Every year we read at least one or two news reports about people getting lost in the woods, and we think “But how in the world is that possible?” The majority of us believe that there is no way something like that can happen to us, considering all the technology we now have at our disposal. Or we think of ourselves as experienced hikers/campers who know their way around.
But the truth is that everyone can get lost in the woods. It doesn’t matter how well equipped or experienced you are. It even doesn’t matter that you know the trail! The fact is that if you make one wrong turn, you might find it impossible to get back. Have you heard the story of the lost child in the wood? The ten-year-old got separated from his parents to collect some mushrooms for dinner and got lost, even though he was pretty familiar with the area. Fortunately, this is a story with a happy ending. Although the rescue teams needed 30 hours to find him, Malachi managed to stay unharmed, because of the impressive survival skills his father taught him.
What an incredible story, ha? With it in mind, we discussed this topic with experienced hikers and campers to get some advice on what to do if you are lost in the woods.
Tips on How to Survive If You Get Lost in the Woods
A pair of sneakers is abandoned in the woods
You may think you are on a trail, and then suddenly realize that you went off it. Maybe something of the trail caught your attention and you went to see, but then understood that you don’t know how to get back! Generally, your gut will tell you to keep on walking to find another way to get back on the path. But this can be dangerous because you can get even more lost. Instead, the best thing you can do, if you can’t find your way back, is to stop immediately. Why is that important? The thing is that we have a strange tendency to walk in circles. And when you consider that many people who didn’t survive got found within a mile radius, it becomes clear why it is necessary to stop.
Hearing that you should remain calm when you get lost in wildwood may seem crazy. But it is the most important thing. Panicking can only make things worse. It is expected that you feel upset or confused. But despite that, stay calm and take a moment to focus on ways to solve the problem.
Stay Where you Are
If you have a hiking watch or a compass, you may think of trying to find your way back. It is an option, of course, and if you can easily retrace your steps and return to the path, do it. But if it seems complicated, we believe that it is better to stay in one place, because that way it is much easier for the rescuers to find you. Mark one spot that shows that you are lost. People usually do it with rocks or branches to make it noticeable.
Find a Shelter
While exploring the surroundings, search for places that can serve as a shelter. Keep in mind that search&rescue teams usually take about 24 hours to find people who get lost in the woods. Hence, you can expect to spend the night there. If there aren’t existing structures, start building them from the branches. Make sure to put clothes over it and on the ground to stay dry and warm.
Start a Fire
Regardless of the weather, start collecting dry leaves, branches, bark, etc., to make a fire. It is essential to keep you warm, but also to purify water and cook. Whenever you go camping or hiking, remember to bring matches or a lighter. If you don’t have any of those things, try to make fire by rubbing dry wood against each other. It is called a fire plough method.
A river stream is going through woods
Maybe you brought plenty of water, and you have enough to stay hydrated until you are found. But if not, make sure to find a water source. If there is a stream, a river, or a puddle, you have to boil the water first to avoid getting sick. If not, you can collect rainwater or drink dew off the leaves.
Start Foraging for Food
People often panic when they don’t have enough food on them. Remember that woods are often full of nuts, acorns, and other things you can eat. If you are unsure whether what you found is edible, though, don’t eat it. For example, many poisonous berries or mushrooms resemble edible ones. Keep in mind that it is better to be hungry than to get food poisoning. You can also roast insects, fish, or even a small game over the fire.
Of course, no one likes to think about getting lost in the woods. Nonetheless, it is essential to be aware that it can happen and be prepared. If you follow these tips, you will remain unharmed! Apart from that, you will enable search and rescue teams to find you quickly. Have you ever got lost in the wilderness? What are your experiences?
Thomas was an avid hiker who often went camping with his father. His father knew all about nature and the wilderness (at least that’s what it seemed to ten-year-old Thomas). He has now hiked, camped, skied, backpacked, or charted on five continents (he has yet to hike Antarctica) and 30 U.S. states.