Gear Review -- Buddy-Board

The Gear Junkie Scoop: Buddy-Board
By STEPHEN REGENOLD

“Is your life worth 30 seconds?” That’s the question posed by Buddy-Board LLC of Jamaica Plain, Mass., on the packaging of its namesake product, a 5 × 8-inch dry-erase board made for recording information about a backcountry adventure.

In the case of an emergency, pre-printed fields on the plastic board for your name, age, contact information, and intended trip itinerary provide quick information for park rangers or would-be rescuers when they see the Buddy-Board on your vehicle’s dash.

That’s the theory, anyway.

Say you’ve parked the Subaru at a remote trailhead in Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante. Your goal is a two-day squirm through the area’s slot canyons and labyrinthine sandstone terrain. As a final precaution before heading out, you record information about your route on the Buddy-Board and place it under the windshield above your steering wheel — a process the company touts as taking 30 seconds but having the aforementioned potential to save your life.

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Now, you could scrawl the same information on a random piece of cardboard. That would save you the $17.97 cost charged for this product at www.buddy-board.com. But the primary value of a Buddy-Board is in its convenience and the fact that you have an object to remind you of the task.

The product, which began shipping last month, comes with a dry-erase maker and a logo decal to put on the rear window of your vehicle (to alert people that there’s a Buddy-Board up front).

The company markets the Buddy-Board as the “first step in ensuring safe outdoor adventures and activities.” I’d argue to the contrary: The Buddy-Board should be seen as the final step in outdoors preparedness, with your gear for the trip, knowledge of the terrain, a map and the skill to use it, and personal communication before you leave with friends and family about your whereabouts as steps to take before deploying the Buddy-Board’s dry-erase marker.

Backcountry travelers — solo or not — need to accept the wilderness ethic of self-sufficiency. Cell phones, personal locator beacons, GPS devices and items like the Buddy-Board are backup parachutes.

But if you want to scribble a few notes and put it on your dash, the Buddy-Board is an easy insurance policy. It could, on some wrong and rare day, help to get you rescued or found, back out of the woods and home again.

—Stephen Regenold writes the weekly Gear Junkie Scoop for Outsidemag.com and TheGearJunkie.com.

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