So let’s say you broke your leg out in the middle of nowhere, and it was a very bad break. The pain is intense, swelling is increasing before your eyes and there is obvious deformity (your ankle is no longer straight). That’s bad, but you did a few good things before you headed out on your trip. You told someone where you were going and when to expect you back (so they can call in to the authorities if you are way past your return time). You brought some essentials with you (like food, water, shelter and basic survival supplies). And you brought some signaling equipment. Now you just have to hang in there until the searchers locate you – by zeroing in on these four things.
Your Phone – Mobile phones have saved many people over the past few decades, and turned potential disasters into funny stories we can swap around the campfire. Always bring a charged mobile phone with you. If signal is spotty, consider an antenna booster to better connect. If you are REALLY going off the grid, think about renting a satellite phone for your excursion.
A Fire – The light and smoke of a fire have been used as signals for thousands of years. Carry ample fire starting supplies and build a fire in a visible place. Hang out nearby until rescue arrives.
A Mirror – Signal mirrors can flash a redirected beam of sunlight up to 10 miles (under perfect conditions), but you’ll have to practice with the mirror and learn how to aim it (and it only helps when the sun is shining, it’s not going to help on a cloudy day or at night).
A Whistle – For the last couple hundred yards, a loud whistle can help Search and Rescue to pinpoint your location. Consider bringing a referee’s whistle (like a Fox 40) or a survival signal whistle (like the JetScream from UST). This can guide rescuers in for the last stretch of the search.
And while we’re here, I’d also like to take a moment to thank all of the Search and Rescue workers worldwide. Without the generous hearts of these brave outdoorsman and women, far more people would die slow and horrible deaths in the great outdoors. And if you love being outside, pay it forward. Consider joining a local SAR crew today.
Be safe out there and God Bless!