How to protect yourself mountain hiking

DENVER - With a father and son presumed dead in the Colorado high country after what was likely just a day hike, some are asking "What should I do?" and "What should I teach my kids?" about hiking in Colorado.

Here's some advice:

1. Tell someone your plans, tell more than one person.

"The biggest thing is know where you are going and tell someone where you are going, when you plan on being pack and if you’re not back by a certain time, when to call 911," said Dawn Wilson, public information officer with Alpine Rescue. "And call that person when you get back out."

2. Consider leaving a note on the dashboard or the front seat of your vehicle with your plan. (This in addition to the No. 1 tip, not a substitute.) If your vehicle is found in an empty parking lot, authorities will likely look around the vehicle, see the note and know where to look.

3. Bring a headlamp or flashlight.

"The No. 1 thing beside food, water and a jacket is to bring a flashlight or headlamp," Wilson said. "Headlamps are light and easy to carry. A flashlight and headlamp could make the difference between a miserable night out in the woods or walking yourself out of the woods."

4. Don't separate from your hiking partners. If someone is tired, take a break with them. If someone wants to turn around, turn around with them. You can always climb the mountain another day.

5. Join a hiking group. Join the Colorado Mountain Club, join a hiking group, or join another hiking club so you have a group of people to hike with. However, be aware, sometimes groups get separated and you should still follow rule No. 1, even when hiking with others.

6. Check the weather AND be prepared for any weather. Bring a rain jacket. Bring a hat and gloves, just in case.

"If you’re hiking a 14er, or tall mountain, leave in the morning, don’t leave at noon like you can back east," Wilson said. "You’ve got lightning and weather in Colorado, come lunchtime, it’s [lightning and storms] almost inevitable on the 14ers."

Learn more from the Alpine Rescue Team about mountain safety.

7. Carry the "10 essentials" even for a short, day hike. They are first aid kit, map and compass, pocket knife, matches/fire starter, shelter, flashlight, warm/rain clothing, emergency food, emergency water, sunglasses, a companion. Learn more on the Alpine Rescue Team's website and REI's website.

8. Stay on the trail. Yes, lots of people like to go off trail. It's legal in lots of places. But once you're off trail, it's easier to get hurt and it's harder to find you.

9. Be prepared.

"Even if you’re not scaling a high peak, you can still get hurt, still get lost, and you can still have a situation you need to be prepared for," Wilson said. "Be educated. Know where you’re going, bring a map."

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