Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Many years ago while backpacking in Patagonia I got to see first-hand how dangerous inexperience can be on the trail. I came across two girls that had picked a backpack for the first time with not much of an idea of what to do. They started waving at me as soon as they saw me and when I approached them they practically begged me for a sip of water. I gave them some water to drink and told them where to find a small stream nearby. After asking they told me it was their first time out and they had ran out of water hours ago. They had only two small water bottles and a friend had loaned them a Swiss army knife... I just wondered what the heck was it that they had in their backpacks, which by the way were too big for their small frames.
The recent tragic incident in which a French couple died and their 9 year old son managed to survive should serve as a reminder of the potential risks when hiking unknown terrain. Ornella Steiner, 51, and David Steiner, 42, of Bourgogne, France, were found dead last week off a hiking trail in White Sands National Monument, a vast and treeless desert park about 226 miles from Albuquerque. Their son was found dehydrated, but alive beside his father's body. Heat exposure seems to have killed both parents. Temperatures had reached 100 degrees that day and there’s no shade to be found . The parents had given their son twice the ration of water they drank themselves. This act no doubt saved the child’s live. The couple had taken only two 20-ounce bottles of water, while park authorities advice hikers to carry 1 gallon (128 ounces) of water per person.
French couple who died in desert gave son extra water, sheriff said
What kills people the most in parks?
It was interesting to read some of the main causes of death in national parks. The number one killer is the same number one killer of children in cities and suburbs: water. Of the 1,025 fatalities in national parks from a variety of causes between 2007 and 2013, drowning deaths are the most common ones with 365 deaths. Another common killer in urban areas follows, car crashes with 210. The third leading cause of deaths during that time frame were falls, numbering 178.
So remember, when going out on your first adventures its much safer to do them close to home at first and in safe, well-marked trails, avoiding jungle, deserts, extreme cold and high altitude mountains until you have more experience. Make sure you stick to the trail! And don’t forget, navigation (so as to not get lost), communications (so as to get help) and water are some of the essential items to have.
Fernando “FerFAL” Aguirre is the author of “The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse” and “Bugging Out and Relocating: When Staying is not an Option”.