A little preparation goes a long way when enjoying Nevada’s wilderness.  

Search and Rescue member and vehicle in the snow

STORY BY MEGG MUELLER
PHOTOS BY JEFF MOSER

Picture a beautiful day where the sun shines, uninterrupted views unfold one after the other, and the destination is second to the journey. I’ve been lucky enough to encounter many days like this during my travels across Nevada. But I’ve also encountered impassable roads, wrong turns that led to dangerous conditions, mud that acts like glue in tire wheels, snow that dumps quickly…you get the idea. The best laid plans are no match for Nevada’s capricious weather or a well-hidden hazard that leaves not one but two of your tires flat. Despite potential hardships, Nevada’s 48 million acres of public land beg to be explored, and with a solid plan and plenty of supplies, there’s no reason to ignore those wide-open spaces. 

Search and Rescue members with vehicles and helicopter in the high desert.

GO WHERE YOU KNOW

In March 2022, an elderly couple from Illinois relied on outdated directions and found themselves stuck on a mountain road. After more than a week, authorities found them, but unfortunately, the husband had passed away while awaiting help. Frigid temperatures at night, an altitude of more than 7,000 feet, and dehydration all contributed to his death. Cautionary tales like this illustrate just how quickly things can go wrong. 


Search and Rescue members digging out a stuck rental vehicleWith cellphones, navigation systems, and countless people drawn to the outdoors, it’s hard to imagine there are places where people can become stranded and succumb to the elements. Sadly, it happens every year. 

Folks looking to get away from it all are keen to take the road less traveled, and while those cliches may sound trite, the desire for solitude is real. The Silver State is chock-full of that solitude, but it is not to be sought without a good amount of planning and preparation. 

Jeff Moser spent eight years working with the Carson City Sheriff’s Department Search and Rescue. In that time, he estimates he went on at least 100 rescue missions. And while it may be easy to cast aspersions when reading news accounts of these rescues, Moser says the cause isn’t foolishness in most cases. 

Search and Rescue practicing water rescues in the Truckee River

“(People may be) unprepared, but it’s usually a series of mistakes (not just one) that gets people into the worst predicaments,” he says.

Search and rescue towing out a stuck passenger carTake this series of bad choices that could have turned deadly. A visitor rented a two-wheel drive pickup and decided to explore an unfamiliar mountain range; two possible mistakes, but so far, not serious. He turned off the main dirt road and headed up a narrow, sandy, unmaintained road. 

“He should have turned around at this point when he had the chance. Another mistake,” Moser explains. “He kept going another mile until he backed off the side of the road with his drive wheels hanging over the edge. He was completely stuck with no tools to get unstuck. Final mistake.”

SURVIVAL OF THE MOST PREPARED

One of the simplest mistakes during trip preparation is not bringing enough supplies. While that gallon jug of water seems ample, consider that your trip might not go as planned. Supplies for the unexpected are crucial when traveling across this vast state, regardless of the weather. 

“It is common for people to not have enough warm clothing and water for the time they were unexpectedly stranded,” says Moser.

While not overpacking might be a valued skill when flying, when cruising in the high desert terrain—chockful of sketchy mountain roads, potential flash flooding situations, and little to no cell service—it’s important to bring supplies for the worst-case scenario. If they don’t get used, great! If you end up needing that extra can of gasoline or those layers of clothing, you’ll be glad you had them. 

And now, without further ado, a basic packing list 10 years in the making with the help of many experts. Adjust as needed for your particular circumstances of course, but when in doubt, throw it in. 

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