A float trip can quickly turn into a headache if you get lost or become separated from the group. While the likelihood of this happening is slim, it is entirely possible. Keeping a level head and knowing the do’s and don’ts in these types of situations can save your life.
The First Moment You Realize You’re Lost
The realization that you’re lost can be a potent stress inducer. Just remember to stay calm and keep your wits about you. It is very important not to panic. You will want to stop moving so you don’t get even further from the campsite. Next, your goal is to make some noise so your friends can find you. Keeping a whistle around your neck can be a huge help, but if you don’t have one you will need to shout for help or whistle with your fingers.
Now you have to listen to find your way back. Can you hear your friends shouting from the campsite? If you can’t hear your friends, listen for the sound of the river. Then, follow the sound of the river to find your campsite. If all you hear is silence, realize that wandering around aimlessly is NEVER a good idea. Wandering around makes it much harder for you to be found.
Stop, Think, and Look for Clues
Take a moment to stop and think about the path you took. Can you identify any landmarks that might lead you back to camp? Landmarks like a special tree, rock, cliff, or part of the environment that stick out could be a clue back to the group. Also, look for clues like your own footprints or brush that you broke or knocked down to find your path back.
Find a High Vantage Point
Ok, you are lost, alone, and can’t find the path back. Now what? Look around and see if you can find a high vantage point that is nearby. Is there a hill close by? Can you find a tree that you are capable of climbing without getting injured? Finding some high ground can help make you easier to see as well as increasing your chances of seeing the campsite or river. Be careful, though! Remember, you do not want to risk injury by putting yourself in a dangerous situation. Don’t attempt to climb something beyond your skill level. If you do have to leave your immediate area to find high ground, be sure to mark your path with something bright so others can see where you have been.
Stay Put and Make a Fire
By now you have exhausted your options to get back to the group without wandering off aimlessly and alone. What should you do next? The next thing to do is to build a fire. Not only will it provide you with heat and light, but it will also act as a beacon to people searching for you. The smoke that a fire creates is a dead giveaway of your location, and it can be seen from very far away provided it is daytime. If it is night, then you should build a fire on the highest ground in your immediate area. Instead of smoke, your rescuers will be able to see the firelight.
Getting lost can be scary, but staying calm and following these tips will make it much easier for your group to find you. Above all else, remember not wander off! Stay put, don’t panic, and wait for your friends to become reunited with your group.