10 tips to avoid getting lost
Many people who set out on a self-guided walking holiday will express concerns about getting lost. While Macs Adventure send out turn-by-turn route notes and detailed maps for all our trips, as well access to a 24/7 emergency helpline, it is well worth reassuring yourself with a navigation course or an on-line refresher on map reading. Here we bring you 10 tips to avoid getting lost while walking.
Know before you go: Before setting out for each day’s walking make sure you have read through all the walking notes. If there is anything that concerns you it will be possible to check it out before you leave, rather than finding out en route that you are not sure about a step to take. Also check the step-by-step guide notes with the map and make notes of anything you want to remember while walking. This is also a good way to plan where you will stop for a break or lunch along the day’s walk.
Read more: The guidebooks will add extra information to your day’s walk so it’s also a good idea to read up ahead of the walk. For example, you won’t want to miss a gem of a vineyard or an amazing lunch stop because you only read this after the walk or because it’s shut when you arrive.
Take a step back: If you feel you might be lost, rather than pushing on regardless pay heed to your gut feeling and take a step back. Go back to where you were sure you were not lost and look at the route guide again.
Learn the language: You will often back up your route guide with local signposting so it’s worth knowing a few common navigation words in the country’s language. For example, All roads (head this way) in French is “Toutes les routes”.
Listen out: If you heading for a town or village you might be able to hear the traffic of a main road nearby. This will help you to re-locate where you are on a map or in your environment.
Where is the sun? Learn to read your location form the sun's direction.
Nature’s way: Natural elements, such as the sun and wind, can help to keep you walking in the right direction. When you set out for your day’s walk think about where the wind is coming from. Then think about the general direction of your hike. In this way you should be able to assess if you are generally on track (so long as the wind doesn’t change.) You can also read your direction of travel according to where the sun is in the sky and the time of day.
Map reading: If your walking holiday is off the beaten track it’s essential that you know how to read a map and compass and take a bearing. Although Macs Adventure provide step-by-step route guides this will not help you when you are unsure about the next step in a remote location. It is important that you can cross-reference these route notes with a basic map and compass. Try some of our other blogs on Map Reading, including tips from OS.
Download an app to help you navigate.
Love the gadgets: A smartphone compass app, a GPS app or a stand-alone GPS gadget can offer a great deal of reassurance. It can sometimes be enough simply to re-locate yourself on a map. However, in difficult weather conditions as GPS gadget will often prove to be a hugely reassuring navigation aid.
Have back up: Always carry extra batteries for your GPS gadget and a mobile charger for your phone. These navigation accessories will be useless if they run out of battery or charge.
Which path to take?
Think ahead: There are different ways to think about how lost you might become according to where you are on the hike.
- Y-turns: If you reach a Y-turn and you’re not sure about the route there’s a 50-50 chance you’ll pick the wrong turn. So, you should be prepared to follow the right or left route and then retrace your steps if you are not sure, or to check you are right.
- A small detour: You might choose to take a short detour to a waterfall or to a hill summit. Make sure you keep a careful eye on how to return to the route proper. You could track your off-route details on a navigation app, for example, or keep a careful eye on your map.
- Chatting and walking: When you are talking with someone else you will be more likely to miss a turn or signpost because you are distracted. Don’t give up on the chat but do pay extra attention to the step-by-step guide.
- Walking in groups: Sometimes, in a group, someone will take the lead. But this doesn’t mean they know where they are going. Make sure there are two people who are checking the route so that one person doesn’t take you off in the wrong direction.
Getting a tiny bit lost is not normally a problem and sometimes it creates new adventures but it’s much better to stay on track, especially as Macs Adventure plan the best routes for your walking holiday.