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What to Do If You’re Lost in the Wilderness

December 27, 2019

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DutchWare - What to Do When Lost in The Wilderness

Hiking in the wilderness is an incredibly rewarding experience — but it’s not without risk. A study from the University of North Dakota tallied the number of search and rescue calls in U.S. National Parks between 1992 and 2007 and found the average was nearly 12 SAR calls per day. Half of these calls were hikers. Even the most experienced hikers are at risk of getting lost. So, what are some practical solutions to help you be rescued if you do find yourself lost in the wild?

1. Plan Ahead

Tell someone where you’re going and when you are returning. Be specific. This can mean the difference between life and death, especially if you become injured while hiking and are unable to move. By letting someone know where you plan to be, it gives search and rescue teams a great advantage and a much higher chance of finding you.

2. Pack the Essentials

Whether you are embarking on a five-day backpacking trip or a two-hour hike in a nearby park, there are 10 essentials you should carry with you:

  1. Compass
  2. Map
  3. Knife
  4. Rain jacket and extra clothing layers
  5. Extra water and water purification
  6. Extra food
  7. Waterproof matches and firestarter equipment
  8. Shelter of some sort
  9. First aid kit
  10. Sun protection — sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat

If you’ve packed each of these items, you’ll have the necessary tools to survive a prolonged stay in the wilderness, allowing you time to be rescued or find your way back to civilization.

3. When in Doubt, S.T.O.P.

If you discover that you’re lost, the U.S. Forest Service advises you to S.T.O.P.:

  • Stop: Panic is your greatest enemy and can lead people to take foolish action. Remain calm. Breathe. Stay put until you have a good reason to move. The worst thing you can do is to aimlessly wander.
  • Think: Spend some time retracing your steps. How did you get there? Can you remember your route? Did you notice anything specific along the way?
  • Observe: Get out your compass and determine north in relation to where you’re standing. Identify any landmarks you can see. If need be, get a vantage point by climbing a ridge or a tree, using extreme caution to avoid dangerous falls. If you’re on a trail, stay on it. Chances are you’ll eventually come across a sign or another trail.
  • Plan: Based on your observations and circumstances, come up with some action plans. Be thorough and don’t rush.

4. Find Your Bearings

If you don’t have a compass, it’s still possible to orient yourself in a couple of ways. In North America, moss tends to grow on the north side of trees. If the sun is out, place a stick in the ground vertically and mark the tip of its shadow with a rock. Allow some time to pass and trace the movement of the stick’s shadow with more markers. This will give you an east-west line. Remember, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.

Finally, if the weather is overcast, it’s possible to magnetize a needle with static electricity, rubbing it between your hands or along a shirt sleeve. Then, once magnetized, place the needle on top of still water, and it should orient itself pointing north.

Purchase Your Hiking Essentials From Dutchware

No hiker sets out to be lost but the fact is, it does happen. It’s crucially important to be well prepared before leaving to maximize your chances of survival. Follow these tips to improve your ability to stay safe and enjoy the wonder of the wilderness.

Shop our selection today to stock up on all the gear you need for your next backpacking trip. From lightweight rain gear to quality backpacks, Dutchware has everything you need to stay safe and venture into the outdoors prepared for anything.

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