We cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have a plan. This includes establishing a turn-around time, knowing the weather forecast, knowing the terrain statistics (mileage, elevation gain, and conditions), and leaving your trip itinerary with someone at home.

A basic itinerary includes:
– Who you’re going with and contact numbers
– Trailhead / starting point
– Destination
– Start date and time
– Estimated end date and time
– Emergency contact information

It’s important to let someone reliable know what to do if you don’t return for some reason. We encourage you to set a time for your contact to call for help that will give you some margin if you are running a bit late. If you are overdue and have the ability to send a message to your contact, please let them know you are safe to avoid them calling for help unnecessarily.

Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department has a hiking plan that you can print and fill out. If you know the phone numbers for the local Sheriff station or other agency, such as Forest Service or National Park Service, putting it on the form can help your contact person get in touch with the right people. If someone is missing, you do NOT need to wait 24 hours, but your contact will need to be clear their call is for a missing hiker. If in doubt, call 9-1-1.

While planning a trip with a group, ask yourself if the group is made up of people you know and can trust. Regardless of whether you’re hiking with friends or strangers, the Team recommends keeping the group together or establishing a plan to periodically check in at key points. Assign a strong and experienced hiker as the “sweep” who will make sure no one is left behind. If someone cannot continue, have someone go back with them or have them wait at a spot you will pass on your way out. Once you return to your cars or homes, check in with everyone to make sure no one is missing. If someone hasn’t returned, consider reporting someone missing.

If you are hiking on your own and are unfamiliar with the trail, treat information from social media sources with caution. Advice offered over the internet should be evaluated carefully since you may not know the source or its reliability. Consider asking yourself if the hike is reasonable based on your experience, equipment, and potential hazards. While physical fitness is important, a fit person can easily get in “over their heads” if they lack essential skills and equipment – are you prepared for this?

Lastly, the amount of “insurance” you need will be up to you, but you should ask and answer a couple of basic questions:
– What do you need to prevent an emergency or respond to an emergency should one occur?
– What do you need to safely spend an unplanned night (or two) outside?

The Team has a printable checklist for your Ten Essentials. While you may not need an extensive array of items from the list, a basic set should be in your pack. Storing items in small, waterproof stuff sacks or bag is convenient and will allow you to move them between packs.

Hiking can be easy or it can be tough. Hikers get in trouble because they try to do something they aren’t prepared to do. If you are separated from your group or are lost on your own, try to stay in a safe place, keep warm, and stay put.

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