Even the most expert hikers might find themselves lost from time to time, and although you might think you know the local area like the back of your hand there is still a very real possibility you’ll become lost some day.
If you do happen to find yourself in trouble and you need help, whether it’s a medical emergency or you’ve lost your way, there are a few ways you can reach out for help. Most of these methods require a bit of forward planning, so it all comes down to what you’ve packed in your backpack in preparation.
These modern marvels of technology have helped many hikers out of a bad situation, but there might be times when you don’t have phone reception to make a call. Thankfully, you can still attempt an emergency call on most cell phones without any service, and often times this will still work.
The way our cell phones operate is that once you’ve placed this call it sends a signal of your location. This way, SAR teams are able to communicate with emergency services to pinpoint where you are. When the call doesn’t connect, there is still a chance your location has been received so you should always attempt this first.
Although cell phones and GPS devices can be handy, you should never assume they can replace the traditional map and compass method. If your batteries run out or something happens with the technology, you’ll have to rely on the old-fashioned methods regardless.
Technology aside, sometimes the best answer to being lost is an old-fashioned one. Most hikers should carry with them a whistle that will be loud enough to draw attention in an emergency. Ensure it’s an emergency whistle, as the standard sports kind is not loud enough to get the attention you need.
Other hikers or visitors to the area may hear your call for help and work their way towards finding you. For such a lightweight object, it’s one of the easiest ways to draw attention to yourself any time of the day.
This is one to be careful with, as you should never try to retrace your steps if you aren’t confident of where you came from. Never attempt to walk back if you’re not sure of the direction and don’t have your compass and map with you.
If you’re unsure of where exactly you were, it’s best to stay put and wait in the area until help arrives or you happen to see another hiker on your path. By venturing off and taking guesses, you’re only going to become more disoriented and lost.
Sometimes the best option is to show others where you are with lighting. Depending on the time of the day, there may be different options that are going to draw the most attention.
During the day, using a mirror and the natural light of the sun to signal where you are is usually the most effective. At night, you can use distress lighting on your flashlight or other methods such as flares if you have them handy.
Just like in the movies, there may be times where you’re forced to go big. Whether you want to create a smoke signal or spell out SOS with branches, these methods have actually proven to be very successful in drawing attention.
Try to find an area with a clearing of trees so that your message can be picked up easier from the sky. Incorporate this with a sound signal such as your whistle for added effect.
BEFORE YOU GO ON HIKE
ALWAYS RELAY YOUR HIKING PLANS TO SOMEONE!
Before heading off on a hike, no matter the length, you should always relay your plans to someone. This includes giving them a map of the area and your intended route, as well as the time and day you intend on returning home. This way, if you’re late to arrive back they can notify the authorities with an exact location of where you might be.
As the number one cause for hikers needing help from SAR is fatigue, ensure you’re well rested and fed before heading off. The key to a successful hike is always preparation, so whether it’s your supplies being packed correctly or having a backup plan in case disaster strikes, a good hiker is prepared for anything.