These days, we use our smartphones for everything. They’re always with us, even when we’re in the backcountry. Smartphones are helpful but they shouldn’t be your line of defense if you’re out in the wilderness. Technology is never a substitute for knowledge, experience and safe planning.

When you’re hiking in the backcountry, cell phone reception is often non-existent. Even on hiking trails that are located close to cities, reception can be spotty due to the terrain. You should not rely on your cellphone to call for help or to guide you to safety. Many unprepared hikers have gotten themselves into more trouble by going further off trail in search of a cellphone signal, making it more difficult for rescuers to locate them.

The battery life on smartphones leaves something to be desired, and batteries can be drained quickly if the phone is constantly searching for a signal. To preserve battery life, turn your phone off or at least turn it to airplane mode while you’re hiking. By doing so, you will increase the chances that your phone will be available to use in an emergency.

While it is a good idea to carry your cell phone with you while hiking, you should not rely on it as part of your survival plan. Prepare yourself for unexpected circumstances and pack a map, warm clothes, a compass (make sure you know how to use it), a flashlight, extra batteries, a knife, signaling devices, shelter, a first aid kit, rain gear and fire-starting tools.

You should also carry more food and water than you think you’ll need, just in case you become lost or injured. Basically, you should be prepared to spend a night out in the wilderness, even if that’s not part of your plan.

Always let friends and family know where you’re planning on hiking and when they should expect you to return. Leave a note on your car with information about your itinerary. If you get lost or injured, stay calm and don’t make any rash decisions. Evaluate your situation and make smart decisions. If you have cell phone reception and you’re in an emergency situation, call 911. They will be able to track your location based on your call.


A lost hiker should be found as soon as possible. You must know these tips for tracking a person in the wilderness. If not, the lost person faces an increased risk of harm. Local and national authorities search for thousands of missing people every year. There are many dangers around and finding them as quickly as possible is the first priority.

When a person you know goes missing in the wilderness, there are strategies to follow to make sure you stay on their trail and locate them quickly.

What to Look for When Tracking a Lost Hiker 
There are a few things to keep watch for when tracking a human in the wilderness. Signs are everywhere if you can train your eye to look for them. There are a number of ways to tell if a person was recently in the area.

  • Torn clothing can be a giveaway. If a person is struggling or hiking quickly, they might leave clothing behind or get it snagged on tree branches.
  • Small pieces of trash and food wrappers are signs that a person recently rested or made camp in the area. Most people just out exploring don’t leave garbage, but a person who is desperate won’t worry about littering.

How to Find A Hiker’s Footprints and Tracks
Footprints aren’t always easy to see due to the variety of surfaces in the wilderness. A hiker’s footprints will also change depending on the surface and weather.

  • Look for small impressions on beds of small plants or moss.
  • When going uphill, toes dig into the soil for traction. On a downhill, people’s heels tend to land first and make impressions.
  • Is the lost hiker a tall person or short? This changes the distance in stride and where the next print is likely to be found.
  • Watch for changes in surfaces. For example, sand and snow will stick to boots and will transfer onto pavement.

When You Look for a Lost Hiker, Form a Team for the Best Results
The best way to track down a person is by forming a search team. More eyes are always better than just two.

  • One person should work as the point person and two others should stay behind as the search takes place. Those in the back should not be directly behind, but should be at the right or left rear of the point searcher.
  • A search team can also have roles so that each person is dedicated to a certain aspect. One can keep eyes trained on the ground while the other scans low-lying trees and shrubs for signs.

Every year, thousands of hikers go missing in the wilderness. It doesn’t take much to get turned around among the trees and trails. If panic and danger is added in the results can be disastrous. Timing is the key to finding a lost person. Follow these steps and work quickly for the best results.