What to Do If You Get Lost While Hiking [Definitive Guide]

It is a frightening prospect to consider, but it is possible to get lost while hiking. Even if you are an experienced hiker, you may find yourself in unfamiliar territory or have an accident or injury that makes it difficult to find your way back.

Here is our guide on what to do if you get lost while hiking. Let’s dive in.

If you get lost while hiking, there are a few key steps you should take to ensure your safety and the ability to find your way back. 

Stop and Assess Your Situation

The first step in dealing with a lost situation is to stop and assess your situation. Take a few moments to look around and get your bearings. 

Where are you? What are the landmarks you can see? Do you recognize any of the terrain? Do you remember where you were heading? This step will give you a better understanding of your situation and help you make better decisions. 

Stay Calm

Once youve assessed your situation, its important to stay calm. Panic can cloud your thinking and make it harder to think rationally. Remain calm and take your time. 

Stay Put

When youre lost, the best thing to do is stay where you are. Moving around will only make it harder to find your way back. If youre in a safe place, stay put and wait for help. If youre in a dangerous situation, move to a safer spot and stay there.

Especially if it’s getting close to nightfall, you should consider seeking shelter and waiting for daylight to continue your journey.

Here are seven simple survival shelters you can build easily.

Make Yourself Visible

If youre in a spot where you can be seen, make yourself as visible as possible. Wave brightly colored clothing or something reflective in the air. Make noise and yell for help if you feel safe doing so. 

Signal for Help

If youre in an area with cell phone service, call 911 or the local search and rescue team. If not, use a mirror or other reflective object to signal for help. Collect stones and make a largeX to signal for help. 

Here is how to signal for help with smoke.

Track Your Steps

If youre able to move, its important to track your steps. Make sure to mark your trail with a few pieces of clothing or a pile of stones. This will help you find your way back if youre able to get help or if youre able to find your way out on your own. 

You’ll want to take inventory of your supplies. Do you have a map, compass, GPS, or any other navigation tools? If so, try to use them to determine your location and plan a route back.

If you don’t have any navigation tools, it is still possible to get back to safety. Look for natural markers that can help you orient yourself. These could include rivers, mountains, or other features that can help you find your way back.

Use Your Resources

common edible wild plants that are healthy

If youre lost, use the resources you have available. Look for water sources, edible plants, and other resources that can help you survive in the wilderness. 

Stay Hydrated and Nourished

While waiting for help, ensure you stay hydrated and nourished. Drink plenty of water and try to find edible plants to eat. 

This is why you should store some food rations and water in your backpack. In addition to that, you should have Lifestraw GO water filters on hand (review).

Prepare for the Night

If youre stuck in the wilderness overnight, its important to prepare for the night. Find a safe place to sleep, build a fire for warmth, and make sure youre visible in case of rescue. 

Dont Give Up

Even if youre lost and stuck in the wilderness, dont give up. Stay calm, use your resources, and keep trying to find your way out. Its important to remember that if you get lost while hiking, the most important thing is to remain calm and use the resources you have available.

Once you have a plan of action, it is important to stay focused and motivated. Break your journey down into smaller goals, and take breaks if you need to. This will help you stay focused and avoid feeling overwhelmed by the task at hand.

With the right knowledge and preparation, you can get out safely and find your way back.

If you liked this article, learn more on our article on the first 3 things to do when lost.

Final Words

Over 2,000 American hikers get lost every year for an extended period of time – it’s a real issue. Hopefully, you aren’t one of those unfortunate people, but if you do find yourself lost, you can follow the above advice to make your way back to safe territory.

By having the right communication and survival equipment, you’ll have the best chance of making it back in a quick manner, so you’ll want to be sure to stock up on the right survival clothing and survival gear like radios, flashlights, and more (all of those links are reviews/guides).

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