What should I do if I get lost in the wilderness?
- First, take every step to prevent becoming lost. Take a map and compass class at a local community center or outdoor store. Before you hike, study a map of the area to become familiar with the trails, nearby roads, streams, mountains and other features. Leave a trip plan with family or friends. As you hike, observe the topography around you (ridges, recognizable summits, rivers, etc.). They serve as good reference points, particularly when you are above treeline.
- Always hike with a map and compass. If you become disoriented, stop, pull out your map and look at the countryside for familiar landmarks. Few people remain truly lost after consulting a map and calmly studying the terrain for five minutes.
- To help orient yourself, you may want to head to a ridge or high ground so you can identify hills or streams that are marked on your topographical map. But don’t wander too far from your original route, especially if you don’t have a map. If you have told family members or fellow hikers where you plan to hike, that area is where rescuers will start searching for you.
- Should you continue to be lost, S.T.O.P. (stop, think, observe and plan). Try to go back to your last known location if it is within a reasonable distance. Decide on a course of action and stick to it. Most important, don’t panic. You will be using up energy that you may need later on.
- If you can’t find any familiar landmarks by backtracking, then stay put. If you carry a whistle, blow it at timed intervals to signal rescuers or other hikers who could lead you back to your campsite or trail.