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Houston Area Trails & More Message Board › Unprepared Folks

Unprepared Folks

A former member
Post #: 12
Hello all,

I realize that I need to do a better job of communicating to new hikers what they need to do to be prepared. I think it can be very hard to gauge your abilities and needs while hiking if you don't have a lot of experience. That being said, no matter how hard we try to communicate, people are still going to show up unprepared whether they're not in the right physical condition or they don't have enough supplies.

What is the leader's and the group's responsibility to folks who show up unprepared?

IMHO: In the front country, nothing for the most part. If someone looks like their on the verge of a medical emergency, I would ask folks to stay with the person and make sure they get back safely or ask someone to lead the group while I do it if it looks particularly serious; but other than that, I don't think the leader or the group has any responsibility. We don't need to share our supplies or go as slow as the excessively slowest hiker. We don't need to wait more than 10 or 15 minutes for the late comers.

In the back country, I would restrict the group to people I believe are able to hike safely and responsibly.

What do you folks think?
Austin, TX
Post #: 52
The attendees are all adults and so it is their responsibility to read the meetup pages Hugo created recommending what to bring on hikes and camping events. It is also the attendee's responsibility to read each event description, print their own hike route map, and roughly gauge their own physical condition (as unpredictable as that can be).

I think it would be good to specify a minimum amount of water to carry and the pace or difficulty on each event page. Also the hike leader would carry an extra liter or two in case someone does come unprepared. The hike leader and assistants should carry basic first aid kits and whatever else they want that might relieve the occasional unexpected pain/suffering of others. I agree that if someone looks ill, then the hike leader would be the person of last resort to stay behind with the ill person and make sure they get back to their cars safely.

The excessively-slowest hiker should have printed out their own hike route map and have been following it so they don't get lost. Speaking as a slow hiker, I don't think the fast people should have to wait for me (although I appreciate when they do just because I hate hiking alone).
A former member
Post #: 21
This may seem too arbitrary for some, but what about level requirements? Level 1 = 1 to 5 miles; Level 2 = 6 to 10 miles; Level 3 = 11 to 15 miles; Level 4 = 16 to 20 miles; etc. Requirement for a Level 4 hike requires prior completion of a Level 3 hike, etc.? If it's really been a problem, that is.... Might be hard to enforce with such large groups, though. Or have hikers sign a release (which mentions supplies needed, btw). That might make it harder to ignore the need for supplies and hiker's conditioning. Good luck with this...
A former member
Post #: 43
In my humble opinion...people need to take responsibility for themselves. Jennifer, Hugo, etc. volunteer and do the best they can to organize these hikes. Lots of information is posted here and a world of info is on the web. This is not a preschool...know and accept your own limits. Miles for each hike is posted...if a person has their doubts don't go or have enough knowledge and confidence to get yourself back (I've certainly done that) not presume it's anyone else's responsibility to wait on you or escort you back. If you don't have sufficient supplies don't expect a volunteer to carry extra for you. If unforeseen things should happen, people in general are helpful...but I don't specifically think the burden of extra responsibility should lie on the volunteers. This is not an organization or business selling a service. I appreciate the effort of the volunteers so that we don't have to hike alone. Like I said this is just my own humble opinion.
A former member
Post #: 12

This is another good discussion. Lot of good ideas here. I'd add my 2 cents.

1. The short answer to the question of "What do we do with unprepared folks?" is send them home or to the store. I believe this is well within the authority of the group leader. It not only looks out for that person's safety (in spite of themselves), but it looks out for the general well-being of the group, too.

Here's a real life example I experienced recently that I thought was handled well. I was in a National Park and desiring to hike long distance through the back country where no water was available. I could've done this solo, but I was requesting to do this hike with a member of the staff (a park volunteer), so I was "interviewed" for a few minutes by the #2 in charge. She asked me where I had hiked, what kinds of experience I had, what would I do in this or that situation, etc. It took her less than 5 minutes to get a good idea of my skill level, and fortunately she approved my request. The hike was gnarly in that we rain into lightning, hail, and had to seek temporary shelter at a Ranger cabin, but we knew what we were doing and everything went flawlessly. After the hike was finished, she offered me a position of a Search & Rescue Volunteer if I ever wanted to help, which I found very flattering. My point, though, is just a short talk and quiz by the leader quickly provided her the answers she needed to make a decision and, trust me, she was fully prepared to deny my request if she felt I was ill-prepared.

2. I agree with Tracey and Nadia that we are all adults. However, stopping there is, IMHO, insufficient because this isn't strictly about age or maturity. We are also talking about skills, tips, techniques and strategy (i.e., information and experience). To wit, many boy and girl scouts are more prepared than adult meetup members. So, in that light, I think that there needs to be a way to fill that information gap and get people up to speed.

The good news is there are lots of resources available. Books, videos, websites, etc. There is no need to recreate the wheel. We simply need to find an effective and efficient way to help members acquire that information and then put it into practice.

This is a nice segway to my next point.

3. I like Jean's idea of creating some sort of qualification matrix. Her idea of mileage brackets is a good start, but I would assert there are other factors, too.

A. Elevation change, for example. I've done some 8-10 mile hikes through hills and mountains that were more difficult and demanding than 15-25 mile flatland hikes.

B. Also, just the elevation of a trail is important. Hiking 5 miles in the Rockies is not the same as hiking 5 miles along the Bayou.

C. Location. When you hike out of town, state or country, there are myriad additional factors (e.g., climate, animals, diseases, etc). If events are being planned in bear country, then knowing how to handle your food, bear attacks, etc., are not "nice to know" skills, but critical requirements.

D. Other factors (e.g., age, fitness level, etc). This is where the lines get blurry. In this sense, everything becomes relative. 10 miles is a walk in the park for some people and a grueling marathon for others. This is where coming up with some sort of system involving absolute cut-offs will fall short. That's not to say we shouldn't try to come up with something. Surely, something would be better than what we have now (nothing). I'm just saying it may be more complicated than it may seem at first glance. And, hopefully, we can come up with something SIMPLE so a bureaucratic database is not required to track and maintain...

4. Some will find the following opinion to be controversial, but I stand behind this statement. Some people do not belong in the great outdoors. They are woefully unprepared. However, technology (e.g., cell phones, GPS devices, etc.) is emboldening people to do things they would not otherwise try. Also, we must realize that groups embolden people, too. The idea that "there is safety in numbers" will bring wary people out to these events. After all, if something happens to them, there'll be others to take care of them, right?

We need to walk the fine line between welcoming all newcomers and turning away people (new and old). I'm not sure how you do it, exactly, but I think their level of preparedness, condition, experience and willingness to learn are some of the determining factors. People that simply show up unprepared repeatedly will continue to do so as long as others fill the gap and help them out. If we really want to help those people, I believe we should turn them away politely and to let them know specifically why and what they need to do to be welcomed back to future event.

For example, "this is a 10 mile hike in 95 degree weather. There are no water fountains on the way. We posted that you should bring a gallon of water, but you showed up with no water. As a result, you will quickly become dehydrated and that can lead to heat exhaustion and possibly heat stroke. I know others here may be willing to give up some of their water to help you out, but I don't want anything bad to happen to you or any of the other group members. We'll gladly invite you to attend future hikes as long as you come prepared, but I cannot let you hike with us today without water. You may not like or agree with my decision, but I'm really just looking out for you."

5. I agree with Nadia that Hugo, Jennifer, Mary, Tracey, etc., all do a great service by volunteering to organize and lead these events. We owe them all our gratitude. And, yes, it is not a pay-for service, but that does not absolve us or anyone from the need to be organized, prepared, exercise due diligence, etc. As it stands now, I believe we are leaving ourselves exposed and the fact that anything major has not happened yet is a blessing. However, we should not push luck! It only takes one time and then it'll become painfully obvious that many of the necessary precautions are not in place or should have been further refined.

I do not think that it is the group leader's responsibility to carry extra water or a first aid kit for others, unless they choose to.
A former member
Post #: 1
Seeing as how I am most likely one of these "unprepared folks" 99% of my life I married an Eagel Scout. I am now "quite prepared". But since I can see it from the naive or lazy or just ignorant "folk" I would NEVER expect a volunteer leader to have anything extra to give to me. If I paid said leader to take me on a personal hike that's different. But since this is a group effort I see no reason anyone should be dependent on any of y'all leaders :)
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