Uh oh. You're lost.
Hitting the trails on your dirt bike offers an unprecedented amount of fun and part of that joy happens from exploring a vast network of trails that take you anywhere and everywhere. You have no idea what to expect around the next bend and the various forks in the road keep your self-guided adventure moving so you keep rolling the throttle.
Unfortunately, you also risk riding astray taking this approach. Yes, getting "lost" on your dirt bike comes with the territory (assuming you have some familiarity with the area) and often embraced with a tank full of gas. But you can get yourself into a real pickle if not careful and eventually your fuel runs out.
If you plan to ride on unfamiliar land, trails with limited markers or you enjoy hitting the roads less traveled off the beaten path then heed some of this advice to prevent a call to Search and Rescue and a night out in the woods.
How to Prevent Getting Lost
1. Get a Compass
North, south, east, west - it all pretty much looks the same when out in the middle of nowhere. A compass tells you which way is up and which way is down, so to speak, then at least you can stop heading in the wrong direction. No compass? No problem. Follow the movement of the sun - it rises in the east and sets in the west. Other old school options:
- Use the stars - find the North Star. Look north of your location.
- Cloud direction can give you an idea of which way is where depending on your location and knowledge of typical local weather patterns.
- Use landmarks like mountains or other areas of landscape to orient yourself and use as reference points.
- Follow the creek downstream. It ends somewhere.
2. Use a Map
Most public trail systems offer maps at the trail head. Grab one. These maps offer detailed specs to the available riding trails. Sometime the mapping grid gets placed on a board for review and reference instead of a portable map. Take a photo with your cell phone. Other useful options:
- Bring a road atlas or similar map of the riding area.
- Review your riding area on Google Earth.
- Download trail system maps to your phone, if available. Call the Forestry Service or Bureau of Land Management for advice and information on maps.
- Use GPS or Garmin type device. These fix easily on your handlebars and might even find new areas of exploration without getting you lost.
3. Familiarize Yourself with the Area
Spend an hour or two riding close to camp and getting familiarized with the trail system. Stay on the main path and conduct any exploring without losing site of the primary trail that heads back to home base.
4. Don't Ride Alone
Ride with others and if everyone in your camp wants to call it a day then spend the evening talking about the ride day and tomorrow's plans. Don't go out alone.
5. Check the Time
It's five o' clock somewhere and if that somewhere is where you are riding then don't head out for a long ride. Keep it close to camp and once the sun sets pack it in.
6. Bring your Cell Phone
Obviously, if you have downloaded maps or taken a photo of the trail system your cell phone gives you access. But cell phones can be tracked by emergency officials and you just might find some coverage to make a call and ask for help if you get lost.
7. Buy a SPOT or other locating device
In the event you get lost - really lost - a SPOT or similar device tracker uses satellite technology to zero in on your location. You can send and receive messages and notify first responders of your location in the event of an emergency. A SPOT also helps if you get hurt and cannot return to camp under your own power.
Use common sense when riding. Don't venture beyond where you feel uncomfortable, make sure you have a full tank of gas and carry extra if feasible, and if you get lost, don't panic. Get yourself situated, make a plan and work your way back slowly so you don't miss signs or other markers that can help guide your way.