Hiking is a great way to get around, break a sweat, and enjoy nature. However, it helps if you know where you are and where you’re going. If you’ve prepared accordingly, this shouldn’t happen, but it can still happen to the best of us.
In this short guide, we have the four things that every hiker should do if they are ever lost out on the trail. This advice will give you the best possible chance of finding your way back to a familiar place and braving the wild if that’s not an option.
Of course, none of this would happen if you used some of the wonderful technology that we have at our disposal. We don’t need to suffer as our ancestors did, thanks to products like https://thehikingadventure.com/best-handheld-gps-hiking.
1. Stop The Hike
Our four tips are following the US Forest Service’s STOP recommendations. The first word is the same – Stop.
You need to stop the hike. Yes, that may sound like it should be obvious, but we mean it in the most literal sense. The moment you don’t know where you are, you should rush to the realization that you’re lost and then stop on a dime. Don’t move, take deep breaths, try to stay calm, and do not panic.
2. Think About Where You Are
The next thing you should do is Think.
Try to retrace your steps in your head, remembering any landmarks around that may help you get your bearings. Maybe you have photographs or other data on your phone that could be used to find your way, though this only works if you’re taking a lot of photos.
If you’re fortunate, the landscape is arranged in such a way that you’ve been moving in the same direction for most of the time. If so, turn 180 degrees and see what you can see. However, you shouldn’t move yet.
3. Observe & Move
Next up is Observe.
From your observations, you should now start moving. If you’re on a path, it should be easier to find your way back by going that way. Maybe you have a compass, which can help you understand where you are.
Take note of your elevation, too. If you are at the top of an elevated area and there is a stream nearby, following it downhill can be a surefire way of coming across civilization, though you don’t know how far away it is and how dangerous the path may be.
Sometimes, if somebody knows where you are, staying put can give you a higher chance of survival. This is why you should always send a copy of your planned hiking trail to somebody before you set off. You can even leave it with the local park ranger when hiking on public land.
4. Start Planning
The last letter in STOP is Plan.
This is where you need to figure out how you’re going to continue. You should do this before you move too far away from your original position and you should be sure of your plan of action. If it’s getting dark, maybe staying put until sunrise will give you more visibility and a fresh day to work with when trying to find your way back.
If you do need to stay the night, you’ll need extra protection from the cold, a shelter over your head, and a fire. If there is anything striking nearby, you should find colorful items and arrange them around you, if there’s the possibility that a helicopter comes looking for you.
Maybe you’re deep in the hinterlands, in which case you’ll need to cover your needs. This means getting hydration, staying warm, dry, and energized, and finding solids to eat that are safe, nutritious, and won’t infect you. Don’t give in to fear either – then you’ll make even worse decisions.
Those are the steps that everybody should take if they are hiking and suddenly realize they have become lost. Most cases will be minor but, depending on how deep into the wilderness you are, getting lost can prove fatal.
The surest way to avoid getting lost is to take tools with you that prevent it, like a GPS or at least a GPS app installed on your smartphone. Devices that can send signals, emit light, and have their activity tracked by the manufacturer or third parties can also be used to draw attention to you if you’re trapped in the wild for a prolonged period.