What to Do If You Get Lost In the Woods

A master naturalist shares tips that every hiker, camper and outdoor enthusiast should know.

Hand holding with a compass on a background of a beautiful mountain landscape. The concept of navigating the search for your own path and orientation to the cardinal points
Photo: Shutterstock/Bonuseventus

Taking a hike off the beaten path can be a wonderful experience—until it isn’t. What happens if you get lost? Kathy Gardiner is a master naturalist who volunteers at Bass River State Forest. She teaches a class for campers and hikers on what to do if you get lost. Here are her tips.

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Stay together

Do not separate from your group, and don’t follow a pet. Members of your group should also keep away from rivers and lakes.

Make yourself visible

Pull out something bright, colorful and/or shiny so that rescuers can see you. You can also make yourself look bigger for searchers by lying on the ground and acting like you’re making an angel in the snow.

Remain in one place or area

Don’t wander. Find a cozy waiting place, but make sure it isn’t a hiding place.

Keep warm

Pack a hat and layers to bring with you, and put them on if you’re lost in cold weather.

Create a survival bed

Use sticks, branches and pine needles to create a bed as big as the one you have at home. Then put it on top of yourself; it will keep you warmer and drier than being on the ground.

Do not eat anything you can’t identify

It is better to be lost and hungry than lost and sick.

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