School's out and most folks are thinking of easy, inexpensive vacations for the whole family. Hiking and camping are easy: campgrounds and parks are close and the price is usually right: an enjoyable ‘family togetherness' while experiencing nature up close.

Yet the news seems to continuously focus on missing campers and hikers too often ending in tragedy. Many people are not prepared adequately for their wilderness experience.

This information is provided by the San Gorgonio Search and Rescue Team, a group of dedicated volunteers who care what happens to people when they are lost in the ‘wild'.

Who will miss you?
Before leaving your home make sure someone knows all of the important details of your trip:

  1. When will you be leaving?
  2. What route will you be taking and where will you be camping/hiking?
  3. Who is going with you? Provide physical descriptions, ages, and experience levels of your group.
  4. Provide detailed descriptions (colors, sizes, brand names) of everyone's clothing, backpacks, boots, tents and other equipment.
  5. What time will you be home?
  6. Have a preset time that you will check in with your contact person to let them know you are home and instruct them to call 9-1-1 if you do not check in.

Have you planned a realistic trip?
Know the abilities of everyone in your group. Do not plan more in one day than the weakest person in your group can do. Research distances and elevation gains to set realistic goals.

Are You Prepared?
Always carry the “TEN ESSENTIALS” with you.

A. To find your way:

1. Map of the area
2. Compass or GPS (and know how to use them)
3. Extra light source and extra batteries

B. For your protection:

4. Sunglasses
5. Extra food and water (water purification system)
6. Extra clothes (layers, no cotton)

C. For Emergencies:

7. Extra matches, lighter or other fire source in a waterproof container
8. Candle or other long burning fire source for heat and light
9. Pocket knife
10. First Aid kit (know how to use it).

What if???
If your group becomes lost, STOP immediately. Find a safe place to set up shelter and wait for rescuers to find you. Rescue personnel will find you a lot faster if you are not moving. To keep from getting lost, stay together. Groups usually don't get lost, but one or two stragglers will if the rest of the group is not paying attention. Put slower hikers at the front of the group and never separate. If a member of your party is injured, the group needs to stop immediately and find a safe place to treat the victim. Assess the situation and decide whether the person can be helped out by your group or if you will need help. If help is needed, send someone or begin to signal for help. Remember that three of anything - whistle blasts, shouts, flashing lights - is the universal distress call. Get the injured person into a shelter, tent, tarp, or bivy sack and stay where you are. If you must move the victim, take great care not to injure them further. Make sure that everyone stays hydrated and ration food so that you can keep up your strength. Before leaving know where the nearest phone is to your vehicle in case you need to get help quickly.

Cell Phones
There are very few places in the wilderness where cell phones work. Cell phones should not be relied upon as the only source of communication in case of an emergency.

Summer Weather
In summer mountain temperatures will be at least 10-20 degrees cooler than in the valleys. It is often windy at higher elevations. Always bring several layers of clothing. Shorts, pants, a fleece sweater and a waterproof shell, sunglasses, sunscreen, and head covering are easy to pack and easy to carry.

Thunderstorms can come on very quickly in the wilderness. Watch the sky carefully throughout the day. If you see lightning, get off the mountain as soon as possible. Stay off peaks and ridges and out of open areas. Find shelter among dense trees and in lower areas.

Bring extra clothes to change into when you are wet. Wet clothes make it difficult to stay warm. Even in mild temperatures wet clothing can cause hypothermia. COTTON KILLS! Cotton is the worst material to be wearing in the wilderness. When it is wet, it pulls heat away from the body.

Remember the “TEN ESSENTIALS” and prepare for the worst.


Summer usually means heat. Nothing seems more refreshing than a cool splash of mountain spring water.

However, very few places in our mountains are safe to swim in—no matter HOW experienced you or your companions may be.

DO NOT give in to the temptation of wading or swimming in an unknown creek, pool, stream, brook, pond, canal, channel, waterway, river, lake, etc. Safe swimming spots are clearly designated on maps, web sites, and can be identified for you by Forest Rangers, local law enforcement, and Parks and Recreation Departments.

Even wading along shorelines can be dangerous: an accidental slip and a person can be tumbled and carried away in less time than it takes to gasp a breath. Mountain currents are extremely swift and surprisingly strong; rocks can be slippery and sharp.

In worst cases these hazards may cause the unwary to drown. STAY AWAY FROM THESE SHORELINES and KEEP YOUR CHILDREN AND PETS SAFE.


Thanks to conservation and wild land preservation efforts, wild life in our mountains and deserts are increasing. Some of the varieties may appear cute and cuddly, but THEY ARE STILL WILD ANIMALS.

Wild animals carry diseases, fleas, and ticks which may infect humans. Wild animals may also attack humans without provocation or warning.

Be safe: never go out into the wilderness alone. Do not allow small children out of your sight (not even in designated recreational areas or parking lots). If confronted with a wild animal, make lots of noise and try to appear BIG. Do not rush at a wild animal or follow it into underbrush. Contact the local forest rangers as soon as possible to report an encounter.

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