Quick Tips for Trailhead Security
Everyone wants to explore the outdoors without a care in the world. Still, it's smart to keep a few safety principles in mind when you arrive at a trailhead and park your vehicle.
Avoid high-risk areas:
Ask rangers and wilderness-area managers about security at trailheads where you plan to park. They can tip you off about any problem areas.
Leave purses and wallets at home:
Carry whatever cash and/or credit cards you need in your pack and leave your vehicle empty of valuables. If you can, remove CD/stereo equipment before you leave home. Leave your glove box and between-seat console empty and open. (Caution: Your glove box may be equipped with a light, and leaving the box open could drain your battery).
Get organized before you reach the trailhead:
Don't "showcase" the contents of your vehicle at a trailhead by taking a half-hour or so to arrange your gear and stuff your backpack. If possible, be trail-ready when you pull into the parking area. Unload your gear, survey the area, hoist your pack and move out.
Don't leave loose items exposed inside your vehicle:
If you leave anything behind, conceal it thoroughly. If you park in an area where bears are known to break into cars (such as the Sierra Nevada), seek out bear boxes where you can store any aromatic items. Ask rangers about this topic. Pick up some pointers in our clinic Food Handling/Storage Strategies.
Use a shuttle:
Some popular destinations offer shuttle systems that run from main parking areas to trailheads to cut down on trailhead traffic. This keeps your vehicle in a less lonely area.
When shuttles aren't available, share rides to limit the number of vehicles left at the trailhead.
Drive less, hike more:
Rather than leaving your vehicle at an isolated trailhead, consider parking some place safer down the road and hiking to the trailhead.
Park your vehicle with the trunk or rear-access door facing the most exposed section of the parking lot. This gives thieves considering a break-in less cover.
Be careful using a car alarm:
Some car alarms are easily triggered, and if they perpetually reset and repeat they could attract the wrath of other visitors. No one likes to have the serenity of nature shattered by a loud alarm. Fake alarms (using a blinking red light) may be enough to deter potential thieves.
Consider disabling your vehicle:
Ask an auto mechanic about methods to temporarily disable your vehicle's engine so thieves cannot start it. Make sure the procedure is simple, one you can easily accomplish without damaging your vehicle.
Tell someone where you're going:
Always leave your itinerary with a family member or friend. Estimate your time of return, and agree on a response strategy should you fail to return at the expected time.
Hike with a friend:
Hiking solo enhances solitude; hiking with others increases security.
Take a cell phone:
It might work in remote areas, or it might not. If your pack has the space and your legs have the will, carry it. Satellite phones connect calls just about anywhere outdoors except beneath a thick tree canopy or deep within narrow canyons.
Carry a whistle:
It's louder than a yell, and it lasts longer than your throat.
This clinics was borrowed from the REI website
Advisers to this clinic:
Rick Hood, director of Navigation Northwest (www.hoodcs.com), a search-and-rescue education service.
Bob and Mike Burns, authors of Wilderness Navigation: Finding Your Way Using Map, Compass, Altimeter and GPS (The Mountaineers).