If you ever get lost on a hiking trek, one of your biggest keys to survival is being found as soon as possible (usually within 48 hours). Unfortunately, your chances of surviving on your own – or being found alive by rescuers – significantly decline after being lost a couple of days in the outdoors. Here are some valuable survival tips that could save your life by helping you hike back to civilization as soon as possible.
1. Find a High Vantage Point
Many hikers get lost when they are unfamiliar with their surroundings. For example, you might mistake a game trail for your hiking trail and end up in a remote area where you have no idea where you are at and how to get back. Therefore, the first thing you should do when you find yourself lost outdoors is to find a high vantage point nearby. If you can, climb to the top of the hill or mountain to scope out your surroundings. If you are lucky, you will recognize a landmark that can tell you where you are or the trail that you are supposed to be on.
2. Check the Sun
The sun is a natural navigation system because no matter where you are on the planet, you know that it rises in the east and sets in the west. Therefore, if it’s a clear day and you aren’t underneath a thick canopy of trees, you can use the sun to navigate by figuring out which direction you are hiking. That way you will at least have a general sense of where you are going so you won’t be walking around in circles.
3. Use a Compass
When you are in an unfamiliar area, it can become easy to confuse your directions – especially if you can’t see the sun. A compass is a very reliable navigation tool because it works regardless of whether you can see sunlight. (Every hiker should carry a compass with them). When you hike with a compass, you will know exactly which direction you are hiking. That way if you get lost, you won’t make the situation worse by wandering around aimlessly.
4. Look for Signs of Other People
If you get lost on a hiking trek, it may be awhile before rescuers realize that you are lost and start searching for you. Therefore, finding other people is often a better bet than waiting for rescuers to find you. Start by searching where you are for recent signs of people being in your area. Look for fresh footprints in mud, any trash on the ground, and even a recent campsite. If you are in a spot with a lot of vegetation on the ground, look for places where the vegetation might have been stepped on by people. If you find clues that look like others have recently been in your area, follow them. Even if you don’t find anyone, those clues might lead you back to your hiking trail.
5. Follow Water Downstream
Finally, a good rule of thumb when lost in the outdoors is that water will (eventually) lead to people. For example, many communities and farms are settled along the banks of rivers and streams. That means if you find a waterway, following it downstream will often lead you back to civilization. However, depending on how remote of an area you get lost in, you could have a long hike – maybe even several days worth of hiking.
In short, as a lost hiker, you can’t assume that rescuers are going to find you in a timely manner. Therefore, instead of waiting to be rescued, take it upon yourself to find civilization. See if you can figure out where you are from a high point (like a hill or mountain top). If you have sunlight, try to use the sun to get your sense of direction. Even better, if you have a compass, use it for navigation. Search for any signs that people have recently been in your area. Finding others is often the key to getting rescued alive. Lastly, if come across a river or stream, try following it downstream to find your way back to civilization.