The recent story of a Hawaii hiker getting lost in the woods for 17 days made me rethink those impromptu hikes I often take. Now, I text a friend before setting off on a hike but am also considering purchasing a GPS locater. What do other poeple do to ensure that if the worst were to happen on a hike they could be found?
There are several steps I take. I do use a PLB, but I also carry the 10 essentials on all hikes. Secondly I always leave a detailed itinerary with someone, even if that is a local ranger. This includes information on my route, party, weather conditions, snow conditions, estimated times of arrival and departure, and wether I expect to have cell service. Information is key to search and rescue groups, so the more information you give to others before going on a trip, the easier it might be for them to find you should something go wrong.
An understanding of wilderness navigation and wilderness first aid can also be super useful in preventing search and rescue situations in the first place. If you always know where you are, it is difficult to get lost.
I've never been on the trail without someone knowing where I am. Even with the last second hikes I've taken I always text a friend of a family member a quick "@ the xyz trailhead, back in x hours" that way someone out there knows where to start looking and when to start worrying.
I always carry my 10 essentials as well, even on day hikes I make sure I'm prepared to spend a night in the woods. Maybe an uncomfortable hike, but a survivable one.
Even on a day hike, I have first aid stuff, emergency stuff (bivvy, matches, Aqua Mira) plus a map and compass.
If I'm headed out of town, I'll leave my agenda with someone.
I haven't purchased a PLB, but suspect I will if I decide to backpack alone.
As a member of a canine search and rescue team, I cannot tell you how many times we have searched for people who were just going on a quick hike. Being prepared and telling someone when you are leaving, from which point, how far you plan to trek and when you will be returning are key. If you do find yourself in a situation where you feel lost, the most important thing you can do for search teams is remain in one place. Do not continue moving thinking you will find your way. If you have informed a loved one properly, they will deploy teams to help. The more you move, the more difficult it is to find you. Also, if you find yourself lost, have items with you which can alert rescuers. Our helicopter pilots can search for mirror reflections and colors against the background. Make yourself a target for them to see you. And always, always have gear with you to help you survive. GPS locators are great, but can fail just like anything else. Be smart and be safe.