Staying found: caution in semi-familiar terrain


Think about the times you’ve experienced, shall we say “positional uncertainty” on a hike or climb, or even walking/cycling/driving in a city.

Was it on a close to home trail that you’ve hiked a dozen times before? No, because you know it so well. Let's be honest, you really don’t need a map and compass to do a hike you have this dialed.

Say you’re planning your once-in-a-lifetime trip to go trekking in New Zealand. Are you, the savvy outdoor person, going to research the heck out of your route, get appropriate guidebooks, maps, GPS tracks, and talk to the locals so you are super well prepared?

Of course you are. When you’re going somewhere completely unfamiliar, the only prudent thing to do is to go with a full quiver of solid navigational tools. Sure, you still might get lost even after all this, but you will at the very least be well prepared.

So, let’s consider all of the outings that fall in between these two bookends. Call them the semi familiar; aka, “I hiked this once about five years ago and I pretty much remember where to go, but I don’t remember every fork” type of trails.

These trails can lull you into a false sense of security, because it’s easy to get a little lazy and not get a proper map, download a track, or otherwise prepare for your trip, especially if it’s a more spontaneous outing. Looking back at the times that I have been a little turned around in the woods, it’s almost always these type of trips.

So, if you have an outdoor adventure planned, ask yourself if it falls into that middle ground of semi familiarity. If it does, you may want to be extra sure to research the route carefully at home, and also to bring various navigation tools (a guidebook, a map, a photo of the guidebook page on your phone, and or a GPS track to go with the Gaia GPS app on your phone) so you don’t have an epic.