Wed. Nov 29th, 2023
How to avoid getting lost

We can definitely recommend getting “lost” in our provincial parks taking in the sights and sounds of nature and living in the moment.

However, we do not recommend obtaining in fact lost.

Park visitors get lost more often than you think. It can be a scary, stressful and dangerous situation. It can also result in complicated and costly search and rescue operations.

While we know that no one sets out to get lost, there are steps you can take to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.

Plan Ahead and Arrive Prepared

Knowing your limits is important. Be realistic about how long a particular route will take and give yourself plenty of time to get off the trail before dark.

Hiking trail marker on tree in forestLook for trail markers and stay on marked trails.

Research the area and/or trail you are visiting. Study maps and plan your route before you leave.

Do not venture off the marked trails. If you stray, retrace your steps.

Dress in layers and be prepared for changes in weather. Carry extra water and basic survival tools, such as a whistle, flashlight, matches or lighter, energy snacks, and a small first aid kit.

hikers in the autumn forest

Especially if you are less experienced, travel with another person whenever possible. If you’re traveling alone, make a travel plan and share your destination, route, and estimated return time with a friend or family member.

Maps still matter

Mobile phones are very practical and make our lives easier in many ways. But technology can fail. Phones get lost and broken. They run out of batteries and, especially in the middle of a park, can be out of range of the cell phone signal.

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Two cyclists looking at the map in Algonquin Park

While most of us have a map on our phone, It’s important not to rely solely on your phone for navigation. if you spend time in nature.

people looking at the mapPlan your route in advance and bring a map of the park.

Luckily, your brain can be your backup plan! Learn to read a map and use a compass. A map will never run out of batteries and a compass does not depend on a cell phone signal!

Challenge yourself to learn these old-school (and incredibly valuable) skills this year, before you head out on an outdoor adventure.

There’s an application for that

Once you’ve learned the basics of navigation, you can still embrace technology to guide your outdoor experience.

Apps like AllTrails can turn your phone into a handy GPS device that will help you track your location and make your trips happier and safer. GPS is based on a satellite system, not cell towers, so even if you are in an area without cell service, your phone’s GPS will still work.

hiker using phone

The what3words app uses a combination of words to help identify and share your location over a phone call or data connection.

The Search and Rescue Volunteer Association of Canada’s AdventureSmart trip planning app guides you through the preparation process and sharing your trip plan to make sure you’re ready for anything (learn more about AdventureSmart here).

tents AdventureSmart App hiker graphic

If your phone is part of your navigation toolkit, check your carrier’s coverage map. Make sure your phone is fully charged before you head out, take steps to conserve battery, and consider traveling with a portable solar charger.

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Test your GPS app or device before you go and make sure you know how to use it (and don’t forget to have your map and compass as backup).

You’re lost, now what?

Sometimes the best laid plans fail. A change in weather, a wrong turn or an injury can leave you stranded.

Here’s what to do if you get lost:

  • Make a call if you can. Dial 911 and share your location. Use your GPS coordinates or landmarks you passed by to help rescuers determine your location. If your cell service is down, try sending a text message; Sometimes they happen when calls don’t.
  • Keep calm. We know it’s easier said than done. Sit for a moment, conserve your energy, and try to collect your thoughts.
  • Stay still. It is much easier for rescuers to find you if you stay in one place. Don’t keep wandering: find an open place and wait for help.

Let the adventures begin!

Adventures in Ontario parks are safer, more enjoyable and happier when you have all the right knowledge and tools.

Mother and son walk during fall colors at Bon Echo

Knowing the basics of boating, being prepared, and making a trip plan are great ways to ensure your time in the wilderness is memorable—for all the right reasons!