Tips for surviving the outdoors should you find yourself lost

APACHE JUNCTION, AZ - Arizona's outdoors can be beautiful to enjoy but a fun hiking trip can quickly turn into a dangerous situation.

So what do you do if you find yourself having to go into survival mode?

It's a situation Pam Paley found herself in two years ago when she went on a hike through the Superstition Mountains.

Her plan was to just do a half-day hike with a friend. Instead, rain and fog rolled in after the hikers had reached the peak of the mountain. The fog quickly dropped the visibility and the hikers became disoriented, straying far off the trail as they tried to hike down the mountain.

As night set in, Paley says they had to come to terms with the idea that they were lost and would have to stay in the mountains overnight until the fog cleared the next day. With temperatures dropping into the 30s that night, Paley says it was the longest night of her life.

Their story is one we hear often in Arizona.

Pete Walka teaches first aid at the Flagstaff Field Institute. He says it's easy to for hikers to get lost because there's not always a clearly defined trail and everything can start looking the same.

However, Walka says there are things you can do to prepare in case you end up lost in the backcountry. The main thing is to prepare for the unexpected.

Walka says regardless of the length or difficulty of your hike, you should at least pack the "10 essentials" before heading out the door:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Map and compass or a GPS
  • Sun protection (sunblock)
  • Insulation (extra clothes)
  • Illumination (flashlight or headlamp)
  • First aid supplies
  • Lighter or matches for a fire (NOT a forest fire)
  • Knife
  • Emergency shelter

In addition to packing these supplies, Walka says you should dress appropriately for your hike. He says it's important to not travel alone and always have a hiking partner. Plus, Walka says you should always tell someone where you're going and stay on your route.

If you do get lost, the first thing Walka says you should do is admit it. He says most people don't admit they're lost and stray off the trail even further as they're searching for their way back. So instead, he says you should stay put and if necessary, find shelter. You'll want to signal for help immediately so make sure you conserve your phone's battery because you may need it to make that emergency call.

Walka says surviving the outdoors is about common sense. If you plan ahead, take the proper equipment and even get some first aid or survival training before you head out, you could be in a much better position if you find yourself having to go into survival mode.

Since her mountain rescue, Paley has returned to hike the same trail through the Superstitions because she says she didn't want to be afraid of the mountain. However, since her rescue she has taken safety training and makes sure she has all the equipment she needs should she ever find herself in that situation again.

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