Search & Rescue (S&R) in Canada is excellent…but the terrain is vast and difficult. Each year in British Columbia there are some 1000 S&R incidents, which, on average, result in over 200 persons injured and over 80 deaths. Small details make a huge difference to rescue operations.
A. Give Someone Your Trip Plan
Always tell somebody where you are going, even if it’s just for the day. This is especially important if you alone and/or plan to be gone for several days in remote terrain. If possible, leave a written trip plan with a responsible contact person. The plan should mention:
WHO is going on the trip;
WHERE you plan to go. Mention if you are likely to adapt your route. For instance, you may discover that a trail is still covered in snow. You may choose to stay in the general area, but change course. If you cannot get in touch with your contact, but she knows that you are still in the park, that’s valuable information. Maps and guidebooks sometimes show different routes, and names also vary, so mention which maps and guidebooks you are using;
WHEN you expect to be back. What’s your margin for being late? Do you want to have an extra day if the weather is really good? It’s easy to forget to call in after a long, exciting trip. Leave your own phone number(s), so that the contact can check in with you before calling Search & Rescue.
WHAT signaling devices you are carrying. Do you have a personal locator beacon? Bear flares? What is the colour of your tent?
When I park my car at a trailhead, I like to leave a note in windscreen with the phone number of my contact person, and when I expect to be back.
What kind of worst-case scenario are you planning for? An unexpected overnight stay in the woods, or an injury on a multi-day expedition?
Are you alone, or with others? Are you familiar with your companions’ fitness levels, outdoor experience and medical conditions?
Compare your list with your companions’ list to avoiding carrying redundant gear.
Following my checklist, I like to assemble all my gear in a designated area on the floor. I group things by function, check the condition of my gear and put in fresh batteries.
I include all food containers, even if these are not yet full, to get an idea of weight and volume.
Then I pick a backpack. Overstuffing a pack is not advisable because gear expands when used. If you attach objects to the outside of your pack, they may snag vegetation or fall off.
Over-packing is as bad as under-packing. Adding ‘one more thing’ doesn’t make your pack perceptibly heavier because humans are poor judges of relative weight but after many miles of travel your body will feel the weight. Carrying a heavy load slows you down, places more strain on your joints and compromises your balance. I decant liquids so that I carry as little as possible.