If you are heading out on a trail, you need this book on your bookshelf. When Good Trails Go Bad is Stephen Littlewood’s excellent new book on avoiding and responding to a BAD day on the trail.
Most of us assume that nothing bad will happen each time we go out. We were OK last time, shouldn’t we be OK this time? As Stephen says, we settle into a normalcy bias. As he points out in his book, being prepared for an emergency doesn’t mean taking years of survival courses or lugging 100 pounds of survival gear with you on a hike. It means taking a few basic precautions. This might be easier than you think.
I recently talked with Stephen about his background and his new book. He has a depth of experience in wilderness safety that greatly impressed me. He runs courses to certify Search and Rescue personnel, and his company RSQ Training offers additional courses for wilderness survival and first aid. He works with the Civil Air Patrol to coordinate search and rescue responses. He has worked around the world with humanitarian and disaster relief efforts. He is active in the trail running and ultra-running community.
I feel much better knowing that Stephen and people like him are my backup plan. I have had a close call on a paved public trail in the middle of the city. Emergencies can happen at any time, and to anyone: My close call with hyponatremia.
Staying Safe of the Trail
There are many aspects to your safety, some in your control and some out of your control. You need to pull as much as possible into your circle of control. Did you check the weather? Do you have water? Can you stay warm? Do people know where you are?
In When Good Trails Go Bad, Stephen talks about why things may go wrong, and then who is going to help you. Can you help yourself or can you help the rescue effort?
- Before you go: Preparing and planning.
- Recommended Gear
- How to get yourself out
- Inside look at Search and Rescue
- What skills do you need to collect to increase your safety?
His book goes into detail on these subjects and a lot more. The book is a handbook for trail safety and I think it is a must read if you are going off the beaten track.
Search and Rescue
If things do go bad, Stephen is going to introduce you to the people that can save you: Search and Rescue (SAR). Did you know most SAR personnel are volunteers? Get an inside look at how they operate and how you can help them find you in an emergency.
5 Items To Never Leave Without
What should you always take with you on the trail? Most people immediately think of food. Here is Stephen’s list from his book:
- Plan on taking approximately 1 liter of water per hour of extraneous activity. Water consumption is based on your current fitness, drinking habits, weight, age, and gender.
- Have a way to contact help. Have local emergency numbers saved and remember to send SMS/Plain Text messages to save battery. In an emergency, dial 911.
- Have a basic emergency kit: 55 gal construction bag, whistle, mirror or reflective surface, first aid kit/supplies. (more details in the book!)
- Navigation aids. This is maps of your trails, a compass or other means to navigate. Make notes of your routes and distance covered.
- This is the least important, but for moral/inner fire purposes, having food to snack on will increase mood and reduce your panic.