Mary Kay Barton goes hiking all the time with her kids. But getting lost on one of their outings made her wish she had been closer to home.

"You know, I don't know how we got lost," she says. "We just got turned around. There was nothing that looked familiar and we were just walking in circles. And then when it got dark, forget it. There was no chance of finding anything."

It's something North Shore Search and Rescue has heard over and over again. Darkness closes in faster than you think.

"It can cause people to lose the trail and they get lost," says rescuer Tim Jones.

His advice is that if you get lost, the best thing to do is stay put -- preferably on a ridge. On the North Shore mountains, do not follow a creek downhill.

"Creek drainages lead to waterfalls and waterfalls lead to death," says Jones. "It's been well documented over here that's where we find dead people at the base of waterfalls."

There are handheld GPS units that may save you from getting lost. Testers evaluated seven ranging in price from $150 to $600.

To see how they work, Consumer Reports testers headed out on dozens of hikes and walked miles through the woods. GPS handheld devices work a little differently than ones for cars.

"These don't give you turn-by-turn directions," says Consumer Reports Jeff Bartlett. "Simply, they connect point A to point B. It's really up to the user to decide the best way to get there."

It turns out all the devices kept testers from getting lost, but they do vary in the controls and features offered.

The most expensive -- at $600 -- has advanced functions like a touch screen, topographic map, and electronic compass.

But for the casual hiker, you don't have to spend the big bucks. The entry-level Gamin E-trex Venture HC provides more than enough navigation abilities.

But Tim Jones says a GPS alone is really not enough.

"We really advocate map and compass complimenting the GPS," he says.

Whether you have a GPS unit or not, before you go for a hike file a plan with friends. That way if you get lost, and don't check in with them, searchers know where to look. It could save your life.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Chris Olsen