Stay Put

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be."
- Douglas Adams

Review the Following:

Leave Word

Stay Safe- Leave Word
The scenario as described on this page reinforces the importance of a properly-submitted Trip Plan.

A Trip Plan insures you’ll be reported missing when overdue, and rescuers will have a good idea where to initiate their search.

Try to Stay in One Location

Okay, you realize you’re lost. You’ve tried everything. You’re unable to establish your current location or find a way to a known location.

Random wandering beyond this point risks:

  • Increased panic when subsequent attempts at “self-orientation” fail.
  • Increased fatigue brought on by pointless exertion.
  • Diminished critical resources such as food and water.
  • Wasted time that could be spent on critical tasks such as shelter building and wood gathering.

Most importantly, those looking for you will have trouble finding you if you continually move around.

Establish a “Home Away From Home”

Depending on circumstances, you may be there for a while.

Pick out a good spot, and stay there. Take control of your situation. Choose your location based on safety, sustainability, proximity, and visibility.

A Word About Cell Phone Coverage

Our worst-case scenario assumes you don’t have cell coverage. Great if you have it, however many wilderness areas have no coverage at all.

Cell phones rely on line-of-sight to cell towers; you may achieve coverage if you move slightly from place to place around your spot.

Don’t get carried away, though, especially if you’ve had no coverage on your hike up to this point. Turn your phone off until you’re ready to try again. If left on, the phone runs the battery down as it continually searches for coverage strength.

Ultimately you have more pressing needs, such as water, etc.


Use your head. Move out of the path of fires, locate above flood-prone (flash-flood or high water) areas, avoid obvious avalanche or slide chutes, don’t sit under a solitary tree on a ridge in a lightning storm, etc. etc.


Water may become critical during an extended stay. Try to locate near an accessible water source, but keep safety (see above) in mind. Water is a much higher priority than food. Without water you die quickly.

Avoiding areas unduly exposed to high wind or other weather extremes greatly aids your survival and eases shelter considerations.


Searchers will look first in the area you’re most likely to be found, based on the best information they have. They’ll reference their search based on information you listed in your Trip Plan (remember we discussed trip plans earlier?). Focus will be placed on your last known position or point where you were last seen.

Searchers will consider one or more of the following:

  • The trail you were hiking on, or particular area you said you were going to be in.
  • Your group’s location at the time you were separated from the group.
  • Your campsite location, if you got lost while away from camp.
  • A location on the trail or other area where you talked to, or had been seen by, other recreationists.
  • A location where items, readily identifiable as yours, have been found.

The information accumulated is used to establish where you have the highest probability of being found.

You get the point…you’re better off remaining in an area where searchers are prone to look for you, rather than moving to a less obvious location.


You want to be seen. Try to find a location in or near an open area that can searchers can see from the air or ground.