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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

The Biggest Loser: Hikers That Get Lost

Search-and-Rescue guru Robert Koester creates a quick profile of the average victim and his behavior.

by: The Backpacker Editors

Robert Koester (Susanna Raab)
Robert Koester (Susanna Raab)

Male, age 38, dayhiking solo.

Mountains (88%)
Dry, non-forested terrain (like deserts and above treeline) (62 %)
Forests (38%)

***%’s add up to more than 100 since types of terrain often overlap

July and August account for the most incidents (each 19%), followed by June and September (12%).

The typical victim is poorly equipped—often lacking map and compass—and compounds a wrong or missed turn by forging ahead rather than retracing his steps to his last known location.

In the mountains, it’s usually 11-to 12 miles from the point the hiker was last spotted/known to be.  Research suggests that “most people get lost near the middle of a route to a destination or halfway in between when coming back.” Koester has also seen a rise in recent years in the number of people found uphill from where they were last seen or known to be. While some hikers have always headed to higher ground in an attempt to reorient themselves, Koester says that many more are now saying that they moved uphill searching for cell-phone coverage.

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Chad Farmer
Dec 16, 2009

I like to reread old issues. Yes, the URL given in the article doesn't work. The video given by Amy describes about 25 things to take.

The emergency items in a ziplock bag are:
1. Strong nylon cord
2. Extra batteries
3. Water purification tablets
4. Repair kit (sewing, patches)
5. First aid: Blister kit + bandages
6. Backup compass
7. Extra knife
8. Pen with duct tape wrapped around it
9. Mirror
10. Bic lighter
11. Loud whistle (oops that's more than 10)

In a pack:
1. Food
2. Enough warm clothes for the night
3. Map, compass and gps
4. Cell phone
5. Headlamp + extra batteries
6. Hat, sunscreen and sunglasses
7. Small trowel and toilet paper
(Add a zip-lock bag and pack out the TP!)
8. Waterproof sack for clothes
9. Mid-weight fleece top
10. Lightweight wind jacket
11. Rain shell and possibly rain pants
12. Gloves
13. Balaclava or warm hat
14. Emergency bivy sack (instead of space blanket)
15. Emergency ziplock bag, contents listed above.

Its more than 10 things, even when counting several related items as "one" thing. Still, who said 10 things are enough. In Arizona I add a comb and small pliers in addition to the duct tape for dealing with cholla cactus.

Jul 26, 2009

the ten essential list is located here:

as you can see, it's actually a video.

Kelty Jansport
Jul 07, 2009

9. a friend

Kelty Jansport
Jul 07, 2009

My guesses of the 10 essentials:

1. compass
2. map
3. cell phone
4. water
5. calories
6. blanket
7. flashlight
8. lighter

Concerned Reader
Jun 28, 2009

Where are the "Ten Essentials" mentioned in this article?????


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