What to do in an emergency

STOP!  Sit, Think, Observe, Plan

According to survival experts, when people realize they are lost or otherwise in danger they often pick a direction at random and start running. To combat this tendency to panic, we encourage you remember the acronym STOP.


SIT: As soon as you realize you are lost or in trouble somehow, stop what you are doing and sit down.


THINK: Once sitting down, think about the situation. Where are you? What is the problem? What are the possible solutions to the problem? What are the pros and cons of each option?


OBSERVE: Assess your location. Is this area dangerous? Is there shelter and water? What is the weather like? What time is it? Will you need to camp there for the night?


PLAN: Based upon your assessments of the situation and your location, determine a course of action. Remain positive and take care of your immediate needs first: food, water, heat, shelter, getting dry, et cetera.


The most common emergency situation is injury. If you are injured, first STOP. Sit down, take off your pack, and think about the problem. After assessing the injury and attempting basic first aid, if you decide the injury is so severe you need to get off-trail soon and need help doing so, follow these steps:

Stay Put?

The Florida Trail does not have lots of regular traffic like the AT or PCT. Unless you are in the Ocala National Forest (and even then...) it's unlikely someone will come along and find you. Your two options are to call emergency services (see below) or get to a road/trailhead under your own power.


Keep Your Pack

Always keep your pack with you, even if you are injured and carrying it is difficult. Your pack contains clothes, shelter, food, and water—things that will keep you alive.


Stay on Trail

If you can keep hiking, don’t try to take a “shortcut” to a road by bushwhacking. There is no such thing as a shortcut. Bushwhacking is always slower and the terrain more dangerous than the Trail itself. Besides, you will get lost unless you have been trained in orienteering, are proficient in it, and have a map and compass. That does not describe most thru-hikers. Additionally, you are much harder to find by search-and-rescue crews when off-trail.


Determine Your Location

Break out your maps and guidebook and determine your location as best you can. Emergency dispatchers will not know “mile 774 of the Florida Trail," so estimate your location with respect to the nearest trailhead, road, and town. Park and forest rangers will know geographic landmarks like bridges, rivers, streams, lakes, dams, viewing towers, et cetera. If your phone has a GPS function, see if it can determine your location (this feature can work even if you have no bars).


Try Calling 911

If you have a phone, see if it gets a signal and can dial out. If it does, give the dispatcher your location and explain your condition.

Cell Phones ≠ Safety

People like to bring cell phones into the wilderness because it makes them feel safe. But cell phones don't make anyone safer — just the opposite — having a cell phone gives people a false sense of security and they become more likely to take risks or do things they otherwise would not do. By believing cell phones are a safety net, people take dangerous leaps.


Despite Florida's status as a mega-state, there will be days on a thru-hike where you cannot get a cell signal. And the places where you would likely encounter trouble and need to call someone — the most isolated and remote places — are also the places with no cell reception.

Luck Favors the Prepared

Remember the Rule of Threes — you can survive without oxygen or from severe bleeding for about 3 minutes, survive exposure to extreme heat or cold for up to 3 hours, survive without water for 3 days, and survive without food for 3 weeks. We've never needed to test the accuracy of these figures. We've always gotten lucky, but as Branch Rickey's truism says, luck is not the same as fate.


In large part this website exists to help you be prepared, which is the best way to prevent injuries, accidents, and emergencies from every occurring. Here is our list of things to do while on trail:

Use the Trail registers

If you are missing, or if a serious crime has been committed along the Trail, law enforcement & emergency teams check the registers. Be sure to tell your family your trail name.


Carry a Light Pack

to reduce likelihood of stress fractures, rolled ankles, falls and other injuries.


Prepare Physically for the Trail

because the Big Cypress Swamp is tough and unforgiving. You need to be physically ready or risk injury.


Have All Necessary Gear

Just because it's Florida doesn't mean you can leave the cold weather clothes at home.


Carry a First Aid Kit

We discuss what to carry here.


Carry a Pocket First Aid Guide

because a first aid kit doesn't do you any good if you don't know how to use it. It can be an ebook to save weight.


Carry an Extra Cell Battery

It's worth the weight.

Read the Weather

pay attention to the skies and set up camp before bad weather strikes


Allow Yourself to Stop / Zero

Don't push yourself to hike through bad weather or an injury just to make miles. The risk isn't worth it


Use Trekking Poles

They'll keep you from tripping over roots and falling in mud.


Never Hike at Night

The FT is not the PCT. The footpath is filled with trip hazards, opportunities to break your ankle, is often flooded, and blazed so infrequently it's easy to lose.


Filter Your Damn Water

We see a lot of hikers with cavalier attitudes about water. FT water sources are dicey and since Sawyer Minis are so light, there is no excuse not to carry one.


Bear Bag Even When You Don’t Think You Need To

It doesn't matter where you are, there can always be bears.