Most of us don’t plan on getting lost, it just happens. However so pre-planning before setting off on an adventure could help a good deal in case you do lose your way. When hiking certain routes you are obliged to sign a register to let someone responsible know where you are going as well as enabling them to mount a rescue operation in case you do not return. Apply the same philosophy if venturing off on any type of adventure, give a good friend your itinerary with as much detail as possible and check in whenever you are able( signal permitting ). This will assist a search operation should you get lost or injured. Remember if something goes wrong and you have cell reception a dropped pin will be invaluable.
Knowledge of map-work and using a compass will be critical especially if your GPS or phone runs out of charge- on that front I always take a Zartek Torch along, it is designed to double as a power bank and can charge a GPS or cellphone.
It’s important to realise that a compass can not tell you where to go or locate you but in tandem with a map you can establish that you are going in the right direction. A back bearing from you point of departure will assist your return should you have left your vehicle.
Many hikes in South Africa are situated in areas subject to drastic weather change so ensure that you are protected from the wet, the cold as well as the sun. Take your cellphone and a GPS as well as a torch/power bank for charging and signalling. Take a mirror, matches and a lighter – all these items should be kept in waterproof containers or bags. A hat and a headlamp are also prerequisite. Food and water should both be way in excess of your daily requirement and should include some dry trail packs! Add to that a glow-stick for signalling as well as a whistle which could aid a rescue operation.
If you get lost for whatever reason stay calm and do not panic, if in a group one person needs to take charge as that will also ensure that calm prevails. Breathe, have a snack and some water then consult you map, orientate it and look for you back bearing, you may have to call the trip off and return to your departure point. Walk a circle or grid pattern keeping everyone in sight, you may find footprints or trail markers. and orientate yourself to features on the map. If all fails and you have signal call for help and send a dropped pin. Ensure that your phone is accessible, not on silent and turn off anything that can shorten the battery life. At this point the best thing to do is stay put in a sheltered location where you can stay warm and dry- if there is an obvious open flat spot like a field gather there if the rescue could be by helicopter. Oh, and don’t forget a cellphone charging cable, no good having a power bank and not being able to use it.