One of the biggest fear of beginner backpackers is getting lost. I understand this fear, because it happened to me once. In 2008, I was hiking in Northern California with a few of my friends. There was still snow on the ground, so following trails was difficult. At this time, there were no phone apps to help guide our way, and we were all ill-prepared for what we were going to face. All we had to go on was a basic trail map. We carried no extra supplies, no GPS, and no compass. We ended up getting off the trail and became very lost. We tried calling for help unsuccessfully but, luckily, we stumbled onto the trail again after a little more than ten hours searching.
That frightening experience taught me many lessons about having the right tools available when backpacking, and knowing how to use those tools. Keep reading for tips to help you not get lost on your backpacking adventures.
We have all heard of street smarts, but there are also some basic smarts for when you are out on the trails. This requires properly planning and preparing before setting out. Here are some of the things you need before your backpacking trip:
- Always make sure someone knows when and where you are heading and when you plan to return. That way, if you get lost, someone knows the general area you will be in.
- Check all weather updates before heading out, as well as the park’s website for any pertinent information.
- Always carry extra water and food
- Use sign in and out registers on trails and shelters
- Keep a first aid kit handy at all times
- Ensure your phone is charged before leaving out
- Wear extra clothes for warmth and carry a headlamp
- Carry a map and a GPS or compass for backup
Though the above items seem like common sense, it is always best to double check to ensure you don’t forget anything. Getting lost can be scary, but having the right equipment with you can be the difference between life and death.