Map, Compass & GPS

Map, Compass & GPS
Wild flowers along Fall Creek on the way to the Green Lakes - Oregon

Monday, June 19, 2017

6 Must Haves for your Next Mountain Backpacking Adventure

Backpacking can be a real high when you are prepared for the trip. However, being halfway up a mountain is not a good time to wish you had packed a certain item. Being in the fresh open air of nature can raise your awareness level ten-fold. This is when you consider all of those items that you wish you had brought along. Here are some great ideas for staying well, comfortable and able to enjoy the trail even more.

Improving the Sights - Green Binoculars

Binoculars are a given on any backpacking adventure, but if you are practicing all the benefits of nature, why not choose a pair that cares about the environment? You can find sturdy binoculars that are free of lead and arsenic in the optical glass. Other items to look for are a non-chloride rubber body that is free of inks and dyes, a compact size, waterproof with fog-free lenses.

Preventing Altitude Sickness

While climbing up a mountain can sound awesome, the change in altitude can cause illness known as altitude sickness. Being in the fresh air does nothing to help when the inspiratory oxygen pressure diminishes. Symptoms can include headache, nausea, fever, dehydration and shortness of breath. Always pack ibuprofen and ask your family physician for recommended medications for high altitude backpacking.

E-Cigs & Vapes

Taking a break while on a trail calls for water, but what about a few of life's other joys? Some cheap vape mods can satisfy that nicotine craving without causing you to become winded. The different flavors can also make that water taste great. There will also be no cigarette butts polluting Mother Nature and e-cigs and vape tips can easily be stored in a pocket.

Healthy Snacks

It is also hard to know what type of treats should be taken. Never pack sweets as they can make you tired. It is best to select snacks that do not have preservatives, additives or dyes. Homemade jerky, sunflower seeds or hemp hearts are full of protein and will give you that extra burst of energy needed.

How to Avoid Sore Feet

Blisters are a problem for most hikers. Understanding what causes blisters can help you to prevent a flare-up on your journey. The two largest contributors of blisters are heat and moisture. Always take a small bottle of rubbing alcohol and some cotton swabs with you. Before putting on your socks and boots, dab the alcohol between your toes, on heels and the soles of your feet. Rubbing alcohol keeps feet dry and prevents moisture from gathering. Also, give your feet a rest at least once a day, maybe on the lunch break. Remove your boots and socks and shake out any loose pebbles or dirt that has built up inside.

It is Going to Rain

Trying to plan your backpacking adventure around the weather is an impossible feat. If you are out for any length of time you are going to encounter some rain. Packing rain gear can get quite bulky and cumbersome. You always want to travel as light as possible. So is all of that rain gear really worth the bother? Fold up 4 or 5 large leaf trash bags and place inside of your jacket pocket. They will be close enough to access should a downpour occur, and the light weight will make them unnoticeable while hiking.

Mountain backpacking can be great fun, but the little annoyances can pile up in a hurry. Sore feet, a rainy day, and altitude sickness can ruin that great adventure. It only takes a little planning to head off these problems. And of course, making it to the top is only as worthy as your ability to sit, gaze and relax with a great pair of binoculars, a tasty treat and your favorite vape mod.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Topo Map Selection and Care

When preparing for a backcountry trip take into account what maps selections the hiker will need to take. Order maps early.
It is rare to find USGS 7.5 minute quadrangles ("the backpacker’s maps") in stores. The map table tucked  away in some corner of the store is becoming a thing of the past.
REI offers quality maps and trail guides printed on waterproof paper.
Free map software is a great option available to replace what was commercially available.  I use a combination of mapping software products to make my maps.  I use Terrain Navigator and the web product by and Google.
Care of your map starts with the selection of the paper to be used.  For short, simple treks during periods of fair weather I’ll use computer paper.  For longer trips and trips where the weather maybe an issue I’ll use waterproof paper.  Rrite-In-The-Rain makes a very good product.  I frequently use National Geopgraphic"s Paper too.  These products are rugged and when soaked retain their shape are are color fast.
Commercially made cases are available and I recommend  doing a product review on line first.  I have tested a few and have found some to be bulky, too big or are not truly waterproof.  Differentiate between car camping and the backpacker's needs where weight is an issue.  Most of the time I keep my map set in a gallon zip lock bag.  It's simple, low cost and reliable.  My hiking companion also carries a set too.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Your Personal Outdoor Plan

There are lots of articles and posts about letting the responsible person know about your travel plans.  Should you not return home on time they are the trigger to begin the search process.

This may be the most comprehensive plan made yet!!!

After the loss of James Kim in the Oregon back country in 2006 I wrote a hiker's trip plan and posted it on my web site.  I had input from several valued sources.  I wanted something better for the wilderness traveler than a note to a neighbor.  My intent was to provide the search responders something valuable to go by.

In far too many SAR missions, the reporting party has little information for the searchers to go on to begin their search.

My plan can be found here.  It is a basic .pdf form.

Suggestions are certainly welcome.

Today, while reading a Linkedin email, I received a tip on what might be the most complete plan yet.  It's from Paul Kirtley's blog.  He is an  experienced bush craft author in the UK.  This plan is much like the hiker's flight plan.  It includes a place for a picture of the hiker, data for one's route and much more.

Check out Paul Kirtley's plan here.

911 Call center
Still, that responsible person plays a huge role in contacting authorities to begin a search.  My recommendation would be to pick a person that will make the 911 phone call without hesitation.

Travel safely.

Topographic Maps

Reviewing a topographic map is usually the starting point for the planning of any back country trip.  A topographic map is your road map to the outdoors.  It provides you information at a scale that is meaningful and detailed.  

For years, the US Geologic Survey (USGS) has been the principal publisher of accurate maps.  Within the last decade we have seen many innovations in mapping products that include new mapping companies and publishers, software, maps for the GPS, and “Apps” for the smart phone.

Still, the USGS map remains the standard for back country navigation (visit the USGS’s site at   I’d also recommend looking at June Fleming’s “Staying Found” or Bjorn Kjellstrom’s “Be Expert With Map & Compass.”  Once you develop a map foundation you will easily shift to many of the other products on the market today. 

Many publications, videos, and web sites will give you a complete rundown on the features, symbols and components to a map.  The key features that you should be aware of are:

·         Contour Lines These are the thin brown lines that snake across the map.  Contour
lines connect equal points of elevation such that every point on a specific line will be at that elevation above sea level.  Visually, the contour lines give you a mental three dimensional view of the terrain.  These lines provide shape and a sense of texture.  Contour lines provide a view of slope and pitch, depressions, ridge lines and level ground; the highs and lows of the earth’s surface.  There are two primary types of lines, index and intermediate lines.  Index lines stand out as they are a touch wider, a darker shade of brown and indicate the elevation with numbers such as 4500; the elevation is in feet.  Between the index lines are the thin intermediate line that are spaced uniformly and further define the elevation, slope and contour.  The distance intervals between the intermediate lines are specified at the bottom of the map adjacent to the scale data.

·         Scale Consider scale as your view of the map; it is like your “overhead zoom” setting.  To cut to the chase, a 7.5 minute map or quadrangle has a scale that is referred to as 1:24,000; where one inch is equal to 2000 feet.  It is your best source of information of the back country.  At this scale, the map has much more validity and provides more usable information for your backcountry planning.  You can view important landmarks, streams and geographic features.  To complete the navigation picture I always refer a second map, such as a map of the national forest (e.g., the Deschutes National Forest.)  Commonly, such a map will be “zoomed” way out and have a scale of 1:100,000 or 1:250,000.  Imagine that such a map would be made up of many 7.5 minute quadrangles.

·         North  Features on a map such as trails, roads, mountain peaks and streams are all laid out in relation to true North; the North Pole.  The north-south borders of the map and the small declination diagram are your best references for true North.  Other grid lines (such as the red Township, Section and Range lines) may not be aligned to true north at all.  Be careful of these lines should you need to triangulate your position on a map.

·         Declination This is the angular difference between true North and Magnetic North.  The red needle on your magnetic compass points to Magnetic North.  The accuracy of the information found in the Declination Diagram is dependent on the age of the map.  To get the latest declination for any area visit

Personally I use a magnetic compass that I can adjust for declination; it just makes my navigation easier.  When adjusted, my compass provides bearing information in degrees true as does my map and my adjusted GPS.

·         Coordinates Latitude and Longitude (Lat/Long) are the familiar coordinate system to most outdoorsmen and women.  Coordinate data is found at the top and bottom corners of each map.  Lat/Long coordinate increments are also found every 2’ (minutes) and 30” (seconds) on the sides of the Map.  A scaling device is necessary to pull complete coordinates off a map; this is a pain.

In the 1940’s a coordinate system known as Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) was developed.  To keep a very long story short, your 7.5 minute map has a new grid laid over it, the grid dimensions are 1000 meters by 1000 meters.  For more complete information on UTM grid visit the USGS’s web site UTM or Letham’s “GPS Made Easy” (which is probably at your local library.)

Simplicity is the essence of UTM.  Scouts, hunters and hikers have joined Search and Rescue (SAR) teams around the country in using this system. 

Your GPS receiver can easily be switched to UTM from the set-up menu.

·         Bar Scales   Notice the bar scales at the bottom of the 7.5 minute map.  The scales provide measuring data in miles, feet and meters.   On the far left side of the meter scale, the scale is broken down into units of 100 meters, this applies directly to UTM.

Notice on the scale bar (feet) that 1 inch equals 2000 feet.

 Map Datum Information about map datum is found in the lower left corner of a 7.5 minute map.  I have found that the simplest definition from GPS maker Garmin is:

“A math model which depicts a part of the surface of the earth. Latitude and longitude lines on a paper map are referenced to a specific map datum. The map datum selected on a GPS receiver needs to match the datum listed on the corresponding paper map in order for position readings to match.”

The bottom line: most 7.5 minute maps are made to the North American datum of 1927 (NAD27 or NAD27 CONUS on your GPS).  New GPS receivers are set to datum WGS84.  The difference between the datum could be over 100 meters/yards.  The solution: When pulling points off a map shift your GPS’s datum to match the map. 

If precision is not an issue for your outing don’t worry about datum.

Visit power point presentation offers a fine overview of topographic mapping.  It’s free.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Is Your GPS Receiver Set-up Correctly?

Setting up the GPS receiver is key to accurate navigation.  The phrase "match the map" is a big first step. 

Therefore, ensure that the GPS receiver's default settings correspond with key factors on the map.

A selection of such factors includes:
  • Set the compass page to working in degrees true rather than magnetic.
  • Position format/cordinate Systems (e.g., UTM Grid or Latitude and Longitude.)
  • Use the correct map datum.

 Note that every time the GPS receiver’s batteries are replaced, the electronic compass needs to be calibrated.  It’s a simple process that requires a quick check of the owner’s manual.

Both the compass and GPS receiver must be set to complement each other.  For example, if the hiker has a basic base plate compass (one that cannot be adjusted for declination) then the GPS receiver’s “north reference” must be set to magnetic.  If the hiker has a compass adjusted for declination then the receiver should be set to true north.  If compass and GPS receiver don’t match then the bearing information may be as much as 10° to 20° off.  That is not good.

I carry a Sylva Ranger style compass that can be adjusted for declination.  Before leaving home I visit to verify the correct declination for my planned hunt location.  With that information I adjust the compass.  Yes, the magnetic needle still points to magnetic north but the rotating dial provides degree/azimuth information in degrees true.  
Now my GPS and compass settings match my topographic map. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Snake Bite

A very interesting article about a potential break through in dealing with snake bites.

Nice work by the University of California at Irvine.

snake bite

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Why Every Hiking Trip Needs a Hammock

Why Every Hiking Trip Needs a Hammock

When you think about packing up your hiking gear, you might think about bringing along your first aid kit, your water bottle and a few other necessities. Although these things are obviously important, you might be missing one thing that can make hiking way more fun: a hammock. These are a few reasons why every hiking trip needs a hammock.

They're Easy to Carry Around

When you're packing for your hiking trips, you might like to do what you can to keep your pack light. This makes a lot of sense, since a heavier backpack can make a big difference in how difficult your hike is. Plus, you probably want to save room for necessities. This means that you might not add in many items that you don't consider must-haves.

Luckily, though, a hammock can still fit in nicely. If you purchase a hammock that is designed for hiking and camping, you might be surprised by how easy it is to fit into your backpack without adding a lot of extra weight. It's a great way to bring something fun without getting in the way of your weight limit, and it should fold up easily enough that it does not take up a whole lot of extra space, either.

They Can Be Used Almost Anywhere

One great thing about hammocks is that they are so versatile that you can use them just about anywhere if you are creative enough. If you are going to be staying in a camp site, you should be able to use stakes or posts as a means of putting up your hammock. If you're going to be hiking in the woods, you should have no problem finding two trees that you can string your hammock in-between. You can always bring along posts that you can use to put up your hammock, but depending on where you are hiking, this should not be necessary. In general, hammocks are pretty versatile and can be used in a variety of places.

They Provide the Perfect Relaxation Spot

Hiking is hard work. Sure, you might be planning on going on a hiking trip so that you can achieve your fitness goals, but you deserve to relax a little bit as well. Plus, if you are able to relax well during your rest times, you'll be able to achieve even more goals when you get back to hiking again.

Even though a plain old camping chair might provide you with a place to sit and rest, you probably aren't going to find it to be as cool or comfortable as a hammock. Few things can actually be as enjoyable as kicking back in a hammock in a beautiful spot in nature, particularly after a long day of hiking. You can even create a campfire and break out your e cigarette starter kit and start vaping to make things even more relaxing.

The truth is that once you try relaxing in a hammock on one of your long hikes, you'll probably never want to relax in a regular camping chair again, since you probably won't find it to be quite as comfortable or relaxing. Plus, there's a good chance that other hikers on the trail will find themselves to be quite jealous and will wonder why they didn't think to bring a hammock along themselves!

If you are into hiking but don't yet have a hammock, you may want to consider investing in one. You can find them at many outdoors stores, and once you have one, you're sure to wonder how you ever went hiking without one in the past.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Fire Starter

Last week my friend and fellow blogger Leon  Pantenburg came to my wilderness survival class and held a presentation on fire starters.  Fire starters are a combination of equipment and process to start fire in an emergency situation.

The highlight was when Leon used flint, steel and char cloth.  Flint, steel and char cloth were the tools to create a spark.  The char cloth captured the tiny spark and began to ignite a very small section of the char cloth.

Char cloth is made from all cotton material (e.g., blue jeans) that is placed in a small container and is essentially cooked for 5-10 minutes.

Take a look at Leon's video or visit his blog at

Leon calls char cloth a miracle material for making a fire.

When I head out into Oregon's backcountry I have a small pack that contains the basics of the 10 essentials.

Among the many components in my pack is a small (sandwich size) zip lock plastic bag containing my fire starter.

For fire starting I carry a water tight container filled with Storm Proof matches, a "metal match", cotton balls saturated with petrolatum jelly, Bic lighter and flint, steel and char cloth (about six or seven pieces.)

From Left to Right - Steel striker, two pieces of char cloth, and a quarter
 give perspective to char cloth size.  Outdoor Quest/Blake Miller image. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Snakes In The Backcountry

Are you ready for rattlesnakes?  The following post is from a site that I just found a few years back.  This is great info as you head into the backcountry.

Be Rattlesnake Safe

05/22/13 -- As warm weather returns, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is reminding the public to be rattlesnake safe. All of California is snake country. Much like bats, rattlesnakes are often misunderstood. They play an important role in the ecosystem by keeping rodent populations under control.

California has six venomous snakes, all of which are various species of rattlesnake. They are heavy-bodied, blunt-tailed with triangular-shaped heads. A rattle may not always be present, as they are often lost through breakage and not developed on the young. Additional species information can be found here.

Rattlesnakes are generally not aggressive and usually strike when threatened or provoked. Given room, they will retreat and want to be left alone. They are not confined to rural areas and have been found in urban environments, lakeside parks and golf courses.
The best protection against unwelcome rattlesnakes in the yard is to have a “rattlesnake-proof” fence. The fence should either be solid or with mesh no larger than one-quarter inch. It should be at least 3 feet high with the bottom buried a few inches in the ground.
Keep the fence clear of vegetation and debris. Encourage and protect kingsnakes, which prey on rattlesnakes, and other natural competitors like gopher snakes and racers.

On rare occasions, rattlesnakes can cause serious injury to humans. Most bites occur between the months of April and October when humans are most active outdoors. The California Poison Control Center notes that rattlesnakes account for more than 800 bites each year in the U.S. with one to two deaths. 
CDFW recommends the following outdoor safety precautions:
  • Wear hiking boots and loose-fitting long pants.
  • Never go barefoot or wear sandals when walking through wild areas.
  • When hiking, stick to well-used trails.
  • Avoid tall grass, weeds and heavy underbrush where snakes may hide during the day.
  • Do not step or put your hands where you cannot see, and avoid wandering around in the dark.
  • Step ON logs and rocks, never over them, and be especially careful when climbing rocks or gathering firewood.
  • Remember, rattlesnakes can swim so never grab “sticks” or “branches” while swimming in lakes and rivers.
  • Teach children to respect snakes and to leave them alone.

What to do in the event of a snake bite:
  • Stay calm and wash the bite area gently with soap and water.
  • Remove watches, rings, etc, which may constrict swelling.
  • Immobilize the affected area and go to the nearest medical facility.
What you should NOT do after a rattlesnake bite:

  • DON’T apply a tourniquet.
  • DON’T pack the bite area in ice.
  • DON’T cut the wound with a knife or razor.
  • DON’T use your mouth to suck out the venom.
  • DON’T let the victim drink alcohol. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Plot Your Position With a Compass

 A quality compass is an integral part of the backcountry navigator’s kit.  Sighting with a compass is an important skill that can determine direction to an object or help the hiker locate and identify his position in the backcountry.

This post discusses the steps to be taken to use a compass to plot one’s location on a topographic (topo) map in the back country.  In the vocabulary of navigation this is also known as “fixing” or determining “position.”

The first step is to ensure that the hiker has adequate maps both in quality and quantity.   I recommend carrying a set of maps that include 7.5’ United States Geological Survey (USGS) maps and a second map type such a United States Forest Service map.  The USGS map gives me the detailed information of the immediate area while the other map covers a much broader and larger area. 

Before heading for the trail, take a look at the maps at home.  Scouting from your desk allows you to find significant land features that will surround the direction of travel.  Features such as distinct mountain peaks, a stream, and a ridge line are just of few topographic “hand rails” that can be of value in the field.  By spending some time at home with the map the hiker develops a mental map, a mental picture of the trek in advance of the actual journey. 

Account for declination before leaving the trailhead.  I like to keep my navigation simple and personally use a compass that can be adjusted for declination such as the Brunton 8010G.  Declination information found at the bottom of a topographic map is frequently out of date.  Check the web site  for the current declination.

 “A compass is basically a magnet mounted on a pivot, free to turn in response to the pull of the earth’s magnetic field.  The housing protects the needle and helps you relate the direction in which the needle points to directions on the map and on the land.  A compass by itself can’t tell you where you are or what you are looking at but it can tell you about direction….”

Staying Found, The Complete Map & Compass Handbook, by June Fleming

Sighting with a compass allows the hiker to do several things.

First, sighting on a distant object can provide direction to that object and repeated sightings can provide course corrections along the way.  Secondly, with several sightings on different objects a person’s position can be determined and plotted.

Compass direction to an object is known as the “bearing” or azimuth.   Bearing is the more common term in outdoor recreation and is a term used heavily in GPS navigation.  For example, if a mountain peak is due north of you, the bearing to the peak is 000° (read as zero zero zero degrees.)  A compass can also assist the hiker by orienting a map and following a line of bearing taken from a map.

The picture below offers a quick review of the components of a baseplate compass.

To sight or take a bearing do the following:

  1. Using the owner’s manual, adjust the compass for declination.
  2. While holding the compass at waist level, turn squarely towards a distant object.  Hold the compass so that the direction of travel arrow points directly at the object. (Point the direction of travel arrow away from you, perpendicular to your body.)

  1. While holding the compass, turn the compass housing (the dial) and align the orienting arrow (a red arrow engraved in the rotating housing) underneath the red magnetic needle.

 To determine and plot or “fix” a position, the next step is to plot bearings on the map. In a “nut shell” this means that bearings to three clearly identifiable features are used.  Ideally, objects that have a bearing separation of 30° – 60°.  Good bearing separation provides better fixing information and plots on the map cleanly.  The bearings are then plotted on a map and where the three lines cross is the hiker’s location.  This complete process is called triangulation.

The following are suggestions for triangulating a position in the back country.

  1. Identify three (or more) distinct objects to sight on.  Note that the objects need to be on the topo of the area. 
  2. Orient the topo using the compass.  Orienting the topo means that the map’s left or right border is pointing to true north or 000° degrees true. 
  3. Sight on an object such as a mountain peak or church spire.  (Note that not many objects in the backcountry are so distinct and crisp.  Do the best with what you have.)  Ensure the direction of travel arrow is pointed towards the object.  Be as accurate as you can, point directly at the object.
  4. Turn the compass housing until the orienting arrow is directly under red magnetic needle.  Do not move or rotate the compass housing, keep the new bearing in place.
  5. At this point, and while plotting the bearing on the map, the compass will now be used like a protractor.  Importantly, the movement of the magnetic needle is not important.
  6. Lay the compass on the map with either the top left or right corner of the baseplate on the landmark.  This will be a pivot point while aligning the compass.

  1. With the edge of the baseplate in position, rotate the compass (swing) left or right until the N (north) of the compass housing aligns with map North (the top of the map.) 
  2. Draw a line (along the baseplate) from the object (e.g., the mountain peak) to your approximate area.  Draw a nice long line.
  3. Repeat the process two more times using other distant objects to sight on.
  4. Ideally the three lines will intersect in the immediate area; this is the hikers location.  But because of compass error and human error the point of intersection maybe spread out.  Still, triangulation will put you in the ballpark.  Use terrain association to help narrow down your position.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Extreme Weather Survival

Wes Siler recently wrote a fine article in OUTSIDE magazine titled "The 5 Principles of Extreme Weather Survival." 

The key take-aways of this article are the subtitles:

  1. Never Leave Home Unprepared.
  2. Check the Forecast
  3. Tell Someone Before You Go
  4. Be Conservative
  5. Use Common Sense
Do visit my website to download a copy of my trip plan.  This is akin to the pilots flight plan.

Remember the phrase, "the devil is in the details."  Well, Search and Rescue teams deserve as much detail as you can provide. 

Check out Wes Siler's article.  It is certainly worth your time.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Getting Accurate Compass Readings

I found these recommendations a while back when I was researching techniques for using a magnetic compass.  A small error when using a compass can result in a significant error in measurement on the ground.

To obtain accurate readings when using a compass:

  • Ensure the compass has been adjusted for declination. 
  • Hold the compass level and steady so the needle swings freely.
  • Hold the compass about waist high in front of the body, except when using a compass with a sighting mirror or a sighting type compass.
  • Raise and lower eyes when taking a bearing, do not move your head. Always use the same eye when taking bearings.
  • Directly face object that is being measured.
  • Magnetic fields will give incorrect compass readings. Avoid taking readings near magnetic fields such as steel, iron (ferrous metals), vehicles, rebar, and clipboards. Even belt buckles, glasses, and rings can interfere with the compass reading.
  • Take bearing twice. 
  • Adjust for magnetic declination as appropriate.
  • Follow the direction of travel arrow, not the compass needle, when walking a bearing. Always follow the line indicated by the compass rather than relying on judgment as to the direction.
  • Use back bearings to ensure you are on track when navigating.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Plan Your Escape and Evacuation Routes

Planning Your Escape Route

Alternative and escape routes - Once you have planned your route, plan and check out alternative routes that you may need to take in case of bad weather or if the going gets too much for some party members. In mountainous areas, it is essential to have two or three detailed escape routes should any situation or emergency arise.”

Over the last several years my Search and Rescue (SAR) team has participated in several forest fires operations in Oregon.  The team has helped to coordinate the evacuation of small community neighborhoods and has worked with Forest Service staff to assist stranded hikers.  Getting these hikers out safely has been a priority.  Many hiking groups were met by local Ranger District staff well away from the fire to plan their exit.  Others self extracted.
Thankfully, there have been no personnel casualties.

As bad as this fires have been, there have been several lessons learned.  One has been to plan an escape route.  Develop the plan at home before hitting the trail.

The threat to the hiker ranges from fire, weather (snow, rain and wind) to a geologic event (earth quake).

When evaluating an escape route I recommend the hiker consider several elements. 
First, take a look at your topographic map and tail guides to determine potential escape routes.  Evaluate the terrain.  Are there barriers due to slope and vegetation?  This is especially true should the hiker need to “bush whack” cross country.  A conversation with a ranger can be invaluable.

Second, is the route achievable and realistic for you and your group?  Is your group fit, healthy and ready for such a hike?  

Third, are there sources of water along your route?  In some cases blue stream lines on a topographic map should be colored brown in the summer as stream beds dry up.

Forth, carry the right gear?  Does the day hiker have the ten essential in the pack?

Communicate your change of plans to friends and family.  Let that responsible person (designated to call 911 if you are late) know your plans too.

Don’t forget to fill out the trail permits when traveling in the backcountry.  These are invaluable to narrow down who was still in the backcountry.  In several cases, contact numbers were called to verify the safe return of a hiker.  Take this seriously.  One fellow used the Portland Airport designator (e.g., PDX) as the home address.  This was not helpful.