The new Discovery channel programme Bear Grylls: Escape From Hell tells the stories of those who have been lost in dangerous territory and survived. You would think that these would be tales of intrepid daring do and would feature mainly people who live life on the edge but most of the stories are actually about normal people doing relatively normal things. These are ordinary folk who have found themselves lost whilst out trekking or skiing not explorers in search of remote civilisations. The more I watch, the more it has hit home how easy it is to find yourself in trouble on even a comparatively mundane trip.
In the mountains, forests and deserts of our wonderful planet the terrain can be deceptive. Wander off a designated trail for just a few metres and you can quickly become disorientated even in places that you think you know well. I have come perilously close to getting lost on a few occasions and my own experiences coupled with the stories told by Bear Grylls have taught me the benefit of travelling prepared for all eventualities. When even a sudden turn in the weather can spell trouble it is worth equipping yourself with a few extras in case disaster strikes.
I now always set out with more food and drink than I really need for a hike. Even a minor weather delay can be made a lot more pleasant to deal with if you have extra provisions. Lack of water is one of the most serious issues any stranded trekker will face, especially in the desert, and so the more you have with you the better and the containers will enable you to gather more water if you find a suitable source.
It is also advisable to take a few small pieces of kit which won’t add much weight to your pack but which could help save your life. Foil survival blankets cost and weigh very little but could be crucial if you are stranded at night. A torch, knife and simple first aid kit should also be included together with a length of climbing rope and the means to start a fire.
It also helps if you have the means to ascertain your location or at least deduce which direction you are travelling in. If your budget allows a GPS device is a great asset and if you are thinking of investing in a new tiempiece then choose a model with a compass incorporated. You may want to wear a watch anyway so you might as well make it as useful as possible. Take your mobile phone and a mobile charger as if you can find a signal your phone could prove vital as a means to call for help.
It may seem a little excessive to take all these things with you when you venture into the great outdoors but you can fit all the extra equipment you need into a space the size of a lunchbox. One of the stories recounted by Bear Grylls was a bit of an eye opener in this regard. One poor guy went for a hike on a trail he had walked many times before. He was in familiar territory in an American national park and yet became hopelessly lost and almost died having been stranded in the desert for several days. His mistake was simply to take one wrong turn. It is as easy as that!
Article by Sally Stacey