Be prepared

ET - Call home

One of the perennial trail-related arguments is about carrying cell phones. And you just KNOW that Bun-Bun has an opinion about this one, don't you? Some time ago, I got into a "conversation" on one of the email forums and there were several questions that were asked of me. After I said flatly that a good Wilderness First Aid course was of much greater value than a cell phone, it went kinda like this:

Granted, the care of the injured is the first concern but is there no appreciation of a way to summon help?

None whatever on my part. The question is - are you going out there to hike or to play Rescue Hero? The probability of your running into a situation where the cell phone would make a life or death difference is insignificantly small. So why are you carrying the thing? I know - to call for pizza.

But what if there were a hiker who did lose a lot of blood (to the danger point, or who was mauled by a wild boar (or you name it -- crazed human?) and required immediate assistance?

Been there. And Ginny is still alive and well - and still hiking. And the phone would have been zero - nil - zed - zip - use cause it wouldn't have worked where we were at anyway. In a general sense, if they've lost that much blood, the probability of the Rescue Rangers getting there in time to do anything useful is vanishingly small. You wanta do something useful - take a Wilderness First Aid course so you can learn how to keep them from losing that much blood. For me - injury as an excuse for carrying a cell phone just won't fly. YMMV.

Would it not be good to have a way to summon assistance without resorting to fire signals?

You presume that the phone will actually do the job (summon assistance). It may in some places - but it will NOT in other places. Why do you think the injury in question will happen in a place where the phone will actually work? That means you still need to know how to handle injury - just as if it would "never" work. Dependence on the cell phone is simply ignorance of real-life conditions and a lack of capability/self-reliance on the part of those involved.

I can understand if someone is crazed by the incessant use of cell phones as we see on the commuter trains but for safety's sake they are useful instruments and in my opinion (OK I won't say humble) they should be a part of every first aid kit.

I don't own one - and likely never will. So it won't make it into my first aid kit. YMMV

After the call is made then the rescuers (hikers who are with the injured?) can assist to a pick-up point.

Now - all that being said - yes - there have been times when the cell phone was useful. But for a lot of those situations, the cell phone was a lot less "necessary" than you might think. For one thing, a lot of those that are "rescued" would do just as well if they weren't. And if they got themselves out of the fix they got themselves into, they'd have a lot more pride - and a lot more self-confidence in their ability to survive.

Even in extreme situations, there have been a lot more people "saved" by someone with a real knowledge of first aid than by the cell phone. On the trail or in the backcountry, by the time those rescuers that you call with the cell phone get there, the life or death phase of an injury is almost always long past and the patient is either stable - or dead.

Well- if they're dead, the rescuers can haul'em out so the bears won't get them. I guess that's useful.

A later exchange indicated that there are people who resent not just those who use the cell phones openly, but also those who carry them - even if the phone is never displayed or turned on. That level of "sensitivity" is something I find ridiculous, and if it becomes widespread, may be the only possible reason I would ever carry a phone. In any case, my reply went something like this:

I've given up "resentment" because the only one it affects (and damages) is - me. But that's a personal choice we each have to make for ourselves. As long as those who "carry" treat their phone time the same way they treat their "toilet" time (by doing it in private and not advertising it to the world), I won't fault them.

But I'll add this for the cell phone advocates - that I've heard innumerable people say all the right words about how they won't use the phone except in emergencies, they won't annoy others with it, that it won't affect their hike, etc, ad nauseum. And I've watched all those fine words go down the toilet when they actually get on trail and find a place where the pizza man will deliver - or the taxi (or shuttle) will come pick them up or --- whatever. So I'll say this as an absolute - if you carry the phone, it WILL change your hike from what it would be if you didn't carry it. Regardless of all the excuses about how close to civilization you are - or how many others are "carrying" - or what you will or won't do with it - or any other excuse you might want to use. And you may never know how good your hike could have been without it.

When we hiked the CDT (and the PCT as well), we were amazed to find Internet access in nearly every town we went through. And I can tell you that it changed our hike. But NOT for the better. Ginny and I have talked about this many times. And we've both come to the same conclusion - our next hike will be as nearly Internet-free as we can make it. As well as being cell phone free. I won't have another thruhike distorted like that.

No - our CDT hike was NOT "ruined" - it was, in fact, nothing short of wonderful. But it wasn't quite "all it could be" either - it was distorted in ways that are nearly indefinable. So now we have to go back to find what we missed the first time.

Created: 06 Jan 2005
Revised: 30 Sept 2016
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