Man Down – Are You Prepared?

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Hopefully you have not experienced a major incident on a trail but you’ve probably heard horror stories that make you think “I’m sure glad that wasn’t me!”

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In the spring issue of UFWDA’s “The Voice,” there was an article titled “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday.” It was the story of a group of California Jeepers who had a member fall off the edge of a canyon. As the XJ Cherokee rolled down the side of the canyon, the roof collapsed which resulted in head trauma to the driver. The story went on to explain what happened, their lack of preparedness, and their plan to be ready in the future.

Personally, I have witnessed what could have been a tragic incident with my club on the White Rim Trail in Moab. One of our members slid over the edge of a cliff and traveled about 100 feet until a small tree and a rock stopped him from going another 600ft. We were lucky as we had the tools to summon for a rescue, and medical help via our Ham Radios and SPOT Satellite Messenger. We didn’t have the supplies to deal with a true medical emergency though we were spared from needing them at the time.

Overland travel has its inherent danger and most of the time your experience and your Jeep will get you home safely and without incident. But there is the chance that weather conditions, trail conditions, or even a simple mistake can turn a typical trail ride into a frantic call of “Mayday.” Loose gravel, narrow trails, shear drops into canyons below, slippery trails, snow, ice, rain, and off-camber situations are just a few of the challenges we encounter off-highway. For some of us it is not a question of “if” but “when.”

Unfortunately, we don’t live in Utopia but we can prepare ourselves in the event of a major incident. A number of clubs are taking a proactive stance and encouraging Ham radio licensing and Wilderness First Aid training. Clubs and individuals are also obtaining advanced medical supplies in case of a traumatic injury.

Already, my club has nearly 20% of our members licensed as Ham Radio operators. So why Ham Radio? Because how far can you rely on your CB radio to get out to call for help? When was the last time you were in a trail and had good cell phone service (we spent a week in Death Valley and were never able to make a call on our cell phones)? With a Ham Radio, you can reach out many miles depending on terrain and conditions (in Death Valley we talked to one of our groups, mountain top to mountain top, over 60 miles away) and if you can hit a repeater tower, your range could be unlimited. Getting licensed is a simple procedure with the elimination of the Morse Code requirements. Regarding Ham Radios, the most used Ham Radio by Jeep Expeditions members is the Yaesu FT8800R which is a 50watt dual band radio that works great for trips and trails, and can be picked up for under $400. The “head” of the FT8800R can be removed and mounted remotely which is a great feature. For more information on Ham Radios, you can visit

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