT)
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One thing I should add to the "how injured/tired/etc are you" evaluation - one of the things taught in WFA and WFR courses is that you are not a doctor and in the field you do not have Xray or other diagnostic equipment. So you cannot differentiate for sure in most cases whether you (especially on yourself) have a sprain, torn muscle/ligament/tendon, or actual broken bone. The one exception is if you can see bone ends protruding through the skin. You can say you have a "possible or probable broken bone." When I had my runin with the snowboarder (she ran into me), I was sure at first that my arm was broken. The weird bend of my arm seemed to me to be nothing else, plus it was just about the worst pain I had ever felt in my life. Having it pop back into place during the short but bumpy ride down the hill in the Ski Patrol's sled proved pretty obviously that it was a dislocated elbow instead. If the dislocation had happened far into the backcountry on a solo ski tour, I am not sure if I could have gotten up and been able to ski back to the car and drive to the hospital. As it was, I was unable to shift our standard transmission vehicles for about 3 or 4 weeks without some tricky aerobatics that terrified Barb every time I tried it.

Point here is that you have to evaluate your mobility. In case of a head injury, if you have even a mild concussion, your orientation and judgment may be off enough to render self-rescue a high risk operation, and if the concussion is severe enough, you won't even realize how out of it you are (again a reason to take a good WFA course at the least - if you take one like the series I took that had med students and ER interns playing the roles of victims you learn how deceptive and hidden a lot of disabling injuries, especially head injuries, can be). Good reason to have a companion, though in some incidents, your companion can be seriously injured as well as you.

4:42 p.m. on August 21, 2009 (EDT)
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I'm going to say something that I think may be unpopular. I am not trying to rattle anyone's cage. This is just a deeply held belief that I have tried to keep to myself since this thread popped up. But, as Ron White says, while I have the right to remain silent, I do not have the ability.

Substituting technology for good operating practice and common sense is a bad, bad idea. If you cannot operate safely in the wilderness you should not operate in the wilderness. I know that accidents can and do happen to the best of us, no matter how careful we are. But part of the wilderness experience is that I accept that risk.

I will not use a cell phone, sat phone, or PLB to call for rescue operations. To do so would be narcissistic in the extreme. The thousands or millions of dollars which are invested in the search and rescue infrastructure alone are not there for my personal benefit. And then there are salaries, etc. of the people who operate that infrastructure. And then there is the danger that they must put themselves into every time they go out. These treasured resources are there for those times when something happens in the normal course of events that could not be avoided and rescue has become necessary. Backpacking or mountain biking are not among those events. They are sporting activities. I engage at my own risk, or I don't engage at all. And for Chrissake I don't expect society to expend thousands of dollars, and dedicated service personnel to put their lives and limbs at risk, and the families of those personnel to endure the uncertainty of that risk, because I want to get a rush out in the back-of-beyond.

Ask yourself, what would you have done in the years before PLBs were invented? Do that. Leave the PLBs to those who are required to carry them, such as commercial aircraft and the like.

11:03 p.m. on August 21, 2009 (EDT)
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Brerarnold, there is a very good philosophical post on the BPL thread I linked to above by someone who thought carrying a PLB detracted from his experience. His choice was based on his lack of duty or obligation to others-no family, business, job, relatives, etc. that depended on him.

People who join SAR do so knowing that it can be dangerous. A friend of mine was killed flying a helo on a SAR mission looking for a lost hiker, so I am aware of the potential cost in lives that others may put at risk by foolish behavior or just plain old misfortune. That particular accident killed 3 people. This was before the days of PLBs so that wasn't an issue.

A decision has been made by society (or at least a small part of it), that agencies like the police, fire and rescue are a desirable thing and serve the common good. The fact that some choose to abuse them, does not change the overall good they do.

I don't have a PLB. When I was solo bike touring and hiking in NZ many years ago, there were many times that if I had disappeared or got hurt, no one on the planet would have known until I didn't come back and that might not have been noticed for weeks by anyone and certainly not by anyone in country. Furthermore, no one I knew would have a clue as to where I was or what I was doing and I knew that.

More recently, I have done a couple of short solo trips in Yosemite in winter; I was not far off the beaten path and on those trips, I was signed in with the Rangers and they knew to come looking for me if I didn't come back-that is standard procedure there-a note on your car with your return date. If your car is there past your due date, they come looking for you. I don't think that detracted from my experience, but that's just me.

11:37 p.m. on August 21, 2009 (EDT)
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Brerarnold,

A couple of comments -

You have been reading Trailspace for a while and surely have seen that a number of us have repeatedly said that prevention is the best cure, and in particular that knowledge, training, experience, and preparation will avoid the vast majority of even minor incidents. In my post three above yours, I said:

The basic thing is - ride smart and reduce the probability of injury in the first place. Do that and you won't need to use the PLB or SPOT you brought for backup

And I made similar statements in the SPOT review. Tom and others here have repeatedly said the same thing. And many here admonish newbies to learn.

But accidents and acts of nature happen. Just last week a highly skilled and experienced professional climber was killed in a freak accident and his partner seriously injured. Both participated in rescues on many occasions themselves. In the incident I described where a snowboarder ran into me, I was entering the liftline at a resort, a place "where such an incident should never have happened".

Those in the S&R community (I used to do this years ago, and we have a couple current S&R people who post on Trailspace, f_klock for example) appreciate the aid provided by anything that narrows the search area when they are called out, whether by worried family and friends or by an electronic message (they do not appreciate someone who just wants a ride home when they get tired). Make no mistake - if anyone knows that someone was out there and has not returned when expected, they will call for a search.

No matter how much you say that:

part of the wilderness experience is that I accept that risk.

if someone knows you are out there (a ranger seeing your car at the trailhead for several days or weeks, a friend, your co-workers), eventually the authorities will get notified and an attempt will be made to determine what happened to you. The search for Steve Fossett is an example. Of all the experienced pilots and experienced and knowledgable people, he was the last you have expected to die in the type of crash he did. Hundreds of people and tens of thousands of dollars went into the search. Another example is the National Park Ranger who disappeared in the Sequoia NP backcountry after decades of working that area every summer (subject of the book "The Last Summer".

People will search for you if you don't return, whether you specifically say "don't come looking" or not.

You say that:

These treasured resources are there for those times when something happens in the normal course of events that could not be avoided and rescue has become necessary.

You may not expect society to expend the money and the personnel to put life and limb at risk, but they will.

Note that I used the term "back-up" in talking about PLBs. A first aid kit is back-up - do you leave that at home? Food for an extra few days is a back-up - do you leave that out because you are so certain that you will get back on schedule (on our Antarctic trip, we spent an extra 3 days at Vinson Base because the plane could not get through the weather on schedule to get us back to Patriot Hills, and then we spent an extra 3 weeks on what was scheduled to be a total of 18 days on the ice, because of a combination of mechanical problems with the Ilyushin and weather problems - the extra food was "only a back-up" - and these are not the only times when I have been on expeditions where unexpected weather lengthened the time until we could get back to civilization).

What would I have done before PLBs were invented? Maybe I should say, what did I do, since PLBs are a pretty recent invention only becoming available to the general public in the past couple of years (a couple decades longer if you include the ELTs for civil aviation), and I have been going "out there" for almost 7 decades? Answer is same thing I do now and that I advised the OP - prepare, plan, train, be aware of the risks, use safety gear (in his case a bike helmet), and if you want to carry the extra weight, use the PLB only in case of real need, when you have a genuine emergency and cannot self-evacuate. It is not a call for a taxi ride home.

By the way, the only time I have carried something like a PLB was the required ELT when I was flying my own plane and during my review of SPOT. Otherwise I have never carried one on a day hike, a weekend hike, a weeklong trip or a trip to the Antarctic or remote mountain ranges. And much of the time I do not refer to the map, compass, or GPSR that I happen to have with me, even on a week-long backcountry ski tour.

12:02 p.m. on August 22, 2009 (EDT)
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like berarnold, I'm probabably going to say something unpopular, but that's how life works.

I think of these beacon systems as insurance. It gives you piece of mind, but you hope you never have to use it. It is not selfish to use it. well, if you have a blister and you don't want to continue....thats selfish, not to mention a crime! people don't want to read "hiker found dead" in the newspaper because you have too much pride to call for help or don't want to "burden" the rangers. I'm fairly certain your funeral cost will add up to triple the money they would spend finding you. Not to mention the "burden" on your family(burden isn't the best word but I like the connection). SAR was created for the purpose their name entails. for their conscience, they would rather have an operation be successful than have a dead woodsman in their park with a locator beacon on them asking "why didn't they use it"(assuming it was in their control) knowing something could have been done.

Just my opinion.

1:39 p.m. on August 22, 2009 (EDT)
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There are some very good points being made. They are all valid. I know that people of good will may come to different decisions. I believe firmly in the legitimate difference of opinion, and I honestly respect the viewpoints being shared.

That being said, my opinion stands. For me. It's just a gut feeling, and I guess I'm stuck with it.

If someone is operating within their limits, and an accident happens that could not have been prevented, and they use a PLB to call for help, I won't make a hue and cry about it. But if I go somewhere alone that I think I am likely to be injured, that is another story. I just want to make sure that this part was clear.

Finally: Having been a child abuse investigator, a ham radio Emergency Coordinator, and a Red Cross volunteer here in hurricane country, I've seen a lot first-hand, from the inside. I sure appreciate all that is done by various organizations, public and private. I hope no one took my post as a put-down of any of that.

7:38 p.m. on August 22, 2009 (EDT)
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A lot of good, valid points have been made by everyone. First, I think it's important for anyone to think about how they might handle certain situations before they happen (as rtpbiker, the original poster, is doing), how they would like them to be appropriately handled, and what might be the response to any of these decisions.

Yeah, you've got to be flexible in life when the unforeseen occurs, but having a thought process beforehand and training goes a long way in preparedness and dealing with what comes up.

Personally, I used to have a very hard and fast "no cell phones ever" rule. I was quite vehement about it and would argue about how having a cell phone changed your decision-making skills, whether you want it to or not. My spouse and I were both in absolute agreement about this, whether going out together or alone.

Then I had the first of two kids and my philosophy changed a bit. I also heard a few SAR people say how proper use of a cell phone can make their job easier (f_klock, what's your opinion on this?). So, I now usually have my cell phone on me, but off, buried, and primarily forgotten in my pack for two reasons:

1. I think of it as a potential means to avoid the very "send in the troops" response I would not want. If something not too serious delayed me, perhaps I could get a message to someone about it and avoid a response I don't want. For this reason, I've considered getting the new version of the Spot once it's out for solo and lengthier excursions, maybe backcountry skiing and the like. But, I'm personally still undecided about it. I think it's a very useful tool, and I like how it gives you options for sending info beyond "Help/911". I just have to decide if it's a spectrum I want to move down.

2. Whether my kids are with me or at home, I'm still 100% responsible for them. So, I think of a cell phone as a last-resort tool if I or my kids ever got into some very deep trouble. It doesn't replace preparation and good decisions in any way, but maybe it would give me an extra option in some unforeseen catastrophe.

So, my "no cell phones ever rule" has changed to a "cell phone only as an absolute last-resort tool." I've come to trust my own preparedness and judgement to carry one and know that I would not do something like this guy: "No helicopter rescue for hiker with thumb injury"

As to rtpbiker's original question, definitely don't go anywhere with a head injury (this is coming from someone who walked around with an undiagnosed concussion for several days). I'm not sure about the collarbone though. I'd personally try to get out on my own power first. I dislocated mine once (also not diagnosed for several days...I'm sounding like a mess here), but you'd have to make a judgment call on the safety issue and if you were alone without someone to help you or monitor you, the danger level would rise.

Bill's recommendation for wilderness first aid training is excellent. I should renew mine.

I can understand where everyone above is coming from. I think it's the people who never even think about what these decisions mean to them and others that can be problematic.

10:08 p.m. on August 22, 2009 (EDT)
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..... Substituting technology for good operating practice and common sense is a bad, bad idea. If you cannot operate safely in the wilderness you should not operate in the wilderness. I know that accidents can and do happen to the best of us, no matter how careful we are. But part of the wilderness experience is that I accept that risk.....

As there are a lot of positive points being made here. Now here is my 2 cents on the subject. I do not own a PLB nor am I interested in getting one at this time or in the near future, not to say that some day I may be interested in getting one. But you have stated that you work with the boy scouts so you are most likely a scout leader and one of your main jobs is teaching leadership and responsibility. So on that note it is good that you use and show good operational skills But with a bunch of boy scouts (kids) you can't be with all of them all the time. You stated

part of the wilderness experience is that I accept that risk

I do under stand what your point is and what you do when your on your own is fine, but with the boy scouts involved I would want all the help I could get as soon as I could get it in my opinion. As far as putting other people in harms way while doing there job its there job and they chose t do it.

11:34 p.m. on August 22, 2009 (EDT)
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When I was young we would usually get a short clip before the main feature at the Saturday cinema of Clyde Beatty or some other "lion tamer", or perhaps it would be aerialists - trapeze artists or tight-rope walkers, always working without a net.

Perhaps that spoiled me, but I am bothered by people who today attempt "extreme" (forgive all the quotes, please) endeavors, such as climbing Mt. Hood at the wrong season, and then call for help. They know they have the net. Certainly, help is needed, it is a matter of life and death (except it was the SAR people who died, IIRC) but the situation should never have occurred.

Some might say that people like that who obviously threaten to pollute the gene pool with a massive dose of pure stupidity are being saved to propagate simply because they own a cell-phone or PLB. I would reply that Natural Selection is not any longer applicable to humans...but I won't deny the rest. However, if people wish to really enjoy danger, I don't wish to provide them with a net. In that, I think I am echoing Brerarnold.

What did we do when we went into the woods thirty years ago for months at a time? We enjoyed life. However, you knew that if the limbing axe slipped and gashed your leg, the chainsaw kicked back on a bough and sliced your scalp, the widow-maker broke and fell, the tree being felled hung on another and shot free of the stump... you are alone with no one to hear. Which was fine and wonderful, I wouldn't have it any other way. But that is JMO.

1:15 a.m. on August 23, 2009 (EDT)
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But you have stated that you work with the boy scouts so you are most likely a scout leader and one of your main jobs is teaching leadership and responsibility. So on that note it is good that you use and show good operational skills But with a bunch of boy scouts (kids) you can't be with all of them all the time. You stated

part of the wilderness experience is that I accept that risk

I do under stand what your point is and what you do when your on your own is fine, but with the boy scouts involved I would want all the help I could get as soon as I could get it in my opinion. As far as putting other people in harms way while doing there job its there job and they chose t do it.

The principle doesn't change. "Operating well within limits" when I am on my own or with other adults with whose skill level I am comfortable is one set of limits. Operating with Boy Scouts is another set of limits. Either way, we still plan to operate within safe limits.

When another Asst Scoutmaster and I offered the Backpacking Merit Badge this year, the requirements were Star rank or higher, and they had to have Hiking, Camping, and First Aid merit badges already. We gave months of training including several practice hikes of various lengths and degree of difficulty before going up to the AT for a five-day hike. We used ham radio which worked out very well. We did have cell phones for back-up. We operated well within our limits, and those limits expanded as our training program paid off. It would have to have been an extraordinary event which would have made activating SAR a better option than using our own skills for self-rescue, at any stage of the game, given the way we had it planned. This all emphasizes my point, it does not contradict it.

I have to say that I may have not made all this clear enough in my first post. I am not anti-technology. We should take a multi-layered, safety-in-depth approach. Technology such as cell phones and PLBs, when used, should be a "when all else fails" layer.

But that is not what RTPHiker was asking. He said "If I'm out on a mountain biking trail by myself and break a collar bone, is it OK to use a PLB?" I'm saying if he wouldn't take this much risk without a PLB, he shouldn't go with the PLB.

And yes, I am saying that in general, exceptions duly noted, I believe that this is a good rule of thumb.

I also have to laugh at myself. Because I know for a fact that those most likely to employ a PLB are those for whom this discussion would fall on deaf ears. The folks who have replied so far are those who, AFAIK, I would expect that they would make pretty much the same kind of choice as I would, push come to shove, despite any differences in how we voice the issue. :-)

2:33 a.m. on August 23, 2009 (EDT)
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Brerarnold

I don't own one either and at this point I don't see myself buying one. And as you stated early-er part of the wilderness experience is that I accept that risk. I agree with you on that for my self and possibly a few friend but if I were involved with a youth origination regardless of there skill level I would probably consider one for a emergency situation but that's me.

2:08 p.m. on August 23, 2009 (EDT)
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Brerarnold makes an excellent point of clarification - what you carry and use depends on the situation.

A point I make strongly in the training courses for which I am either course director or one of the instructors for leaders of youth organizations, such as Boy Scouts, is that there is a huge difference between what you do solo, what you do with an adult group for which you are the leader, what you do as a member of an adult group, what you do as the primary adult leader for a youth group, and what you do as a secondary leader for a youth group.

Solo, you are primarily only responsible for yourself. To a large extent, whatever you decide to do is up to you, and you have to accept the consequences that result from any mistakes you make. However, you do have a responsibility to others - family, friends, and the authorities who will get called on to search for you when you do not return.

As the primary leader of a group, whether adult or youth, you are responsible for the health and safety of all members of the group. As the excellent books on outdoor leadership published by NOLS and others discuss, there are different styles of group organization ranging from laissez faire to rigid organization. But in each there is a responsibility for the well-being of others in the group.

When the group is youth, whether you are the primary adult leader or secondary, you have to consider how you are going to explain to Mrs. Jones why her little Johnny cratered on your watch. Legally, as an adult leader you have a lot more responsibility and face much higher expectations than solo or even with a group of adults. Minors are assumed legally to lack judgment and responsibility (though I must say, I know some kids who are more responsible and show better judgment in leadership positions than a lot of adults I know).

These criteria play a subconscious role in your decisions for what you do and should play a very conscious decision. Too many people, whether for themselves or in leadership roles, just go off "fat, dumb, and happy" (that's an old saying in the flying community). You should consider "what if?" and the consequences, along with your responsibilities to yourself, your family, your friends, and if like me you work with youth, the parents of the kids you are introducing to adventures.

It is an individual choice, of course. But at least give some serious thought to the "what ifs" and the consequences not only for your self, but others as well. Calling for a "taxi ride" imposes huge burdens and risks on people just for your own comfort. On the other hand, letting the people who will have to retrieve your body if you die out there through either your own momentary bad choice or an unanticipated consequence of natural law, or if a kid under your responsibility gets seriously hurt, have a better idea of where to look helps reduce the risks the searchers have to take.

10:22 p.m. on August 23, 2009 (EDT)
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Hmmm...I've been reading this thread with interest.

I've been badly injured before, and I've been lost before.

I see nothing wrong with using technology to stay safe. In fact, one could argue that cavemen made a huge mistake by using fire...after all, they had done without it for how long?

People survived long before pennicillin, well, some of them.

Most of us use an invention called the 'wheel' to get to the trailhead. How about inoculations, anti venom, & water treatment?

While I understand the argument towards a purist form of self reliance, or not wanting to involve others in your misfortune, it seems foolish to me to not take advantage of modern technology in order to live to hike another day, or to save the life of someone you are responsible for.

As someone who has been badly injured, I tell you that if it happens to you, you will not care how help arrives. If you are hurt and in pain you will not care whether or not you are using modern technology to summon help.

This notion that you are willing to assume all risk of injury or death upon yourself, and will die bravely without wanting to summon help is simply not realistic.

Given the chance, anyone in pain, and or facing their demise, will accept rescue if possible.

Let's leave hollywood in hollywood.

YES! If injured bad enough to need rescue...you will know it. Push the button!

9:18 p.m. on August 24, 2009 (EDT)
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Trout,

Great post! I especially liked the Hollywood reference. :)

However, I can't equate the availability of inventions with the necessity to use them. For each of your positive examples you might have given a negative. Should we use Sarin gas, nuclear warheads, deadly viruses? Should we all drive Hummers, pave over more landscape, and clear-cut the forests? We have all this technology, shouldn't we use it?

You said:

While I understand the argument towards a purist form of self reliance, or not wanting to involve others in your misfortune, it seems foolish to me to not take advantage of modern technology in order to live to hike another day, or to save the life of someone you are responsible for.

Two points here. One, we may make decisions for ourselves that we would not make for others. I would quickly use someone's cellphone to summon help for him/her if help was required.

The second point is obvious, if I go into the backcountry (remember, this is the backcountry forum) and encounter any of the severe afflictions I previously narrated which would cause severe sudden blood loss, all your cellphones won't save me. If, on the other hand, the damage is less severe, I should be able to manage things in order to get myself to second aid.

You said:

This notion that you are willing to assume all risk of injury or death upon yourself, and will die bravely without wanting to summon help is simply not realistic.

If I am in the backcountry, I, by definition, am removing myself from instant help and assuming all the risks. If you wish to turn all the outdoors into a theme park and remove all corners from boulders, rough bark from trees; then we are not speaking the same language. It is not a matter of dieing bravely, it is simply that in the backcountry I do not wish to be disturbed by the frontcountry. I wish to be where I am, not where I was; everything present tense. I can't do that if I drag the frontcountry along with me.

If I had a broken leg miles from a road and someone walked by, I would probably ask them if they would help me hobble out to the road. That would be neighborly. However, I would be working out a means to get to that road solo the moment I heard my leg snap.

You said:

Given the chance, anyone in pain, and or facing their demise, will accept rescue if possible.

Trout, you don't know everyone, so "anyone" may be too general. And pain is relative. To many hikers, from the reports of PLB and cellphone use I have read, a blister causes unendurable pain. Others seem to have more reasonable pain thresholds, especially if they have no cellphone. : )

9:54 p.m. on August 24, 2009 (EDT)
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HaHa, yes I though that post may draw some rebuttal.

It is late for me....I will post a responce tomorrow.

Yes pain is relative, I hope I have not inflicted myself with any by this post. HaHa

9:30 p.m. on August 25, 2009 (EDT)
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overmywaders,

Lets see if I can address some of the issues you have raised concerning my post, I also have some counter points to make concerning your post although we probably agree more than we disagree.

I wish I had drawn a distinction between general backcountry travel and mountaineering. In my post I was addressing backcountry travel only. I fully understand that in many mountaineering situations rescue is not possible. Those who attempt to summit Everest or K2, for example, proceed with that knowledge. They have made the decision to take the risk.

Anyone who travels in the backcountry does assume risk to varying degrees, however, rescue is possible most of the time. As Bill S. has already pointed out, if you go missing there is a good chance that a rescue will be undertaken whether you desire one or not.

My mention of other types of technology was only to point out that the term 'modern technology' is relative to the time in which we live.

Surely we would not admonish someone for using a bic lighter to start a fire if they had fallen in freezing water.

You said:

I can't equate the availability of inventions with the necessity to use them.

Well I can, it's very simple for me, if the invention or technology will complete a task or make it easier, the necessity is apparent. The question is how do you use the invention, what is your intent. For example, if I am suffering from hypothermia and have a lighter handy the necessity (or justification) to use it is triggered by the event of me falling in freezing water and driven by my desire to live.

This is a proper and constructive use of technology. I have not decided to use the technology for evil purposes, so we must draw a distinction between proper and improper use of technology. In my post I am only concerned with the proper use of technology, and only with how it applies to personal or group safety for backcountry travel.

I don't see how broadening the scope of the discussion to include the use of technology that is irrelevant to the topic (sarin gas etc.) is beneficial to the original poster or to the discussion of PLB's in general.

You said:

While I understand the argument towards a purist form of self reliance, or not wanting to involve others in your misfortune, it seems foolish to me to not take advantage of modern technology in order to live to hike another day, or to save the life of someone you are responsible for.

Two points here. One, we may make decisions for ourselves that we would not make for others. I would quickly use someone's cellphone to summon help for him/her if help was required.

The second point is obvious, if I go into the backcountry (remember, this is the backcountry forum) and encounter any of the severe afflictions I previously narrated which would cause severe sudden blood loss, all your cellphones won't save me. If, on the other hand, the damage is less severe, I should be able to manage things in order to get myself to second aid.

On the first point you made, I think we are in agreement. I would do the same thing.

On the second point you are describing two scenarios that are on opposite ends of the degree of severity of an injury. In the first case a cellphone, PLB, or ham radio would be of no use, ie. you have bleed to death. In the second case you describe a situation where you are able to self rescue.

You seem to have left out everything in the middle, such as a broken leg, or concussion. It is in this middle ground where the use of cellphones, PLB's, or ham radios comes into play.

This type of technology, such as my cellphone, is only part of a multi layered safety net. I may not ever need it, but it is a tool that I have at mydisposall should it be needed. Some of my other tools include: prevention, or following basic rules of safety, keeping track of where I am on my map, leaving anitineraryy behind, knowing first aid and carrying the needed supplies, extra warm clothing, solid boots and a reliable tent. My topo is made using modern technology and the necessity to use it becomesapparentt as soon as I step onto the trail.

9:59 p.m. on August 25, 2009 (EDT)
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Whew....okay part two. I am not a fast typer so don't expect me to do this again. HaHa.

You said:

This notion that you are willing to assume all risk of injury or death upon yourself, and will die bravely without wanting to summon help is simply not realistic.

If I am in the backcountry, I, by definition, am removing myself from instant help and assuming all the risks. If you wish to turn all the outdoors into a theme park and remove all corners from boulders, rough bark from trees; then we are not speaking the same language. It is not a matter of dieing bravely, it is simply that in the backcountry I do not wish to be disturbed by the frontcountry. I wish to be where I am, not where I was; everything present tense. I can't do that if I drag the frontcountry along with me.

If I had a broken leg miles from a road and someone walked by, I would probably ask them if they would help me hobble out to the road. That would be neighborly. However, I would be working out a means to get to that road solo the moment I heard my leg snap.

Yes we agree. I think that what I was trying to say was that I hear a lot of people say they are willing to assume all the risks of backcountry travel, along with denying any rescue attempt in order to save the S&R people the risk that they (S&R) would assume in order to to rescue them.

I think that most people who make these statements are sincere and attempting to be selfless. However, I believe, ones perspective changes drastically once they have become severely injured and in real pain, or lost. The gravity of the situation causes them to re-evaluate their priorities. I believe that for most people, the will to survive will override their desire to save others the inconvenience of looking for, and rescuing them. I also agree that we have a responsibility to self rescue (as you stated) if at all possible, and not just sit on a rock with a broke finger waiting on help.

You said:

Given the chance, anyone in pain, and or facing their demise, will accept rescue if possible.

Trout, you don't know everyone, so "anyone" may be too general. And pain is relative. To many hikers, from the reports of PLB and cellphone use I have read, a blister causes unendurable pain. Others seem to have more reasonable pain thresholds, especially if they have no cellphone.

Valid point, I should have said: Given the chance, most rational people who are severely injured and in real pain, and/or facing their demise will accept rescue, if possible, regardless of any previous statements by them to the contrary.

overmywaders, thank you for the opportunity to have this discussion, I think the biggest gap between us is the wording or terms we use in our posts, and not our actual approach to travel in the backcountry. To me safety is paramount, I will use technology in order to stay safe when applicable. That includes my compass, gpsr, maps, swiss army knife, and yes my cellphone even though it does not always work. It is just an added measure of safety.

12:09 a.m. on August 26, 2009 (EDT)
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I read a review of an interesting book recently that attributed social progress to the discovery of fire for cooking. It's called "Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human" by Richard Wrangham. Haven't read it, but the premise is interesting-that cooking changed the way prehistoric people interacted, started to live as families and became more of what we consider "modern man."

The connection here is that technology changes the way we think and act about ourselves. The PLB is just one example. Scuba divers often carry spare regulators (safe seconds) or even bailout bottles (tiny tanks with their own regulator on them). I don't think having safety gear with you detracts from the experience at all.

8:09 a.m. on August 26, 2009 (EDT)
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Safety technology? What about seat belts. People thought those were a ridiculous invention when they came out (some still do) but now it's the law.

I wonder what would happen if a purist was happened-upon, seriously injured, by someone who happened to have a spot unit. Would the purist refuse to let the tech-savvy hike push the button?

If a tree falls in the woods........

9:25 a.m. on August 26, 2009 (EDT)
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Trout,

Thanks for the thought-filled replies.

You said:

You seem to have left out everything in the middle, such as a broken leg, or concussion. It is in this middle ground where the use of cellphones, PLB's, or ham radios comes into play.

There really isn't much middle ground when you consider what people are capable of when need requires. Does that mean I think that I would survive being trapped in a desert crevice for three days with my arm pinned by a boulder; that I could then cut off my own arm with a Swiss Army knife and hike miles to safety? No, but it's been done. And people have been doing similar for thousands of years (though they probably had a better edge on their knives than you can get with a stainless Swiss Army knife).

It's not the problems we encounter that make us better, it is how we solve the problem. Do we face it head-on and overcome it, thus learning more about our actual capabilities and growing as a consequence, or do we sit and wait for someone else to solve our problem?

Trout, you and some others seem to feel that the cellphone or PLB is a "safety tool". It is not, the PLB will not save you. It is the SAR copter and all the SAR personnel that are your "safety tool". In effect, when you carry a cellphone or PLB into the backcountry you are dragging a long umbilical cord. Don't fool yourself that you are having a "wilderness experience" when you are on the Disney Jungle Cruise Ride ( [url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNo8LvdOwSk]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNo8LvdOwSk
) :)

[Disclaimer: the remarks in this post are only applicable to an individual hiking alone.]

You said:

Valid point, I should have said: Given the chance, most rational people who are severely injured and in real pain, and/or facing their demise will accept rescue, if possible, regardless of any previous statements by them to the contrary.

Your words "accept rescue" are illusory. There are not rescue fairies drifting through the backcountry offering rescue. We have been talking about someone requesting rescue from a distance. Don't conflate the two scenarios - yes, I mentioned that if I broke my leg and someone was walking by I would ask them to help me hobble to the road. That is requesting assistance of someone casually encountered, otherwise I would find my own way out...or not.

As for the pain that you keep mentioning: I know a woman who learned in 1972 that she had breast cancer. Her husband had died a month before of a misdiagnosed brain tumor (the doctor accused the woman of poisoning her husband, because the first test showed no tumor, ignoring the fact that the husband had had a tumor removed two years previously). She still had two children - one with Down syndrome - to raise and could not afford to lose her job. For the next twenty years she did not see a doctor and used stiffer clothing to cover the changes as parts of her body wasted away. She never missed a day of work, managing the tax department of a small city, and retired. Finally, six months before her death, we noticed she was in pain. Apparently she had been reaching for something on a shelf five months previously and broken her collarbone - the ends were still grating together. That is how we learned of the cancer that had spread through her body.

This woman had made a rational decision to not request aid, despite the constant pain and surety of impending death; not once, but every day for twenty years. Had she accepted the medical treatment of the time she would probably not have lived so long and certainly would not have been able to work in her existing job to support her children.

So, you, Trout, tell me about pain and what rational people do.

I think the above answers f_flock statement as well about the Spot unit.

Most people (all people?) don't know their own capabilities. The wise seek to learn them. We shouldn't avoid opportunities to learn, IMO.

JMO, YMMV

6:58 p.m. on August 26, 2009 (EDT)
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okay overmywaders....rational people who are in pain, or are completely lost, tired and hungry accept rescue when it arrives.

 

You will have to list some documented cases to the contrary to change my mind.

My personal capability far exceeds that which is needed to simply trek and survive in wilderness, no matter how remote. A large part of that was learned using todays technology. It is when things go wrong or you have an accident that you may need assistance, and of course there are no rescue fairies otherwise we would not be discussing PLB's.

People 'accept rescue' when it arrives in the form of other hikers, or S&R. As with first aid they do have the right to refuse assistance, therefore my use of the word 'accept'.

Being in pain in ones own home, and being severely injured in the backcountry with possibly little water, dwindling food, and exposed to the elements is not comparable.

Middle ground? The middle ground in question is what this entire thread is about, the legitimate use of PLB's.

As far as telling you about pain....you will just have to take my word for it. I've seen it, enough of that.

Cell phones, PLB's, and ham radios are things we can carry in order to help us stay in communication, or summon help. Feel free to call them whatever you wish, this does not change their role in our use of them.

I can assure you that me carrying a cell phone does not diminish my skill level or what I am capable of. It is only a tool to be used as a last resort.

This notion that using technology keeps you from realizing your full potential does have merit. I understand the point you are trying to make, however, what's so great and noble about suffering the kind of fate that many adventurers in the past could have avoided if they only had a way to contact an S&R team like we can today.

People who do not learn the techniques, precautionary measures, and posses the tools to mitigate their risks do not impress me as being skilled, but rather, foolish. I do understand how people put false hope in technology and by doing so, fail to develop skill sets they need.

I believe that is the bigger point you are trying to make. Yes that happens, but it is not the fault of technology, but rather, the fault of the individual. That is simply the human condition, and has happened for one reason or another throughout history.

I still say to the original poster:

If you are severely injured, and/or really lost then push the button!

8:32 p.m. on August 26, 2009 (EDT)
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This discussion has wandered way off topic from conditions that warrant use of a PLB to the general philosophy of what to carry and use in the wilderness. Going back to the OP's question, I agree with trout and would go one step farther:

If used wisely, modern technology can be very useful. "Wise use" includes not only knowing when and how to use it, but also knowing what to do when the modern technology fails or falls short. Technology is no substitute for knowledge, experience, and good judgment.

Going even farther in the drift direction Off Topic (maybe should be moved?), I, along with a few others who frequent Trailspace, do historical re-enactments. This means that we learn about and demonstrate for the public the skills and technology used in our chosen era. In my case, that means the Mountain Man fur-trapping era, where "modern technology" meant muzzle loaders, usually with flintlock, but late in the era with percussion caps, Bowie knives, and 'hawks. No repeating firearms (much less automatic), no SAKs, no multitools. Fires were used for cooking and warmth, lit mostly without matches (much less Bic lighters). No backpacking stoves, liquid fuel or compressed gas. Dried foods (jerked meats and fish or salt pork or salt fish) or fresh-killed or -caught game and fish - no freeze dry.

Clothes were cotton or wool (not Merino wool, either), with some leather and some fur. There was no synthetic like nylon or polyester, and waterproof meant oilskins (usually oiled cotton, which actually meant melted wax, not petroleum-derived oils), not Goretex or eVent.

First aid kits consisted of your Bowie knife and whatever poultices you could make from the local herbs and other plants, held in place with torn-up pieces of clothing.

If you look at the photo I am using for an avatar, you will notice that everything I have with me is modern technology from my synthetic outer layers to the rope I am using, the plastic sled I am hauling, the carbon fiber ski/trekking poles, the modern steel alloy of the head and point of my ice ax and crampons, and the plastic lenses of my prescription glacier glasses (ground on a computer-guided optical grinding machine). We communicated and coordinated with radios and satellite phones, and I kept track of our position, not only with map (generated with the aid of satellite imagery and GPS receivers) and compass (modern technology in Marco Polo's time), but also with GPS receiver (since I was involved in the design of the next generation GPS satellites, you surely don't expect me to ignore my own product, do you?).

But you should also notice (and can discern in the image if you know what to look for), that there are backups at every level - failure of clothing (all modern technology), failure of any point in the navigation system, failure of the shelter (tents made of modern synthetic materials, shaped by poles made with modern technology), failure of the sleeping system (goose down from geese raised with the aid of feed grown with modern technology, the down harvested and processed with modern technology and enclosed by modern synthetic materials).

I suppose we could have gone macho and used the same gear that Amundsen, Shackleton, and Scott used (but then, the dogs Amundsen and Shackleton used and the ponies that Scott used are no longer allowed on the Antarctic continent). Yet they used the modern gear and techniques of the early 20th century, their era.

The basic point is "old school" for one era was "modern technology" for an earlier era. Was it cheating for Amundsen, Shackleton, and Scott to use "modern" steam-powered ships to get to Antarctica? Does it lessen the accomplishments of the Apollo crews that they used computers and radio communications to go to the Moon and back?

To reiterate a point I made in an earlier post and has been repeated in slightly different form by others, no matter how much you want to disclaim any responsibility or concern on the part of any other people, and no matter how many precautions you take to minimize risk, your actions do, in fact, impact others, whether people close to you like family and friends (and co-workers at your day job), people you happen to pass on the trail, or the land managers who oversee the area you traverse or professional or volunteer S&R people. Plus, since you are out in an uncontrolled environment, things happen - storms, floods, blizzards, avalanches (snow and rock and soil), dying trees falling, fires started by other people nearby, .....

10:04 p.m. on August 26, 2009 (EDT)
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Bill,

You and Trout seem to think that I am a Luddite. Note the use of a computer to respond. : )

You are looking upon technology as "the good". I have no problem using materials which provide greater comfort; but that is not what this thread is about. It is not the technology that rescues you, it is the hardworking SAR people. Pressing that button doesn't instantly transport you to a hospital, it involves other people in potential risk of their lives and limbs.

Did you read the NH newspaper article in this thread about the hiker from Texas who requested a helicopter rescue because he had injured his thumb? Well, if you read to the end, you will also note

two men years ago requesting a helicopter rescue on Mount Washington in 125 mph winds, as they were hunkered under Cog Railway tracks.

I imagine that those two men were experiencing very harsh conditions (category 4 hurricane winds) but asking for a helicopter to land on a precipitous slope in a hurricane is selfishness, and stupidity, of the first order. Did they need rescue? Probably not if they really used their heads instead of their cellphones.

None of the other modern technology you mentioned, e.g., clothing, tents, sleeping bags, is asking other people to labor for you and potentially risk their lives on your behalf. You chose to enter the backcountry for your own amusement. If you want a wilderness experience, why involve others in it? Should you desire to jump the Grand Canyon on a skateboard, don't phone me halfway across because you've suddenly changed your mind. : )

I live to serve others, there is nothing I enjoy more. However, enabling others to escape the consequences of their actions is not helping them, IMO.

10:21 p.m. on August 26, 2009 (EDT)
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My personal capability far exceeds that which is needed to simply trek and survive in wilderness, no matter how remote.

Just wanted to amend my earlier post to say that I was refering to remote wilderness in my area, not areas like BC.

Like lots of other people I can easily carry everything needed to survive, but it is often the things outside of one's control that creates a dangerous situation, or maybe you slip and break your leg. In any event, you will always have people who abuse the system, or people that the system can not help, none the less it is better to try to help people, within reason. There are limits of course.

11:25 p.m. on August 26, 2009 (EDT)
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If an accident occurs and say I break an arm, suffer a collarbone break or some kind of head injury, is activating a PLB considered appropriate? Or in such a situation should I tough it out and walk the six to ten miles out to find help? The odds are 50-50 someone may pass on the trail, but again those are odds, not guarantees.

People state that PLB's are only for "Life and Death" situations, and while a collarbone injury doesn't fall into that category, they can be extremely painful.

Any advice is appreciated.

I'm going to sidestep the previous posts and comments and actually offer the professional advice that was asked for here...

Depending on the mechanics of the broken arm, collar bone, or head injury, these injuries may well be life or death. If an artery were to become severed by a shard of bone - one could bleed to death within ones own body. Head injuries? Forgive the pun but that's a no-brainer. You, the injured party, are not capable of making a rational decision about your own health after a traumatic injury. So...

Take this advise from a certified SAR Technician - PUSH THE BUTTON.

12:01 p.m. on August 27, 2009 (EDT)
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overmywaders,

To repeat what trout said, technology is neither good or bad, no matter whether "modern" or "old school". It is the use of technology that is "good" or "bad", or appropriate or inappropriate. How or if you use technology (not OMW personally, but the generic "you") is your personal choice. And the consequences, good or bad, positive or negative, are the result of that personal choice. As part of that personal choice, you (again, the generic "you") have the responsibility for considering those consequences for both yourself and for everyone who will (note "will", not "might") be affected, including your companions, family, random hikers-by (not sure if that is a legitimate term), land managers (both governmental and private land owners), and rescue and medical personnel, both volunteer and professionally employed.

By the way, do note that I get "out there" using both "really really old school" technology and "modern, latest greatest" technology. Both have their places, both have their risks, and both have their benefits.

However, there is one vital piece of gear that is greatly underused, as has been illustrated by a number of references in the posts in this thread - that hunk of protoplasm inside the skull sitting on one's shoulders called a "brain". No item of technology, modern or retro, can make up for lack of use or misuse of the brain.

Gack! I knew I was making a major blunder in responding to this thread! (Note to self - do not, under any circumstances, respond or otherwise get involved in any discussions of this sort ever again!)

7:00 p.m. on August 27, 2009 (EDT)
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Bill,

I hope you do better with "notes to self" than I do. : )

I guess we disagree. Hey, it happens.

Be well, Bill.

8:18 p.m. on August 27, 2009 (EDT)
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OMW,

What do you disagree with:

1. "technology [per se] is neither good nor bad"

1a. (paraphrased expansion - technology, as any tool, can be used for good or evil, constructive or destructive purposes, and can be misused, as it all too often is).

2. "how you use [technology] is your personal choice"

3. "you [generic "you"] have the responsibility for [the consequences of your choices]"

4. "both [old and modern technology] have their [places, risks, and benefits]"

5. [paraphrasing] "the brain is underused"

6. "no...technology can make up for the lack of use or the misuse of the brain"

You are, of course, entitled to your own opinions and point of view. I am just trying to get a handle on where you are coming from.

8:38 a.m. on August 28, 2009 (EDT)
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Bill,

Your post makes it clear that our minds are parallel - because they never meet. : )

You are writing of technology; I am writing about the attitude or philosophy of the hiker. I don't care what system you (generic you) use - cellphone, SPOT, PLB, two tin cans with a very long string - it is the attitude that counts.

You (generic you) decide to do a solo hike in the backcountry; just for fun. You realize that the hike has dangers. You could look at the possibility of pain and hardship as a means of growth and personal development. Instead you let fear of the unknown persuade you to drag other people into this (potential) danger - the SAR teams. That is what you are putting in your pack, not a PLB or a cellphone, but fear and uncertainty of your own capabilities - and the SAR teams. Add to that the selfishness that says "I will be going into danger, but I will expose others to that danger as well, if I wish."

Not that long ago SAR was for the purpose of rescuing children who strayed from a campsite, the infirm who wandered from a nursing home, the airplane crash victims - basically those who were either non compos mentis or actual victims of a disaster not of their making. Now you would (potentially) call them out because you (still generic you) want to amuse yourself in the backcountry but are afraid to go it alone.

It's not about technology, it's about mindset. Words like accountability, capability, responsibility, individual growth, confronting and overcoming obstacles - this is the language we should be using.

I offer the following:

Hiker Responsibility Code

You are responsible for yourself, so be prepared:

1. With knowledge and gear. Become self reliant by learning about the terrain, conditions, local weather and your equipment before you start.
2. To leave your plans. Tell someone where you are going, the trails you are hiking, when you will return and your emergency plans.
3. To stay together. When you start as a group, hike as a group, end as a group. Pace your hike to the slowest person.
4. To turn back. Weather changes quickly in the mountains. Fatigue and unexpected conditions can also affect your hike. Know your limitations and when to postpone your hike. The mountains will be there another day.
5. For emergencies. Even if you are headed out for just an hour, an injury, severe weather or a wrong turn could become life threatening. Don’t assume you will be rescued; know how to rescue yourself.
6. To share the hiker code with others.

from http://www.hikesafe.com/index.php/hiker_responsibility_code

[emphasis mine]

(I also like the quote from Daniel Boone on that site: "I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks.")

Best regards,

Reed

1:52 p.m. on August 28, 2009 (EDT)
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OMW,

If you read what I posted a bit more carefully, you will see that I am talking about the philosophy of the place of technology, not about the technology itself. You will also see that I have stated repeatedly (not just in this thread, but in many posts) that one is responsible for oneself and for the consequences and impacts of one's choices and practices for the environment in which one moves and for everyone else - family, friends, casual hikers-by, professional and volunteer rescue and medical personnel.

By the way, SAR was never just for the rescue of lost children, the infirm, and plane crash victims. The mission of SAR has always been much broader (been there, done that many years ago). There have always been frivolous callouts (I was on a search mission in the mid-1960s to find a 20-yr old girl whose father reported her overdue in the Pico del Diablo area - by a week - and it turned out papa objected to her going off with her boyfriend). It is just that cell phones and PLBs have made it easier to call, and that people who should not be out there in the first place are using them.

4:05 p.m. on August 28, 2009 (EDT)
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Bill,

Obviously we will not agree because we don't share the same definitions of critical terms. You use the words "responsible for oneself" which in my ledger means "self-reliant" or "independent", but clearly that is not your meaning.

I am talking about learning your capabilities and personal growth; you don't use those terms because if one carries a PLB (solo) he is clearly not interested in that.

Let's cut to the chase. The Hiker Responsibility Code from the State of NH emphasizes preparedness, self-reliance, and self-rescue. When you put a PLB in your (generic you) pack for a solo in the backcountry you are already, by definition, not relying on yourself; you are relying on the SAR team that the PLB symbolizes. If you are so fearful as to pack a PLB (or cellphone) on a backcountry solo, you probably shouldn't be going. If you want the outdoor experience, just go, don't drag others along with you. It is you who wants to play outside; the SAR people are not asking to join you, why force them to?

Have I made my opinion clear enough? Solo backcountry hiking can teach us a lot about ourselves, but we usually grow best through adversity. If we avoid the opportunities to overcome adversity by calling upon others, rather than rescuing ourselves, we lose.

Now I must get some work done. : )

Be well.

6:10 p.m. on August 28, 2009 (EDT)
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If you are so fearful as to pack a PLB (or cellphone) on a backcountry solo, you probably shouldn't be going.

I am in complete agreement with the hiker safety code overmywaders posted. And, as I stated above, for a long time I was adamantly against anyone ever carrying a cell phone into the backcountry.

However, I've changed my opinion some since having a few SAR folks say why they would prefer responsible use of a cell phone if it makes their job safer and easier.

While I agree with the self reliance issue, I don't believe I've suddenly become "fearful" by allowing a cellphone to be inside my pack on occasion, but rather that I am keeping my options open for the unforeseen, including calling family or friends to say that I'm safe and no one needs to come looking for me. For me it offers the potential to help manage a situation and keep it under control, rather than a form of rescue. It's not part of a rescue plan, but one small item that might offer another option.

I don't think any one piece of gear makes or breaks you as an independent outdoorsperson, but rather your philosophy of being prepared and independent (or not) and how you choose to use the gear (or not).

I'm not arguing for or against cell phones or PLB's in the backcountry, there are too many variables to do that. Each is just one more tool that can be used responsibly or not, depending on the individual.

Anyway, it's a difference of opinion, but that's my two cents.

12:19 p.m. on August 29, 2009 (EDT)
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OMW -

It is clear that either you have not actually read my posts or at the least do not understand them. In my book, "responsible for oneself" includes "self-reliant" and "independent", plus accepting responsibility for the consequences and impacts of one's decisions and actions on the environment and other people (including family, friends, other hikers-by, and professional and volunteer patrol, rescue, and medical personnel, among others). A small part of that responsibility is knowing and understanding your personal capabilities and limitations and those of the gear you choose to carry or not carry with you.

This has become a game of semantics and long since departed from philosophy, and from the specific philosophical question of when it is and is not appropriate to use any item of gear (electronic or non-electronic).

8:41 p.m. on August 29, 2009 (EDT)
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Bill,

I tried to end this conversation when it became obvious that we were at cross purposes. Your last sentence says it all:

This has become a game of semantics and long since departed from philosophy, and from the specific philosophical question of when it is and is not appropriate to use any item of gear (electronic or non-electronic).

First, philosophy is a "love of wisdom". The premise that I put forward was that personal growth both in knowledge of our capabilities and our place in the cosmos is best attained through adversity. Calling upon others to solve your problem is avoiding an opportunity for growth. This sounds like love of wisdom to me.

Second, I was never interested in the philosophical question of when it is appropriate to use PLB's because, as I stated at the outset, in solo hiking, I do not think PLB's are appropriate to carry -- and I gave many reasons why, which you never addressed.

Third, semantics is not a game, it is an essential element of communication between two or more people. If I don't know the meaning of the terms as you use them - and I don't - then I must discover them in order to proceed. You have only repeated vague aphorisms about personal responsibility but never put it in the context of the carrying of a PLB (or cellphone) and how that relates to essentially asking others to take responsibility for you.

Fourth, you said:

A small part of that responsibility is knowing and understanding your personal capabilities and limitations and those of the gear you choose to carry or not carry with you.

No-one understands what they are capable of until they confront a situation which calls for more from them then they have ever offered/suffered before. It's obvious from your assertion that you think we all come from the matrix with the same abilities and never need to test them. Somehow, in your world, we know ourselves, probably greatly undervalue ourselves, and must rely upon experts for everything. This is a common enough assumption in modern society. I just believe it is based upon many levels of falsehood. This pathetic cosmology of dependence and helplessness weakens us all morally, intellectually, spiritually, and probably physically as well.

If you wish to discuss this further, contact me off the forum. I don't think anyone is profiting from this discussion, else they would be contributing.

Be well.

11:41 a.m. on August 30, 2009 (EDT)
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Overmywaders,

I understand your perspective on personal growth just fine, in fact I agree. To a point.

I agree that if you leave....lets say, the matches at home, and have to build a fire with a magnifying glass, or by one of numerous friction methods etc, you gain a confidence booster in the short run and if you continue to exercise that method of fire starting you get considerably more skilled at it.

Also if you are sick and press on instead of calling someone to come get you at the next trail head, you gain mental toughness and become more accustomed to operating under duress.

If you have no way to 'chicken out' you have to tough it out!

This does build character and a mental toughness you can not get from a book, a video, or just by rubbing elbows with more experienced guys,(gals too!).

In 1998 I went on a solo trek into the Cumberland Escarpment area of TN with my dog. This was not a good trip. After hiking about 12 miles into a watershed and pushing myself a little too hard to find a place on my map where I wanted to camp and fish, I stepped through a mud covered bramble pile at the edge of the Chickamauga Creek.

It looked just like solid ground, but I was suddenly up to my hip in stickers and vines, I was wearing shorts and got multiple pokes, scrapes, and cuts, but I pushed on after a some first aid and a short self reliance pep talk.

I went another 2 miles along the creek and felt something on my face, in brushing it away, I found out it was a bee of some kind, I got stung on my face just below my right eye. I think it was a yellow jacket but I'm not sure, anyway I am allergic to bee stings, so I instantly injected myself with Epinephrine and took some oral medication as well. I was already exhausted and did not need this additional trouble. Since then I have learned to pace myself much better, so some personal growth there.

I had no cell phone, no ham radio, and had not heard of PLB's yet. I had no choice but to tough it out.

I got the Epinephrine in me quick enough to do the trick although my face, hands, and feet did a good bit of swelling and I had to soak in the cold creek for relief.

On another solo trip I cut my hand and forearm badly when I slipped on some sharp, wet limestone. I got really nervous when I could not get the cut in my forearm to stop bleeding, after applying pressure for half an hour I slowed it down enough to do a 180 back to my vehicle. I got 8 stitches that day, I guess i could have sutured it myself if I had to.

I've also been injured much worse in other pursuits, two falls through scaffolding, broken bones, motorcycle wreck, road rash, concussion, etc.

Okay so did these things make me grow tougher, increase my confidence in my ability to handle adversity and injury?

Sure!

BUT...these incidents also made me realize that things can and do go very wrong at times. Sometimes it has nothing to do with your physical or mental capability, stuff happens.

I think we have to be both self reliant AND responsible.

We need to be self reliant to trek safely, and we need to be responsible enough to know that we are not living in a bubble. If we should get injured or sick, or lost, we need to be self reliant enough to manage the situation and self rescue.

However if we should fail, due to circumstances beyond our control, to self rescue, we should be responsible and mature enough to understand that like it or not, we have possibly just drawn other people into our problem.

Whether you desire rescue or not, people will come looking for you! Maturity and good judgement dictates that you are also prepared for that eventuality. You should have left behind an itinerary, keep medical info on yourself, and in this day and age, given that we have the technological capability, it makes perfect sense to be able to contact help and give someone your location.

I have a responsibility to my family, and to S&R teams to mitigate my risks, and theirs, both in terms of self reliance, and being prepared / able to give my location, if possible should some unfortunate circumstance befall me.

Nothing is a guarantee, but S&R will come if able, once you go missing. Why not mitigate THEIR risk if you can?

I support the responsible use of technology, not to be used as a crutch, but to stay safe.

3:07 p.m. on August 30, 2009 (EDT)
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....

I understand your perspective on personal growth just fine, in fact I agree. To a point.

....

I have a responsibility to my family, and to S&R teams to mitigate my risks, and theirs, both in terms of self reliance, and being prepared / able to give my location, if possible should some unfortunate circumstance befall me.

Nothing is a guarantee, but S&R will come if able, once you go missing. Why not mitigate THEIR risk if you can?

I support the responsible use of technology, not to be used as a crutch, but to stay safe.

Exactly! I would add that the responsibility is also to other users of the backcountry, and to friends and colleagues. To quote the poet "No man is an island."

If you are running late returning from your backcountry trip (maybe because you decided to stay an extra day at the beautiful campsite or wanted to bag another peak), which is more responsible - (1) Call on your cell phone or satphone to let your family/roommate/work colleagues know you are delayed, but ok; (2) use SPOT or one of the upcoming 406MHz PLBs to send an "I'm OK, just a bit delayed" message; (3) find a pay phone when you get back to the car and call home; (4) do not use any electronic means of messaging, just wait until you get home to tell people you are back; (5) Don't worry about the S&R crews getting called out, they will just get a good training exercise if they do a search.

September 30, 2014
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