Cellphones & Wilderness Travel

More and more people are relying on cellphones and smartphone applications for safety and navigation in wilderness areas. People seem to push themselves beyond their comfort zone using a cellphone and 3G or LTE driven navigation programs like googlemaps. Once applications like this lose connection to the network they are useless.   Additionally, the accuracy and availability of map data for even the more popular trail leave something to be desired. There are some programs for both Android and iPhone that offer both accuracy and offline modes (no cellphone connection required) like OruxMaps for android and Motion X for iPhone. Beyond that, battery life of the phone raises concern. According to Tom’s Guide, the average for smartphones is 8 hours 27 minutes. You can mitigate some of this by carrying a backup battery for your phone and keeping it on airplane mode when it’s not in use; but there is still a risk in relying on something that is that battery intensive.

Tucson and the Catalina Mountains have fairly decent coverage and due to the terrain you can get line of sight to an antenna most anywhere. There are towers located on both Mount Bigelow and Mount Lemmon on Radio Ridge. Additionally, there are some towers located on Swan Road that have decent line of sight into the canyons. However if you are in a dip or around a bend don’t expect anything. Another consideration is distance to the towers. Just because you can see Oro Valley, Tucson or even San Manuel doesn’t mean you will be able to use those towers. In populated areas towers generally use less power to make up their cells and limit the number of users per tower and then the power level of your cellphone may not be able to reach all the way to those towers.

TEN Systems-2     So how do you avoid these aggravations and navigate reliably in the wilderness? Get a map. Get a simple compass. Then practice using them and make sure they are in your bag when you go hiking or mountain biking. I’m not saying don’t use cellphones at all, they’re great tools and very convenient; just don’t go out and do something that you wouldn’t do without a cellphone.

How Cellphones Work

Additional Reading









24 Hour SAR Pack

This is my first attempt at video, be kind 🙂

I just wanted to share what I carry in my 24 Hour Search and rescue Pack during missions.  It does change for the seasons so I may update it for cold weather later in the fall.  For now this is what I carry in the summer and add water based on the temperature. Enjoy!

New Hammock!

One of the most difficult things to plan for is my sleeping situation whether it’s for my 24 hour search and rescue pack or for camping.  I’ve seen more and more people switch over to a full hammock setup for camping and they are light enough to just keep in the SAR pack so I thought I’d give it a try.

Deciding to get a hammock was the easiest part. After that you need to decide if you want to make one yourself, or buy one.  Then there are cinches and whoopie slings and tree straps….then what material… then a tarp…  The best explanation that I found was a series of videos from Shug on YouTube.

After figuring out what I wanted to go with I found recommendations for where to buy from on https://hammockforums.net/ and decided to go with Dutchware Gear.  Almost every set up I saw had something from this guy on there.  I went with a 10′ PolyD with 4′ tree straps, whoopie slings and an adjustable ridgeline.  The customer service was some of the best from any company I’ve dealt with and they answered any questions I had via email within the hour.  When I got the hammock the quality was DWStickerFinalamazing and I was glad I decided to buy my first one rather than make it myself.  I can’t wait to get out and use it for an overnight!


hammock hammock-3
hammock-4 hammock-5

Sabino Walk





Ocotillo – Makes a great living fence


Above Sabino Dam



Sabino Dam – According to Sabino Canyon Tours the dam, along with the road, were built during the depression era.




Creosote Bush – Best smelling plant in the desert!



Nipple Cactus, Fishhook Cactus or pincushion,

what ever you call it the little red fruit is delicious.


Cholla Cactus


Rock formations around Tucson come mostly from the late Cretaceous period.

Here is an interesting read about how it was all formed.


The Century Plant – Of all the cactus in the desert this one has cut me up the most,

it is very sturdy and usually just stabs into me as I’m trying to get around in on the trail.




Palo Verde



Baby Saguaro

Long Weekend Visit

Sabino Canyon


Short warm walk in sun

Looked at an old tree ring

Short walk back to truck


Dinner Date


Kids at mall – parents

Old eatery with bomb ice-cream

Salted caramel!




Too warm January!

scored cowboy hat and boots

Long nap back to town

Full Member!

On January 15th the board of directors for Southern Arizona Rescue Association

put it to a vote weather to accept me as a full member or not.  I GOT IT!!


I’ve spent a lot of time training and as assisting with callouts for the one and a half years that I’ve been with a SARA.  First and foremost I need to thank my wife and family for helping me along the way and being understanding of the serious amount of training it has taken to get to this point.  Next to my bosses and my work for letting me take the time to go help people when they need it.  Then to all of the people of SARA for training me and showing me the ropes.

I’ve found great joy in what this organization has allowed me to do for my community and will be forever appreciative of the skills that I have learned and will continue to learn.  I was fortunate enough to have people that have done this for over 50 years, and many other experienced technicians, train me and share what they have  learned.  Hopefully I can take that and put it to good use in the field and then pass that onto other search and rescue technicians as I get more experience.


Just to give you an idea of the amount of time that is required to become

a search and rescue technician here are some of my stats:

Total Missions: 19

Mission Hours: 57

Training Hours: 318

Thats 375 hours in a year and half were I helped about 21 people and four dogs get to a better situation.  Sometimes my contribution was small, or just on standby incase more manpower was needed but it was all important and changed someone life for the better.