What to do if you get lost or stranded in a national park

What to do if you get lost or stranded in a national park

Nation­al parks are pop­u­lar places to vis­it but what do you do if you get lost or strand­ed? Here’s a guide to help.

There are hun­dreds of pop­u­lar nation­al parks across South Aus­tralian regions, from beau­ti­ful bush­land, to hills and moun­tains, and beach­es to deserts – we have it all.

While vis­it­ing these parks it’s impor­tant to make sure you under­stand where you are going and what to do if things don’t go smooth­ly, like if you get lost while on a hike or your car gets a flat tyre.

It doesn’t need to be com­pli­cat­ed. Some sim­ple tips and prep-work will make all the difference.

Prepa­ra­tion is the key

If you’re tak­ing a longer hike make sure you research it first, how long it may take, and if you will be fit enough to under­take it. Before you start the walk also make sure you care­ful­ly read the sign to ensure you have enough time and under­stand its grad­ing, and how tough it may or may not be. Often peo­ple can under­es­ti­mate their fit­ness, so it’s impor­tant to con­sid­er this as well.

It’s impor­tant to make sure you take a map of the park or the par­tic­u­lar trail with you by putting the Aven­za Maps app onto your smart­phone and down­load­ing the geo­ref­er­enced parks maps.

These maps work with the GPS on your phone, even when you’re out of range, to pin­point your loca­tion direct­ly onto the map. 

You can also down­load maps from the Nation­al Parks and Wildlife Ser­vice web­site and print them off at home before you go.

You should also make sure you pack the right gear for the type of walk, bike ride or hike you’re going on. Think about your clothes, footwear, first-aid sup­plies, food, mobile phone, a pow­er pack for your phone and water. Think about what you may need in case you get lost, are injured and can’t move. Read our sto­ry for a detailed list: 8 things to take on a hike in SA’s nation­al parks.

If you’re camp­ing, make sure you do your home­work before you go and take pre­cau­tions. Read our sto­ry for some use­ful tips: 8 ways to stay safe while camp­ing.

Check in with someone

Before you head off on your park adven­ture, make sure you’ve told some­one where you’re going and when you expect to return.

You should do this regard­less of whether you’re camp­ing or hik­ing alone or with company.

It’s as sim­ple as ring­ing or send­ing a text to a friend or fam­i­ly mem­ber before you leave and let­ting them know you’ll check in with them on your return. Alter­na­tive­ly think about hir­ing or buy­ing a satel­lite phone and/​or a spot track­er, espe­cial­ly if you’re head­ing out on longer walks which may not have mobile phone coverage.

If things turn sour: what to do if you get lost or stranded?

Some­times things go wrong when you’re hik­ing, bik­ing or dri­ving through a park.

It could be as sim­ple as tak­ing a wrong turn on a trail, get­ting so blown away by the stun­ning scenery that you get dis­ori­ent­ed, or get­ting a flat tyre on your four-wheel dri­ving adventure.

Here’s some tips on what to do if you get lost or stranded:

  1. Stop. The first thing to do once you realise you’re lost is to stop mov­ing, stay calm and don’t pan­ic. This is why it’s impor­tant to inform a respon­si­ble per­son on where you’re going and how long you expect to be away. This will mean they know to call, or start check­ing on your loca­tion if you don’t return home, or back to your camp­site on time. What you do next will depend on the sit­u­a­tion. If you have phone cov­er­age, con­tact your respon­si­ble per­son for help. Oth­er­wise, use your satel­lite phone to con­tact them. Be patient and wait for help to come to you.
  2. Be pre­pared. By tak­ing pre­cau­tions, down­load­ing maps and pack­ing the right gear you’ll be com­fort­able for longer if you have to wait for help. It’ll mean you will be able to bet­ter cope with the ele­ments, as well as hav­ing some­thing avail­able to eat and drink while you wait.
  3. Stay put with your vehi­cle. If you’re in a vehi­cle that has bro­ken down, stay with it. A vehi­cle can be found much more eas­i­ly than an indi­vid­ual per­son can be.
  4. Pace your­self. Don’t eat and drink all your food and water at once. Ration it, and try to make it last as long as possible.
  5. Take shel­ter. If it’s hot make sure you keep out of the sun under a shady tree, or alter­na­tive­ly if it’s cold try to find some­where out of the wind while you wait. Just make sure you don’t wan­der too far from where you realised you were lost.

In case of emer­gen­cies con­tact 000, for non-emer­gen­cies con­tact your respon­si­ble per­son, to see if they can help, or con­tact the rel­e­vant duty offi­cer in the park you’re in.

Look­ing for inspi­ra­tion of where to go on your next nation­al park adven­ture? Check out our See and do’library or vis­it the Nation­al Parks and Wildlife Ser­vice web­site tofind a parknear you.

This con­tent was pro­duced in part­ner­ship with  Good Living