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Getting Lost - A Problem for Beginning Hikers

Jun 6, 2008
Hiking is a fairly safe activity especially compared to extreme sports but there are still some dangers that you need to be prepared for. Among them, getting lost is probably the number one problem for beginning hikers. Inexperienced hikers get a false sense of security especially if they have taken a handful of hikes without incident. Don't fall victim to this. Here are some things that will help you not get lost and what to do in case you do get lost.

Getting lost is easier than most hikers think. Stepping off the trail only a few hundred yards into unmarked thick vegetation can easily disorient you. You may think you know how to get back and mistakenly go in the wrong direction which will make it worse. Or you may misread a map and think you're going in one direction but in reality you're going in another.

First off, become familiar with your map and know where you're going and what landmarks you should see along the way. In this way you'll know approximately how long your hike should last and when you should be seeing the landmarks. Also hike with a buddy and if possible, someone who is an experienced hiker. Two heads are better than one so if you start going in the wrong direction you have someone to compare notes with.

Stay on well marked trails until you gain some experience. Make sure you bring some basic navigational equipment; a map and compass is essential. A GPS unit is also beneficial but they don't always work if there's no signal so make sure you have a compass as a backup. Know how to use your navigational equipment before you set off on your hike. Also know the general direction of your starting point; if you get lost you can find your way using your compass or the sun or stars.

While you're hiking make mental notes of landmarks such as outcroppings and streams. If you get lost stay calm and try to retrace your steps by remembering the landmarks you've seen. If you're still having trouble then try to find a stream. Most trails start at the bottom of a hill or mountain so if you follow the downward flow of the stream it should end at the bottom of the hill or mountain. You can also climb a tree or hike to a clearing to get a view of your area that can help you get a sense of direction.

Lastly, make sure you've left your itinerary and when you should be back with a friend or relative. In case you get lost, they will know the area to look for you.
About the Author
Greg Hansward frequently publishes summaries on things relating to malaga spain. You might see his work on malaga over at http://www.alicante-spain.com .
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