Amanda Eller, the 35-year-old yoga instructor rescued last week 17 days after getting lost in a forest reserve on the Hawaiian island of Maui, broke every hiking rule. She was dressed in yoga pants and a tank top and left her cellphone and water bottle in her car. She had no map, no compass, no whistle, no nothing.
She didn’t tell people where she was going and once lost, she didn’t stay put in a place where she was more likely to be seen from the air. She wouldn’t have made it in New York’s Adirondack woods or mountains. The evening temperatures on Maui in May drop to the low 60s; in New York to the low 40s or below.
The Concord (N.H.) Monitor reported on hiker searches in the Granite State. Several hikers have died, one from hypothermia, so far in 2019 and many more, including a Dartmouth student on an official school outing, had to be rescued. Some were injured and needed help. Most were unprepared.
Two men left for a short hike at 5 p.m. and, having no headlamps or flashlights, called for help at 8:45 when lost in the dark. A Pennsylvania couple trudged for miles toward Mount Lincoln through deep snow with no snowshoes and grew exhausted. One required a helicopter rescue. The lost Dartmouth student set out in sneakers and was shoeless and suffering from hypothermia when found.
Unprepared hikers are the major reason why New Hampshire Fish and Game’s rescue team averages 145 searches per year, the newspaper said.
Being prepared so as not to get lost or surviving if lost or injured is easy and inexpensive. Many organizations, among them Fish and Game and the Appalachian Mountain Club, list the essentials every hiker should carry. The first rule is that “cotton kills.” Cotton clothing, when wet, transfers heat away from the body 240 times faster than dry air and faster still when it’s windy. Wear or carry clothing made from wool or synthetic fibers designed to retain rather than transfer heat.
Most lists of the hiking basics include water and perhaps a water filter; a map, compass and the ability to use them; a whistle; a flashlight or headlamp and batteries; a means to kindle a fire; rain wear, or at a minimum a couple of large plastic trash bags that can serve as rain gear or a crude bivy sack; food like dried fruit and nuts or energy bars; warm clothing; a hat; and insect repellent.
Though it won’t always have reception, a cellphone is advised. Cold weather hiking or hiking at high altitude requires more gear and serious outdoor skills.
Be prepared for the worst.