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Rip & Live: Lost

More than 1,000 hikers go missing every year in our national parks alone. Most are found within hours, but basic skills can help you get home without making a serious—or even fatal—mistake. Follow this advice for staying on course.

Carry a Beacon
Is an emergency alert your only choice?

What if you broke the rules: took off with- out telling anyone, didn’t check your map, and now you’re hopelessly lost? According to Howard Paul, a 25-year veteran of the Alpine Rescue Team, a Colorado-based search and rescue unit, it could take weeks for a sheriff or ranger to initiate an inves- tigation based on your abandoned car at the trailhead. “The best advice is to S.T.O.P. [see Sit. Think. Observe. Plan], but if that formula for organizing your thoughts doesn’t help you get back on track, and nobody back home is going to start looking for you or initiate a search, your last, fail-safe option should be to carry a SPOT Communicator or a personal locator beacon,” he says. Paul warns against using beacons as a crutch (“It doesn’t build a fire, or give you shelter, and reliability isn’t 100 percent,” he says). But, he adds, “We respond to those alerts as if they’re life-threatening emergencies. In the Lower 48, that means help is less than eight hours away.”

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