How to Survive Getting Lost While Hiking

Spread the love

This post is by Bernie Carr,

You’ve likely heard the story of Amanda Eller, the hiker in Maui who went missing and was later rescued after 17 days. Because she had only intended to take a quick walk, she did not bring her cell phone or any other supplies with her.  Sure, she made some mistakes but the story is a remarkable one, as she kept her wits about her during her ordeal.  Her strong will to survive kept her alive in the jungle for 17 days.

On the other hand, we’ve also heard about other hikers who have not been as fortunate. A hiker in the Appalachian Trail, Geraldine Largay, survived for 26 days before she died. Although she did have camping equipment with her, rescuers were unable to find her in time.

There two stories illustrate how things can go wrong even in a simple hike.  No matter how well you may have planned, you can still end up lost. The key is getting as prepared as possible, and knowing what to do in advance, in case you do get lost.

Bring your gear, even if it’s a short hike

Experts recommend bringing a small day pack with gear with you even if you are just going for a quick hike. Such items include:

If you have a GPS device, bring that as well.  Check the weather before you head out, so you know what to expect. If possible go with a companion, but if not, let someone know where you will be hiking and when you will be returning. Wear weather appropriate clothes, and comfortable but sturdy shoes.

While hiking, stop and rest when you feel tired. Don’t push yourself to exhaustion. Drink enough water and watch for signs of heat stroke. If you are hiking during the hottest hours of the day (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.) find a shady spot to rest. Do not ignore any symptoms your body may be showing – take care of any issues before they get worse.

What to do if you get lost

In spite of the best laid plans, you may find yourself lost.   The National Forest Service recommends the following acronym:  “S-T-O-P.”

S – Stop. When you realize you are lost, don’t panic. Calm down – sit down and get your bearings. Stay put.

T – Think.  Consider what’s around you and the last time you remembered where you are. Which direction did you come from? Do not move until you have a good reason to do so.

O – Observe. Look at your map or compass and try to figure out where you are on the trail. Look at any signs and landmarks. If you are on a trail, stay on it. What time is it – is it starting to get dark? Assess the weather and possible shelter in the area.

P – Plan. Try and make a plan on how you will survive. If you have no specific route in mind, stay put.  If it is getting dark, can you make a fire and stay warm? If you are feeling exhausted or are injured, stay in place.

If you have your cell phone, try to reach someone for rescue. If you cannot make a call, try to send a text. Get to a clearing that is visible from above, where you can be seen by rescuers. Keep yourself hydrated.

No one ever plans to get lost. But knowing the possibility that it can happen to you can help you mentally prepare yourself.


About the author:

Bernie Carr is the founder of Apartment Prepper. She has written several books including the best-selling Prepper’s Pocket Guide, Jake and Miller’s Big Adventure, The Penny-Pinching Prepper and How to Prepare for Most Emergencies on a $50 a Month Budget. Her work appears in sites such as the Allstate Blog and, as well as print magazines such as Backwoods Survival Guide and Prepper Survival Guide. She has been featured in national publications such as Fox Business and Popular Mechanics. Learn more about Bernie here.



Spread the love


  1. I would add a small non-breakable mirror to that list. What I was taught when I went to Out-Ward Bound in the early 70’s was when you are lost sit down and set up your shelter build a fire and stay there. Warm and dry will go a long way to keeping you alive. Yes you may need to find water but do that after you have a camp.

    Many times being lost and panicking will get you dead. Stop, look around and think. And remember this is why you always have your emergence butt pack.

    1. Hi Old guy, That is a good addition to the list. That, and never leave your emergency butt pack behind pun intended 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *