The longest journey begins with a single step.
Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching
LEARN TO RESCUE YOURSELF
Before you set out, take steps to make sure you don't become lost. Learn how to use a map and compass. Call ahead, read a guidebook and study maps of the area you'll be hiking to become familiar with trails, roads, rivers, streams, mountains and other features. Use these as reference points as you hike. Once you've determined your route, leave your trip plan with family and friends - then make sure you stick to this plan.
Take your map and compass with you. That way, if you become disoriented, you can stop, refer to your map and try to reorient yourself. Experienced hikers say that most people find their way after studying a map and the surrounding terrain for five minutes, so don't panic if you can't immediately figure out where you are. Also, take a whistle; if you become lost, blow it loudly at regular intervals to attract attention.
You may need to be on higher ground in order to identify landmarks such as streams and ridges. Just don't wander far from your original route; remember, this is where rescuers will start looking for you if your friends or family tell them your planned route.
Still lost? S.T.O.P: Stop, Think, Observe and Plan. Decide on a plan and stick to it. If the last known location is within a reasonable distance, try to go back to it. If you can't find any recognizable landmarks by backtracking, stay put.
IF YOU CAN'T RESCUE YOURSELF
- Stay warm and protect yourself from the elements. If possible, stay near an open space; move into it to be visible from the air and ground.
- Try to remain hydrated.
- Put bright clothing on, or put out something that's bright to attract attention.
- Continue to blow your whistle at regular intervals.
- Don't lie on bare ground. Use the equipment you brought to protect yourself from the elements.