Close this search box.

What is a COSAR Card & Why Do You Need One?

Colorado search and rescue missions are always free. That means you won’t be charged to be found and rescued, receive first aid, and be evacuated to the trailhead (though you might get charged for a trip to the hospital). However, it also means search and rescue teams must rely on other funding sources to provide services, train their team, and keep their gear in good shape. If you are asking ‘what is a COSAR card,’ here is the answer: A COSAR card raises funds for the state’s Search and Rescue fund to help reimburse teams for expenses incurred during a mission. Here’s how it works.

COSAR Cards Fund Local Search and Rescue Reimbursements

Many search and rescue missions incur significant costs, like transportation to and from the mission site, damaged or lost gear, and training to address gaps in the field. After a mission, teams around the state submit a request for reimbursement to the state. One of the primary funding sources for the state’s funds is the sale of COSAR cards. Thus, if the individual rescued has purchased a card, the state will immediately approve the request for reimbursement. However, if the subject did not have a card, they will only approve it at the end of the year if funding is available.

COSAR Cards are not Insurance or a Permit

It is essential to recognize that COSAR cards are not insurance and do not provide the purchaser any monetary benefit. Whether or not you purchase a COSAR card, you will not be charged for a search and rescue mission in Colorado under all but the most extreme circumstances (usually when foul play is involved). However, a COSAR card makes a vital contribution to helping support volunteer search and rescue teams. As the number of missions continues to rise, this support has never been more critical than it is today.

Colorado Has More Search and Rescue Missions Than Any Other State

As more people continue to move to Colorado, the number of search and rescue missions also rises. We now have nearly 4,000 missions yearly, more than in any other state. The teams who respond are staffed mainly by volunteers, using their gear and driving their vehicles to respond to rescues. The state fund makes a big difference by allowing them to recoup their expenses related to volunteer efforts, which a recent report found to be in the hundreds of dollars per volunteer. Buying a COSAR card is a great way to support the fund.

How Do You Purchase a COSAR Card?

ou have two options to buy a COSAR Card, and both are very affordable. A 1-year card costs only $3. However, I recommend getting a 5-year card for $12 as you will save a little bit. Keep the physical card in your wallet, update it periodically to ensure it never expires, and mention it if you ever have to call search and rescue. I am sure your rescuers will be very happy to hear you chose to support them and even happier knowing they’ll be reimbursed for the cost of rescuing you. 

Click here to buy a COSAR. 

Preventative Search and Rescue

What is a COSAR Card? Now You Know!

As you can see, COSAR cards make a big difference for search and rescue teams by allowing them to receive reimbursement for local missions. That support works two ways. First, you help fund the state’s support fund so money is available to search and rescue teams. Second, if you are ever in need of rescue, the team that rescues you will be eligible for reimbursement more quickly and with greater certainty than if not. This makes a COSAR card a great way to support search and rescue here in Colorado.

Additional Resources About COSAR Cards

Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

Enjoy this Article? Subscribe to our Newsletter!

Join 4,000+ other subscribers and receive mountain news updates, route guides, gear reviews, and other articles in our twice-monthly email newsletter.

Leave a Reply

Hi, I'm Alex!

In 2018, I watched in disbelief as dozens of people hiked into a storm on Longs Peak, unaware of the extreme danger. Soon after, I started The Next Summit to educate and empower the public to safely and responsibly explore America's mountains.

Learn more about how we protect public lands and prevent SAR calls through education & advocacy.

Join 5K Subscribers!

Get the latest mountain news, hear about training opportunities and gear discounts, receive new resources, and learn to advocate for public lands as a Next Summit Newsletter subscriber.

14er Planner

Download my Colorado 14ers Planner for Your Next Summit!

Subscribe and get my free planner with all 58 peaks in the perfect climbing order.

14er Planner

Download my Colorado 14ers Planner for Your Next Summit!

Become a subscriber to download my free 14er planner. It lists all 58 peaks in the perfect climbing order. Get it now & start planning!