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Feb 21 2008

Thursday Thirteen: things I’ve learned about staying safe in the backcountry, just by watching the evening news

 This winter the Rocky Mountains have gotten a whole lotta snow. Record snowfall, as a matter of fact. This brings out the winter outdoorsmanpeople. Skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling…all things that involve snow and cold and being outside in both of those. Not my cuppa tea. But, snuggled here in my warm home watching the news, I’ve learned a few things about staying safe while doing all those insane fun outdoor activities. There seems to be a huge increase in snowmobilers and day hikers getting stranded. Please keep in mind that I don’t actually do these things, I just watch the news and figure it out on my own. Enjoy.

Thirteen Things I’ve learned about staying safe in the backcountry, just by watching the evening news 1. First and foremost, if you want to stay safe in the mountains, just don’t go outside. Stay in by the crackling fire and sip coffee drinks liberally dosed with Kahlua, Bailey’s Irish Cream, or Frangelico. Or all three.

2. If you do insist on going outside, dress in layers. Many layers. I understand that cotton is about the worst thing you can wear, as it just sops up moisture and gets cold and clammy against your skin. Just…wear layers, and for more details, go hit REI or something for suggestions.

3. Just assume, right from the get-go, that your cell phone won’t work. So don’t rely on it as a “hey, come rescue me” device. I lose my cell phone signal driving through my neighborhood (hills and valleys cut it off), so don’t assume it’s going to work up in the mountains.

4. Even if it’s an afternoon trip, take enough food for a couple of days. Or for a Thanksgiving feast. A granola bar and a water bottle just ain’t gonna cut it. You really wanna be starving up there, waiting for someone to find you? Again, ask the dudes at REI for suggestions, they’re the experts.

5. You need an emergency kit. Don’t go without one. Again, and the dudes at REI are gonna just loooove me, go see them. It doesn’t have to be big, but it should have one of those space-agey silver blankets to keep you warm, a first-aid kit, a mirror (so you can reflect the sun up at searchers), and waterproof matches.

6. Never, ever go alone. Yes, it’s peaceful, but it’s dangerous and can peace you right to death. Literally.

7. Never, ever split up. See above.

8. Let someone at home know exactly where you are going and when to expect you back.

9. If there is a place at the trailhead or ranger’s station to sign in, do so. Name, where you are going, and when you expect to return. Then sign out so they know you’re out of there.

10. For God’s sake, heed the avalanche warnings. They’re not there to cramp your style, they’re there to keep you alive.

11. Get an avalanche beacon. Wear it.

12. Extra gas for snowmobiles is a must. You never know when you’re going to need it.

13. Watch.The.Weather.Reports. If Weather Babe says that bad weather is moving in, believe her and take caution. In fact, just stay home and watch Weather Babe.

Ok, that’s my “I stay home and don’t like to be cold in the snow” list of how to be safe. If you’re an outdoorsy person, please don’t flame. I gathered all this, literally, from watching the news. Leave a gentle comment. Otherwise, go make up the coffee, I’ll pull out the Frangelico.

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  1. momhuebert

    You learned all this just watching the news? I assume by seeing people who DIDN’T follow these suggestions….

  2. cursingmama

    I have headed item #1 faithfully for many years and have yet to find myself in a precariously dangerous situation (if you exclude low on booze).

  3. Robin

    Mmmm… coffee drinks, Baileys, Kahlua…

    What were you talking about again?

  4. karen (Pediascribe)

    I’ve always gone with #1. And so far I haven’t lost my toes to frost bite or had to eat my own hand. or drink my own urine.
    So I’m good. 🙂

  5. Denise

    What a nice blogservice announcement! The newscasters are steering you correctly. Whenever we head into the mtns I pack enough food to feed a small country in Africa and enough layers to shame the michelin man…

  6. Nicholas

    Very good advice! Of course, in Florida we don’t often have trouble with snow and avalanches, but it was still very interesting to read your TT. I can easily believe that many people will get into trouble in the Back Country because they will think they are immune to weather and conditions, and that bad things only happen to other people.

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