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If You’re Ever Lost in the Woods, Remember to STOP

Posted by 
August 1, 2014


STOP header2


If you have ever been lost, you know the rush of emotion that overcomes you when the trouble is realized. At the exact moment when being lost is confirmed, a person will either make the situation worse by "freaking out," or they'll figure out the next move if they remain calm and focused.

A popular acronym used throughout the hiking community, STOP, reminds a lost hiker what to do when they first realize they're off course. Following are what each letter of STOP represents to a lost hiker and if followed, the odds are greatly increased in a safe recovery.


STOP blogSimple as that. Do not go rambling around in a frenzy, hoping to find a quick fix to your problem. Sit down, relax and have a drink of water and a snack. Once your composure is regained, then and only then are you ready for the next step.


If you have a working compass, decide which way is north and relate that bearing with what direction you headed when leaving the trailhead or last known break point. If you are not alone, calmly consider your partner's thoughts and come to an agreement on the next move.


Begin looking around at your surroundings and tune in your senses. Hear a road noise in the distance, or a flowing creek, or a barking dog or any other sign of civilization? Check your gear to ensure you have ample water supply and consider how much daylight is left.


This is game time. If you are sure you have your bearings realigned and if time allows, go ahead and begin your return route. If not 100 percent sure, it's better to prepare a camp at the spot you stand. Wait for help. Of course, help will only come much quicker if you have informed someone of your hiking plan.


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Robert Loewendick

Robert Loewendick is a freelance outdoor writer and guidebook author with work regularly published in magazines, newspapers and websites, both in the U.S. and in Canada. Spending days and nights surrounded by the natural world is not a hobby, but instead a lifestyle for Loewendick. Whether fly-fishing a mountain stream or cruising a Great Lake for angling adventures, hiking miles of tame trails or wild ones, paddling calm lakes or running rapids, Loewendick's days outdoors regularly end at a campsite. His award-winning writing has earned him active memberships in Outdoor Writers Association of America and Outdoor Writers of Ohio. 

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