Admit it, you’re lost. It’s a scary feeling, especially if you’ve been out for more than one day, even more so if you have hurt yourself badly enough that you can’t travel far.
In addition to your 10 essentials and adequate preparation for your trip, here’s a (not comprehensive) list of some goodies that might help a rescue crew pinpoint your location and get you home safe:
• Signal mirror: You can either use a mirror dedicated for this purpose with a sighting hole or just bring along your standard compass with a built-in mirror. On a sunny day, a well-aimed mirror can help you catch the air crew’s eye.
• Reflective emergency blanket: Not only is it surprisingly warm for its size and weight, it is one really big reflective surface that can be spotted from pretty far away.
• Very bright clothing: Take a tip from 1980s fashion and go fluorescent, the brighter the better. That sage-green shirt complements your complexion so well, but it won’t help you get spotted.
• Get in the open: On a (safe) high point and, if you see a helicopter, make big arm movements. You may see the aircraft easily silhouetted against a clear blue sky, but from their vantage point you look like an ant in the grass.
• Spot with texting, satellite phone: Ask for help directly. The more information about your location and current condition you can give emergency resources, the better they can adjust their response, bringing the right equipment and personnel.
• Flashlights and headlamps, especially if you have ones with a strobe mode, can help to quickly call attention to your location at night.
• Charged cell phone: Not only can they be used to help contact authorities and roughly pinpoint your location if you have a weak cell signal, their light can be surprisingly visible from the air at night, sometimes up to several miles away in the right conditions.
• Extra batteries for all these gadgets.
• Signal fire: The word fire makes us all nervous and rightly so. But sometimes a flame at night or smoke during the day can be the thing that leads rescuers your way. But be extremely careful. You don’t want to create another, much larger emergency.
• Whistle: Not all search efforts will come from the air. Ground searchers can hear things a helicopter crew cannot. Long after your voice would become raw from yelling you can still blow a whistle.
• Leave obvious tracks. If you must move to find shelter or to remove yourself from danger, make sure to leave obvious tracks. Dragging your feet in the ground, making arrows to your location, and being as obvious as possible can give ground searchers something to work with.
This is in no way a comprehensive list of what to bring for or do in a wilderness emergency. Make sure to always have your 10 essentials on you, and always prepare adequately for a safe trip.
Rescue resources such as helicopters may not always be available due to local weather, terrain and resource limitations. A helicopter is not guaranteed, nor always a safe or necessary option.
Stay safe out there.