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I go hiking alone quite often, and I don't have many people other than myself in my entire life to whom I can say "I'm going here alone. Call the police if you can't reach me"

Is there an online app/website where I can put all the information related to my journey and put an alarm such that the relevant authorities will be informed if I don't do anything afterwards (i.e something happens to me during the journey)

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  • Any such resource (if it exists) may well be restricted to a particular country or region. Where do you have in mind? – Chris H Apr 23 at 12:04
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    @ChrisH mainly Germany, and in general in EU. – Our Apr 23 at 12:09
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    Search and rescue teams deal with a lot of frustration from false alarms. A service like this seems like it would be a recipe for false alarms. If you hike a lot in areas where there is no cell phone reception, you might instead want to consider carrying a PLB. – Ben Crowell Apr 23 at 12:52
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    Is there any reason a PLB device on 406 MHz is insufficient? I realize that if you were incapacitated you couldn't use it but asides from that, it is about the best thing in your circumstances. And it does a much better job summoning timely help if you can activate it. – Italian Philosophers 4 Monica Apr 24 at 0:38
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If you genuinely have no one who you can use as an SAR contact you could purchase a either a GPS SPOT device or a PLB which can be used to emit an SOS signal that will be detected in an emergency even outside cellphone coverage areas.

Remember your SAR contact doesn’t need to be a friend. They can be a work colleague or a neighbour. You don’t even need to talk with them. They just need to be a person who will contact the emergency services in the event that you don’t signal your return. The main criteria is that they are reliable, don’t panic and don’t get trigger happy.

You can send them a text with rough details and a time limit. “I’m hiking in the X forest on the Y trail. I should be back Sunday around 5pm. Please contact the emergency services if I haven’t contacted you by Monday morning”. When you return, send them another text saying you’re back safe.

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Not a complete solution, but how about AllTrails lifeline feature:

https://support.alltrails.com/hc/en-us/articles/360019246351-What-is-Lifeline-

If you're overdue messages go out. Unfortunately, I don't believe it can be set to only send an emergency message, nor am I aware of any other such solution that only sends the overdue message.

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A simple, free solution here that should cover the bases.

Create a WhatsApp group with some people that you'd trust enough to keep track of it. Post in there when you're planning/leaving for a trip, your expected return date, and how often you'll "check-in".

Install the What Three Words app onto your phone and periodically share your location (and any updated plans, or anything else you'd like to share) to the group.

What this does is:

  1. Let group members know you're ok on a regular basis
  2. Let them know where you are

If the group doesn't hear from you past your usual "check-in" time, they'll know exactly where you were at your last check-in and pass this location to the SAR services.

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    Downsides: WhatsApp needs a data signal, while SMS can get through with the fallback modes used when the signal is poor. W3W relies on a proprietary database and is useless on paper maps. Use standard coordinates for where you are instead – Chris H Apr 29 at 7:38
  • Indeed: From a recent incident in the UK as reported by the attending rescue team: "The pair provided a What3words reference, but rescuers said this placed the incident more than seven miles away from its actual location." – Paul Lydon Apr 29 at 12:54
  • @PaulLydon maybe it wasn't W3W at all but their state: they said they were near Braithwaite, which includes the location "frantic.available.fatigued". W3W seems to have done little about near-homophones except to put them far apart ("frantically.available.fatigued" is in WA, USA, try hearing the difference over a bad line). It's odd that their location was even in the right part of the right country. That could even be a GPS glitch, or rather a phone picking up a location from a base station before getting a GPS fix. It's almost impossible to troubleshoot even with the words we don't have – Chris H Apr 29 at 14:11
  • I have to admit, when I needed rescue, I'd got this wrong - my phone was set to give UK OS grid references, but when I crashed my bike I was in Ireland. Not the best circumstances to be fiddling with settings, but they had other means, because I had a data signal. – Chris H Apr 29 at 14:21
  • There are other examples of W3W errors in UK Mountain Rescue (Google "mountain rescue UK what three words". Luckily an app called PhoneFinder was developed by one of the teams which sends an SMS to those in need of help which has a link which they click on. This then turns on the phone's GPS and texts back their map grid reference. I'm on a Cave rescue team and we use this in preference to W3W due to the errors noted above. Of course this also depends on having a mobile phone signal but SMS uses less power than voice. – Paul Lydon May 5 at 10:57
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In some wilderness areas you can, or even are encouraged to check in at a trailhead, either with a human or by signing in to a book. This is old-fashioned but reliable if used properly.

Wilderness accommodation may also be used to helping out here; even a fellow visitor in a hostel/mountain hut could be a suitable contact.

Certainly when I stay in a big group and we split up to do various activities, we keep track of where the other groups are and when they're expected back, even if individuals go off solo. For example I wasn't feeling up to kayaking on one trip, so let the others go without me. When I recovered enough for a short walk I left a note with key details despite choosing a well-travelled and easy route.

You do need to remember to check out again though. This can be a pain if you're not planning on returning to the start

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  • In my area (Southern California), these trail registers are completely ignored. – Ben Crowell Apr 29 at 23:50

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