There are very few pieces of gear that I carry as a SUL/XUL hiker that fall into the SHTF pieces of gear. A Personal Locator Beacon (such as the ACR ResQLink 406 PLB), a multi-use compass (such as the Suunto MC-2G Global Compass), an actual real and usable whistle (such as the Storm Whistle), and the RoadID, are the four pieces of gear that I carry for the primary purpose of when/if the worst of the worst might ever happen.
Now I know there will be those out there that are going to go up in fumes over me not including a knife and a form of starting a fire, and other type of “preppers/survivalists” type of gear – and back when I was into the whole prepper/survivalist type of lifestyle I too would have been one of them. I am not going to make excuses, suffice to say that after a few thousand miles of hiking both established trails and in the process of helping to build new trails throughout California, I have come to the point where I have come to the conclusion that a person could carry a whole lot of “survival gear” and yet still never have enough, or have the right, piece of gear, for a worst-case-situation – and as a result I carry only pieces of gear that would be for the worst case, the extremely bad, situations.
When it comes to the RoadID I consider it a piece of gear that really only has a single purpose: If a time ever comes when I either die, or become so incapacitated that I am unable to speak or communicate with first responders, it will provide the first responders information about any medical conditions that I have, or in the case of me being found dead, information about who I am and who to contact. Beyond this, the RoadID is nothing but dead-weight. But oh what valuable dead weight it might someday be!
Those are grim situations to consider, but as somebody that spends on average of 200 days/nights a year outside, and does so as a solo hiker for ninety-nine percent of the time, it just always seemed like the right thing to do. Hopefully it will never have to be used – same goes for the ACR ResQLink 406 PLB that I carry around with me everywhere, hopefully the day will never come when I have to deploy the antenna and press the ON button.
The RoadID comes in a number of different styles, sizes, and placements.
It also comes in a number of different colors for bands – my recommendation is to go with a red color band, as that stands out the most to first responders.
At this time they have three different styles of wrist bands, which I consider to be the best option, as first responders are typically trained to search for medical bracelets on individuals wrists.
The first one they made was the “Sport” and it uses a velcro strap system. This can be nice for those who find that their wrists swell up during the day as they are out hiking. I owned one of these and used it for a number of years.
The second version they released was the “Elite” and it is more of a night-on-the-town style, very sleek looking. I stopped using it because it has a heavy closure system – it was just more weight than what I wanted on my wrist while hiking on down the trail.
The third version they released was the “Slim” and it has become the only RoadID that I use. You will loose one line of text by going with the Slim, but I personally find the lightweight and slim profile of this one to be the best for me. My sister, who has also owned all three, did not like the slim and went back to the Sport.
They also make ones for your shoes, ankles, and a dog tag, but as I explained above, I prefer quick and easy access for first responders. I suppose in some way the dog tags would be the best option, but I am at a point where I just do not like things hanging from my neck anymore.
Also available is an “interactive” RoadID which ends up removing four lines of usable message and replaces them with a message to call a specific number or visit a website, enter a serial number and pin code, and the first responder/medical examiner will be able to look up medical history that you provide.
I think the idea of this is a neat idea, however I have never thought it was a good idea for a hiker. Chances are pretty good that if you are out on a remote trail and S&R has just arrived at your location, the chances of them actually having a laptop sitting around in their helicopter are slim to none. Even if they do happen to have one with internet access, what are the real chances that they would invest the time to look up information about you on some website. That would be something a medical examiner might do if you are a John Doe, but as I explained above, I feel the real value of a RoadID is to provide first responders with critical and immediate information, not force them to sign into some website and look up information about you. For urbanites, the Interactive could be a great option, for long distance hikers, just not the best choice I feel.
I do not have my original “Sport” or “Elite” so I cannot provide weights for them, however the “Slim” that I have is 10.06 grams.
You know that saying about Visa… yeah… priceless. Like the cost of a top-quality PLB, devices and pieces of gear that have a SHTF use, have no price tag. Same goes with the Satellite phone I sometimes carry, the cost of the phone and monthly fees are totally irrelevant for when the SatPhone needs to go with me for that extra level of security.
My opinion is that if you are going to sit and squabble over a 20 dollar piece of gear that has the potential return value that a RoadID might provide to first responders, well, you should just put your butt back in your sofa and stay home.
So, What To Put On Yours:
This is of course the tough part of all of this. The decision of whether to buy a RoadID should not even be a decision… just buy one… but what to have it say can be a bit of a challenge.
I can only share what I my personal thoughts are on this matter: To be, again, as I said in the third paragraph of this article, the RoadID has a single purpose. With that in mind I want to provide the most relevant and important information that I can to first responders and/or medical examiners.
I personally have my FULL name. Do not slack off and use any initials. There might be a whole bunch of “John B Abela’s” out there – there are not, but you get the point – so help out the person trying to save your life, or trying to contact the correct next-of-kin, by using your full name.
I also include my SSN on my RoadID. A lot of people think I am crazy for doing this, but honestly I think it is one of the best decisions, especially if it the RoadID becomes a tool for a medical examiner. I have never been one of those paranoid people when it comes to my SSN (or just about any personal information for that fact) so for me it was an easy choice.
I also have my date of birth. This can be very helpful for first responders to be able to very quickly know your age.
I also have an emergency contact number. My father is retired and is almost always home so I use his phone number.
I also include the fact that I have O Positive blood type. A rather important bit of information for first responders, and totally irrelevant for medical examiners.
I also include that I am an organ donor and am DNR.
When I use to use the “Sport” and I had an extra line of text I included that I was “NKA / NKDA” which stands for “No Known Allergies” and “No Known Drug Allergies”.
Other items that might be important to list could be “No Aspirin Like Drugs”, “Asthma”, “Hyperglycemic” and so forth.
At one point I think my sister put her health care plan information/number on one of her RoadID’s, which I thought was a good idea.
The cost is inconsequential – and if you do not like things on your wrists, go with the ankle or dog tags (or any variation thereof)… there are zero excuses that you can throw at me to not have a RoadID on your body at all times while out on the trail.
I have spent a third of my working life in the medical industry and I am absolutely, positively, 100% unquestionably, in support of every hiker having a RoadID with them out on the trail. I have made it a point to regularly visit with the local S&R teams in the areas where I hike the most. I want them to know that if the day ever comes when I have to hit that button on my PLB, or worse they get a phone call from my family saying I have not checked-in or gotten home, and the S&R teams are called out, I want them to know, or at least remember, that some guy came and introduced himself to them. Every single time I visit these folks I make it a point to ask if there is any information they would want on my RoadID that is not presently on there. They are, after all, the individuals that will mostly likely be the first to be looking for it, so what they need, I need to give them. I know that some of you out there that read my articles are apart of S&R teams, or are WFA certified, so I would really love to hear from you what kind of information you would like hikers such as myself, and our other fellow readers/hikers, to have on their RoadID!
In accordance of USA Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255: I hereby declare that as of the day of publication of this article I am a sponsored hiker of Montbell America, Gossamer Gear, Black Rock Gear, Suluk46.