How to Find Your Way Back to Your Hiking Group

By Nick Oetken
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How to Find Your Way Back to Your Hiking Group

Nick Oetken
 
Venetberg, Austria - August 02 2017: Single hiker in the early morning at sunrise on a trekking path in the Lechtaler Alps
Venetberg, Austria - August 02 2017: Single hiker in the early morning at sunrise on a trekking path in the Lechtaler Alps
 
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If you ever plan to go on a hiking trip, you really should prepare for the worst that could happen… and the worst that could happen is that you could get lost and cut off from your fellow hikers.

Murphy’s Law applies strongly to any kind of outdoor experience away from civilization. If you ever go hiking with a group of people, there is always the possibility that one of you (if not you) could become lost and stranded.

If you ever do find yourself lost while hiking, know that it isn’t entirely your fault and that you’re certainly not the first person to experience it.

Always be prepared for the possibility that you could become cut off and lost from your group during a hiking trip
Always be prepared for the possibility that you could become cut off and lost from your group during a hiking trip

However, it is your responsibility to be prepared: to know how to react in such cases and how to rejoin the others safely as soon as possible.

So, here’s the scenario: you are on a hiking trip and suddenly you don’t see anyone around you anymore. Or maybe you see just two or three people around but not the entire group of thirty people. It happens. Maybe you took a wrong turn somewhere. Whatever the reason, you don’t see everybody you saw when you first started the journey.

You’re lost. That’s right; you are now either alone or with a bunch of confused people like you. Don’t panic. That’s the first thing to keep in mind. It won’t solve anything, just have faith that by the end of the day you are going to be back in your cozy bed in your house and ready to sleep.

Follow the Bushes

Alright, so one of the first things to do when you find yourself lost and separated from others is to try not to move too fast and not to move randomly. Try to remember where you came from and start going back. As always, do not move too fast or you will mess up the signs that might show in which direction the others went.

While going back to where you came from, keep your eyes on plants – especially bushes. The reason you should do this is that you might spot some broken branches or moved bushes, which can indicate that people passed that way. You might also see small pieces of rope tied to one of these bushes.

Many travelers use this kind of orientation during a group hiking trip, so move slowly and focus on the plants you have around you. Are any of them different? Are there any broken branches from the group that passed that way? Are there any colored robes tied to them? This will help hint at the place that you took the wrong turn and maybe find the right way.

Listen for Rock and Water Sounds

This one is probably one of the easiest ways to get back on the right track: when you realize you are lost, instead of moving from where you are, which may take you even more in the wrong direction, stay where you are and open your ears.

Focus. Try to listen for sounds, particularly for moving rocks or water sounds. This can indicate people nearby. Rock sounds are not 100% accurate as they can be some animal moving, but water sounds are more reliable.

If you ever get lost in the woods, one of the best things you can do is to listen for the sound of running water
If you ever get lost in the woods, one of the best things you can do is to listen for the sound of running water

Try to remember if the trip involved stopping at a nearby river or taking pictures of a waterfall. Listen and see if you can spot where the sound is coming from. If you are lucky enough to spot any water sounds, move slowly towards the source because that’s where your group probably went.

Never Split

Splitting is never a good idea, especially if neither one of you has any idea of where you are.
Splitting is never a good idea, especially if neither one of you has any idea of where you are.

If you are lost in a small group of two or more people, the chances of getting back on the track are higher depending on the behavior of everyone around. Splitting is never a good idea, especially if neither one of you has any idea of where you are. It can lead to more people lost (and in different locations), which will eventually make things worse.

Try to collaborate with each other, and always stay together. See if one of you has a map or can remember any specific indication as to where one of the main stops that the group is going to make is.  Move slowly and always keep eyes on each other to make sure no one is left behind.

Above that, try to call out for names. Maybe the group did not go too far ahead and you are closer than you think you are. Avoid panicking and start strategizing instead. Use your instinct as to where you think you made the wrong turn. Try to remember a familiar place where you saw anybody from the group for the last time and how much time has passed since you became alone.

 
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