Outside Idyllwild: Systems failure 4 …

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Watching the sun set from Idyllwild County Park. Photo by Bruce Watts

One of the most important parts of your hiking system is navigation. Staying found is very high on the list of priorities when you are out backpacking.

Finding lost hikers is the main reason that the Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit stays so busy. Of course a lot of RMRU callouts could be avoided if people just did a little research before they head out.

But some hikers will inevitably become lost regardless of circumstances. The first step to avoiding this happening to you is to get a good map.

Many maps of the local hiking trails are available at local stores. My favorite is Tom Harrison’s Mt. San Jacinto map, whch is up to date and very durable becasue it’s printed on waterproof paper. The U.S. Geological Service’s quadrangle maps are very good. Unfortunately, they are not updated very often and things do change over the decades between maps.

Even though I am extremely familiar with our local mountains, I always carry a map with me when I go out hiking. I always stay on the trails. Going off-trail is one of cardinal sins that gets hikers into trouble.

I admit I only carry a very rudimentary compass with me when I go out hiking, but it is better than nothing at all. There are literally hundreds of compasses on the market but most people can get by with one of the basic hiking models.

Of course, if you don’t know how to use a compass, it won’t be of much help. Books are on the market or you could take an orienteering course, which I recommend for some hands-on learning.

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