Lost in the Wilderness : What To Do If You Get Lost While Hiking

Embarking on a hiking adventure is an exhilarating experience, immersing you in the breathtaking beauty of nature while challenging your physical and mental limits. Let me tell a real story.

One sunny morning, my friend Aman and I set off on a hiking adventure through a dense forest. The trail led us through breathtaking scenery, and we were thrilled to explore nature’s wonders together.

As we trekked deeper into the forest, we reached a fork in the path. Without realizing it, Aman took a different route, and we got separated.

What To Do If You Get Lost While Hiking
What To Do If You Get Lost While Hiking

Panicked, I called out for Aman, but there was no response. I decided to go back to the fork and wait, hoping he would return. I marked a tree nearby with a bandana, hoping it would help him find me if he came back.

Luckily, he spotted the bandana I had tied, which guided him back to where I was waiting.

We hugged each other tightly, grateful for our reunion. From that moment on, we vowed never to hike without proper navigational tools. We learned the importance of being prepared and sticking together during our adventures.

Amidst the excitement, there lies a potential for unexpected challenges – like getting lost in the wilderness. In this article, we delve into the essential steps to take if you find yourself in the unsettling situation of being lost during a hike.

So in this article, we’ll cover the basics of hiking safety and what to do if you get lost while hiking.

What To Do If You Get Lost While Hiking?

If you find yourself lost there are several psychological tricks you have to keep in your mind.

Avoid Panicking

When finding yourself lost in the vast expanse of a remote wilderness, maintaining a positive attitude and steering clear of panic can make all the difference.

Panic only exacerbates the situation, clouding your judgment and hindering your ability to think clearly. Instead, take a deep breath, center yourself, and focus on recalling your route.

What To Do If You Get Lost While Hiking?

As Aman, an experienced hiker, once encountered this very predicament during a solo expedition. He felt the first tingling tendrils of panic threatening to take hold, but he remembered the advice he had heard countless times: panicking would only make things worse.

So, he took a deep breath, closed his eyes briefly, and tried to recall the landmarks he had passed earlier. He retraced his steps back to the fork in the trail, carefully examining the surroundings.

As he moved forward, he noticed a familiar tree he had marked with his hiking stick earlier. A wave of relief washed over him, and he knew he was on the right track.

By keeping his composure and conserving his energy, Aman was able to navigate through the wilderness and find his way back to safety. Had he given in to panic, he might have wandered aimlessly, lost in the woods for much longer.

Stay Focused

The ability to observe surroundings and identify landmarks is a valuable skill for hikers to possess, and it played a crucial role in Aman’s successful return.

So scan the vicinity for any trails or paths that look familiar. If you had been hiking on an established trail, there’s a good chance you might have veered off course without realizing it.

What To Do If You Get Lost While Hiking?
Image by Gore Tex

Following these well-trodden routes, even if they seem slightly different from what you remember, can eventually lead you back to the main trail or a recognizable point.

While attempting to find familiar landmarks or trails, consider any natural cues around you, such as the position of the sun. If you have a general sense of direction, aligning it with the sun’s position can provide a rough sense of where north lies, helping you determine your overall orientation.

If, after thorough observation and exploration, you’re still unable to find any recognizable points, it’s best to return to the spot where you first realized you were lost.

This helps minimize the chances of getting even more disoriented and allows you to maintain a central point from which you can start fresh assessments or plan your next move.

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How To Navigate Using A Map And Compass?

Now the second step is to take out all your navigational tools that can help you find your way back.

Use Map and Gps

A map is the most basic form of navigation as it shows both the terrain and the pathways used by hikers.

Make sure to get a map that covers your area of interest, because maps can vary in detail from region to region.

What To Do If You Get Lost While Hiking

Another form of navigation is using a GPS unit. A GPS unit can track your latitude and longitude coordinates and will provide a map with those coordinates overlaid.

This type of unit is not always reliable in extreme conditions, so be prepared to rely on other forms of navigation if necessary.

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Survival Tips For Being Lost In The Wilderness

For a moment, imagine you are lost now, it will better for you to follow some necessary steps like:

Know the kind of terrain

When embarking on a hiking adventure, knowledge of the terrain is a crucial aspect that every hiker should be mindful of. Understanding the landscape, identifying landmarks, and gauging distances are essential for a safe and successful journey. If you’re hiking in an unfamiliar area, take the time to study the topography before setting off.

What To Do If You Get Lost While Hiking

As you traverse through the wilderness, pay attention to the landmarks that catch your eye. These could be distinctive trees, rock formations, or prominent peaks. Mentally note their locations and their relation to your path. This way, you’ll create a mental map that can guide you back on track if needed.

Periodically cross-reference your location on the map with the landmarks you have identified. This practice allows you to stay on course and enables you to find your way back if you veer off track.

Identify Signage Points

When hiking in remote areas, getting lost can be a nerve-wracking experience. But from my own trial in the wilderness, I want to offer you some essential advice.

What To Do If You Get Lost While Hiking

Trust the trail signage when available, as they can be valuable guides leading you back to safety. In case the markings become scarce, always carry a GPS unit or a map as backup resources. These tools can help you determine your location and find the correct path.

Remember, staying calm, relying on the available resources, and trusting your instincts will increase your chances of navigating through challenging situations and making the most of your hiking adventures.

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Consider Time

From my hiking experiences, I learned a valuable lesson – never underestimate the value of time in the wilderness. It can be the lifeline that saves you from peril, guiding your choices and offering a sense of direction amidst the uncertainty.

What To Do If You Get Lost While Hiking

Time, the intangible essence that defines our existence, holds a significant role in the realm of hiking and outdoor adventures.

Because if things start to go wrong, knowing how long it will take to get back home can help you decide whether or not to stay put or try and find a way out.

It is a finite resource, yet its management can be the key to survival in hazardous or dangerous situations.

As I embark on a challenging hiking expedition, I understand the gravity of this truth – time can be both a savior and a nemesis.

As the journey progresses,I diligently record the time at various points, creating a chronicle of my progress and whereabouts.

Take Deep Breaths

Feeling lost during a hiking expedition can be a disorienting and unsettling experience. However, rather than succumbing to panic, there are practical steps you can take to regain your bearings and find your way back.

The first important action to take when you feel lost is to pause and take a few deep breaths. This moment of stillness allows you to clear your mind and focus on recalling the landmarks or distinctive features you passed on the way in.

By retracing your steps mentally, you may be able to pinpoint your approximate location and reorient yourself.

Search for Streams

If you are unable to use any form of navigation or reach your destination, remember to keep an eye out for landmarks or features that you may recognize.

Hikers often make good use of features like streams and mountains, which can help them orient themselves.

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Tips For Staying Safe While Hiking

While hiking, follow these tips to stay safe.

Stay alert and aware of your surroundings. Be prepared to take quick action if necessary.

Stay in a group when possible. Hiking in a group can help keep you safe and help you find your way back if you do get lost.

Make sure to carry enough supplies with you so that you can survive for at least a day if necessary. This includes food, water, and shelter.

What To Do If You Get Lost While Hiking

If you feel like you are in danger, try to find a safe place to hunker down until the situation passes. If there is no safe place nearby, make noise so that others will be able to find you.

Aways take the time to rest and relax when you’re not in immediate danger – this will help you conserve energy and stay aware of your surroundings.

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How To Prepare For A Hike And Minimize The Risk Of Getting Lost?

What To Do If You Get Lost While Hiking
What To Do If You Get Lost While Hiking

If you’re planning to hike outdoors, make sure to take some precautions in case of a wilderness emergency. Here are a few things to keep in mind before your hike:

Carry a map and compass

A map can help you find your way back if you get lost, and a compass can help you orient yourself while hiking.

Leave a detailed itinerary

Include the names of all the landmarks you’ll be visiting, as well as the time of day and expected return time. This will help family or friends who are waiting for you if something goes wrong.

Carry emergency supplies

Make sure you have food, water, first-aid supplies, and tools such as an emergency whistle or sheltering kit. If something happens and you need to spend the night outdoors, be prepared for inclement weather conditions.

Stay together as a group

If possible, stick together during your hike so that if one person gets lost, they can easier find their way back to the group

Know the emergency numbers

Always remember emergency number of your region. In case of an emergency, dial 911 or 112 immediately and provide as much information as possible about your location (e.g., which direction you’re headed, and what type of terrain you’re on).

Before going hiking tell someone

Always tell someone where you are going and when you plan to be back. This will help you if don’t come back after a particular time. The informed person may help you by informing the police or related department.

Don’t go alone

Hiking in unfamiliar territory is more dangerous when there’s just one person present. Stick to well-marked trails and groups of people whenever possible.

Make sure to keep track of your location

Make sure to keep track of your location and movement through a map and compass, carry a whistle and flashlight, and avoid isolated areas.

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What To Do If You Get Lost In The Mountains?

While getting lost in the mountains can be scary, it’s usually not fatal unless you get lost in an area that’s very dangerous or uninhabitable.

And even then, most people manage to find their way back home eventually. So don’t be too afraid to get lost – it just might take a little bit longer than usual to get back home.

How To Make A Shelter If Lost In The Wilderness?

If you’re lost in the wilderness and need to make a shelter, there are several options you can consider.

One option is to build a lean-to. This is a simple shelter that can be made by leaning a long branch or stick against a tree and then covering it with branches, leaves, and other natural materials.

Another option is to build a debris shelter. This is a shelter made from natural materials such as sticks, leaves, and branches. The materials are stacked and then covered with more branches and leaves to form a roof.

You can also use a tarp or space blanket as a shelter. You can tie a rope between two trees, drape the tarp or space blanket over it, and then secure the corners to the ground with branches or rocks.

If you have a camping gear or any tools with you, you can make a more complex shelter like a teepee or a A-frame shelter

It’s important to make sure that your shelter is well-insulated and that you have a fire source nearby to stay warm.

Remember that it’s always best to be prepared with some basic wilderness survival skills and to have the right equipment before heading into the wilderness.


We pray you never may be lost while hiking. If you are lost while hiking, it is important to stay calm and try to follow these tips.

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