If you didn’t respond to that question with a resounding YES, then you might not be ready. Sure, some hearty veterans will say that 14 miles is nothing or that there have been fantastically overcast and cool years. However, many people have FAILED the March and had to be picked up halfway at Trippet Ranch, the hike’s only escape hatch. But it’s not easy; poor cell phone reception and no cars left there mean that it isn’t an easy out. You may be left waiting in the sun for hours before someone can come and get you.
Rather than have this happen to you, please be prepared for a very hot day in the middle of nowhere. Some things that you do not want to attempt the March without:
- A water container – Be it a bottle, a camelbak, a wineskin, you need to bring something to hold water. There is 1 water refill spot at Musch Camp and a spigot off trail at Trippet. That means there is a full half of the hardest part of the hike without extra water.
- Good shoes – Many Death Marches have been awful affairs because of the wrong type of shoes. Hiking boots are highly recommended, but trail runners and other sports shoes are also acceptable. FiveFingers have a sorted past; some people have done it in them without much of an issue, but they have sent some Marchers home with bloody blisters. It is also worth noting that the SLOWEST MARCHER IN HISTORY was wearing FiveFingers. Any casual footwear will probably be devoured by the trails.
- Sunscreen – That includes SPF lip balm. Yes, some people have said that high SPF sunscreen may cause cancer. But a wise man once said, “Would you rather have cancer or cancer and a sunburn?” There is also SPF rated clothing for those who still are unsure.
- A hat – Bring a hat. The sun in crazy out there. The bigger, the better. Umbrellas don’t work! Many who didn’t bring good hats have really suffered for it!
- Flashlight/Headlamp – A few Marchers have found themselves on the Los Liones Trail with no light… not a fun way to end the hike.
- A salty snack – Seriously. One Clif Bar might be the difference between crashing and the best hike of your life. Of course, electrolyte drinks are also a valid option!
- Information – It is a great idea to let someone know you are going on the hike. There have been years where some people just disappear without a trace. Since we do not require pre-registration, we may not even know you were part of the Death March! The Sheriff’s Department suggests filling out a Hiking Plan. Signing in to your facebook account and registering this site also helps!
The next thing to consider is if you have a team. Teams are groups of people who are planning on finishing the March together. That means someone is driving you from the Ocean back to the start. If you do not have a team, you can try your luck in the morning and see if any team has a free spot. There usually are. Or you can lead a team by joining the Ride Corps. But most importantly, remember that you are on your own if you start the March without a team/ride. We are not going to come get you from the Palisades after we’ve had a couple of beers at the Banquet.