Saturday, September 30, 2023


Make sure your hike is a safe one

By Bob Difley
Some time back a 59-year-old woman went missing in a Northern California state park. She went missing for six days before a man and his son found her. When she was finally rescued from where she had fallen from an unmarked trail into a ravine, she said she was uninjured but could not climb out of the ravine and could only wait, hoping to be rescued. Luckily, other than the misery of being unable to sleep at night because of the cold, she was only treated for hypothermia.

There was a small stream in the ravine that supplied her with drinking water but she had no food, no emergency supplies and no cell phone. The nights were very cold and she had only a hooded sweatshirt for warmth. She had told nobody that she was going for the hike, nor where she was going. Her rescue was only accomplished by a great number of volunteers fanning throughout the park, where she was known to hike, and hoping to get lucky.

This hiker’s dilemma should raise the alert flags especially for boondocking RVers who, by the very nature of their love of open country, back roads, backwoods and isolated locations, are at risk of serious problems if they do not take some precautions when camping, hiking, biking or wandering out in the middle of unpopulated areas.

Think of this: You find a terrific isolated canyon out in the desert to boondock, a couple miles off the main road and completely out of sight from the road. There are no other campers around, no hikers pass by, no ATVs. I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the number of times I have found and boondocked in just such a place.

Now suppose you go out wandering around, exploring the area, up and down canyons and over ridges. What if you were to fall? These desert hills are made up of loose soil and rocks that easily slip and slide from under your feet, easily dispatching you in a head-over-heels sprawl down to the bottom, with possibly a broken leg, or – as the woman hiker found – you are simply unable to crawl out. How long do you think it would take someone to find you?

I have been lost in the desert. I always thought I was smart enough not to be so stupid. I was wrong. After a few turns and twists, the canyons and the terrain start to look eerily similar, and you can’t tell whether you are headed toward your rig or away from it. Luckily, after wandering and climbing ridges to look around, I always found my way back – hungry, thirsty, tired and feeling humbled.

You can keep these possibly life-threatening events from happening to you with a few simple procedures to follow before you set out:

1.  Always let someone know where you are, where you are going and when you will return.

2.  Keep a survival day backpack stocked and ready to go whenever you head out the door for a hike. In it keep the following items:
• Light windbreaker
• Compass
• Cell phone (most have GPS built in)
• Mylar NASA survival blanket (retains 90% of body heat, waterproof, windproof)
• Several energy bars, trail mix
• Matches or lighter, a few sheets of paper (to start a fire)
• Sunglasses
• Sun hat
• Water bottle
• Sunblock
• Small first aid kit
• Multi-tool pocket knife

3.  Leave a note on your rig where you went hiking, when you left, and when you expect to return so that searchers have a chance of finding you.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking, “It will never happen to me.” I’m sure the woman hiker did.

You can find Bob Difley’s RVing e-books on Amazon Kindle.

##RVT834 ##RVDT1425

RV Travel
RV Travel
Our goal at, now in our 22nd year of continuous online publication, is to provide a comprehensive source of quality news, advice, and information about RVs and the RV lifestyle. Our writers are all (human) RVing experts who write for you, not advertisers, stockholders or Google rankings. You won't find more valuable information about RVing anywhere else—and with no spam, ever.


0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe to comments
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
3 years ago

When I think of all the times I’ve gone geocaching without anyone knowing where I was, I cringe. Especially in the Nevada deserts!

Brian Moore
3 years ago

I agree that leaving a note on your rv “seems” wise but as others have already commented this could just be inviting “less desirables” to enter your rv and; imagine the rest. Also, I believe all these items are good for safety reasons but what I keep picturing is a big heavy backpack now that I have trek along with. This could actually fatigue some people and cause more trouble than it was worth. I love to explore but am just very careful about where I go and knowing my limits. Plus I never venture too far from the rv. Like I said I’m just exploring not “treking” through the desert or mountains.

3 years ago

Maybe not to carry with you, but look up “Israeli Bandage”.  Very effective, versatile and lightweight bandage to stop bleeding till you can get help.

3 years ago

In a survival training course, I learned that when lost, follow a stream downriver, streams will eventually intersect a road,

3 years ago

Add a whistle to the safety kit. Your voice will wear out before your breath.
Add some hard candy, too. The USN safety pack for aviation types include this to keep your sugar level up — and helps the disposition/happiness, too

Bill J
3 years ago

Add a small air horn – or maybe two – to your hiking pack. A few bucks at Amazon or any outdoor store. It is louder than a whistle, and MUCH louder than you can yell. Works even if you fall into a gully or valley (a common occurrence) where no satellite app, including GPS, satcomm, or satnav system, will work. Works even after being dunked in a river or creek. Much cheaper, more reliable, and easier to carry and use than electronic devices. No batteries required. Also easy to work even if you have an injury that makes it impossible to yell or move around much.


Sum Tin Wong
5 years ago

Leave a note on your RV where you are and when you should be back. Seriously? Use your imagination what happens next.

5 years ago

Can’t say enough about the Garmin InReach. We also use it for a tracking device while we’re underway. Our kids and friends can follow us on a Garmin provided webpage map. The gizmo leaves “cookie crums” on the map every 10 minutes. We take it on every hike, too.

Tommy Molnar
5 years ago

I’ve read differing opinions on the Garmin locator. Most of the glowing reviews came from people who have never had to actually use them, but like the “piece of mind” they got from having one. Others complained of poor customer service from Garmin and subscription issues.

So, I just won’t get lost . . .

Ok, please see the tongue in cheek here!

5 years ago

Small LED flashlight would be a necessity, it can get pretty dark out there as well as the ability to put up a signal .

Stuart S
5 years ago

So, my new “Going-for-a-hike” day pack carries:
Garmin inReach,
USGS map,
Compass (lensatic if you have one),
Matches & Candle,
Mirror (metal?),
Personal locator beacon,
Space blankets,
Band-Aids & Tape (adhesive or duct)
Water (Water filter-straw?), and
Energy bars/snacks.

Stanley Sokolow
5 years ago

Better than a personal locator beacon would be a satellite communicator like the Garmin inReach, which is what I have. It lets you send out an SOS signal that gives your GPS location coordinates to a 24 hr x 7 days/week emergency dispatch center that can call out search and rescue. But also it lets you send text messages to people on your contact list, communicate with the search & rescue people with 2-way text messaging to give more specific details about your emergency and location, send a link to your contacts showing your location on an online map, etc. The basic service costs about $15 per month, which you can activate or suspend monthly according to your need, plus a small annual fee. You can also get medical evacuation insurance through Garmin for a reasonable fee. It’s much more than just an emergency beacon. It only needs a clear view of the sky so it can “see” the satellite when it passes by. Cell phone signal is not needed. To learn more, search for Garmin inReach online.

5 years ago

Carry map and compass and know how to use. GPS phone apps will consume the battery quickly. But one can set a waypoint at the trailhead then turn off the app to preserve battery. If needed the waypoint can be used to help navigate back. This works well in desert that is mostly flat. Of course if you fall in a ravine won’t do much good. So always carry all the items listed in the article and be prepared to overnight.

Bob Minor
5 years ago

Not sure about leaving a note on the RV – that just tells unscrupulous thieves you’re away and could be gone for hours. I guess it depends on where you are.

Whistle is a must, so too a small mirror. Depending on location (obviously you would need to be relatively open) a reflection from a mirror can travel 10s of miles.

Bob Godfrey
5 years ago

I would also suggest considering a purchase of a personal locator beacon. They’re not cheap but will send an emergency signal to a satellite which will trigger emergency response crews virtually anywhere on the continent. We purchased one years ago for not only hiking but for use on our boat besides our standard emergency transmitter. How much is your life worth? PLBs are very compact and efficient and will save your life.

Lanny Collins
5 years ago

One very important item left off the Bob Difley boondocking list is a “whistle”. You can whistle much much longer than you can holler and it can be heard from a longer distance.

3 years ago
Reply to  Lanny Collins

In addition to the items listed above, I carry an Ace bandage. Twisted ankles are common and the Ace could give you the support to get back or back on the trail. I carry a walking staff, and a military style poncho. Think shelter, water, food, first aid, and signal. Also have back ups for anything important.

Sign up for the

RVtravel Newsletter

Sign up and receive 3 FREE RV Checklists: Set-Up, Take-Down and Packing List.