Nova Scotia

Why you should bring a paper map, compass on a hike

While people might pack the latest electronic devices with them for a hike in the woods, the technology may come with a downside, says a Halifax Search and Rescue official.

'We've found most of our calls, or a lot of our calls, that the electronics has got them in trouble'

Blair Doyle, the search director for Halifax Search and Rescue, suggests not relying on electronics alone to navigate when on a hike. (CBC)

While people might pack the latest electronic devices with them for a hike in the woods, the technology may come with a downside, says a Halifax Search and Rescue official.

"We've found most of our calls, or a lot of our calls, that the electronics has got them in trouble and they're relying on that," said Blair Doyle, the search director for Halifax Search and Rescue.

He said the essential items people should be bringing on a hike are food, water, backup clothing, a first aid kit, a flashlight and a way to start a fire.

He also suggested bringing a cellphone, GPS and backup batteries, but urges people to not rely on electronics alone and to also bring a paper map and compass.

But electronics have also made a positive difference in assisting search efforts, said Laurie Haines, the incident commander for RCMP Ground Search and Rescue.

Halifax Search and Rescue use a mule, a piece of equipment designed to make it easier for rescuers and injured people to get out of the woods. (CBC)

In the past five to 10 years, there have been fewer reports of people getting lost and now they deal with more rescues, said Haines.

"We have some idea of where the person is, but they're unable to get themselves out of the woods and we have to send smaller, more advanced teams into the woods to get them," he said.

Those teams can go greater distances into the woods with more medical gear and medical training, said Haines. 

Four years ago, a government grant provided the province with funding for mules (a stretcher on a wheel), Stokes baskets (another type of stretcher) and hypothermia bags.

"They're designed to take the strain off our responders that are going into the woods," said Paul Service with Halifax Search and Rescue.

Laurie Haines, an RCMP Ground Search and Rescue incident commander, says electronics have eased the need for full-blown searches in the past five to 10 years. (CBC)

All 23 search and rescue teams in the province now have the equipment.

But the hope is if everyone is prepared, they won't need to use it.

With files from Brooklyn Currie

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