For those that love the great outdoors, the warmer temperatures couldn’t come soon enough. Maybe it’s gathering with your extended family for an annual trip to a national park. Or going on a romantic hike through your local woods with someone.
Now with summer weather here, it’s an ideal time to plan solo or group hiking trips. However, these adventurous endeavors always pose a risk of getting lost or stranded, whether you take a wrong turn or become injured while out in the wilderness.
The recent miraculous story of hiker Amanda Eller is the perfect example. Read on. I’m going to share Amanda’s story, as well as hiking safety tips to ensure you don’t get lost in the first place, and if you do, how to extend your chances of survival.
Amanda Eller’s Story
Amanda Eller is a 35-year-old physical therapist and yoga instructor residing in Maui, Hawaii. On May 8, 2019, she decided to go on a hike in the Makawao Forest Reserve, on a different path than she usually took. Eventually, she stopped to meditate and take a nap. When she awoke and attempted to make her way back to her car, she became disoriented. It’s an easy mistake to make in places where distinguishing one trail from another can be difficult.
Over the course of the next two weeks, Amanda scavenged for berries and fruit, sourced relatively clean drinking water, suffered a fractured leg and an infected sunburn, and lost her shoes when they were swept away in a flash flood. According to local media affiliate KHON, Amanda shared, "It came down to life and death--and I had to choose. I chose life. I wasn't going to take the easy way out. Even though that meant more suffering in me for myself.”
On May 24, Amanda found herself in a creek bed between two waterfalls, unable to continue to traverse the difficult terrain with her leg injury and lack of shoes. Over 1,000 searchers joined the effort to find Amanda and had raised enough funds to rent a helicopter and search the preserve from above. Miraculously, 17 days after she went missing, they spotted her in the spot between the two waterfalls. She was rescued and brought to a local hospital to treat her injuries and infection.
This story fortunately has a happy ending. But there are countless others where the outcome wasn’t ideal, and hikers perished. Learning some basic safety tips to employ on your own hiking and camping endeavors will ensure that you stay safe.
Lessons from Amanda’s Story
Amanda’s story is certainly intriguing. It’s a good example for keeping hope alive and the power of the will to live. It’s also a good reminder and example of what to do and not do in a similar situation. If you find yourself hiking or camping, it’s always good to understand the basic principles of prevention and survival. Here are five hiking safety tips to keep in mind in the event that you find yourself lost or stranded in the wilderness....
#1: Always travel with phone and solar charger: One of the biggest mistakes Amanda made was leaving her phone behind in her car. She hadn’t intended on going on a long hike--it was only supposed to be three miles long and last a few hours. With her phone, Amanda might have been able to pick up enough reception to alert loved ones to the fact that she had lost her way back to her car. Or to get a better sense of direction. According to Amanda’s mother, "Everything looks the same. It would be very easy to get misguided." Therefore, make sure you always bring your phone (fully charged) before embarking on a hike. Better yet, bring along a solar-powered charger so you never have to worry about running out of battery power.
#2: Scavenge for food: For sustenance, Amanda was able to scavenge for berries and guava fruit, and even ate bugs like moths. Though it wasn’t much and Amanda lost about 15 pounds over the two weeks, it was enough. However, certain plants and berries can be poisonous and cause more harm than good. Take the time now to study up on edible plants and how to identify them. For example, the book Backyard Foraging: 65 Familiar Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat is full of helpful information regarding what is and isn’t edible.
#3: Purify and find clean water: Though food is important to our survival, humans can survive longer without food than they can without water. For many, three or more days without water won’t be possible. According to Business Insider, at least 60% of the adult body is made of water and “every living cell in the body needs it to keep functioning.” In Amanda’s case, she found water that looked clear enough to drink and wouldn’t make her sicker. A spring or stream is always a more trustworthy source of clean drinking water than lakes, ponds, and rivers, which are often filled with more bacteria. Regardless, always have a personal water purifier on hand when hiking or camping, such as the Survival Spring Personal Water Filter or Germicidal Treatment Tablets and an empty water bottle.
#4: Travel with a compass and map: As I previously mentioned, Amanda got turned around and lost her way back to her car. In nature, this can be a more common occurrence than you may expect--and an easy mistake. Even with a smartphone, you’ll want to have a backup strategy for orienting yourself. Always have a compass and physical map of your area on hand, so you can keep track of where you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going. For example, this 5-in-1 Survival Aid Tool and Whistle is an extremely handy tool, as it includes a compass, distress whistle, waterproof matchbox, and fire starter flint.
#5: Travel with items for both warmth and sun protection: When Amanda was rescued, she was sunburned and had suffered abrasions. The elements aren’t always kind, whether it be extreme heat or plunging temperatures at night. When exploring nature, it’s helpful to travel with sunscreen, a sun hat, sunglasses, matches, hand warmers, and an emergency blanket. Better yet, take the time to learn how to build a fire from scratch--you never know when the knowledge may save your life and others’ lives.
Whenever people go missing in the wilderness, it’s easy to lose hope. Amanda’s story proves that there is reason to keep hope alive. But hope is never going to be enough. Having the knowledge, resilience, and supplies to extend your ability to survive in nature is always critical when hiking or camping.
Stay safe and always keep preparedness in the forefront of your mind.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply