What to Do When Lost

Lost in the Rocky Mountains - Scott Thompson

It’s easier than you think to get lost in the wilderness.  In fact, people often get lost on short trips when they didn’t plan for a big excursion.  This, of course, can be the worst time to get lost because you probably don’t have many supplies with you like you might have on an overnight backpacking trip.  Here are some tips to remember if you get lost.

Stay Put – One of the biggest mistakes made when lost is to continue moving.  Once you establish that you are truly lost it’s best to stop and wait for help.  If you call for help (via 911 or other method) moving will make it more difficult for rescuers to find you.  At the least stopping allows you to calm yourself and get your thoughts together.  When we realize we are lost fear often keeps us from thinking clearly.

If you Must Travel

If no help is arriving or no one know where you went you may have to travel.  Some say follow water and I like this idea, but it’s still no guarantee that it will lead to civilization.  If it’s dark you can find high ground and look for lights or the glow of a community in the distance.  In daylight signs you can look for are squared off farmland, power lines or railroad tracks, or other signs of humans like campfire smoke.

Before you move leave a message stating:

Who you are (include your number so someone can call if they find the message later)

How to contact loved ones 

Where you are going

When you left

Bring all the important supplies possible and plan your path and track your bearing using trees, rocks, or other items that will keep you traveling straight.  Many times those that are lost simply walk in circles.  Obstacles like water or large rocks can cause you to get off track as well.

Overall, the most important tip when lost is to remain in one place and to remain calm.  The biggest danger we face when lost is often our own fear and the mistakes we make when scared. Try to stay calm.

What tips do you have that might help others?


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