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What To Do If You Get Lost Or Injured While Hiking

A hiker that was missing for over two weeks in a forest reserve on the island of Maui in Hawaii was found on Friday.

Amanda Eller’s survival—even after injury—has been credited to her resourcefulness as well as knowledge as a physical therapist and yoga instructor. This includes being familiar with the local vegetation and the luck of being in a climate with abundant water that is crucial for survival. Her physical strength, knowledge of the body and tools to staying calm may have also played a role. She was an avid hiker and spent lots of time exploring the great outdoors and outdoor sports.

The 35-year-old first went missing on May 8 after going for a hike in the Makawao Forest Reserve. Eller reportedly was injured while hiking, suffering from a leg fracture and left stranded. A Facebook page was started to help find her, with some even thinking she was abducted. However, rescue efforts continued and eventually found her waving down a helicopter. She was found barefoot between two waterfalls.

Besides the fracture, Eller lost 15 pounds while in the forest.

This just goes to show that even as a hiker who had experience and was in good health, accidents and injury could still occur.

So what do you do if got lost or injured when hiking?

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Photo by Holly Mandarich on Unsplash

What To Do If You Are Lost On A Hike

No one expects to get lost while going for a nature walk. But what you need to do is to plan for this happening in order to be properly prepared in case it does.

Even if you are going on a short hike, it’s important to gear up and bring along the essentials. Bring along your hiking backpack and always have the following supplies:

  • Water and food: Enough to extend the length of the hike (think energy bars that aren’t perishable).
  • Compass: One that you know how to use.
  • A flashlight and matches
  • A jacket: preferable waterproof or with some insulation in case of cold or wet temperatures
  • A map of the trails: Even if you know the park, forest, or mountains well have a printed map in case you get off course or need another way back.
  • Aspirin
  • Ice pack
  • Bandages/splint
  • Whistle
  • Bug screen
  • Sunscreen

Remember that phones die or lose signals. Don’t rely on your phone’s GPS. Having the right gear is essential for survival. Do not panic. Just stop in your tracks, try to breathe and stay calm.

If you think you might be lost, stop walking to avoid getting deeper into the forest.

If clueless about where you are, it sometimes is best to stay put and wait for help. This is a great option for areas that see lots of hikers. It is also the best plan of action for the elderly and children. Use sticks to write SOS for helicopters or make smoke. Staying in place means being prepared to wait and maybe for a long time. Get some supplies together for shelter or fire before night falls.

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Sometimes it is best to navigate back to a trail or the way you came. Think about any noticeable landmarks around to determine if anything seems familiar. This is why it’s best to explore new trails with others who are familiar before venturing out solo.

Stay on the trail since you will eventually come along a marked sign. If not on a trail, do not walk around without knowing where you are or where you are going. Determine directions using the compass and map. Periodically check phone signal for GPS and to send texts or calls for help.

Take time to rest in the shade and to refuel when feeling tired. Keep drinking water to prevent dehydration.

Following downhill or sources of water are also good tips when lost and not knowing any direction to go. This can be dangerous, but following a source of water usually ends up reaching civilization. Walk in the direction of car sounds, traffic, farm animals, or sights of footprints or smoke. Leave a trail as you go, marking trees or the path.

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Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

What To Do If You Get Injured On A Hike

There are various injuries that can occur when on a hike. This includes small things like blisters (bring bandaids!), bug bites, sunburn, and cuts to more serious injuries like sprains, fractures, dehydration, and hypothermia.

Having the proper hiking gear like moisture wicking socks and properly fitted hiking boots are great ways to prevent blisters and even sprains if the ankle is protected. It also means layering up on clothes to be able to take some off or on to be prepared for various temperatures.

If a sprain occurs, rest and take the pressure off the ankle. Ice it if there is access to an ice pack and add compression after like by using a shirt to wrap it.

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Photo by Daniil Silantev on Unsplash

Minor cuts might be able to be addressed after the hike. More severe ones require a bandage or tourniquet in more extreme cases. Again, use a loose piece of clothing.

Drink enough water while hiking to prevent dehydration. Bring enough water on the hike and refill bottles is possible. Bringing along electrotypes or salt tablets are good ideas.

Always wear sunscreen before heading outside, even on colder days. Apply bug spray to prevent bites from mosquitos and ticks.

To prevent hypothermia, wear suitable clothing such as layers. Properly plan the hiking course to avoid getting lost. Try to stay warm and dry. Bring along a space blanket to further keep warm if in need of shelter. Get help as soon as possible and get back to safety.

For serious injuries like a break or fracture, or getting trapped while hiking, try not to panic. Since there might be some pain, it’s smart to also have aspirin on hand in your hiking pack. First address the injury to the best of your ability. Then start to call for help. This is where a whistle comes in handy. You will not be able to move in some cases, so try to set up camp until help can arrive. Try to stay dry and warm,

If you can walk, try to find a large walking stick and slowly make way back to the trail exit or continue to seek for help.

Sources:

https://www.fs.fed.us/visit/know-before-you-go/if-you-get-lost

https://montemlife.com/what-to-do-if-you-get-lost-hiking/

Lost on a Hike: Prepare for When You Lose Your Sense of Direction

2019 Update – How To Treat Hiking Injuries: A Hillwalk Guide

https://www.popsci.com/break-bone-in-wilderness-first-aid-how-to#page-3

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