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Survivor’s Guide

What to do if you get lost hiking Your boots may well be made for walking, but is your head? More of us are making hiking the focus of our travels, but in the age of GPS many of us don’t know one end of a compass from another, let alone have one packed.

Survivor’s Guide

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What to do if you get lost hiking

Your boots may well be made for walking, but is your head? More of us are making hiking the focus of our travels, but in the age of GPS many of us don’t know one end of a compass from another, let alone have one packed.

So what are the golden rules if you find yourself wandering into the wilderness? If you’re hiking alone, always take provisions (water, high-energy food) and tell someone where you’re heading.

But if you don’t know how to use a compass, get as much information — maps, landmarks, route timings — as you can prior to setting out. Don’t rely on a GPS as there’s not always coverage and they’re not fool-proof either.

In bad weather, break navigation into short legs and try to create a mental picture of the terrain from a map before you set off. This should reduce your chances of getting lost. But if you do find yourself wandering off the path, here are our tips…

1 Don’t panic.

Top explorers advise removing your mind from the problem as much as possible by concentrating on minute-to-minute tasks or distractions like, food, shelter, warmth, etc.

2 Stay or go?

This depends on your situation. Most people are taught to stay put until someone finds them, but if the weather or daylight isn’t in your favour, finding shelter is a priority.

3 Light up.

A fire will not only comfort you but will also hopefully attract attention, although it’s not a good idea in dry forested areas and near impossible in damp or barren desert conditions.

4 Use ‘attack points’.

Walk out from where you are, using easily identifiable landmarks, or take bearings with a compass. You can then backtrack if needed, discounting certain routes.

5 Do a spiral sweep.

An experienced group can organise a spiral or sweep search, each within sight or hearing distance if possible. Increase the length of the ‘chain’ to find a route out.