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The DAILY DIRT - The nitty and the gritty of outdoor news

TRIP DOCTOR: Is There Such a Thing as Adventure Insurance for Outdoor Pursuits?

Let's face it. Some sports are dangerous. Our Trip Doctor lays out some options for getting insured on the trail.

I’m climbing a peak this summer. Does anyone offer outdoor insurance in case something happens to me? How do I get it?
--Bill, Lander WY


Most insurers still haven’t wrapped their brains around outdoor sports—especially those that entail some degree of risk, like mountain climbing. Typical health insurance policies won’t cover an expensive evacuation from a wilderness setting in the event of an injury that’s immobilizing or life threatening. Unless you get travel insurance that specifically covers circumstances that could slam the door on your trip—such as weather preventing you from getting to your destination—you’ll eat the entire cost.

The best solution I’ve seen is the Adventure Travel Protection Plan from AIG/Travel Guard (travelguard.com), one of the only policies that covers climbing and hiking at altitude. The basic plan provides a menu of coverage including trip cancellation or interruption, reimbursement for costs of replacing gear if baggage is lost, and up to $25,000 for emergency medical expenses and $500,000 for emergency evacuation. There are optional additions to the coverage, too, including for cancelling your trip for any reason.

The company’s website allows you to quickly enter some basic personal information (state of residence and birth date) and trip details (departure and return dates and cost) to get a quote. When I entered that info for an upcoming five-day sea kayaking trip in Glacier Bay, Alaska, I received a quote for $73.47 for the basic coverage—not bad to insure a guided trip that costs $1,800.00.

Another option is to join the American Alpine Club (americanalpineclub.org). The basic membership of $75/year ($40 for anyone age 28 and under, $50 for age 66 and older) includes the club’s Global Rescue Service, a $5,000 rescue benefit with no restrictions on elevation that’s not limited to climbing.

I’ve taken many adventure trips without insurance, of course, and I’ll certainly take more. But when you’re talking about a very expensive trip that could be quashed by a host of circumstances beyond your control, or that presents substantial risk, an inexpensive travel-insurance policy makes a lot of sense.

—MICHAEL LANZA

Michael Lanza is Backpacker’s Northwest Editor. He’s working on a book, “Before They’re Gone,” about spending a year taking his kids to national parks threatened by climate change. See stories and images from those trips at TheBigOutside.com/

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The question is, will these companies foot the bill when it comes time for a traveler to file a claim? Or will they give you the 1-6 month runaround with technical jargon quoting policy lines before they pay, if they pay. It's nice to pay 73$ in insurance with them stating $25,000 in emergency medical costs, and $500,000 emergency evacuation. Think about that for a second. Why can't it be $500,000 in emergency medical costs & $25,000 for evacuation?? I find it odd how they will pay $25k for medical expenses but will pay half a million to evacuate you. Honestly speaking, does a evacuation costs that much? It's figures thrown at you to psychologically make you at ease. Lets say I did choose that insurance & my ship got stranded on a island that had 100 castaways. Are they only going to evacuate me simply because I have insurance, or evacuate everyone else too? Is the insurance company going to pay $500,000 to a fleet of rescuers just for me & leave everyone else? Logic is, if you were in need of evacuation, it's free by government or so. Chances are if you was in need of evacuation, they would most likely call the local army or rescuers. What if I broke my arm and my hand cut off, will they respond ASAP and take care of bills or will I have to deal with paying hospital out of pocket first to save my hand, then file a claim when I go home and wait for months to see if I fell under their guidelines? As stupid & irrational my comment is, it's advised to be informed exactly how the plan works, scrutinize the fine print.

Antonio Kuilan
Jun 25, 2010

The question is, will these companies foot the bill when it comes time for a traveler to file a claim? Or will they give you the 1-6 month runaround with technical jargon quoting policy lines before they pay, if they pay. It's nice to pay 73$ in insurance with them stating $25,000 in emergency medical costs, and $500,000 emergency evacuation. Think about that for a second. Why can't it be $500,000 in emergency medical costs & $25,000 for evacuation?? I find it odd how they will pay $25k for medical expenses but will pay half a million to evacuate you. Honestly speaking, does a evacuation costs that much? It's figures thrown at you to psychologically make you at ease. Lets say I did choose that insurance & my ship got stranded on a island that had 100 castaways. Are they only going to evacuate me simply because I have insurance, or evacuate everyone else too? Is the insurance company going to pay $500,000 to a fleet of rescuers just for me & leave everyone else? Logic is, if you were in need of evacuation, it's free by government or so. Chances are if you was in need of evacuation, they would most likely call the local army or rescuers. What if I broke my arm and my hand cut off, will they respond ASAP and take care of bills or will I have to deal with paying hospital out of pocket first to save my hand, then file a claim when I go home and wait for months to see if I fell under their guidelines? As stupid & irrational my comment is, it's advised to be informed exactly how the plan works, scrutinize the fine print.

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