Don’t Panic! What to Do if You Get Lost on a Hike

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Don’t Panic! What to Do if You Get Lost on a Hike

It’s all fun and games…

You’re in an unfamiliar location; a region you never visited before, and you decide you want to take in the sights, sounds, and smells of nature with a long, relaxing hike. The day is beautiful, the ground cover is soft beneath your feet. The sun heats the woods, releasing all the aromas of nature. You’re so lost in thought and enrapt in nature that you don’t realize until it’s too late that you don’t remember where you came from or how to get back. Before you panic and start running every which way, take a deep breath and follow these tips.

Always plan to get lost

Of course, you don’t want to get lost, and you don’t plan to get lost, but losing your way on a hike does happen. If you plan for it, then you’re going to be prepared with the supplies you need for however long you’re lost. Make sure you have the essentials you need – water, food, blankets, compass, map of the area, and a flashlight at least.

Don’t keep going

It’s natural to get panicked when you’re lost, the important thing to do is to stay put until the panic passes and your rational mind is back in your control. Sit down and think about where you are, what landmarks you remember, and how you got to where you are.

Are you still on a trail? What signs can you see? Do they point you toward any landmarks you remember being near where you camped? Brainstorm a few plans to help you get back where you came from. Follow the plan that you think gives you the best possible route of escape.

Is help on the way?

If you’re lost for a long time, people will probably come looking for you. The important thing for you to do is decide how they will be looking for you—on foot or from above—and make it easy for them to spot you. If they’re on foot, it’s good to find a spot where you’re in the open and can see around you well enough to spot anyone coming your way. If they’re looking from above, arrange items around you like big rocks and sticks, to get their attention.


If you’re severely lost and you’ve decided to follow a game trail, footpath, or water to civilization, be sure to keep your eyes and ears open for other people. You can often smell woodsmoke, hear dogs or children, or notice other signs of human activity. Follow your senses to where other people are, and seek help.

Don’t get lost in the first place

Of course! Why didn’t I think of that? All joking aside, keep your eyes peeled on your hike for landmarks and turns you’ve passed. While we all want to relax into our hike, paying attention to landmarks can help us find our way back to where we camped. You can relax between turns or landmarks, but when you see something truly spectacular, stop for a while to look at it, take in the surroundings, and remind yourself of how you got there.

Alert your friends

Before you head out, be sure to let others know where you’re going. Leave a two-way radio with someone, and take the other one with you. Make sure the radios’ have a good range just in case you stray farther than anticipated.

Let people know when you estimate to be back, and what kind of leeway time to give you before they start looking for you. If you’re in an area with good cellphone reception, make sure your phone is charged, and you take a charging pack. It’s important not to go camping alone when you’re in an area you don’t know. If you do find yourself out alone, make sure you do everything in your power to stay safe while you’re out.

Just as you shouldn’t go hiking alone, and you shouldn’t go RVing alone. When you’re a member with The RV Advisor, you’re never alone. You have access to experts, professionals, and RVers who’ve been in the game for many years. They’re ready to lend a hand and help you out. Explore what your membership has to offer.

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