Getting Lost

Getting lost can be a mild inconvenience or a life-threatening ordeal -- everything depends on your state of mind and your ability to stay calm and make smart decisions.

By being prepared, you will enjoy your trip in the backcountry regardless of what nature throws at you.

Ways to avoid becoming lost and what to do if you do become lost

  • Leave a Message with a family member or a friend. A note, left with a responsible person, explains your destination, the route you are taking, the people who are with you, and your return time. Better yet, make a Safe Travel Plan.  If you do not return as planned, this person can give the accurate information to the police.
  • Always be ready to stay out overnight in a survival situation. It is quite likely that you may not be reported missing for many hours. Carry extra clothing, survival gear, and be mentally prepared to endure the night out.
  • Never hike alone. Hike with a group and keep together. If a person becomes separated by going ahead or falling behind they are more likely to become lost.
  • Be prepared for your chosen hike. Hiking requires physical preparation. Be physically fit to enjoy your activities. Stick to a turnaround time, and leave enough time to get home without causing people to worry about you. Take the proper equipment and have a trip plan – even if you will be hiking for only a few hours on a local mountain.
  • Do not panic. Maintain a positive mental attitude if you become lost. Being lost is not dangerous if you are prepared.
  • Stay where you are. People who continue on, after becoming lost, usually get further from the trail and further from people who are looking for them. Help will come.
  • Use signaling devices. Blowing a whistle, lighting a fire, and staying visible will help searchers find you. Help people trying to find you, even if you feel embarrassed or afraid. Remember that animals will not be attracted to your signals.
  • Build or seek shelter to protect yourself from the elements. Be as comfortable as possible but when it is light make sure you are visible from the air and visible to searchers in helicopters or planes.
  • Most important of all, remember it could happen to YOU. Bad weather, early darkness or an unexpected injury can turn an easy hike into an extended crisis. 

If you get lost today, will anyone know? Are you prepared? Remember, IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU!!