22 January 2014

Guest Post: TrailNote Review

TrailNote Review
You need to expect the unexpected.  Having an emergency kit in your car, letting someone know where you will be, being dressed for the weather.  In this post, Shelia Goss reviews a new program, TrailNote.  A free online alert program.

One of the most propitious dividends of the time ( sometimes excessive, I fear) I spend blogging and on Facebook, is my learning about gear and techniques that I may utilize in my activities of canoeing, hiking, snowshoeing, skijoring, and kicksledding with our dogs.

In November, there was a discussion on the Hiking with Dogs Facebook page, which addressed the challenges of hiking alone. One contributor mentioned her use of TrailNote, an online emergency notification system. Ooh, I’ve got to try this, I thought. During the week, I often go out alone, with one or two of our dogs. Though these trips are usually only 1-3 hours in length, and less than an hour from our home, I tend to head out when trails are least populated. And, I am “of an age”, and though I have avoided major injury, I am not blind to the possibility of requiring assistance.

Traditionally, I have left a note on the kitchen table, letting my husband know where I am going, and when I am heading out. This is not really a suitable safety net, since 1) he does not get home until much after my trips are concluded, and 2) he is prone to be oblivious to such notes! Yes, I carry a charged cell phone, but many areas here in the mountains have spotty, if any, cell coverage.

I have utilized TrailNote on quite a few trips now, and given our rather extreme weather lately, it has been a re-assuring tool to have available. The site is http://trailnote.com/ , and I have found the program to be reliable, and as advertised.
And it is free to register and use!

When heading out, I go on the TrailNote site, and complete the “note”, which indicates where I am going, the time I expect to leave and return, and any other pertinent information ( i.e. I usually record which of the dogs I have with me). I have registered family member’s emails on the site, so if I am not back by the expected time, they will be notified, by email or texting, of my overdue status, and also the information about where I was heading. The emergency contact then has the discretion of how to respond. You can indicate “how late” you need to be, before that person is notified. Also, since some of us may forget to go online and cancel the TrailNote once the hike is finished, they send you a reminder email prior to notifying your contact.

This certainly is not a fail-safe guarantee, nor should it in any way cause you to reduce your normal emergency precautions. There are a few considerations I have found…not really contradictions to using, but just issues of awareness;

a) I do not have mobile or “smart’ phone, so my TrailNotes are produced at home…that means I have to allocate travel and stop time within the note. What if it is hot, and I stop to get the pups a creemee after a hike? Have to allow for that possibility. This over-allocation of time could delay a rescue response, if it were needed.

b) also, if I get to a trailhead and find, for example, that a school group is there, and I go elsewhere ….I have no remote way of changing my destination on the note. With mobile technology, I could update as I go.

There are other such programs available, but since I have found one that works, is practical for me, and something even a “compute dunce” such as I can manage, I’ll stick with it. I have found their website to be easily navigable, and there is a also a downloadable presentation packet, which is quite comprehensive .

Here’s to safe outdoor adventures!

A big Thank-you to Shelia for reviewing this program! 
Shelia Goss, is an avid outdoor adventurer, dog lover and blogger, you can enjoy her beautiful pictures and tag along for some canoeing or skijoring, on her blog:
 A message from TrailNote Please note that the system is due for an upgrade very soon.  We’re working on it.  But as the system is NOT our primary job (ie. we do it for free!) it’s going a little slow.  Upgrades will include a stream-lined interface, better waypoints, SMS messaging, an app for iPhone and droid, and more.  It’s in pre-beta right now.