When you find gear in the woods.. - ClubTread Community

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post #1 of (permalink) Old 07-16-2014, 11:54 PM Thread Starter
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Default When you find gear in the woods..

What is the standard ettiquette about ownerless backpacks?

4 days ago I was hiking a little used trail when I came across an overnight backpack sitting beside the trail. I gave a holler, nobody answered. Snapped a few shots of the pack for curiosity's sake, and kept going, as I was 2+ hours from more travelled trails, over 5 hours from my car with only 2.5 hours of daylight left.

Yesterday I got a call from the RCMP looking for information about a missing hiker. Turns out the pack was hers, she'd signed a peak log book less than an hour's hike from her pack 2 days before me. If I'd called in the pack the night I found it, Search and Rescue would have had a starting point right away when she was reported missing the next day, instead of spending another 24 hours searching before other hikers reported the pack.

When I saw it, I figured someone was answering nature's call or looking for a campsite, maybe going somewhere for a nice photo. Respect for others' property generally means don't touch, but the backcountry might be a bit different?

At what point would you check a backpack for ID, or call it in right away?
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 07-17-2014, 08:20 AM
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I don't think there really is an etiquette on this, and I think you did the right thing even though in hindsight the other option seems better. I used to drop my pack (no food in it) at the base of peaks before dashing up quick and light, but then I discovered marmots like the sweaty salt of my pack so I don't anymore. But if I'd come back down and saw someone rifling through my pack I would've been, let's say "very assertive" (I've had gear stolen before), so if you do decide in the future to check a pack just keep in mind how it might look to the owner and be prepared to get at least a look.
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 07-17-2014, 08:33 AM
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Wow, a difficult situation. This is the search going on in Strathcona Park right now , so only in hindsight can it be seen what could have been done differently. The idea to take photos was a good one, not many people would even think to do that. In this case a note could have been left at the Wilderness Centre building at the trailhead ( assuming the Centre was closed when you hiked out) but in 99% of similar situations of finding a pack like that, there would have been no need to report it. Hindsight is 20/20.
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 07-17-2014, 02:15 PM
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I'd tend to agree with the replies. I wouldn't normally think that an owner-less backpack is a sign of a missing hiker. If I get lost in mountains, my first instinct would not be to drop my backpack.
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 07-18-2014, 01:54 AM
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I'd have done the same. If I saw a pack by the side of the trail, I'd assume someone had put it down to go explore off trail, take a picture, answer nature's call, or some other brief excursion.

It would never occur to me that it belonged to someone needing help.
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 07-18-2014, 09:13 AM
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A backpack that is stashed and not out in the open is different. A pack left in the wide open is strange.

I would say it isn't wrong at all to open a pack you find, it could help solve a crime, or help find someone lost, or it could have a million bucks in it without any ID, but it could also contain a bomb :P.

There is no right or wrong, but it might be a good idea to check it if it is out in the open.
People don't normally intentionally leave a pack out in the open.



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post #7 of (permalink) Old 07-18-2014, 10:59 AM
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quote:Originally posted by AcesHigh

A pack left in the wide open is strange.
Much of my trekking is done in the alpine, so there is often not much else besides "wide open". There are still often a few clues, since packs are often left at bivy sites, but I'm not sure any of it would be conclusive enough to raise alarm bells.
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post #8 of (permalink) Old 07-18-2014, 11:33 AM
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by AcesHigh

A backpack that is stashed and not out in the open is different. A pack left in the wide open is strange.

I would say it isn't wrong at all to open a pack you find, it could help solve a crime, or help find someone lost, or it could have a million bucks in it without any ID, but it could also contain a bomb :P.

There is no right or wrong, but it might be a good idea to check it if it is out in the open.
People don't normally intentionally leave a pack out in the open.
I would say it is wrong. It is still personal property, if I came back to my bag being searched by a random hiker I would be very upset.

What I would like to think the right action would be to record the location with pictures and or GPS and report it to the RCMP, then if a missing person report is filed they would know a good place to start.

And honestly what are the chances of coming across a missing hikers pack back? I know it happened in this case but how many other times has it happened? and when has someone who was not SAR/RCMP searching that bag ever helped a rescue effort?

Lythe you could have never known, even if you had searched the bag and found ID and reported it she had not been reported missing yet. Sure it may have directed the search in that direction sooner but I am sad to say I don't think it would change the outcome of the situation since when you found it she had been separated for 2 days already.



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post #9 of (permalink) Old 07-18-2014, 11:32 PM Thread Starter
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In this specific situation I will definitely call it in should it come up again.

Key pointers
- this happened on a little traveled trail. While she signed the peak log 2 days before me, generally dates on the log were weeks or even months apart, even during peak season.
- the backpack was on an inclined section of trail, with scrub on either side, and no water, no level areas, truly open areas or other reason to stop there.
- The entire time I was on this loop of the trail (which took about about 6 hours) I was always looking for signs of other hikers, and while I saw footprints in the mud (which could have been several days old given the conditions), each time the trail crossed a snow patch there was not a single trace of any other traveller (hot sun melts snow, but footprints don't disappear that fast). As I was hiking I estimated that there hadn't been a hiker on that trail within the last day if not more. That combined with what could only be a temporary placement of the pack should have prompted more action.

I will head up to volunteer for the search tomorrow, with the hopes that if they get enough bodies the net can be flung wide and dense enough to locate her.
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post #10 of (permalink) Old 07-19-2014, 02:54 AM
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Don't beat yourself up. As noted here, just about everyone else would have done the same, ie assumed the pack had been put down there momentarily and the person was coming back for it. Connecting the dots (no new footprints etc.) is easy in hindsight.

I sure hope she is found, and ok.
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post #11 of (permalink) Old 07-19-2014, 11:14 AM
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Dropping a pack for a moment can have some pretty dire consequences and the old saying you can't see the forest for the trees often applies in many circumstance. See a summit, drop a bag, run up quickly, take a break, turn around and $hit which direction did I come from and where is my pack?

Lythe, This is where the whistle comes in handy. Given the unusual circumstances I would have given it 2 blasts and wait for a response and repeat over a couple of minutes. left a note indicating you have concern for where the owner is and am taking the precaution to leave a report, take the coordinates. Also take a very good look around the surrounding area of 10 to 20m and check for anything unusual and note if you came across anything.

You did the best you thought was necessary at the time and took pictures. it's more than doing nothing at all.

Just my thoughts on the matter
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post #12 of (permalink) Old 07-19-2014, 12:37 PM
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by pmicheals

Dropping a pack for a moment can have some pretty dire consequences and the old saying you can't see the forest for the trees often applies in many circumstance. See a summit, drop a bag, run up quickly, take a break, turn around and $hit which direction did I come from and where is my pack?

Lythe, This is where the whistle comes in handy. Given the unusual circumstances I would have given it 2 blasts and wait for a response and repeat over a couple of minutes. left a note indicating you have concern for where the owner is and am taking the precaution to leave a report, take the coordinates. Also take a very good look around the surrounding area of 10 to 20m and check for anything unusual and note if you came across anything.

You did the best you thought was necessary at the time and took pictures. it's more than doing nothing at all.

Just my thoughts on the matter
I think that's alarmist and generally untrue. An experienced hiker should have no qualms about putting their pack down temporarily to move about freely. If the terrain and your lack of experience are such that "dropping a pack for a moment can have some pretty dire consequences", you probably shouldn't even be there.
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post #13 of (permalink) Old 07-19-2014, 03:23 PM
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by pmicheals

...See a summit, drop a bag, run up quickly, take a break, turn around and $hit which direction did I come from and where is my pack?
If you can't figure out where you came from and how to get back, you're in trouble whether or not you have your pack. If you don't have the navigation skill, you simply shouldn't be running up that summit, with or without your pack.
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post #14 of (permalink) Old 07-19-2014, 05:21 PM
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by Rachelo

Quote:
quote:Originally posted by pmicheals

...See a summit, drop a bag, run up quickly, take a break, turn around and $hit which direction did I come from and where is my pack?
If you can't figure out where you came from and how to get back, you're in trouble whether or not you have your pack. If you don't have the navigation skill, you simply shouldn't be running up that summit, with or without your pack.
Quote:
quote:I think that's alarmist and generally untrue. An experienced hiker should have no qualms about putting their pack down temporarily to move about freely. If the terrain and your lack of experience are such that "dropping a pack for a moment can have some pretty dire consequences", you probably shouldn't even be there.
Yes I can see both your points and I'm not meaning to be alarmist. Occasionally (And in no instance am I'm saying for you to test this out) people after a strenuous workout drop their gear at tree line and head up an individual summit to catch the 360 view, and catch a couple of zzz's and then when they begin to head down get a bit disoriented as the tree line around the summit all looks the same. On approach they forgot to look at their surroundings and perhaps failed to observe the sun's position particularly in flat light. It has happened and generally in newly visited terrain. Just saying it does happen and yes perhaps they shouldn't be there. I guess there is no real definitive answer as to what to do when you come across an abandoned pack other than note and observe it. If you are not comfortable with the situation then call out? No harm in it. But I hear you.
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post #15 of (permalink) Old 07-19-2014, 10:32 PM
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to Lythe, I read your thread the night before I headed out with my SAR team to join the search and thought... "man, that's pretty shitty" I asked around to other members over the last few days about what they would do if they found a random pack on a trail. And everyone answered.. "I would just leave it and maybe take note of it" and everyone's reason for that response was the same... We have all dumped our packs to lighten the load and head for the summit. I do it all the time and its a common practice, so most of us wouldn't really think twice about finding a random pack. Don't beat yourself up about the what ifs. If anything I say thanks for bringing this up as a topic. As now when I find random gear I plan to take better note of it and if it looks like a key piece of gear ( like an overnight pack) I will report it to the necessary people.

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