One of the most appealing aspects that people enjoy with the RV lifestyle is that they get to discover new places. Whether you enjoy hiking, biking, fishing, hunting, boating, or another way to “get away”, any time you are out exploring a new area there is a potential to become lost.
If you happen to be one of the estimated 2,000 people reported being lost in the US wilderness each year, you will want to know how to get found.
The first step in getting found starts before you head out. Leave details of your planned adventure with someone. Tell them what route you are going to take, who is going with you, where you are headed, and how long you think it should take you. Set a check-in time so that if they have not heard from you before the designated time, they will alert authorities on your behalf.
Take the “10 Essentials” with you on every outing: pocketknife, matches or lighter, map and compass, headlamp, sunglasses/sunscreen, raincoat, an extra layer of clothes, extra food, water (and purification), first aid kit (with whistle). These items can easily fit into a small backpack that you can grab and head out for some fun, and they could save your life if you become lost. It is good to take a fully charged cell phone with you, but in many cases, cell coverage may not be available, so do not depend on it! It is always best to take more than you think you will need.
Pay attention to landmarks along your route as you go. Note that interesting rock outcrop, or the fork in the stream. If you get disoriented, you may be able to re-trace your steps back to a familiar object that can help you find your way back safely.
Becoming lost can be as simple as finding yourself in a place and at a time that you didn’t expect. This can be very disorienting for even the most seasoned outdoors enthusiasts. If you do find that you are lost, STOP: Stop, Think, Observe, Plan.
- Stop. Stay calm and stay put. Do not panic.
- Think. What route did you take? What landmarks did you note?
- Observe. Get out your map and compass and try to determine where you are.
- Plan. Think up your possible options and formulate a plan. If you are on a trail, stay on the trail. If you are not very, very confident in a route, then it is better to stay put. If you have informed someone of your plans, they will realize you have not checked in at the given time and initiate a search on their end.
Keep yourself rested, hydrated, and warm. It is much easier to make shelter and find firewood in the daylight, but try not to wear yourself out. Make yourself a shelter to stay out of the harshest elements (heat, cold, rain), and look around for a water source. Fix small problems while they are still small, rather than waiting for an issue or injury to become worse.
If you are able to use your cell phone to call for help, be sure to give as accurate description of your location as you can, including your latitude and longitude location if you can (the best time to practice this is BEFORE you are lost). Once you get a message out, it is critical that as long as your spot is safe, you do not move from your location.
Work on making your presence known to rescuers. Use your whistle, or bang rocks together to make noise. Try to make your location visible from the air. Light signal fires (three fires in a triangle shape are known as an international symbol for help).
You might want to invest in a satellite tracking device such as a SPOT tracker or InReach. These devices use satellites (not cellular coverage) to pinpoint your location, and to send messages. You can choose to send an “I am OK” message or to activate an SOS function that will automatically activate search and rescue operations. Some models allow you to send other messages as well. Keep in mind that you need the device as well as a yearly service subscription plan to cover the service.
Hopefully you have an uneventful and peaceful outing, but in the event that you do get lost, these tips should help you get found safe and sound.