I find it’s something that I rarely think about, but occasionally while I’m running through a remote section of woodland, moorland or coastline I realise that if something were to happen to me then I’d probably end up as one of those bodies that you see in an episode of Bones, Cold Case or CSI. Yes I watch too much TV, but that aside I think that I’d rather be found/rescued or at least identified before I get eaten by the local wildlife. I’ve been thinking about this for a while and tried a few things, Joe from www.1bandid.com (https://twitter.com/1BandID) was also kind enough to send me a free sample of his emergency ID product to try out. Read on to find out how I got on and what I found.The 1BandID is a great product with clear, laser etched writing all held securely onto a neoprene strap. You can use this strap to secure it pretty comfortably to a watch or heart rate monitor, but my preference was to put it around the chest strap on my Camelbak or rucksack. Basically it is a very adaptable piece of ID and can fit in a wide variety of places. See www.1bandid.com for more ideas. There is plenty of space on it for quite a lot of information, personally I chose name, home town, two emergency contact names/numbers, my blood type and motto “Never Give Up.” I didn’t put my address on it as we were shopping for a new house at the time. The band comes in three different sizes and costs $19.99 plus postage $3.78 for first class international.
The material used for the 1BandID is very soft and doesn’t chafe, and it is priced comparably with other products on the market. I would certainly recommend it for consideration, especially as they are posted out very quickly and the shipping costs, even to the UK, are very good. I would like to just extend my apologies to Joe, as he sent me the sample a while ago and I’ve taken quite a long time to test the ID, make up my mind about it and check out a few other options. The issue that I had wasn’t with the 1BandID itself, see above, but more to do with the wider issue of making sure that someone can find you if something happens in the middle of nowhere.
There are three main ways of making sure that you are found or rescued and they aren’t mutually exclusive:
- Wear an ID tag so that if you are found and are unable to tell people who you are then they can figure it out and contact a relative. e.g. use a 1BandID or something similar.
- Wear a GPS tracker (not just a logger) that uploads your position, so that you can be tracked online. I tried the SPOT satellite GPS messenger, see below for more info.
- Let a loved one know where you are going, when you will be back, when/how to raise the alarm if you don’t return on time. Then, most importantly, don’t deviate from your plan!
I’ve already covered the ID tag issue, so how did I get on with the SPOT messenger? Well, I took it for a 14 mile run in south Wales, through woodland and along a ridge with a clear view of the sky, before descending back into the valley again. I was running for about two and a half hours and in that time it only successfully recorded my position 5 times, all on the top of the ridge. I was wearing it in the recommended position on my upper arm and was very disappointed in the result. The SPOT tries to track your position every ten minutes, but due to the power required to send a signal to a satellite, rather than simply receiving one like your average Garmin or TomTom, it can be blocked very easily by foliage or the like. Ultimately the Spot may be good for roaming the high mountains, or crossing Mongolia, but for intricate trail running I don’t think that it would be much use. It is also fairly bulky. I believe that this problem would extend to just about any satellite tracking unit, and doesn’t only apply to the SPOT.
The third option is the most obvious and is often the one that I rely upon, however I’m not very good at it and I do have a tendency to roam off track or maybe go a bit further if I’m feeling good. If you are doing it properly then you really need to mark your route, and any options you are likely to take, onto a map along with your ETA. When I’m out I also try to check-in with my mobile phone at any key points where I’m likely to have a mobile signal e.g. while on a hilltop or ridge. When I do this I usually give an updated ETA and an estimated time for my next check-in.
You’ll notice that I haven’t included a mobile phone as one of the options, this is because that I will often leave it at home if I am only going to be out for an hour and I want to travel light. It also isn’t something that can necessarily be readily used to ID you if you are unconscious and coverage in the countryside is sporadic at best. If you do carry one then make sure that you have a phone number for home and one for ICE (In Case of Emergency). Of course if you have sensitive information on your phone and set it to lock itself after a short period of time, then this wont be worth doing.
My recommendation for the best compromise would be to buy three or four ID tags and put them on various pieces of equipment. This will maximise the chance that you will both remember to take at least one with you and also that it is found and read if you have to be rescued. In addition carry a mobile phone if you can and advise a partner or loved one of your route and eta. If they need to phone for help because you are overdue then the police are the best first port of call, unless you were definitely out at sea on a boat of course. Oh, and don’t stray from your advised route without using your mobile phone to advise someone that you have changed the plan.
Of course, this all needs to be adhered to with a certain level of common sense and, beyond wearing an ID tag, you don’t need to be quite so careful if you are going to somewhere that is well populated at a busy time of the day. With all of that in mind don’t forget to enjoy yourself when you do finally get out!