The Tale of Two Hikes

Hector Santana
3 min readFeb 4, 2023

Why being prepared is important

Some places are unforgiving in survival situations, but even the ones you think are safe can take lives.

Hiking any time of the year can be a deadly event. Keep that in mind on your next hike.

Every year, hikers get themselves into harrowing situations because of unexpected weather, getting lost or facing a medical emergency. Most are woefully underprepared. Some even die.

That should be enough for you to ask, “ am I taking this seriously”. But it’s not. In fact, tomorrow thousands of hikers will take to the trails without adequate water, outerwear, or food to survive the unexpected. Luck is on the side of many, that is why you do not hear about them on the news. But for some, it will be their last hike.

You can avoid that fate by simply taking the time to check weather patterns in the area, taking a few extra items to help should the need arise, and taking the time to get training to react to emergency situations. Knowing what to do can save lives, especially your own. Survival training can make the difference between life and death. But more importantly, it will teach you not to be unprepared.

Two hikers set out on a trail they have never been on; both are novice hikers with a few modest hikes under their belt. This hike is a little more challenging than their used to, but one is more interested in what can happen if something goes wrong, the other is not. The relaxed hiker thinks “hey, this is a modest hike in good weather, so I won't need that jacket. I also don’t need the added weight of more water given that I have made it through other hikes with this much water, so I am good.” See where this is going?

Always be prepared for sudden changes in weather, unforeseen injuries or accidents.

The other hiker says, “hey this is a modest hike, but the weather could take a turn for the worse so let me take my rain parka and waterproof fly. I should also take my water filter, extra freeze-dried food just in case, and my SOS tracker. One hiker is prepared, the other is not. Both hikers set out on the same trail on the same day. Suddenly, the weather turns for the worst, both are caught in a pouring rainstorm, one gets soaking wet, the other does not. One has cover from the storm and settles down to wait it out, the other wanders aimlessly trying to find refuge.

When the hiker finally finds a rock overhang to get under, the cold air is cooling down his body, bringing down his core temperature and wreaking havoc on the immune system. Weak and unable to make sense of his surroundings he remains there, believing it’s his best option. Eventually succumbing to hypothermia. His body shuts down. The decision not to carry a rain jacket and extra implements cost him his life. The prepared hiker was prepared to survive, the unprepared hiker was not. Why is this scenario important? Well, if you have to ask that question maybe you are part of the problem. So, what do you do? You come prepared, that’s what you do. Always think about the unexpected and that will encourage preparation. Avoid suppositions about weather, trail conditions, and most importantly about your abilities.

Th biggest reason for many of the tragedies that we see, even with experienced hikers and campers, is their overconfidence in their ability to survive without equipment. Trust your gear and use it, that's what it's there for, for you to survive by using it. There is no benefit to having the gear but not utilizing it. Now if you do not have gear, that’s another story. You should get some. It will greatly aid you to extend your life dissipation line. You know that line in the corner of your eye that tells you that you should be doing something. Cheer up, that’s a good thing. Safe trails out there…

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Hector Santana

*Top Writer-Camping and Survival. I love to write about the great outdoors, survival and foreign policy. An avid outdoorsman and survival instructor.