Oct 14, 2013 at 10:18 pm #1308743
@saparisorLocale: Pacific Northwest
I've followed the recent and potentially-bad-ending experience of Alejandra Wilson ("Rocket Llama"), the PCT hiker who got stuck in a snowstorm near Mt. Adams. Her trailjournals entries (http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=436497) about her situation are an honest look at why and how she got stuck.
In another current thread, "Mylar Bath Tub Floor," Randy C. mentions Wilson and how she was basically invisible to a helicopter directly overhead. I also remember someone (Eric Chan?) posting a video a long time ago taken from a search helicopter, where they were directly above someone and just couldn't see them. I've been thinking about this, too.
I've been wondering if adding 1 oz into an emergency kit wouldn't be worth it; something like this, a dedicated emergency-use-only intensely-bright red light:
This thing is much brighter than the red lights on many headlamps/flashlights, which primarily seem to be for preserving night vision in the dark. This light is made as a signal.
Thoughts?Oct 14, 2013 at 10:54 pm #2034219
@m-lLocale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
With my windshirt I made sure to get a bright orange (Arc squamish) for this reason. If nothing else it helps other hikers keep an eye on you when they follow.Oct 14, 2013 at 10:57 pm #2034221
@rexLocale: Central California Coast
A few thoughts:
– That bike light won't be visible very far during the day, which is when most SAR helicopters and planes fly. You need something intensely bright (like a strobe flash or signal mirror), and even then, surrounded by bright white snow, I have my doubts.
– A signal mirror can be lighter, and just as effective, if you learn how to use one. No batteries to go dead, works if you have direct sunshine. And you can use it for personal grooming in the back country – multi-use!
– If you really want to get rescued, get a PLB, like the Acrartex ResQLink PLB. SAR will find you if you set off one of these. Three redundant radio signals, plus a strobe light, in case they are looking for you at night.
– For more weight, expense, and other uses, consider a two-way satellite messenger with SOS button, like the DeLorme inReach SE or the Yellowbrick 3. See my BPL articles for more than you ever wanted to know about these devices.
— RexOct 15, 2013 at 12:11 am #2034233
Jeremy and AngelaParticipant
@requiemLocale: Northern California
One of these guys is probably more effective:
You can see some example views of just how well people can be seen from the air here:
What I've taken from this: if I need to signal a plane, it's Nazca Lines time!Oct 15, 2013 at 5:58 am #2034249
The best colour marker is fluorescent orange. This is such an unnatural colour that a pilot's eye is attracted to it immediately. Lay out a 1sqm of material in an open space, and leave it there, don't wait until you hear the aircraft coming, and peg it out if at all windy. And don't bother waving it, that just makes it smaller.
A signal mirror is even better, if the sun is out and in the right direction. There is a type that shows a bright spot of natural light in the direction the reflection is going.
Best of all though is fire smoke, but you would need to either have a fire lit already, or to be able to light it immediately, and then throw on something to make lots of smoke. Ryan J has told us how to make fire on snow, so definitely worth a try.
If the aircraft is directly overhead then the crew can't see you, because the floor is in the way, unless they have a large bubble window, or someone is leaning out of a door.Oct 15, 2013 at 6:26 am #2034254
@owareLocale: Steptoe Butte
To concur with the others.
My friend worked deep Alaska logging from Helicopters. They used mirrors and the pilot would get mad at them if they flashed more than once. They worked that well.
A large orange stuffsack can work as a signal/windsock for the pilot too.Oct 15, 2013 at 7:36 am #2034267
bring something like a heat sheet … orange one one side, reflective on the other ..
it works as a groundsheet, emergency VBL on cold nights, etc … so its multiuse
theres been a few cases up here where SAR indicated that brightly colored items would have helped the search
;)Oct 15, 2013 at 11:50 am #2034354
I do carry a red-laser pointer that cost a dollar at…the dollar store, but it would be hard to directly "beam" a moving aircraft with it. Obviously, one would waggle. I also own a green laser that would be very easy to tag an aircraft with at night in an emergency (or otherwise) but it's too heavy and fragile to bother with on trail so far.
Otherwise, I have a bright yellow jacket, a tiny signal mirror and a headlamp that strobes.Oct 15, 2013 at 12:01 pm #2034355
@fluffinreach-comLocale: no. california
would not a person need to hit not only the airplane, but eye of the pilot/co-pilot ? and this, with a beam that makes it's living by remaining small and condensed. yes, the cheaper beams do spread, but the weaken quite a bit as well as they get bigger.
add to this the fact that there is no aiming system really, you just point the tube and hope.
on the other hand, it would work better at night than a mirror.
on yet a third hand, you need a mirror anyway in case something gets stuck in your eye.
sleeping bag bright yellow is a good idea, as is a yellow packraft.
i wear hunter orange gloves for the stated above reason. it's so odd a color that they stand out, making them harder to lose.
or, on yet a final and forth hand .. easier to find.
v.Oct 15, 2013 at 12:03 pm #2034357
@dallasLocale: North Texas
SAR is different from fun and games, but this guy ended up in prison for doing that.Oct 15, 2013 at 1:37 pm #2034374
Smoke or mirrors are still the best visual. Look at these two pictures. In the first is the rescue helicopter cruising around looking for our camp. The second picture shows the size of the flag we were using to signal it. Even being in the small meadow waving that thing around in clear skies we were flown by twice before being spotted. First time I ever saw a helicopter land while flying backwards. Awesome pilot.
Nobody is looking for you at night.Oct 15, 2013 at 1:45 pm #2034378
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Lots of maybes, but so far no-one has suggested the 'obvious'. Point your camera at the chopper and flash it. Several times if needed. The xenon strobe is kinda bright.
CheersOct 15, 2013 at 4:38 pm #2034422
@eagleriverdeeLocale: Eagle River, Alaska
When I was reading Rocket Llama's account, the one thing I noticed is that other than stamping out help in the snow in a field, she did very little to try and make herself more visible. She could have taken forest duff, branches, etc. to fill in the "Help" in the snow to make it more visible. She could have lit a big, smoky fire. Yes, they are illegal in the park. However, in a life threatening situation that would be forgiven, and even if not it's better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6. Any light source at night would help, if searchers are looking. A mirror, CD, even the face of her phone could be used to flash the sun (assuming it ever poked through). Hunkering down under a tree was probably prudent, considering conditions, but any opportunity to make yourself more visible to rescuers should be taken. I assume part of the reason these things didn't happen is that as a UL hiker she may have lacked the very gear that might have helped – a decent knife, firestarter, mirror – I often see that type of gear scoffed at here.
That said, I thought her thinking on self-rescue was terrific and her resilience in the face of what was probably a very psychologically difficult situation was excellent. The end result was she did really rescue herself- I have no doubt that if that motorcycle hadn't run across her she would have walked out on her own.Oct 15, 2013 at 5:30 pm #2034441
Those of you with access to high buildings/places could easily do some experiments. Post your results here.
I think it would depend on the size of the flash Roger. Those tiny point and shoot flashes are not so bright.Oct 15, 2013 at 6:56 pm #2034459
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
"Those tiny point and shoot flashes are not so bright."
When I go backpacking, I am often out for black bear photography. At night, the fur of a black bear will soak up just about every photon of light that I throw at it. Therefore, I carry a Canon 580EX flash unit with a supplemental battery pack. With that thing flashing rapidly, I could be quite distracting to a search pilot.
–B.G.–Oct 15, 2013 at 7:11 pm #2034464
My SAR unit (Southern Arizona Rescue Association) conducted some trials and published the results. I cannot find my copy so I am going from memory:
Inert subjects, either in the open or partially under vegetation – spotted less than 50% of the time
Subject in the open, making motions with arms or clothing – spotted something like 70-75% of the time.
On operations, we used signal mirrors during the day and strobes during the night – quite effectively. On one occasion, a nice roaring bonfire stood in for the strobe and it worked well enough. We usually had radio contact with the chopper, which is a great advantage.
It is not easy to spot someone from the air. Do everything possible to tilt the odds in your favor – have at lest some bright objects, make yourself conspicuous, and move…
Don't bother with the typical flashing red bike light. They are simply not bright enough.Oct 15, 2013 at 7:13 pm #2034465
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
"but so far no-one has suggested the 'obvious'. Point your camera at the chopper and flash it. Several times if needed. The xenon strobe is kinda bright."
So is the strobe on any good headlamp these days, far more visible and for far longer I suspect.Oct 15, 2013 at 8:17 pm #2034478
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
Use it all. Bright lights, mirrors, smoke, laser pointers, orange blankets. Motion is good.
I rely on the mirror on my compass and my lighting gear for visual signals, as well as improvised things like smoky fires, clothing or signs on the ground with natural materials. I always have a loud whistle as well.
I'm really a fan of common road flares. They are the best fire starter you can buy and they *are* made for signaling. I wish they made a smaller one for hikers.Oct 15, 2013 at 9:57 pm #2034507
@balzaccomLocale: Wine Country
"The best colour marker is fluorescent orange. This is such an unnatural colour that a pilot's eye is attracted to it immediately. Lay out a 1sqm of material in an open space, and leave it there, don't wait until you hear the aircraft coming, and peg it out if at all windy. And don't bother waving it, that just makes it smaller."
Not in the Southwest. Remember Colin Fletcher's experience in the Grand Canyon. It was not until he changed his orange signal flag for a cheap blue tarp that he got noticed. The orange just melted into all that red rock.Oct 23, 2013 at 3:28 pm #2037101
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
1.> I carry a 2' X 3' panel of Da-Glo orange light ripstop nylon that I would use as a flag on the end of a long pole B/C waving it on a pole gives more movement than just waving it with your arms. The flag has ties on one edge to speed up deployment.
2.> A smoky fire combined with the rescue flag will work very well unless high winds are present, in which case rescue aircraft would likely be grounded.
3.> As mentioned large (12') letters on the ground will work to indicate not only your location (or direction of travel if absolutely necessary) but using known "rescue icons", that medical help is/is not needed, etc. Carry a small sheet of rescue signal letters with you on all hikes to get the correct signals sent. Memory can fail at stressful times.Oct 24, 2013 at 6:42 pm #2037596
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
IIRC, "International Orange" was developed for sea rescue. I have heard that orange is weak at high altitude due to the UV/blue nature of the light.
You can buy single smoke and flare signals in most marine supply stores. Orion is a major brand.
I would just drop trousers and bend over. The flash of white would be blinding, even in MOON light :)Oct 24, 2013 at 7:33 pm #2037619
@davidadairLocale: West Dakota
If I was in a dire situation they would most likely find me while trying to hunt down the dumb bastard that started the forest fire. Seriously, if there is snow on the ground or it is fairly wet, a forest fire isn't going very far. Find a patch of dead beetle kill pine and light er up. Probably want to have a safe place to retreat to once the festivities start however.Oct 24, 2013 at 8:06 pm #2037627
A well tended signal fire (three in a cluster if you are going by the book) is indeed an effective means of signalling. But you don't need to burn down the woods to accomplish that objective. Your prose is incredibly irresponsible,especially in view of the recent history of escaping wild fires ( the Rim Fire, cost 127 million plus, and set by a hunter or the Cedar fire of a few years ago, which was an escaped signal fire). Actually, if you do create a forest fire in the very wet and subdued conditions you postulate, it is quite possible that authorities might let it burn and not come investigating at all.
Actually the best signal would be the "rescue icons" mentioned a bit earlier. Establish a great big H and find a good impromptu landing zone.Oct 24, 2013 at 8:25 pm #2037638
@davidadairLocale: West Dakota
Your well tended signal fire assumes somebody is searching for you in the first place. If they aren't, you are likely just entertaining yourself with your H in the snow. Irresponsible? Freezing to death doesn't seem like a particularly responsible thing to do either. As far as the cost, feel free to send me the bill. I will file it with the rest.Oct 24, 2013 at 9:49 pm #2037660
Not only will you get a bill, a felony indictment for criminal negligence is likely. Have you any experience with wild fires? I suspect not, because if you did I doubt you would consider starting one. There are numerous strategies for preserving life that are more effective than arson.
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