May 8, 2013 at 9:30 pm #1302735
So is there any database of health risks for backpackers?
Trying to figure out what to prepare for – statistically speaking.
Heart attack, exposure, hypothermia, etc.
I want to see real data though.May 8, 2013 at 9:35 pm #1984688
@justin_bakerLocale: Santa Rosa, CA
I've read that drowning and exposure are the biggest killers.May 9, 2013 at 4:59 pm #1984902
What did you decide to do about food?May 9, 2013 at 5:03 pm #1984906
crashing while driving to the trailheadMay 9, 2013 at 5:10 pm #1984908
Different thread of course but so far , on two trips it has kind of been working.
I lost about 1-2 lbs of weight per trip (but that's ok because I have 10 to lose).
I don't feel hungry at all and these trips have been 2-3 days.
I think that I was at a 2000 calorie deficit per day.
So we will see. I'm not sure what would happen after doing this for like a WEEK.May 9, 2013 at 5:51 pm #1984920
Update us on the food test.
If you are only interested in death, look at the link above.
In addition to the above I fear water borne illnesses and Lyme Disease.
I don't live in the North East anymore but the disease is spreading.
Get a personal location beacon.May 9, 2013 at 6:06 pm #1984923
@dirk9827Locale: Pacific Northwest
From what I've read, the overwhelming leading causes of death and injury in the outdoors are falls and drowning. This makes a lot of sense, since people will engage in riskier behaviors such as scrambling up steep slopes/rock or crossing streams despite not always being very experienced in either activity. In many cases, the consequences of mishaps carry with it far greater risk than originally perceived – thus one could blame poor judgement on these accidents.
Heart attacks account for a fair share as do lightning strikes. Bee stings cause far more deaths than animal attacks, which are incredibly rare.
Mountain House Chili Mac also inflicts a large number of casualties every year.
DirkMay 9, 2013 at 9:49 pm #1984991
@sarbarLocale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Yeah, the casualties are the tentmates of the eaters of that ;-)May 9, 2013 at 10:10 pm #1984992
@creachenLocale: East Bay
Driving to the Trail-Head is always a big health risk on mountain roads!May 9, 2013 at 10:38 pm #1985003
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
"Driving to the Trail-Head is always a big risk on mountain roads!"
Jay, that looks almost like California Highway 108 west of Sonora Pass.
–B.G.–May 10, 2013 at 3:52 am #1985028
Those seem to be the big ones, in order. I'm calling the "lost" fatalities hypothermia. Being lost itself doesn't hurt you.May 10, 2013 at 4:17 am #1985031
@leighbLocale: Northeast Texas Pineywoods
Thanks for posting that….I think :-)
Actually falls are one of my biggest fears, especially on solo trips. As a child I was fearless of heights, but over the past decade I've become the opposite. I think that fear makes it more dangerous than it would otherwise actually be.May 10, 2013 at 10:40 am #1985100
I say "Water" is the #1 cause of death:
Falls: Being swept over a waterfall or slipping on wet rock.
Hypothermia: From being wet due to falling in cold water or cold rain.
Drowning. Of course water is usually involved.
Dehydration (lack of water)
Avalanches (frozen water)
Also non-fatal health risks:
Waterborne parasites (Giardia, etc)
Burns (hot water)
Last week in Yosemite the first person this year fell down Vernal Falls after climbing over the railing. At least there wasn't anyone there to die trying to stop him.
Read up on Search and Rescue reports for plenty of examples.May 10, 2013 at 1:08 pm #1985136
@brooklynkayakLocale: South West US
I seem to remeber statistics that stated that lightning was one of the top risks.
I think one year it was the number one killer on the PCT.
I think last year proved that drowning is near the top of the list on the AT.May 10, 2013 at 1:33 pm #1985140
@mwgillenwaterLocale: Seattle area
A fun and simple graphic showing probabilities of dying while hiking relative to other activities. Upshot is that you are twice a likely to die due to a car accident. Although here is food for thought. Skydiving is 16 times safer than hiking.
Of course take these stats with a grain of salt. Its an info graphic, not a rigorous study.May 10, 2013 at 2:02 pm #1985141
Smoking is 75% likely to shorten a person's natural lifespan (I made that up). Playing Russian Roulette 1 time is 17% likely to shorten a person's lifespan (1:6 odds). Would you rather play one round of Russian Roulette or smoke one cigarette?
Most hikers drive way more than they hike, and most skydivers probably don't do it too often.
Statistics in the news are usually misused. Remember- 87.372% of all statistics are made up on the spot.May 10, 2013 at 2:18 pm #1985145
45% of Jim W's posts are misleading.May 10, 2013 at 2:23 pm #1985146
Statistician's Blues: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMQdtyot38sMay 10, 2013 at 3:16 pm #1985158
@wandering_bobLocale: Oregon, USA
There is actually a book on that exact subject. It was part of my statistics library for many years.
If you let a good statistician pick his classes, he can prove that black is white.May 10, 2013 at 3:28 pm #1985163
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
You're scarin' the sh!t out of me. I'm thinking of canceling all my trips and taking up backgammon. :(May 10, 2013 at 5:19 pm #1985184
I find this a fascinating topic – risk assessment is a complex and very interesting topic, both from a psychological and from a quantitative perspective. We tend not to to do it very well, unless we have rigorous metrics, and as others have pointed out, the relevant statistics are as often abused as properly used. The edarnell.com page that Buck cited looks like a very nice attempt to break down the frequencies of fatal back-country events. IMO, it provides a pretty clear picture of the things one has to avoid to stay safe. The main thing I'm wondering after reading this summary is what proportion of the people were day-hikers and what proportion were multi-day backpackers. It has seemed to me for several years that most of the fatalities I hear about are among day-hikers, and it kind of makes sense. If I get lost backpacking, the biggest risk is that I'll worry someone by not getting out when planned. If a dayhiker gets lost and doesn't know how to create shelter, it can easily be fatal. I may also be wrong, but it's also my impression that it's usually dayhikers who have most of the worst falls (maybe it's just because there are more of them, or maybe the reporting's clearer).
It can often be pretty trick to compare hiking risks to other risks, especially when there aren't clear data on the frequencies of events. I've often said that the drive to the trailhead is the most dangerous part, but is it really? It probably depends on where I'm backpacking. If I drive 1000 miles roundtrip, then my chance of dying from the trip is on the order of 1/100,000. I have no idea what most of the annual risks mean in the besthealthdegrees chart (were those people out for 5 days/year or 100?), but if the McKinley mountaineering data are to be believed, then a 10 day trip there gives me about 1/1000 risk (~ 100 times more than a 1000 mile drive). On well-traveled, gentle sections of the AT, my chances of dying from an accident are probably lower than they are on a typical non-hiking day. If I'm solo in some rugged true wilderness, it might be closer to the McKinley stats.
What seems most clear to me personally, though, is that the biggest risk associated with backpacking is not doing it. Other than motor vehicle-related risks, falls, and poisoning (the big three accidental causes), almost all of the biggest risks are non-communicable disease risks that are reduced by getting out and getting moving.
Bill S.May 10, 2013 at 5:20 pm #1985186
On a serious note, exercise (sweat) induced calcium loss is a long term effect not many are aware of. Supplements aren't a bad idea.
My mom used to hike a ton but had to stop backpacking after her bones became weak and she broke an arm hitting a tenis ball. Obviously an anecdotal story that doesn't show a link but sweating has been documented to increase calcium loss and there are few times I sweat as much as hiking up mountain passes.May 12, 2013 at 10:50 am #1985498
They REALLY need a better way to prevent stupid people from killing themselves at Vernal Falls …
I think a more SIGNIFICANT call to action like "if you cross this line you're going to die"May 12, 2013 at 10:58 am #1985500
As an aside, regular blood tests are a good idea for anyone interested in fitness.
I have to go back. I get tests ever 3-6 months.
I've found out LOTS about myself this way.
– I'm prone to anemia
– I have postural orthostatic tachychardia syndrom
– prone to low blood pressure
You can run a complete blood count. Testosterone levels. Iron, etc.
If you're female, a vegetarian, don't eat red meat often, or do a lot of jogging – you need to pay attention to anemia and your complete blood count.
… a few other things.
Do you know your resting heart rate? This is a GOOD measure of how much stress your body is under and how much recovery you need. Professional athletes have heart rate monitors they sue to detect their heart rate variability to determine if they need to rest.
I've used this do determine if I am having issues with altitude and how over taxed I am (vs if I'm just being a wimp).
You MAY have some minor health issues that are holding you back. By paying attention and talking to your doctor often you can find them.May 12, 2013 at 12:57 pm #1985527
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
If one hikes based on their skill and experience (each trip matched to these), there is almost no risk.
Of course there is the chance of an accident — especially if you are in over your head — which skilled and experienced hikers don't do.
We can sit at home and worry about the risks — akin to sitting at home and waiting to die; or we can get out into the wilderness and live our lives.
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