Hey guys, what's up?! Hope everyone is doing great because my favorite hiking season is here (I know some of you guys are like me...), and we're hitting the trails!
John Lewis; the blogger, survivalist and outdoor enthusiast of Epic Wilderness is with us for a guest post today. He'll mention some of the most important things to remember when you get lost hiking. Don't forget to take notes AND to pray you won't ever need those notes.
What to Do If You Get Lost Hiking
Getting lost while hiking is one of the biggest fears most hikers have. To best prepare for such a situation, you must get the necessary skills, information and gears to navigate your way back to safety. In terms of necessary gears, check out my site for additional information.
Since we are blessed with technology, we can try and learn up all how to effectively use modern technology and take advantage of them. This includes rangefinders and handheld GPS receiver. Now, there are around 30 satellites orbiting the earth, ensuring that the reading of your device is accurate.
Throughout this post, I will first introduce some things to do when you are lost, some traditional ways to find your way back and how you can use modern gadgets. Here are some tips on what you can do when you are lost in the mountain or forest!
No matter what tools you have, if you do not have your basics right, the probability of you getting back on a trail would be low. Here are some guidelines you can follow to improve your chances of surviving.
First, you should ‘stop’, which is basically keeping your cool and staying put. Instead of complaining about the situation you are in, it’d be better to put your attention towards solving the problem at hand rather wasting energy on blaming yourself.
Also, if you walk any further when you are lost, it would most probably make you harder to find by rescuers as compared to staying put. The only exception is that you have strong reasons to trudge further. However, it is usually the case that you will be clear on where you should go only after you stop awhile and reflect.
Next, you can start strategizing how to get back to your trail. You must take note of landmarks that are present along the way. Even if you start walking around, you need to find a way to recognize how you can get back to your initial position.
Only when you are clear, observant and have a good plan, your rate of success of making it out alive would be much higher!
Time to bring out those topographical maps
Sometimes, going back to the most basic ways of navigating can save your life! It is not practical to solely rely on your GPS to navigate since we cannot know what will happen, especially when you are hiking outdoors. If you understand how to read a map and navigate effectively with it, you have an edge as compared to hikers who do not possess this skill.
However, bear in mind that most topographical maps are outdated and what you see on your map may be a bit different from what you see in real life. Nevertheless, it is one of the most basic ways of navigating which every hiker should master!
Knowing your orientation would be tricky as well and most people usually require a compass to be capable of telling their orientation. The only thing to be cautious of is that the ‘magnetic’ north of the compass may be affected if you are near another magnetic field, rather than working with the magnetic pole. You can also buy a compass which has clinometer which allows you to measure the angle of a slope or luminescent markings which helps you read the compass at night.
Use nature to navigate
Didn’t bring anything to help you navigate? Don't worry because you still have an option. Navigating using nature would also mean navigating using your surroundings.
If you resort to this option, those basic rules would apply. Primarily, if you are on a trail, try to stay on the trail. However, if you are unable to find any other way, follow a stream or a drainage downhill because they usually lead to a road.
In the daytime, you can utilize the sun to navigate. As for night time, you can learn to rely on the stars and constellations for navigation. You can rely on the Polar Star, one of the brightest stars in the sky to find the true north. To find this Polar Star, you can first search for the Big Dipper. The two stars that form the right-side Big Dipper’s cup, when it’s lined up, would directly point to the Polar Star.
You can also consider doing a makeshift compass. Basically, you will need a large leaf, a compass needle and a magnet to build this. The first step is to rub your magnet against the needle for nearly 30 times to ensure that it is magnetized. Later, put the needle on the leaf which is placed on top of a pool of water. Give it some time until the needle repositions itself to point from North to South.
Get your GPS out and navigate back to safety
There are two main parts I want to discuss about navigating using a handheld GPS receiver: (1) I'll talk about how ‘scouting’ can help you reduce your probability of getting lost (and increase the probability of getting back on track when you are lost) and; (2) I'll talk about how navigational aids can be your lifesaver.
Concerning ‘scouting’, it is a practice where you observe the surroundings of the route you are hiking before actually doing it. First, you need to use a computer and utilize internet resources such as Google Maps to explore your route. Mark those places which interests you and the route which you must take.
After marking down those locations, transfer those waypoints into your handheld unit. These waypoints are a convenient for you to navigate especially when you are hiking on foot. If you abide by this practice, the probability of you getting lost while hiking is lower.
Concerning ‘navigational aids’, they are an equipment which you can equip with your handheld GPS receiver or you can use it in isolation. Since GPS receivers are only made with radio signal receivers and a logic chip, it would not be capable of sending out your location. This is where the navigational aid would come into the picture to help send out your location.
There are two common transmitters which are used, namely the Personal Locator Beacons and the Satellite Messengers. Personal Locator Beacons (PLB) are only used in severe emergency situations. When your PLB is activated, it sends out an emergency signal which is picked up by the Worldwide Satellite System, which sends the message to the appropriate Rescue Control Center which has the task of dispatching a Search and Rescue Team to assist you.
As for Satellite Messengers, they allow you to communicate short text messages and your location to your family or friends. Casual hikers should bring along a Satellite messenger or equip it with your GPS. Satellite messengers rely on 2 commercial satellites rather than the military network utilized by the PLB.
Exploring different options you have while you are lost would be your best bet for survival. It would be wise to learn up survival skills too, such as being able to make a survival shelter or survival fire when you need one. When you are hiking up, the temperature will decrease which makes your body warmth a really important factor for survival.
If you have any thoughts you want to share, feel free to comment below!
Turn your phone sideways for a much better table display!
- Topographic Maps. Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Topographic_map
- Celestial Navigation. Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celestial_navigation