EQUUS - - Eq Conversati­ons -

• Com­mu­ni­ca­tion de­vices. Three types of elec­tron­ics are use­ful in the back­coun­try. The most com­mon are those that uti­lize cell service, like cell phones and the com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tems found in many ve­hi­cles. How­ever, you can­not al­ways rely on cell sig­nals in wilderness ar­eas. The sec­ond type of de­vice uses GPS satel­lites to show you where you are; th­ese do not en­able you to com­mu­ni­cate with any­one, but they can help you lo­cate roads and other topo­log­i­cal fea­tures around you. The third type of de­vice is a com­bined lo­ca­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion tool that uti­lizes satel­lites. In ad­di­tion to show­ing you where you are, they al­low lim­ited two-way com­mu­ni­ca­tions, such as texts, to emer­gency re­spon­ders. Th­ese can be ex­pen­sive, but they are the most re­li­able de­vices in re­mote ar­eas.

I can per­son­ally vouch for OnS­tar, a nav­i­ga­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tem that comes built-in to Gen­eral Mo­tors ve­hi­cles (al­though you have to pay for a sub­scrip­tion for the service). You’ll also find com­pet­ing sys­tems, with sim­i­lar ser­vices that can be in­stalled in any car or truck. OnS­tar still uses cell service but has a more pow­er­ful re­cep­tion than a cell phone.

When you’re rid­ing, keep your phone or other de­vices in a pocket or fanny pack so they can help you if you’re sep­a­rated from your horse. Hav­ing car charg­ers for all of your elec­tron­ics is also es­sen­tial.

• A pa­per map. Use this as a backup and to fa­mil­iar­ize your­self with the roads you in­tend to travel be­fore you go. The Sky Fire em­pha­sized this les­son. As a friend and I were later ex­plor­ing the area where the fire oc­curred, we found another road that would have been a much bet­ter way out than the way we were sent. Later on, my rid­ing buddy met a deputy who’d been in­volved in the evac­u­a­tion that day, and he told her there had been some mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion—we had been sent the wrong way! Had we known about the bet­ter road dur­ing the fire, we would have ques­tioned the peo­ple at the bar­ri­cade who were di­rect­ing us a dif­fer­ent way.

Be aware, though, that na­tional for­est maps are not al­ways ac­cu­rate. They may show roads that are no longer main­tained, or you may en­counter roads that do not ap­pear on the map. Plus, there is no way of know­ing from a map whether a road is pass­able for a ve­hi­cle tow­ing a trailer.

• Med­i­ca­tions or other per­sonal prod­ucts. For in­stance, I have blood sugar is­sues and am now stock­ing my trailer and horse pack with some ex­tra emer­gency items I might need.

• Ex­tra food and wa­ter. I keep a 20-gal­lon tub of wa­ter in my truck in the sum­mer­time, and al­though I didn’t need it dur­ing the Sky Fire ordeal, I was com­forted by the fact that it was there. Some non­per­ish­able food stored in the tow ve­hi­cle or tack room of your trailer may be a god­send if you’re stranded for many hours. Be aware, though, that it is never ac­cept­able to leave food in a ve­hi­cle when you’re in bear coun­try. Some trail­heads have food stor­age lock­ers (called “bear boxes”) but many do not. Car­ry­ing ex­tra food and wa­ter is a good idea in the win­ter­time, as well as the sum­mers, in case you’re stranded by ice and snow.

• Sup­plies for your horse. I nor­mally carry a lit­tle food for my horse to en­joy on the trip home from a ride, but from now on I will carry an ex­tra flake of hay in case we are out longer than ex­pected.

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