Remember that hiker last year who was injured and lost in the Oregon woods? She had broken her leg and spent three days and nights alone. The available details were posted here on August 9, 2011. Turns out that the injured girl and her boyfriend had become separated for a different reason (a spat), which explains how she really got lost—not by merely looking for a better place to set up a tent. See the follow-up article here.
Note what she says about maps. “My biggest mistake was failing to review maps of the area with my boyfriend before the trip.”
Besides proper clothing, water, and nourishment, you should always bring a map, or some type of field guide, when you hike. Have a map of where you will start, where you intend to go, and where you will finish. I keep my maps ready to see and protected in a transparent zip-loc bag. If I plan to follow a particular trail, I hi-lite it in yellow ahead of time. And when I invite my friends to hike, I provide extra maps, should we become separated.
Here’s another idea to avoid getting lost by Tom Mangan, who writes the hiking blog Two-Heel Drive. The ubiquitous digital camera can save the day. “If the trailhead has a map of the general area you’re hiking . . . just take a picture of the map, then use your camera’s playback function and zoom into the area where you are hiking.” There are other excellent ideas on how to avoid getting lost in his post.
Easy for me to say, but work together when you hike with others. Arguments and disputes can happen, but if you are out in the wilds, try to suck it up and join forces, so you don’t get in a jam. In any event, bring maps. You wouldn’t want to hike in areas shown in the pictures without maps.