7 Ways to Call for Help When Lost or Hurt Outdoors

7 Ways to Call for Help When Lost or Hurt Outdoors

7 Ways to Call for Help When Lost or Hurt Outdoors


Getting lost or hurt outdoors is any backpacker’s worst fear come true. No matter how much you try to be prepared in case the unimaginable happens, sometimes the trail can be unpredictable. Luckily, we live in a world now where it’s not impossible to call for help outdoors. In case you ever find yourself caught in some trouble, then surely utilizing one of these ways to call for help will work in your favor.

1. A Phone Call


Bringing your cell phone along with you on a backpacking trip is not a bad idea, and may come in very handy if you end up lost or hurt. It’s the most practical way of getting help, as most phones already have a GPS in it and it only takes a little bit of a connection in order to make a call and be located. If the signal isn’t strong enough to make a call, then you can try sending a text message. There are also plenty of safety apps you can download for extra security.

2. Signal Flares

call for help, help, signal flares

Your hiking escapades might not be quite like an episode of Survivor, but if you ever get to that point, you’ll want to have some signal flares with you. These little pieces of technology allow you to shoot up what are essentially red fireworks to alert SAR teams or anyone who is the area, that you’re there. The good news is that they are hard to miss. The bad news is that you only get one try per flare. Products by Orion are a safe bet.

3. Whistle

call for help, help, whistle

Whistles aren’t always the most reliable way to call for help outdoors, but there’s no reason not to try. Many backpacks actually come with a whistle attached, which allows you to call for help when nothing else is available. Sure, it can’t reach as far as a phone may, but you never know who might be able to hear it. If your backpack doesn’t have one, go for the UST JetScream.

4. Personal Locator Beacons

call for help, help, personal locator beacon

Personal locator beacons are seriously underrated when it comes to hiking safety. You should definitely not hit the trail without yours. Personal locator beacons are used to send out a signal when you’re in distress, allowing rescuers to find you almost exactly where you are. Make sure you register your beacon with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. One of the best ones out there today is SPOT, which allows you to call for help in a variety of ways.

5. Mirror

call for help, help, signal mirror, mirror

Signaling mirrors might be old technology, but they shouldn’t be left at home. Especially because they are super lightweight, and don’t take up any extra space in your bag. If you’re out in the wilderness and need help and your electronic devices aren’t working, then having a mirror on you can be a life-saver. A signaling mirror can shoot a bright beam of light miles up and way, that rescuers know to look for. While many argue the usability of these, we recommend still bringing one along. After all, you never know.

6. A Fire

call for help, help, signal fire

Creating a fire is one way to call for help, as it can be seen from above, while people on the ground can smell it from quite far away. To signal for help, it’s customary to create three fires close together in a triangle, as it’s the international symbol for help. Of course, if you’re in distress, it’s understandable that you might only be able to make one. The key is to also make sure the smoke is heavy, by putting in smoke additives like plastic and paper birch bark. Smoke can be stronger and a darker color if you add less flammable items. Try to create your fire at a higher point off the ground, to make it more noticeable.

7. Shout

call for help, help, phone

When all else fails, you can always try shouting. Though, we recommend you save a little bit of your voice because you might need it once someone actually gets close. Instead of yelling out too much, wait until the prime hiking times during the day and simply shout, “Help me!” Cup your hands around your mouth in order to project your voice.

The presence of technology allows us to hike safely. If you happen to find yourself in a scary situation, then try one of these methods to call for help. 

hanalarock I'm Hana- a freelance travel writer and teacher who currently lives in South Korea. I'm originally from New York, but have spent the last two years traveling and living abroad. My first time hiking in the US was when I traveled around the country as a teenager. Though, my first adult backpacking trip was a year ago, when I hiked from Thailand down to Singapore for a month. I'm looking forward to many more adventures in the future. Visit my site for more information.