The case study below is true and highlights the need for basic survival planning.
Recently in Alaska a young man decided to make a day hike of 23 miles during late October, well after the end of hiking season when this popular trail is well traveled. The trail parallels a river and a large tributary creek most of the way. However, near the half way point the creek is joined in several places by small meandering streams all converging roughly from the south. The trail runs along side one of those streams. Our friend started out hiking from the north and 15 miles along he came to the point where the streams all diverged; there were no trail markers, no obvious trail. He had no map to track his position and no compass to determine the right direction. But, our friend just kept going and soon was lost; spending three days wandering alone, near death from hypothermia before finally being rescued.
Some basic map study or a look at satellite imagery would have begged the question, “What if there are no trail markers here by these streams?” His answers might have looked like this:
1. The trail follows one of these streams and should be marked. If I discover the trail markers are gone or the stream patterns have changed, and the trail is no longer obvious, I’ll S.T.O.P. there.
2. This place on my map is a key Decision Point. If I can’t determine my position and compass direction to get back on the right trail, I’ll turn around and go back along the path I was on. If it’s too late in the day to hike back I’ll camp out overnight and head back to the trailhead in the morning.
3. For this “What If?” I need to pack the following items in my survival kit: map and compass (practice using them!); warm & dry shelter (tarp/poncho/tent) for the night; energy food to maintain my core body temperature.