Getting lost in the forest is not a thing you want to happen to you, but it is inevitable for the keen naturalist. The only question is will your experience be one you learn from or not?
Getting lost is so easy. Many think that it means getting hopelessly lost through inexperience and spending days waiting in the forest for rescue but it is usually much simpler than that. Even the experienced can get lost just meters from a strong trail or forest track.
The majority of cases of being lost are caused by simple disorientation. The forests of central and southern Thailand are so easy to get disoriented in. It is what happens after your disorientation that determines how you will fare.
In my own experience after disorientation comes anxiety, this is a critical phase as you cease to process thoughts logically or act as wisely as you should. If you don’t get on top of your situation you may escalate to the next phase, panic. If you do panic you are in for very a rough time. Keeping out of the panic phase is not something that comes naturally to humans, as we are actually programmed that way as a remnant of our fight or flight response.
Luckily for myself I have, so far, been fortunate enough to find my way, or have a way found for me before panic arrives. I have been in the anxiety phase more times than I care for, both alone and with others. Its not a nice experience, especially alone.
So why do I not always carry a handheld GPS? I have my own list of excuses for not always carrying a GPS: I am just walking on this trail which I already know; the trail is strong and clear; I am close to the road; I am not going far; it’s just for a few minutes; I am just looking at an animal track; I was following an animal; I forgot to charge the batteries; etc. I have lots of excuses - none that will help me when lost though.
The problem with handheld GPS, is you never plan to get lost. Sure, if you are heading off on a day or multi-day hike you would always have a GPS(s) but the reality is you can get lost anytime, it’s an accidental occurrence. You never mean for it to happen – so it happens when you least expect it to. When you are least prepared.
So far, I gotten away with it, even when venturing off-piste, but every once in a while I turn around and don’t recognize a route or see a clear path or recall my implicit movements. Its is then I am reminded what anxiety is and how its a feeling I would rather be without.
Luckily technology is advancing nearly as fast as my post 50s mid rift and I may have found a solution to my GPS laziness that could reduce my annual anxiety quota.
I have invested in a Garmin Fenix. To be truthful I was looking on the internet for a waterproof phone case because I had realized that I nearly always have my phone with me and like most smart phones these days it has a GPS. Whilst searching the internet for a case I came across a potentially better solution I was not aware of. I discovered that Garmin had watch type wearable GPS models such as it's Fenix 2, Fenix 3 and the Tactix which are made with hikers and GPS users in mind.
What’s more they all have a battery life of weeks and up to 50 hours with the GPS operating fully. They show the classic “snail trail” return course for when you are "lost". As a watch it would always be on my wrist and with two simple clicks I can turn on the GPS, no more excuses needed.
Additionally, it uses both the GPS and GLONASS systems so it is accurate as well as having redundancy. It has a magnetic compass so I can see which way I am facing without having to walk 20 yards and then work it out. It has a simple menu system that allows, even a technology dullard like, me to turn off or hide its vast multitude of sports features that I don’t use. It is very reliable under forest canopy. It is nice and rugged but also has an aesthetic quality about it so it can be my primary watch on my wrist at all times. And very importantly for me its screen is easy to read – even without my glasses.
So far I have been very happy with it and I will be even happier if I don’t have to use it because I am lost.