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Backpacker Magazine – June 2008

Survive This: Separated From Group

If you get lost from your hiking party, here's how to get found–fast.

by: Pete Rognli

(Tim Marrs)
Photo by Survive Getting Separated
(Tim Marrs)

Predicament
You catch sight of a life-list bird and stop to take photos, telling the group you'll catch up soon. Ten minutes later, you stow your camera and set off briskly, only to realize after a mile that the trail you're following isn't a trail at all.

Lifeline
Stop. "Lost hikers can make their situation much worse by moving in haste," says John Race, owner and guide at Washington's Northwest Mountain School. Instead of shouting, blow three short blasts on a whistle. In most cases, your friends will be looking (and listening) for you. If not, mark your present location with sticks and attempt to backtrack to the original trail. If you can't find it, or get more disoriented, return to your original lost location, find a visible spot to wait, and signal for help. Bushwhack to regain the trail only if you can see your destination, have good navigation skills and a compass or GPS, and won't encounter impassable terrain.

Once you regain the trail, attempt to follow your group. If you don't know which direction to take at trail junctions, stop and signal with your whistle. Your friends will find you there.



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READERS COMMENTS

lindapdx
Sep 17, 2011

You wouldn't get separated from your group if you were hiking solo! Stop when you want, go when you want, take responsibility for yourself. Safety in ones.

AZ Hiker
Sep 16, 2011

Ck out this book: Felix! the Sugarglider Be Safe Hike Smart on Amazon. It's all about not getting lost and how to find your way with or without a compass and map. This book has the best and easiest to understand instructions I have ever read. I review it before every hike.

AZ Hiker
Sep 16, 2011

Ck out this book: Felix! the Sugarglider Be Safe Hike Smart on Amazon. It's all about not getting lost and how to find your way with or without a compass and map. This book has the best and easiest to understand instructions I have ever read. I review it before every hike.

Roger
Sep 16, 2011

You've pulled out your whistle and given 3 short blasts, and the group looking for you hears them. How should they respond to acknowlegde that they have heard you?

Roger
Sep 16, 2011

You've pulled out your whistle and given 3 short blasts, and the group looking for you hears them. How should they respond to acknowlegde that they have heard you?

Cody
Jul 27, 2011

I agree everyone should at least have a knife, compass, gps, tied to them with 550 cord. I tie everything to my belt that way in case I drop it or forget to secure it properly it wont get lost on the trail.

ZEEMADMAN
Sep 17, 2010

Oh Bob, what do You mean You had No Compass? That's Impossible. Everyone should carry their own Compass. I have the cheaper ones pinned to my other gear. Keychains, watchfobs, hat, and stashed in My pack in a few places. My Tritium Compass is Leashed with 550 Para Cord to My Pack, or Belt. Long enough to allow Me to use it, but still if I ever dropped it or it came loose it would still be there dragging behind Me. Like Fording a Stream! Ooops! The same Leash Rule applies to My GPS. Everyone needs their own Saftey and Survival Gear. At a minimum that means at least one Knife, one Compass, and at least 3 ways to Start A Fire. A Storm Whistle won't hurt either and is nothing for weight to be carried. Go Ready, or Just Don't Go! Learn To Return!
A Wise Old Colonel once told Me any Fool can come out here and Suffer Or Die. It's the smart people that Learn To Survive with Comfort and Style!

Dan
Sep 02, 2008

What whistle.... knew I forgot to pack something.... How about demonstrating how to make a whistle from an acorn or beer bottle cap? It's as loud as a store bought whistle and the materials are generally available.

Bob Vryheid
Sep 02, 2008

This article has good advice, especially the first word, "Stop." I once got separated from the group when I was working on a census of hill tribe villages for a development project in northern Thailand. The crew were experienced Thai and hill tribe community development workers.

We were walking from one village to the next when I stopped to defecate. When I looked for the group again, I could not see them. I stopped and looked for slowly for clues for directions. There was no one definite trail, but many little criss-crossing paths made by local people and animals. Dense low clouds covered the sky, so I could not see any shadows to tell directions. There were many shoe prints going in many directions, so I could not tell which belonged to our crew. I found some of my own shoe prints, and figured out which way I had been going. I had a simple map, but no compass. I knew that we had been going east toward a village several kilometers away, and that a north-south road went through the village. So I aimed at about east-northeast, so I might arrive at the road north of the village, and turn south toward the village. But after about an hour, I saw our group several hundred meters ahead, so I hurried and caught up with them.

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