Search & Rescue…

Navigation and Orientation

Once on the trail with your safety gear in place in your pack, there are a number of ways to navigate in the wilderness to ensure that you do not get lost. Whether you want to go high-tech or low-tech, common sense comes into play. No matter what type of navigational tool used, hikers need to be aware of their surroundings and pay attention to visual clues. Try any of the following navigational tips:

Use Your Topographical Map

For hikers who plan to stay on trails and not walk cross-country, a topographical map may be all that’s needed. Know how to read the terrain via the map: “waves” on mountain ranges indicate steep elevation changes, while more spread-out lines indicate flat space.

Navigate With a GPS Unit

This is far the easiest way to navigate, provided that the owner knows how to use it. Finding one’s way with a GPS unit can be as easy as pressing a button. Ask for instruction on using your unit when buying (it’s best to purchase a GPS unit at a store specializing in outdoor equipment), and make sure to have extra batteries on hand. Always carry a map, as well, in case your GPS unit loses signal.

Orient by Compass

Go “old school” and impress your friends with your compass knowledge! Always reliable and never needing batteries, compasses take up very little room in your pack and weigh next to nothing. However, compass navigation can be complicated to learn: make sure you know how to use yours before relying on it.

You’re Lost: What Now?

In the event that a hiker does become lost in the woods, despite carrying the right gear and using navigational tools, there’s really only one rule to remember. Luckily, it’s an easy one: stay in one place. Wherever you become lost, stay there! In my many hours as a search and rescue volunteer, I participated in searches that took hours or even days… all because the lost hiker stayed on the move (while we moved after him or her). Therefore, when lost, stay put! Then take the following steps:

1. Find nearby shelter from the elements, such as a tree or rock.

2. Use your bandana to alert rescuers. Hang it on a tree branch, or wear it on your head.

3. Shine your CD if a helicopter or plane is visible. It’s remarkable how well “spotters” – rescuers sitting next to pilots – can see it!

4. Drink water.

5. Stay in one place, even through the night.

Source: Blog

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