If you do get lost or stranded, stay safe, and make it easy for searchers to find you.
It seems like every week someone is missing in the woods around here. In most cases they are found safe, after spending a miserable night without much shelter or food. But unfortunately, sometimes they are found dead, or not found at all.
Anybody, even experienced outdoors people, can become lost, or stranded due to an accident. That includes hikers, campers, travelers, hunters, mushroom pickers, berry bickers, etc…
There are some very simple steps you can take to stay safe outdoors. I will only highlight a few items in this article. It would be too lengthy to cover everything here.
Plan your trip. If you are doing a quick hike at a short, well-marked local trail, in a populated area, you don’t need much preparation. But if you are heading out in the wilderness, such as in the national forest, research the area you are going to. Get some printed maps, either from a local store, from your mapping software, or online. If you do get lost, the map will help you find landmarks, such as streams, hills, trails, etc…
Tell someone where you are going, and when you expect to be back. If there is nobody around to tell, you can leave a note at your house, and in the car, and even post on a social network, such as Facebook or Twitter, or some forum you frequent.
Stick with the plan, so the searchers won’t be looking for you in the wrong area. If you do change your plan, for example, a different hiking trail from the trail head, leave an updated note in the car.
Bring extra clothing, and proper gear, in case the unexpected happens. I strongly recommend considering the Ten Essentials list:
- Navigation (map and compass)
- Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
- Insulation (extra clothing)
- Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
- First-aid supplies
- Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles)
- Repair kit and tools
- Nutrition (extra food)
- Hydration (extra water)
- Emergency shelter
I will not elaborate much on the list in this article, but you can research it further on the Internet, just search for “Ten Essentials”
If you get lost, don’t start walking aimlessly. The biggest mistake people do is they start walking, guessing their direction, hoping that they will find their way back, but they are getting further lost, and wearing out themselves. Just stop where you are and calm down.
Try to figure out where you are and how to get back safely. If you can’t figure out in which direction to head back, you are better off staying where you are, and wait for the searchers. If you do start moving, mark your path, breaking branches, or leaving other obvious marks. That way you can back-track if needed. Also, searchers might find, and follow, your marks.
Bring a whistle! The sound of a whistle carries a long way.
Stay dry and warm. If you end up spending the night in the woods, find a comfortable spot with wind cover. Use branches and/or foliage as bedding.
Stay Safe and have fun!