Here’s What You Should Do if You Get Lost While Hiking

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Stephanie is a cherished member of the Sampling America writing team, dedicated to crafting captivating narratives that transport readers to thrilling adventures across the country and beyond.

The popularity of multi-day hikes has blown up in recent years. The thrill of facing the elements while becoming one with nature is a unique experience.

However, we hear stories of hikers becoming lost every year, sometimes even in extreme heat and snow. Although you can certainly hope rescue crews find you if you become lost in the wilderness, it’s best to have the knowledge and skills to keep yourself alive until then, or ideally, not get lost at all.

Bring the Right Equipment 

Prepared Hiker
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Hiking trails come in all shapes, sizes, and weather conditions. Before you set out on your hike, plan for the type of equipment and food you might need.

For example, for an overnight hike in the snow, you must ensure that you’re warm enough at night and have a portable gas stove to cook a warm meal.

For almost all hikes, preparedness guides recommend you bring an external charger for your cellphone, a radio in case you need to call for assistance, and a map of the area.

Tell Someone Where You’re Going

Two Women Hiking
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Before you even head out on your hike, be sure to tell a friend or a family member all about the trail that you plan on taking and when you plan on returning; this way, if you don’t return at the set time, they can call a rescue crew to help contact you.

Life is so busy we can sometimes lose track of even our close friends and family. Ensure that someone knows your routine so they suspect something is wrong if they cannot contact you.

Stay Calm

Man Looking at a Map
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If you find yourself off the trail and unsure of where you are, always stay calm.

Sometimes, feeling frantic can lead you to make poor choices, such as walking in the wrong direction or working yourself up into a panic attack.

When you stay calm, you might be able to retrace your steps and find your way back to the walking path. If not, you will need to stay calm and try your cellphone or radio to contact a rescue crew. 

Follow the STOP Rule

Man Finding His Way
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If you decide you’re lost, experts recommend following the stop, think, observe, and plan (STOP) rule.

Stop – When you realize you’re lost, stop, stay calm, and stay put. If you keep walking the wrong way, you’ll be even more lost and worse off.

Think – Consider the path you took to get to where you are. Were there any landmarks on the way? Which direction are you heading in, and where are you facing now?

Observe – Try to think about what you can see, any landmarks, perhaps the way back to the trail. Also, observe where the sun is and how long you might have until the sun sets.

Plan – Stay put until you have a plan figured out. If you can think of a safe way to begin walking back to the trail, do that; if you don’t, think of a way to contact a rescue crew.

Create a Warm Shelter

Hiking Shelter
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When you discover that you are stuck in one spot for the night, the best thing to do is create a shelter and stay warm.

You can gather branches and twigs to create a bed and keep your body off of the cold ground. Light a campfire to stay warm, and it also might be a good way for a rescue crew to see you from the sky.

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