Lost: What to do when you realize you are off route - Page 3
If you get cold, perform light exercise, e.g. pushups and jumping jacks, every so often to elevate your body temperature.
The Morning After
Day breaks, you rise from your sleepless, endless night but your nightmare hasn’t ended. If you feel you cannot find your way out in the daylight, stay put, and help SAR find you. The more you move, the more they have to play cat and mouse.
Do not play by Leave No Trace standards. Leave your shelter standing. Then provide more clues for the SAR teams. Draw or make arrows to direct searchers to your position. If there is an opening in tree cover, like a meadow or alpine zone, stay there. Make a big “X” in the opening by placing sticks, rocks or anything of a contrasting color to the ground so a search helicopter or plane can see it.
If you can start a fire, make a “smudge” (a smoky fire with not many flames) to draw searchers’ attention. Alert rescuers by making noise, whistling or yelling. Three long blasts on a whistle are the universal help signal. Don’t make coyote yips, raven caws or wolf howls. Those definitely won’t help! If searchers make verbal contact, tell them you need help and talk them into your location.
Getting lost can be a harrowing experience but staying calm and acting rationally will keep you alive.
What you should have brought and how it could have saved you. You don’t need all of the items listed below but a good combination and working knowledge is key.
■ GPS. Know how to use it before you set out. At the trailhead, waypoint your position. You can also leave “bread crumbs” on your GPS so you can backtrack if you get lost. An added bonus, it will tell you the exact mileage, fastest speed and average speed of your run.
■ Headlamp (with fresh batteries). Can mean the difference between making it out that first night or not.
■ Cell phone. Cell-phone coverage is becoming more widespread, but don’t depend on it. With reception, you can call SAR, and notify your significant other or relative.
■ Matches/lighter/firestarter. The classic “I wish I had …” A small fire can save your life.
■ Pencil and paper. Telling someone your intended route and/or leaving a note in your car at the trailhead is a no brainer. If you have writing implements in your pack, you can leave notes/clues for
■ PLB. If you carry a personal locator beacon, like SPOT, you can send out a distress signal, an OK message or tether it to your smartphone to send out a text message. If necessary, SAR can read that platform to pinpoint your location.
■ Map and compass. Know how to use this old standby system, and you can usually find yourself if temporarily misoriented.
Justin Lichter (www.justinlichter.com), trail name “Trauma” in the hiking world, has hiked over 35,000 miles in the past eight years, including trips across the Himalayas, Southern Alps of New Zealand, East Africa, Iceland and United States. In 2006, he hiked over 10,000, averaging almost 30 miles a day.