One of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk if you get lost is to tell someone where you are going, and when you are planning to return.
The hardest searches that SAR has to do start with a person reported missing many hours after they were due home, and no knowledge of the exact route, direction or location that the person was going to. When this happens, we try to narrow down the area to search, but the task starts off with significant problems.
Many tragic searches start this way.
For example, a skier who goes for just one more run, and tells his or her friends they will catch up later. It is often the next day before anyone notices that the person is still missing, especially if they live alone or in a dorm. Now, when SAR is notified, none of the friends can tell us where they were last seen, and it is often the next day and that person has had to spend the night out in sub zero temperatures.
Or a group of people go for a hike. When they don’t come back it could be their parents or their employer who ends up calling SAR the next day. Often, the only evidence we have is a car parked near a trailhead. When we try to calculate where the person may have gone in the time they were missing we end up with a huge area. For instance, at Buntzen Lake we may have to cover both sides of the lake. Sadly, many people are injured and die every year under these circumstances.
Often hikers believe that they will be able to call for help using their mobile phone; this is sometimes true, but cell phones can be out of range of a cell tower very easily, and battery life is always a problem.
One of the things you can do to reduce your risk (aside from carrying the 10 Essentials) is to let someone know where you are going, when you are coming back, and some other pieces of information about yourself. Armed with this information, SAR can drastically reduce the amount of time it takes to find you.
AdventureSmart, Canada’s backcountry safety organization, has an excellent page on trip planning, and an app that can guide you through planning for your next adventure.