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Backpacker Magazine – October 2013

Survival A to Z: Rescue Rangers

When something goes wrong in the backcountry, you want one of these highly trained rangers on the case. Here's an inside look at the gear they carry.

by: Annette McGivney


Lisa Hendy, Emergency Services Program Manager, Yosemite NP
Years in SAR: 19
SAR missions: 500+
People rescued: 450+

Pack essential
“PB&J. People are always asking me what kind of food I take for energy: gels or bars? Honestly, I still think PB&J is magic if you have time to make a couple before you head out—easy to digest, sugar and carbs, a little bit of protein. And it even tastes good when smashed.”
Advice for high-mountain hikers:
“If you do hike cross-country, be willing to lose some time and backtrack to a safer route when it becomes more difficult than anticipated. Most of our rescues happen in summer and have to do with a hiker who sprained an ankle or blew out a knee. More often than not, the person was injured while hiking off-trail.”
Hikers should never head into the backcountry without...:
“Leaving a detailed safety contingency plan with someone back home. This should include a point-by-point description of your route, alter- native routes you might take, when you plan to be out, what trailhead you’ll park at, your license plate number, car description, and also the color/make of your backpack and tent.”

Larry Nickey, SAR Coordinator/ Fire and Aviation Management Officer, Olympic NP
Years in SAR: 36
SAR missions: 700+
People rescued: 1,000

Pack essential:
“Fusee emergency fire- starter. A fusee stick will get even the wettest wood in the Olympics to burn.”
Advice for rainforest trekkers
“If you get lost and off- trail in the woods, pull out your map and identify a ridge that you can follow up along the top or mid- slope to get back on track. Do not follow a drainage downcanyon through the forest—that can get really steep really fast, and it can be dangerously slick lead- ing up to waterfalls.”

Sgt. Aaron Dick, Deputy Sheriff/SAR Coordinator, Coconino County, AZ
Years in SAR: 20
SAR missions (in the field): 450+
People rescued: 1,000

Pack Essential
“A whistle. This low-tech communication device will never fail and is audible from the bottom of a slot. Blow in intervals of three to signal distress.”
Advice for canyon- country explorers
“Pack an extra set of clothes in a waterproof bag and keep these clothes dry at all costs. Temperatures can drop 40°F between a canyon’s rim and floor—more once the sun goes down. If you can’t get dry, you’ll struggle to stay warm.”
Most important trait for SAR members “Good judgment. We have to be able to assess the risk and not let our own adrenaline get in the way.

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