I was reminded again of how important this is when a friend's friend was in the news recently. He and a friend were on a day hike near Los Angeles and didn't come back when they said they would. They did a lot of things right, and, fortunately, they were rescued a few days later and didn't seem to be in very rough shape after their ordeal. Mostly I'm thrilled my friend's friend is safe. But I'm also fascinated by survival stories, obviously, as someone who spends time outdoors. Their story is a good one, which I recommend reading in full. But here are a few takeaways I especially want to call out:
Smart Move #1: Tell someone where you're going and when you'll be back. When they didn't come back by the designated time, friends called the authorities and rescue crews started looking for them right away.
Smart Move #2: Bring appropriate gear. They knew there would be ice and snow on some sections of trail, so they brought crampons and layers. The crampons didn't keep them from falling on the snow, but the layers kept them warm.
Smart Move #3: Bring extra food and the means to filter water. Bringing a Life Straw may have saved their lives. Four days without water would have left them in bad shape. As it was, they were able to drink as much water as they wanted, thanks to plentiful water in the creek and their filter.
I bring a LifeStraw on every day hike. When I go on an overnight trip, every person in my family has a LifeStraw in their pack (in addition to at least one other water treatment method).
As with any incident like this, lots of decisions factored in to the trouble they were in, and lots of decisions went in to keeping them safe. You could do everything right and still get injured or worse on the trail. No one really expects, for instance, to have to fight a mountain lion to the death during a day hike. But stories like the one of the hikers in Southern California are a good reminder that taking precautions and being prepared can get you a long way toward returning safely.