Bring yourself back alive, if no one else.
Create Excitement To Keep Your Companions Interested.
If you are leading a hike, it's the responsible thing to hand out route maps at the beginning, so everyone has one.
But on the other hand, it's amusing to give people the wrong maps.
This keeps your companions on their toes, once they find out that no two of them has the same map. It's endlessly entertaining to hear them arguing about where they are and what they're looking at.
To avoid unpleasant personal encounters, this is a great time to sneak away quietly and let them all figure out how to get home on their own.
If they can.
Make Sure That You Are In Shape.
Before you go on a hike with others, get into proper physical condition.
Try going for increasingly long walks through your neighborhood.
Some benefits of this approach are that:
- It's pretty hard to get lost in your own neighborhood, unless you're a total doofus.
- If you get bored with all the walking, you can watch the sidewalk for spare change.
- And you can keep an eye out for houses that seem temporarily unoccupied (in case you need more than a couple of homeless pennies you find on the ground).
Special note: It is uniquely important to be physically fit if you are going to be the hike leader and need to make a quick escape. (See previous item.)
Establish A Goal Or Reward For The End Of The Hike.
Again, this applies mostly if you are the hike leader. But you're experienced now, so it should be getting easier.
Take this situation, for example: You have led everyone off into the woods and now the whole group is lost. None of them knows where they are or how to get back.
As an incentive to returning home again, tell everyone that the first person to find the parking lot is exempt. The others will have to draw straws to see who gets left standing there when the rest of you drive away.
This presumes that your level of fitness is persuasive, and that your companions are all bright enough to realize what will happen to them if they do not obey. (I.e., they all die, not just the expendable one.)
This might also qualify as "generating excitement". Don't overuse it though, or you'll run out of hiking buddies and will be all alone again.
It can be gobs of fun to melt away about then and race back to the cars, where you can break into all of them (except your own, of course), and steal the valuables.
When the first of your companions reappears, start yelling and run over, saying you just managed to chase off a car prowler, who unfortunately broke into all the cars. Except yours, whose trunk is now full of wallets and so on. (A secret compartment helps in case a deputy sheriff unexpectedly shows up.)
Make Sure All Your Companions Has A Danger Whistle.
These are good when someone is lost or has to alert others because they work much better than shouting.
You, however, should also carry a portable recorder containing various wild animal growls.
Right after lunch is a good time to cut one loose, when everyone is sprawled out, relaxing, chatting, looking at the sky, or possibly even napping.
Tiger or leopard growls are most effective. Partly because they're so unexpected, but also because tigers and leopards have perfected their technique over millions of years while they chased down our distant relatives. And if not your relatives exactly, then surely those of your companions.
Remember, the people who escaped and lived to pass on their genes were those most easily spooked, and you are (obviously) hiking with their descendants, who are also cowards, so this works pretty well.
Let a few growls rip and then enjoy the shrieking whistles. Try not to wet yourself laughing because it leaves a telltale dampness and someone without any sense of humor might call you out.
Carry A Good First Aid Kit At All Times.
The best ones have at least two of anything you might possibly need, protected inside a metal case with heavy-duty clasps holding it shut.
Which means it's large, heavy, and won't dent or fly open if you need to use it defending yourself from your companions. If they take exception to your sense of humor. But if they're like that, why are you hanging out with them?
It's good to think about these things before the hike, but misjudging people is easy, so packing a wallop is good insurance.
Bring A Camera.
If everyone returns home alive and well, your photos will be fun to share. Otherwise, they'll be good evidence for your defense in court. If you know how to avoid incriminating yourself.
Remember: Practice makes perfect but you may only get one chance, so proceed with caution.
Assign Hiking Buddies.
Really tall people and really short people hiking together are fun to watch, especially if you can convince them that it's safer if they tie their legs together in a "Three-Legged Safety Harness".
But if everyone is the same height, try pairing introverts with extroverts.
One is a good listener and the other is a good talker, though it's good to know which is which up front, because when the "good listener" starts talking a lot, especially in a loud voice, and the "good talker" goes really quiet or starts screaming - well hey.
Another photo op. Especially if they have their legs securely tied together.
One Final Thing To Remember.
Reaching the end of the trail isn't the goal.
In fact very few trails have a decent ending, much less a happy one.
A whole lot of trails are set to loop endlessly, which is boring at a minimum, and can even lead to starvation, or at least to the strong eating the weak.
This is another reason to bring a camera, since most cameras are smaller than first aid kits but just as heavy, and easier to swing with that strap, even if you're weak from hunger too.
So, although reaching the end of the trail may not be technically feasible in all cases, being a survivor is a decent reward for time spent outdoors, especially if you have a convincing story about why you were the only one to return.