SAFETY & EMERGENCY EQUIPMENT
Any hiker might at some stage of his/her hiking career be confronted with a situation where the use of safety and/or emergency equipment would be necessary and without which the safety and life of the hiker and/or his/her hiking companion(s) will be at stake.
The safety & emergency equipment listed here are considered to be the bare minimum that every hiker should have – especially on a hike in high mountains like the Hottentots Holland mountain range or the Drakensberg.
Some items such as a compass and a rope can be considered expensive and out of reach of many hikers. For this reason alone is would be acceptable to have one compass and one rope per hiking group.
For the same reason one can argue for or against having a stove per person versus a stove per group. We are of the opinion that every hiker, and therefore each member of a hike, should have some means of warming up food or boiling water. For most hikes, a single gas or liquid fuel stove per team will be accepted provided that every team member do have an additional small “stove” such as the popular solid fuel burners (Esbit stoves) that are obtainable from most reputable outdoor shops.
Emergency rations should be sufficient for at least one day for every two days of duration of a hike. It must be kept separately from the normal food and clearly labelled as emergency rations. Suitable emergency rations are glucose sweets, chocolates, dried fruit, nuts, instant soup, and energy and muessli bars.
Space blankets, survival bags, tents, etc. all are suitable to be used as emergency shelters. The survival bag is a very versatile piece of equipment that has many uses. Other than its use as an emergency shelter that can keep both you and your backpack/rucksack dry at the same time, it can amongst other uses also be used to float your equipment while crossing a river. We are of the opinion that every hiker should have a survival bag even when a tent is available.
Ropes can be used in many emergency situations on a hiking trip – for example, crossing a river, to lift or lower backpacks over steep rock faces, etc. Considering the fact that a life might depend on the use of a rope, it is almost inconceivable that one would shy away from acquiring the best possible rope available.
The most suitable type of rope to carry is a 9mm 30 metre or perhaps even 45 metre (one should not tempt to cross a river in flood that is wider than one third of the length of rope available) kermantle rope. Such a rope will cost more or less R20 per metre depending on where one buys.
For normal hiking purposes where no serious rock climbing is planned, a 8mm diameter “jump” or Prussic rope will be sufficient. It will cost much less than a kermantle rope.
Nylon ski rope or washing line is a definite NO as it can be extremely dangerous and can do far more harm than good. Such a rope should not be used.
Making use of a rope, the two types of knots to use are a bowline or a figure-of-eight and never a slipknot!!! The recommended knots are safe and can be easily dismantled by a member of a rescue team when necessary. It is therefore very important that every hiker should know how to make these knots. If necessary, two ropes can be tied together with a double fisherman’s knot.
Caring for a rope
Considering that a rope can be one of the more expensive pieces of your hiking equipment and that your life might depend on the reliability thereof, it goes without saying that one should care for it properly.
Keep it clean – free from sand, dirt, etc.
Never stand on the rope
Do not expose the rope unnecessarily to sunlight
Do not store a rope while wet or in a damp or hot place
Dry a wet rope coiled in loops in a well-ventilated place. Never dry a rope near a fire or a stove.
Keep it away from chemicals and do not use chemicals to clean the rope.
Do not use the rope for any other purposes such as caving, towing a car, skiing, etc.
Discard a rope
when it has been damaged mechanically;
when the mantle is badly worn through abrasive;
when it has come into contact with chemicals (gasoline, grease, etc.);
when it has held a severe fall and
when it is older than five years.