I am still chewing my way through Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales. He offers this working definition of being lost: The inability to make one's mental model match the environment.
I confess to having been bewildered more than twice. Notable times include a trip to Baxter Pass and while cross-country skiing in the Upper Peninsula with the temp at -5. There have been other times as well.
A few things I learned along the way.
Look behind you. Things look different when seen from behind. Making a practice of looking behind you gives you the information you will need to retrace your steps. More importantly, it pre-establishes permission to turn around. It is an emotion thing.
Carry a map and a compass. There are some very basic compasses that pin to the tag of your zipper.
|Picture borrowed from a fellow blogger at Hiking with Ataxia|
OK, maybe you did not bring a map. But start a tradition of taking a (digital) picture of your party beside the trailhead map. It is a wonderful memory maker and that map can be very handy 4 hours after sunset. Often, it is enough to know that you hiked in from the south side of the pucker brush...a simple detail that might become a point of argument in the stress of bewilderment. Simply knowing the general direction to travel and having a compass is enough to work your way out of many bewilderments.
Let the slowest person set the pace.
Entertain suggestions to turn back seriously. Consider blind lots to eliminate the testosterone factor.
Each person can carry a comfort kit. You may not be able to make others carry their kit, but never, ever fail to carry your own. A crazy amount of comfort can be had with a small package of M&Ms, a chapstick, bandaids, water bottle and a knife.