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.
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.