If you are an outdoor enthusiast, the chances are that you enjoy going on camping, climbing, or hiking trips. For many outdoor explorers, one of their biggest fears is getting lost in the wild. Then, the question becomes: how to avoid getting lost while hiking?
To help you better prepare for your next adventure, I have outlined some tips to ensure that you stay on track and safely return home to your loved ones.
So without further ado, let’s dig in:
My 9 Trail Smart Tips to Avoid Getting Lost
It would be best if you did a few things before hitting the trails to ensure that your hiking excursion is an enjoyable one.
Here are some paramount tips to avoid getting lost in the wilderness:
1) Research and Plan your Hike
The first thing you need to do is to study the area where you are planning to go hiking. The best way to do so is by visiting the park website and maps of the region. Then, make a detailed map of your hiking route.
Moreover, if you are a novice hiker, don’t go alone. It is advisable to have a hiking partner, a seasoned hiker, to avoid getting lost on the trails.
2) Share your Itinerary
Tell a friend or relative where you are going, when and for how long, and who is going with you. Also, please give them a copy of your detailed hiking map. If you don’t get back, then the rescue team will have an idea of where to start looking.
Don’t forget to keep a copy of your hiking map in your vehicle.
3) Check the Extended Weather Report
Before you head out for your hiking adventure, it’s vital that you know what you’re getting yourself into. Check the weather report for the length of your trip. If the weather conditions are adverse, then you should strongly consider postponing the excursion to a later date.
4) Sign Up for the Trail Register
If the park has a registry, it is always good to sign in to leave a trace of your whereabouts on the trails.
5) Learn Navigational Skills
Before you hit the trails, you must learn necessary navigational skills, such as how to read a map and use a compass with a map.
However, suppose you plan to bring different techie tools, such as a GPS tracking device, a smartphone, a satellite phone, or a personal locator beacon (PLBs). In that case, you must know how to use them before your hiking trip. Otherwise, leave them home as they will be useless.
Lastly, as your techie gadgets rely heavily on batteries, don’t forget to charge them fully and bring extra battery packs!
6) Pay Attention to your Surroundings
While hiking, you need to get a lay of the land, sort of speak. If you have a camera (or a smartphone), take pictures of the different landmarks on the trails.
Also, it is good to match the different landmarks such as the rivers, crossings, peaks, and trail junctures that you encounter while hiking with the map to check if you are still on course.
Lastly, regularly peer behind you to get another perspective of the trail to see what the path looks like the other way.
7) Keep Track of Time
Yes, your watch keeps the time… but I highly recommend bringing a notebook. Doing so will help you better keep track of time.
You can use the notebook to write down where you turn and draw sketches of the trail. You can make a note of the different landmarks that you encounter on the trail, the conditions, the flora, and the trail junctures.
For instance, you can track how long it takes you to get from one landmark to another, which includes but is not limited to hillsides, ravines, river crossings, lakes, and so on. Doing so will give you some point of reference if you ever have to backtrack.
8) Stay on the Trail
The best way to avoid getting lost while hiking is to stay on the trails. Don’t deviate from the path because you might have a hard time getting back to the trail.
9) Pack the TEN Essentials
No matter how long your hike is, always bring what I call the ten essentials on your hiking trips.
Below is the list of what to put in a hiking backpack:
- Navigation (compass and a map)
- Repair Kit and Tools (pocket knife)
- Illumination (headlamp, flashlight)
- First Aid Kit with a Whistle
- Insulation (clothing, raincoat)
- Nutrition (foods)
- Sun Protection (sunglasses/sunscreen)
- Hydration (water + purification system)
- Fire (matches)
- Emergency Shelter
Since we live in the technological era, you can also include as part of your essentials: your cellphone with a GPS App along with an emergency contact list, a GPS tracking device, a satellite phone, and a personal locator beacon (PLBs), all fully charged of course!
Watch the video below, highlighting the 10 essentials for a hike:
What to Do if You Get Lost on your Hiking Outing
Sometimes even with the best preparation for a hike and no manner if you are a novice or a seasoned hiker, you can get lost.
So, for that reason, in the event you get lost in the wilderness, you should adhere to this acronym: STOP.
The first letter S stands for STOP. The first thing to do when you think you are lost or find yourself off-course is to stop. Please don’t panic, stay calm. I know it is easier said than done. You should sit down and eat something. Because, if you let your anxiety take over, you won’t be able to think clearly.
This brings me to the second letter of the acronym, T, which is for THINK. Assess the situation and stay put while you are figuring things out. Ask yourself some of the questions below:
- What was the last landmark you saw?
- How long ago was it?
- What makes you think you are lost, is it the absence of a landmark on the trail?
For instance, you can track how long it takes you to get from one landmark to another, including but not limited to hillsides, ravines, river crossings, lakes, and so on. Doing so will give you some point of reference if you ever have to backtrack.
Then the third letter is O and stands for OBSERVE. Check your surroundings. Try to find some landmarks and match them to your map to figure out where you are.
Take a look at the time and consider the following: how long have you been hiking, how long before sunset, and how is the weather? Considering all these factors will help you elaborate on a plan of action, and what your next step should be.
The last letter is P, which stands for PLAN. Now, based on the first three steps, make up a plan of action.
Your plan could include retracing your steps and trying to find your way back if you have enough daylight left or staying put for the night and building a shelter and a fire. Or better yet, can you make a call, or send a text to let someone know that you are lost?
My last piece of advice is that if you are unsure of what to do, stay where you are, and wait for help.
I have outlined in this post my nine valuable tips to avoid getting lost while on a hiking excursion. If you follow these tricks, the chances of you getting lost in the wilderness are significantly reduced.
However, don’t get too cocky by thinking that you can’t get lost. It could happen to any hikers out there. Moreover, I would say that it happened at least once in a hiker’s life to get off the beaten path.
Therefore, when you get lost, remember the catchphrase: STOP to get safely back home to your loved ones.
If you have any questions about how to avoid getting lost or sharing your hiking stories, please leave them below, and I will get back to you promptly. I am looking forward to hearing from you!