While on a hiking trip, you realize you’re lost. The first thing you should do is…
• Call 911
• Situation awareness
• Build a shelter
If you realize you become lost during a hiking trip, the first thing you should do is S.T.O.P. (Stop, Think, Observe, and Plan). Here’s why…
The best defense in any survival situation is being prepared and having a contingency plan for anything that may happen. In the military, we call this operational risk management and it has helped mitigate injuries and loss of life.
Operational Risk Management (ORM) is a process that includes risk assessment, risk decision making, and implementation of risk controls, which results in acceptance, mitigation, or avoidance of risk.
Our advice is to prepare for the unknown even if your hiking trip is only for a couple of hours. It’s easy to become lost while hiking. Even a weather change can cause disorientation and alter your entire trip.
If you get lost, it’s important to stay calm and not panic. Here’s how you can implement S.T.O.P. if you become lost while hiking:
Stop – If you realize you’re lost, it’s important to stop and not walk any further. Now is not the time to panic, but to start implementing your survival plan. Conduct a quick assessment of your supplies and gear, and do a quick health and comfort self-analysis (check for injuries, cuts, anything). If you’ve been using a compass, look at it now, before turning in a new direction.
Think – Recall your path and how you got to where you currently stand. Try to remember any landmarks from where you started. Don’t stray from where you are. It’s important to stay put while trying to recall how you got there. Consider things like why you took the path you did. For instance, was there an obstacle in the way or rough terrain that made you change course?
Observe – Are you on a trail? Is there anything you can hear, see or smell? Have you seen any other people, and if so, how long ago and in what direction? Do you see any bodies of water like streams, ponds, or lakes? All of these observations can potentially help you recall certain details as well as help you assess your next move. Can you see any obviously public resting places or areas where people might gather? Do you smell or see smoke as if from a campfire?
Plan – Based on everything you know, it’s time to plan your next move and make a decision on how to get out of this situation. Consider the time of day. If it’s getting closer to nighttime, you may want to stay put. If you do move, use what you observed to plan a safe stopping point before it gets dark.
This is why it’s important to have a plan and prepare before going out and exploring the world. You’re ultimately responsible for your own safety and well-being. Don’t go anywhere without a plan. It can save your life.
~To Your Survival!
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