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What to Do If You Get Lost in the Idaho Wilderness While Riding

Idaho’s wilderness offers a diverse range of landscapes with beautiful scenery. Many motorsports enthusiasts can resist the call to venture off the marked trail and take in the natural wonders for themselves. 

For those not familiar with the area, getting lost in the wilderness can become a real and serious fear. Certainly, we don’t want this to happen to you. 

Here are some tips for what to do if you find yourself lost in the Idaho wilderness: 


Tell As Many People as Possible About Where You Are Going

Tell a friend or family member when you are leaving, where you will be riding, and what to do if they do not hear from you in a certain amount of time. Be sure to also contact that person when you return if you do not get lost. 

Many trails, parks, and other outdoor recreational areas will have some sort of visitor registry as well. Be sure to enter your name so that there is an additional record of you riding there. 

Familiarize Yourself with the Area Before Heading Out 

Prior to setting off on your next ride, research the area you’ll be riding. We recommend looking at a detailed map, reviewing the area on a GPS with satellite views, using local guidebooks, and making note of any prominent landmarks that you see. These resources should provide a mental guidepost if you are unable to find your way out of the wilderness. 

Here, you should also plan your routes ahead of time. This will help prevent you from getting lost and can aid you in finding your way back. 

Learn Basic Wilderness Survival 

If you find yourself stranded in the Idaho wilderness, or anywhere else, you should learn as much as you can about survival tactics in these types of environments, such as: 

  • What kind of indigenous plants can you eat and what do they look like? 
  • How to find nearby water sources
  • How to build a fire from scratch 
  • How to find natural shelter 
  • The safest places to sleep in the wilderness 

Learn How to Use Analog Navigation Tools

In the wilderness, your phone will likely not prove a suitable navigation solution. Instead, you should learn how to use more traditional items like a physical map and compass to help you find your way back to more familiar terrain. These will never require a digital connection and cannot fail you if you know how to use them properly. 

If you bring a map with you, take a moment to mark any places on the map that you know you have passed. You can start to build a trail and track your journey along the way.

Fully Charge Your Phone Before Leaving

Though phones often prove useless in the wilderness, where reception often doesn’t exist, some are able to still place 9-11 calls in these environments. It never hurts to have this option in the event you are able to contact emergency services. 

Bring Basic Supplies

Riding with a backpack or other bag isn’t always comfortable or possible. However, if you are venturing somewhere unfamiliar, you should be prepared. 

Pack essentials like: 

  • Low-odor foods
  • Bottles of water
  • A flashlight with spare batteries
  • A map and compass
  • A first-aid kit
  • A small blanket to help keep warm if it gets cold out
  • A whistle or other noise-maker to alert any nearby people or rescue parties

If You Find Yourself Lost in the Idaho Wilderness: 

Remain Calm

This sounds easier said than done, but you should avoid panicking at all costs. Why? The more you rile up nervous energy, the more difficult it will be to focus on finding your way out of the wilderness. Preventing further disorientation will allow you to formulate a plan and follow a compass or map. 

Many hikers and off-trail riders will apply the STOP method when getting lost: 

  • Stop – Do not travel further into unknown areas. You’ll only become further disoriented. 
  • Think – What should you do? What can you do to return to a more familiar place? 
  • Observe – What direction did you come from? Does anything look remotely familiar? 
  • Plan – How will you navigate your way back? What tools do you have available to you? 

Apply these four steps and you can remain calm and take a more logical approach to developing a plan of action. 

If Possible, Stay Put

If you do not feel confident in your ability to navigate your way out of the wilderness, stay put and wait for a search and rescue team. The people you notify before beginning your journey should contact emergency services and they will be able to find you more quickly if you do not move great distances. 

Try Calling 9-11

As we mentioned before, you can still sometimes reach 9-11 in the wilderness. The 9-11 system transcends cell phone data carriers and can allow you to contact emergency services in some seemingly destitute settings. 

If you cannot reach 9-11, plan to try again periodically as you move along your planned return route. Place these calls away from wooded areas to avoid trees interfering with the signal. 

Stay as Warm and Dry as Possible

Avoid getting wet as much as possible. Do not fall into bodies of water and seek shelter from any rainfall. Wet clothes will become heavier and will make you colder in low temperatures. 

Ration Your Supplies

Do not eat all of your food or drink all of your water in one go. If you are lost for an extended period of time, you will need to spread out what you have to ensure your survival. 

Use a Noisemaker 

Whether you packed a whistle or other noisemaker, you should use it frequently to notify any nearby person to your location. Shouting “help” can also accomplish this, but this will expend more energy and is not preferable. 

Don’t Abandon Your Vehicle Unless Necessary 

Do not abandon your dirtbike, ATV, or other motorsport vehicle unless absolutely necessary. To conserve fuel, you should walk your vehicle through an unfamiliar area rather than ride it. 

If for some reason, your vehicle cannot move and you do not have the ability to take it with you, you will have no choice but to abandon it. As motorsports enthusiasts, we hate for this to be a last resort, but if leaving your vehicle in the wilderness is the only option, it is better to do so and return safely than not return at all. 

Looking for More Idaho Wilderness Survival Tips? 

We hope this guide helped you feel more comfortable with riding your motorsports vehicle in the Idaho wilderness. We always recommend staying on trails as much as possible and following preparation best practices to further ensure your safety. 

If you would like more information on navigating the Idaho wilderness with your motorsports vehicle, contact us anytime and we will be happy to provide any additional information that we are able to.

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