How To NOT Get Lost in the Woods
T- minus: 92 days
It was a bright and sunny summer day. My boyfriend and I had decided to drive two hours up to one of the many beautiful Pennsylvania State Parks. We knew the park had some amazing waterfalls, but we didn’t know too much else. On a spur of the moment decision at 7am, we decided to just go for it. We didn’t need a map (we thought), it’s a highly populated trail (we assumed), we will be fine…..
Forward fast a few hours later and we are lost in the woods – 15 miles from where we needed to be. At dusk. With no food. And two nearly dead phone batteries. Waiting for 911 to come save us.
Looking back, this potentially dangerous (as well as slightly funny and embarrassing) situation was probably when I learned the most about the importance of planning before any hike – no matter how small. Even a few years after the event, I still use this as a reminder to always be prepared. So, learn from my mistakes and use these tips on your next day hike, thru-hike, or backpacking trip to always make sure you are ready no matter what the situation:
1. Always Research the Trail Beforehand
No matter where you find your information on trails, make sure to compare these facts with a few sources. Make sure everything lines up with where the trailhead starts, how long the route is, and if the trail is an “up and back” or loop.
2. Let People Know Where You Are
Even if you are going with a buddy, make sure to let someone else know where you will be hiking and estimate of when you will be home. In the event of a dead phone battery, you will be thankful for this.
3. Bring Extra Food
This could be helpful in a lot of situations. That last uphill climb may be a little easier with an extra granola bar in your stomach, or maybe your original sandwich got left in the car, or maybe you will have to wait for 911 to come save you…. either way you will never regret packing an extra snack.
4. Pack a Map or Trail GPS
It can be something as simple as a park map, a guidebook, or a map you printed offline. Or if you’re really fancy, maybe it’s a Trail GPS. Regardless, make sure you have a way to figure out where you are and how to get back home in the case of poorly marked trails or an emergency.
5. Bring the Right Equipment
Research the conditions of the trail before you leave and be sure to wear the correct footwear, pack extra layers, socks, or additional pieces of gear based on the weather or other circumstances.
6. Always Stay Calm
In the event of something tragic, the worst thing to do is to panic. Take a deep breathe, focus on the information you know, and try to get help. Hiking with a buddy sometimes makes these situations easier.
Happy (and safe) Hiking!
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