Security precautionary measures.

05 Jul 2011 11:12 #3259 by Boerkie
I have read on numerous threads about security precautions taken by hikers in the berg but thought it good to have a topic dedicated to this.

Firstly it should be said that not all Basutho's encountered in the berg is a thread although it would be wise to be suspicious of all. Be friendly wherever you encounter them but vigilant at all times.

Here are some thoughts on precautionary measure taken by other hikers with some ideas of my own:

A.When camping
1.Check and plan all camping spots beforehand, as far as possible, by knowing the area and past bad incidents encountered.This can be done by reading through the security topics for now although attempt's are now being made to map these areas and incidents on an map.
2.Choose your camping spot away from these identified areas, smuggler routes and known kraals/villages.
3.Scope out your indented camping spot area for any persons watching/following you.Move away if needed.
4.Try where possible to occupy the high ground and thus making it for difficult for the attacker to stone you/your tent.
5.Pitch camp late afternoon/dusk.
6.Don't use lights at night, while camping.
7.Cook before dark.
8.Don't talk loud. Sound can travel very far, especially at night.
9.Keep all equipment inside tent or bell/vestibule.
10.Tie all equipment together and either to your wrist or tent peg.
11.Set traps/alarms and early warning signals ie. trip wires,mouse traps,balance a pot filled with small stones on top of your equipment, tie tent zips together,etc.
12.Have your boots,cell phone, light and a weapons (pepper spray,walking stick,pocket knife)close by.For those from Boksburg, you're wheel spanner :P
13.Should your hear anyone snooping or one of your alarms are tripped, act immediately and decisive. A loud "F-Off"/"Bliksem" is your first deterrent. Should this not work go for pepper spray or what ever other force necessary.
14.Discuss a plan of action with your hiking partner/s for different scenarios beforehand.

Make no mistake that should your equipment be stolen you would be in real danger from the elements.Protect it by all means.

B.When hiking:
1.Keep your pepper spray within easy reach.(lumber pack or belt clip)This is useful for Shepard dogs as well.
2.Be vigilant of someone following you.
3.Do not disclose your intended camping spot,direction of travel or destination to anyone encountered on trail, unless to deliberately mislead them.

C. General
1.A red tent is almost invisible at night whereas a yellow tent is highly visible.
2.Inform someone at home/friend of your camping co-ordinates and check in every morning with them.(where possible)

I would like to hear others ideas,opinions and suggestions.

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06 Jul 2011 03:59 #3268 by intrepid
A less obvious one is hiking at night: this can be risky along a smuggling route. The smugglers can mistake you to be a patrol and shoot at you. This has actually happened.

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.

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06 Jul 2011 18:09 #3278 by Boerkie

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02 Nov 2011 14:05 #4600 by Boerkie
This past weekend whilst lying in the tent, I thought of "night-visitors" and that, that in itself is not so bad if at least you have an early warning system. I have heard of someone on VE that has a trip wire system running around the tents guy ropes which could work if you are a real light sleeper and there is no wind, the latter being wishful thinking in the berg. I then thought of the Ellies alarms that you stick to a door or window that are very sensitive to any vibration or movement.




They work really well, are light and small and makes one hell of a sound. Now my idea with these is to leave them in a sleeping bag stuff sack or something luring and visible a couple of feet from the tent. A couple of stones can be added to the sack to keep it anchored in windy conditions. My guess is that the prowler will obviously pick up the "trap" that will set of the alarm. The alarm would not only wake you but sent the perpetrator running. (Hopefully over the escarpment edge)

Using this method you needn't listen for sounds.

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03 Nov 2011 03:33 - 03 Nov 2011 03:33 #4607 by Serious tribe
When ST2 and I did a trip in Aug 2003 up the chain ladder and across to Ribbon Falls, I rigged up a similar alarm system device and it make a huge noise if activated. Ours had a small plastic key that when pulled out set the alarm off. I rigged a fishing gut trip wire around the perimeter of the tent which we tested and it seemed to work ok. Fortunately we did not have any nocturnal visitors.
Last edit: 03 Nov 2011 03:33 by Serious tribe.

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18 Nov 2011 10:58 - 18 Nov 2011 10:59 #4908 by Kragbees
On our recent Injasuti to Cathderal Peak hotel hike, we could not make Didima cave from the bottom of Leslies Pass in 1 day. We hiked until about 19:00 and decided to just pitch our tent right where we were. When we woke up the next morning, we saw a Basutho hut about 200 meters from us haha. Also saw a few huts close to Leslies Pass top (with the woman tending to the sheep), another younger guy shouting from far for a cigarette, as well as another guy tending to his sheep who asked for food. He was friendly, but the others did not even wave back at us as we waved at them.

We were probably lucky, as we did not setup any alarms etc. but being only 2 we were probably inconspicious most of the time, and sticking to escarpment also helped.

But I was surprised to see alot of Kraals (which was not on GE), more than I expected.
Last edit: 18 Nov 2011 10:59 by Kragbees.

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14 May 2018 19:32 - 15 May 2018 07:27 #73484 by jeremyeb
I see that some security measures have been elaborated on nicely by @boerkie, @serioustribe, @intrepid and others on this thread as far back as 2011. I know some of these measures have also been discussed under the Berg Alert threads, so I hope I've posted in the right place.

I'd like to revisit the trip-wire idea in particular - I feel this could be a useful early warning system for escarpment hikes in particular:

Purpose: To provide early warning. In the same way you install an alarm system at home so as to not be surprised by an intruder standing at the end of your bed, you also don't want to be woken up by rocks being thrown on your tent. If this happens then you're immediately on the back foot. When a potential attacker sets off the tripwire it should deter them or at least make them hesitate. This will alert you and also give you a little time to prepare and better defend yourself. How you plan to do this is up to you, but at least HAVE A PLAN. Perhaps shine a torch out and do a quick check in case a horse has tripped the wire. If it's people then plan along these lines to start with: bail out of the tents from all sides shouting and brandishing trekking poles, pepper spray, rocks, knives whatever. Again, have a plan for a worst-case scenario and make sure your fellow hikers know the plan as well.

Trip-wire options:

1) Simply take some fishing line with you and tie it to a pot or 2 with some stones in it. Use tent pegs to tension the lines. String this around your camp perimeter as far as possible but close enough to be able to hear, even if a wind comes up.

2) Use electronic ring-pull or similar devices. I found some on aliexpress and have tested them and found them to work very well so far. They're pretty simple and lightweight. Attach them to dark-coloured fishing braid or carbon coated fishing trace wire. I found that nylon fishing line had too much flex and didn't set off the alarms as well. Use pegs to tension them. Grass clumps etc don't seem to interfere with the system and actually help disguise it nicely. They are pretty loud for their size and would certainly startle attackers and dogs. You could set up a perimeter a good 10m away from the tents with a siren on each of 4 sides. This way you'd also be able to hear which side the threat was coming from. They can also be used in straight lines e.g. across paths or across cave entrances in risky areas.

Here is the link to the devices I bought s.aliexpress.com/zEjE3aaA for anyone interested.

I sprayed mine black. Coupled with dark braid or carbon trace wire they were barely visible even in broad daylight. Sorry I meant to take some better pics but this is all I managed for now. The system can certainly be improved to make it quicker to setup and take down e.g. A lightweight spool to store the line and avoid tangles.

I have not done extensive testing but I reckon these could certainly help prevent or minimize future attacks. Suggestions, improvements on this or better ideas welcome :)

I hope this helps for anyone who is looking for an early-warning system for hiking.

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Last edit: 15 May 2018 07:27 by JonWells.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Serious tribe, JonWells, Captain, Macc, Redshift3, Papa Dragon, Dave, GriffBaker

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15 May 2018 18:43 #73493 by tiska

jeremyeb wrote: I see that some security measures have been elaborated on nicely by @boerkie, @serioustribe, @intrepid and others on this thread as far back as 2011. I know some of these measures have also been discussed under the Berg Alert threads, so I hope I've posted in the right place.

I'd like to revisit the trip-wire idea in particular - I feel this could be a useful early warning system for escarpment hikes in particular:


Thanks for posting these ideas Jeremyeb.
Any effort to combat the attacks on tents in the Berg is commendable.

Clearly, getting reward from effort is key here. Hence it's good to look on things critically and since I worry about the vulnerability of tents a lot, my instinct is to be critical - or at least to ask the question: "how would the deterrent work in reality".

Let's suppose it is feasible to work with about 50m of line linked to the alarms. I would guess that 50m would be non-trivial to set up given the generally rough, grassy, and sometimes rocky terrain on the escarpment. The line would work best if it ran free from peg to alarm - hence the reason I have flagged potential obstacles. A 50m line would provide a square perimeter with about a 5m minimum distance from tent to line. A circular perimeter would provide a radius of about 7m from the tent, depending on the size and shape on the tent. A distance of 10m from tent to line would need about 90m of line in total - which is a lot to set up without snags.

Supposing the alarm worked perfectly, with 50m out it would be triggered by someone between 5m and 7m from the tent wall. I've fortunately escaped the experience of being attacked in a tent, but I would guess that is about the distance that the first volley of rocks gets chucked from. The attackers will likely have brought the rocks with them and made a small stash nearby. It is possible, then, that at a distance of 5m to 7m, the alarm might not go off before the first rocks come in.

The questions I have are as follows:
a) does the alarm set at, say 7m, provide enough warning to get out of your bag, get shoes on and get out of the tent? I'm wondering if it does. Which leads to the next question
b) would 10m be enough? And if so, is it feasible to set up 90m of line without snags?
c) I know the emphasis on Jeremyeb's post was on alerting hikers to be able to respond but we should always wonder if the attackers would be bothered about the noise. They know better than us how far away the next ear is.I'm thinking they might not care. I would expect that even without the alarms there is a lot of noise.

Where this has led me is to think harder about tent placement which might include issues such as:
a) a tent location which allows only one feasible entry path. Then a few trip wires at distances of 30m AND 20m AND 10m could be set each as a single line (rather than a tent surround). There are advantages to this since multiple lines at varying distances would allow for the failure of the line at one of the traps - unlike the perimeter system.
b) whether it is better to have the tent at the top of a slope since it would be easier to defend (classic military theory) though more obvious for the attackers to spot.

And finally, how much effort is it worth putting into these sort of warning systems versus attempts to find places totally out of view?

These thoughts are meant in the way of positive critique - since at the moment anyone in a tent is a sitting (lying) duck. If the attacks are to stop, there needs to be some response.
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15 May 2018 20:27 - 15 May 2018 20:28 #73494 by Richard Hunt
When I want to know something I Google, so I googled how to defend yourself in a tent attack. It seems that in the rest of the world the main problem is being attacked by bear, wolf, spiders, mountain lion, polar bear, ticks and the list goes on! So we have a unique situation in SA and for once google does not have the answers. The worst thing is to panic, shout or scream as this might make the attackers more agitated and violent. Even a trip wire/alarm might make the attackers panic and finish their attack quicker with greater violence. The security measures I take on the farm are the same as I take in the mountains, maybe not everyone's cup of tea but I am from the older military training era.
I foresee that if our country cannot break away from the "kill the boer " mentality, we will see hiking clubs like Mountain Backpackers flourishing again. Groups of 12 hikers teaming together for safety reasons and if things get worse maybe even have a security guard accompany every hiking group. Many of us have moved away from organised hiking clubs and do our own thing in small little groups that can be easily attacked and overcome.
Maybe we must start organizing hikes together with larger groups and create more opportunity for those who have stopped hiking due to fear.

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Last edit: 15 May 2018 20:28 by Richard Hunt.
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16 May 2018 08:07 #73497 by ghaznavid
While I have never been close to being attacked, I have had the "privilege" of hearing those rocks wizz past (I get the feeling I posted this story somewhere recently before, but can't recall where). On the first of the double GT, when we shared a cave with goats, two shepherds came and chatted with us, and then stood on top of the cave and threw rocks down for some reason - I don't think there was any threat or aggression in it - but wow those rocks fly by fast and they make a horrible sound! We didn't spend the night in that cave (for various reasons, including security), but an interesting experience nonetheless.

@Tiska: you make some good points there. But please provide an example of a decent spot to pitch a tent that has only one entrance way. I doubt you will find a relatively flat spot on top that fits that condition. On the south slopes of Leqooa Ridge there are very flats spots with a cliff next to them, but attackers could simply stand on top of the cliff and throw rocks down at you.

I rate camping higher (which also generally means further from water) is a good tactic, as it would make potential attackers work harder to reach you, which is a deterrent. The downside is that this means you are far from water, and thus defeats the majority of the point of carrying a tent. If you are far from water, a cave beats a tent in every aspect aside from large groups and when there isn't a usable cave nearby.

Richard Hunt wrote: Maybe we must start organizing hikes together with larger groups and create more opportunity for those who have stopped hiking due to fear.


I seem to recall that a group of 30+ was once attacked above Bannerman Pass, so I don't know how much of a deterrent size is. Then again, I believe some of the people involved in that attack got caught and there hasn't been a reported security issue in that area for many years.

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