Riding Wild safely- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Riding Wild safely

    I habitually ride quite wild places and, being too old to keep up with younger riders and old enough so my friends are all watching sports on TV, I often ride alone. I've always had an eye to survival in case of an accident.

    In January, I caught a ski tip on something in the snow and totally wrecked my right hip to the point where I'm on the list for total hip replacement. I was in the backcountry alone. I had to take off my skis and pack and use a small tree as a ladder to get up again.

    With me, I had a acrtrex PLB, a half ensolite pad for lying in the snow, a compressed heavy duty down coat, Ski gloves, fleece hat, and a space blanket. I probably would have survived a night in the snow with all this stuff.

    Contrast mountain bike rides in such wild places as the Cache Creek Recreational lands. My pack is, like yours, small and full. Survival gear consists of the plb, bear spray, an extra shirt (maybe), a jacket, water proof if there is rain in the forecast, a beer, a handful of fruit nut bars, and one of the thin compact space blankets. Our sport is not without risk; I might not mountain bike if it were completely safe like, say, going to a sports game. My gear is NOT OK for overnight unless it is pretty balmy weather.

    Do you ride wild very much? Wild meaning wild, not skyline wilderness park or porcupine rim where hundreds go by each day, wild meaning the cell phone doesn't work. Especially, if you fatbike in the snow where survival means not lying in the snow, what do you take as survival gear? Could you spend the night confidently, if not comfortably? How would you summon help? Where do you see the balance between taking a backpack full of stuff and accepting the risk that you may not be able to ride out?
    My mantra: Hike, Bike, Paddle, Ski

  2. #2
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    When I hike or bike alone in cold weather, I'm always of the mindset of "survive the night". Sufficient calories, water/wind protection and insulation.

    Short ensolite type pad
    Emergency poncho
    Emergency bivvy sack for lower body
    Snack bars
    Matches and tinder
    Knife
    A small kit of odds and ends like duct tape, a bit of paracord, gauze, etc.
    Charged cellphone with extra battery pack (I'd get a PLB if I was going out of cellphone coverage)
    Sufficient layers and insulation for conditions.

    This list is what suits what I anticipate I might need. The trick is to have just enough to survive and unplanned overnight stay. And of course, tell someone where you're going and when they should hear that you've safely returned.
    Use it, use it, use it while you still have it.

  3. #3
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    Most of the stuff I ride here in VT is not that remote. But yesterday I rode a 12 mile loop where the valley portion was pretty well travelled, but no one else was on the ridge section. I always tell my wife where I am going, so she can send the search party after me.

    The west is a different story.

  4. #4
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    This is where I ride.

    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  5. #5
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    ^Ha, that's epic!
    Need to add some wolverine chaps to my kit.

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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    This is where I ride.
    Oh man, that thing kinda reminds me of a honey badger! Are they actually a threat to you or just kinda freaky when they stroll past carrying the head of another animal?

    I kinda have a similar attitude to Aptone, most of my locak stuff isn't that remote or wild. When I have ventured into the true back-country it's usually with a group and there's more equipment carried between us and less chance of getting stuck alone.

  7. #7
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    Most of what's in my area isn't THAT remote, but cell phone coverage is still spotty and it could still take an hour or longer for emergency assistance to arrive once a call is made however you can. You can absolutely do 1.5-2hr loops in most places, and some shuttles that take less time are available (though not exactly convenient). But if you get in trouble in the wrong spot at the wrong time, you absolutely could be looking at a night out, or an inability to call for help.

    Still, I do live in a warmer climate, so cold is a concern for a relatively short part of the year.

    So I do tend to carry more than most. Both with repair tools/supplies as well as with first aid. Wilderness First Aid training is also pretty important, IMO.

    I've been thinking about an emergency comms device for some time. Problem is I have a hard time deciding between emergency-only, highly reliable, and pay-once PLB system, or something like an InReach that can also be used to communicate a pickup (in the event of a vehicle malfunction at one of the many trailheads with no cell service, or a bike malfunction far from where I parked) or a delay if plans change (but isn't a true emergency) which requires a subscription and whose SOS functionality is less robust than a PLB.

  8. #8
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    It seems you always need a 2-part plan:
    1) Someone has to know where to look for you.
    2) You have to be able to keep it together until they find you.

    I try to think back of how things were before cell phones. We always watched the clock. Comings and goings and meetings were more strictly maintained. This resulted in a more immediate response on the part of the searchers (even if I was just down the street).

    As distance and conditions dictate the time to retrieval, you need to decide how to prepare (from a flat tire or a bug bite to major equipment failure or injury). I am becoming more aware of how much I don't know, but I am also relying on probability a bit too. Around here you'd be lucky to ever see a bear. Probably more risk of stopping directly on a ground hornets nest. We do get some mighty swings in temperature sometimes, though, and fast-changing weather that even the most seasoned meteorologist can't predict with the latest software.

    Stock items are light, heat, food, water, tools, and some spare layers.
    I've seen a Camelbak made into an inflatable splint; clothing repurposed; bikes modified; ...you can try to plan for everything. You can try to be really careful. You can play the odds.

    -F
    It's never easier - you just go faster.

  9. #9
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    I never ride in remote areas in cold weather, but I use Garmin InReach Mini whenever I am in the backcountry
    My name is George. Iím unemployed and I live with my parents.
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  10. #10
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    I see I'm not the only one who carries a beer in their pack. I'll drink it at the top of the climb unless I run into a trail builder or someone doing maintenance, then I'll give it to them.
    Riding Washington State singletrack since 1986

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Curveball View Post
    I see I'm not the only one who carries a beer in their pack. I'll drink it at the top of the climb unless I run into a trail builder or someone doing maintenance, then I'll give it to them.
    I almost always carry a can of pale ale or torpedo. However, I found that some beers come in very thin very vulnerable cans. I once spent an hour at a picnic table in Annedel waiting for the inside of my pack to dry.
    My mantra: Hike, Bike, Paddle, Ski

  12. #12
    i'm schralping yer thread
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    Quote Originally Posted by telemike View Post
    I almost always carry a can of pale ale or torpedo. However, I found that some beers come in very thin very vulnerable cans. I once spent an hour at a picnic table in Annedel waiting for the inside of my pack to dry.
    I was afraid you might not have your priorities right, but that's clearly not the case!

  13. #13
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    Probably 50% of my rides are pretty remote, with no cell reception. I carry a Garmin InReach mini now, which provides a lot of reassurance.

    My biggest worry is grizzly bears. Most of the trails out my back door are technically in griz countryó and Iíve seen one relatively close to a popular trailhead. I encounter half a dozen black bears or so every yearó no worries there. A guy 50 miles south of here just had to be life-flighted due to a griz mauling though.:/

    I ride alone 99% of the time. I have all the tools I might need, plenty of water, and a headlamp depending on how far I plan to go. Iím pretty bad about packing extra clothing. All my jackets are pretty bulky, and I donít like to be weighed down. I always carry bear spray and use a Timber Bell to alert animals (and hikers) in advance.

    You know one thing thatís great (and easy) to pack? A derailleur cable. I have had several times where my cable snapped and I was locked in a high gear ó with a lot of trail to climb to get out.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by cookieMonster View Post
    Probably 50% of my rides are pretty remote, with no cell reception. I carry a Garmin InReach mini now, which provides a lot of reassurance.

    My biggest worry is grizzly bears. Most of the trails out my back door are technically in griz countryó and Iíve seen one relatively close to a popular trailhead. I encounter half a dozen black bears or so every yearó no worries there. A guy 50 miles south of here just had to be life-flighted due to a griz mauling though.:/

    I ride alone 99% of the time. I have all the tools I might need, plenty of water, and a headlamp depending on how far I plan to go. Iím pretty bad about packing extra clothing. All my jackets are pretty bulky, and I donít like to be weighed down. I always carry bear spray and use a Timber Bell to alert animals (and hikers) in advance.

    You know one thing thatís great (and easy) to pack? A derailleur cable. I have had several times where my cable snapped and I was locked in a high gear ó with a lot of trail to climb to get out.
    Look into packable jackets, you can get ones that pack down to the size of your fist, some don't breath well, which traps heat (and moisture) and are perfect for short use like a descent, etc. Others are the same size or only slightly bigger and waterproof (and therefore windproof), etc. Sometimes I'll take a light breathable one and a waterproof, since they pack down so ridiculously small.

    The other trick if you think you need a heavier jacket is to zip it up around your pack, use your pack as a "fake torso" and you can take a good jacket without adding to your bulk or wasting valuable storage space.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  15. #15
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    You carry a beacon and have good mountain sense. Thatís most of remote solo safety, IMO.

    At that point, your fitness, skill and focus are what makes the most difference between getting in a jam or not. Sure, the odd bad luck can happen (as you illustrated), but itís those things I'd tune up before loading more contingency gear aboard. The whole ounce-of-prevention thing. Thereís no end to the stuff you can bring to feel more prepared.

    As suggested, an accurate plan left with someone beforehand, and updates as possible for plan changes. A Spot transceiver in lieu of a PLB could be advantageous for tracking and specific messages. Steri-strips, a roll of athletic tape and an Ace wrap. A butane lighter and tiny light. Bike repair kit and fix-it expertise.

    Bring bivy gear and youíll use it, as we say. Youíll never use that placebo, er space blanket if you take care of those other things. I'll posit that a wad of survival gear could contribute to a problem by subconsciously making one less concerned about the consequences of an incident, not to mention its weight and bulk. Speed is safety, light is right Ė two more good adages that have stood the test of time.

  16. #16
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    Some sound advice here but the "buddy system" is a key component of backcountry as well.
    Get fAt, Stay fAt, Ride fAt
    Doctor recommended...

  17. #17
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    I keep looking at the Garmin Mini inReach. Price is reasonable but it's the subscription for service that's kept me from pulling the trigger. I hate to add another to all the others happily charging my card every month. I just print out a map and give it to my wife. Hopefully she'll notify the authorities if I don't come back on time.
    What, me worry?

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lone Rager View Post
    I keep looking at the Garmin Mini inReach. Price is reasonable but it's the subscription for service that's kept me from pulling the trigger. I hate to add another to all the others happily charging my card every month. I just print out a map and give it to my wife. Hopefully she'll notify the authorities if I don't come back on time.
    Everything has a coin slot these days to compliment the paywall. :/
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lone Rager View Post
    I keep looking at the Garmin Mini inReach. Price is reasonable but it's the subscription for service that's kept me from pulling the trigger. I hate to add another to all the others happily charging my card every month. I just print out a map and give it to my wife. Hopefully she'll notify the authorities if I don't come back on time.
    A 406mhz PLB does not require a subscription and is far better for S&R purposes. It's significantly more powerful (Spot is the lowest wattage of the 3), goes directly to the NOAA SARSAT and the regional Rescue Coordination Center (RCC), rather than a commercial satellite-phone network and 3rd parties. The disadvantage is that you can't "send messages" and just let people know you are delayed, but ok. I have both and use either for different things. Size is about the same. I used the Inreach mini very successfully in the interior of Alaska to let people know I was ok after my knee got all swollen and that I was getting flown out. But it pretty much requires a phone for anything but the emergency beacon, using the mini itself to send a message is not practical, the interface is real poor. Battery life on the mini is excellent though. I was able to run it for days in extended mode. It also updates on a map of course that other people can see, so that's another possible advantage, although if you are using this function, you are probably wanting to extend the battery life, so the "nearest fix" isn't all that close IME. I experimented a lot with this during the past winter.

    Self rescue is always best, in that you carry enough with you that you can deal with most situations. Having had wilderness first aid/survival, one of the things they teach you is to know the difference between being extremely uncomfortable, and a critical situation where someone needs medical attention within 24 hours. Being mentally prepared for the extremely uncomfortable (walking out 20 miles at night) is a big part of this, in addition to the equipment, where you have to make choices due to weight and space.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lone Rager View Post
    I keep looking at the Garmin Mini inReach. Price is reasonable but it's the subscription for service that's kept me from pulling the trigger. I hate to add another to all the others happily charging my card every month. I just print out a map and give it to my wife. Hopefully she'll notify the authorities if I don't come back on time.
    Printing out a map for your wife helps with the search and rescue but broadcasting your exact coordinates to a satellite is better. You now have a rescue, not a search and rescue. Its even better when the service is provided for free by the Air Force SARSAT team and your local responders. You register with NOAA who get a contact list to give to the responding agency. The agency then responds (hopefully) by asking your contacts if you were going to be where the satellite says you are and sends help. Hopefully the system gets help fast in the rain or the snow where hours can be deadly.

    I'm on my third PLB now and I've never used one. I hope I never use one, especially for myself.
    My mantra: Hike, Bike, Paddle, Ski

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lone Rager View Post
    I keep looking at the Garmin Mini inReach. Price is reasonable but it's the subscription for service that's kept me from pulling the trigger. I hate to add another to all the others happily charging my card every month. I just print out a map and give it to my wife. Hopefully she'll notify the authorities if I don't come back on time.
    You can pay for one month at a time and shut it off for the months you are not using it. It functions as a "text Message" sat phone, which the PLB's do not. Totally worth the monthly price IMO.
    My name is George. Iím unemployed and I live with my parents.
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  22. #22
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    Yeah. Had an ELT in my plane for many years. It's the nuclear option. Something like the InReach provides for a proportional response.

    Yeah. You can do InReach subscription month by month. I ride 10-12 months/year. Would I need it all those months? IDK. Would just buying the months I think I need it be cheaper than the annual subscription? IDK. Would my wife want me found before I expire? IDK
    What, me worry?

  23. #23
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    I too have an InReach and pay for the basic yearly subscription as I'm usually out doing activities throughout the year. It gives my wife big peace of mind and I can text her or other family members while in remote areas.

  24. #24
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    To the original post...

    At least half my hours on the trail are in a place where if I couldn't walk out I'd be spending the night.

    I'm still struggling with preparing, or not preparing, for the worst possible scenario. It's a fair amount of extra gear to haul if you truly want to be prepared. Colder riding and skiing is a different story - then I'm much more prepared. Warmer months, I guess I've been taking some risks. An extra shirt, lighter, knife, cord, whistle.

    You wouldn't think the state I live in has much remote stuff. But the Wilderness I ride adjacent to is supposedly the most remote parcel of land east of the Rockies.

    Lately cell phone reception I think may now be available in some of the places it wasn't before. Not sure that's a good thing. It was nice not even carrying a phone before.

  25. #25
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    I discovered a cool feature on my phone (Samsung Galaxy 8s) this week: emergency SOS. you choose an emergency contact(s) from your phone to send an SOS message. if I pick up my phone and quickly press the power button three times, it sends a map of my current location, a photo from the front and back cameras, and a short audio recording of whatever is happening at the moment. it does not alert emergency services, just my emergency contact.

    so if I fall and whack my head on a rock somewhere nearby, and I am conscious enough to access my phone, I can activate the SOS. my wife will get a map of where I am, a photo of my busted face, probably a photo of the sky or the ground, and a recording of me pleading for help. she can call EMS or come get me if that's not needed.

    this feature might not be useful if you're riding someplace very remote where there's not cell signal, but it could not hurt to set up if you have it.

  26. #26
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    I believe that some PLBs will send a short, 40 character, message attached to the emergency activation. That message would probably not go past the emergency response agencies unless they decided to notify your contacts. It could be important for the rescuers to have your blood type or the info that someone was having a heart attack. When I first looked, the more sophisticated PLBs were larger and heavier plus more bucks. I've stuck with the smallest device I can that works in the system.

    Belt and suspenders. I have a gps and I have a map and compass. I notify folks where I expect to be headed to supplement the PLB which might, of course, not work or be in a location that can't contact the satellites. When I'm skiing outside the local national park, I tell the visitor center staff to initiate rescue if my car is still at the trailhead when they leave the park at 4:30. Sometimes, I leave a note under the wipers although I don't want to tell thieves I'll be gone for hours.

    An aside note: A friend has a standard note he leaves on his windshield at sketchy trailheads. It says:

    "Hey mike, we'll be back in a few minutes. We were early and wanted to shoot a few rounds before the hike."

    That friend is quite anti gun and hasn't fired one since the army but his note has a scent of genius.
    My mantra: Hike, Bike, Paddle, Ski

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by telemike View Post
    An aside note: A friend has a standard note he leaves on his windshield at sketchy trailheads. It says:

    "Hey mike, we'll be back in a few minutes. We were early and wanted to shoot a few rounds before the hike."

    That friend is quite anti gun and hasn't fired one since the army but his note has a scent of genius.
    Oh, that's wickedly brilliant!
    Riding Washington State singletrack since 1986

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by telemike View Post
    ,,,"Hey mike, we'll be back in a few minutes. We were early and wanted to shoot a few rounds before the hike."...
    There's a golf course nearby?
    What, me worry?

  29. #29
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    I do a lot of long solo rides where there are sections of zero coverage and little to no trail traffic. For these, I started using a Spot many years ago. Recently, I switched to a Garmin inReach Mini. I also tend to carry more stuff on the more remote rides, but I can say I rarely have carried enough to be comfortable overnight. Maybe survive (bivy, warm jacket/clothers, essentials kit), but it wouldn't be fun on a cold night at 8-9k elevation.
    baker

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