Have you ever been lost in the woods? I have, and I learned a bunch of lessons from it! Read this to find out how I got out alive.
My internal navigation is a piece of crap…
In fact, one time, while studying to be an outdoor leader in TAFE, I got lost on the way from the campsite to the beach - which was less than 1km away!
Not only that, but I instinctively broke ALL the ‘rules’ that I should have stuck to in order to give myself the best chance of getting found by my classmates.
Some people have amazing internal navigation. There was this one girl in my class. You could give her a compass bearing and a distance and she’d just start walking. We would be talking and all of a sudden she would stop. Somehow, she just knew that it was far enough, and sure enough, we were at the place we wanted to be. Apart from taking the initial bearing, she never had to look at the compass or the map. It was incredible.
Unfortunately, uncanny internal navigation like that is rare. I certainly don’t have it. So for the rest of us, in this article we will talk about what to do if you are lost in the wilderness.
If you get lost, 90% of the time the best thing to do is stay put.
Assuming you have told someone where you’re going (which you always should), then by staying put as soon as you realize that you’re lost will make it easier for others to track you.
This is especially true when with a vehicle, e.g., in your car.
This is because it is much easier for rescuers to spot a car (or plane wreck, or whatever) than it is to spot a human.
Sometimes staying put isn’t an option. The next best thing to do is follow a trail.
The first mistake I made when I got lost on the way to the beach that day was that I just kept going even after I realized I was lost.
As I was walking I came across a trail. But for some reason, I abandoned it, which I shouldn't have done.
Most of the time, trails will lead to something that humans need or where they congregate. I should have either walked or stayed put on the trail. Instead, I strolled back into the wilderness.
It was a big mistake.
After walking around for about an hour I finally came to another trail. It actually turned out to be the same one just a bit further down the road.
This time I decided to sit down and stay put.
After about 30 minutes or so, I noticed a light in the wilderness.
I didn't have a whistle at that time, I was literally in my ‘wilderness pajamas’ (thermal top and bottom and sandals). Instead, I started to shout using a call that is quite popular in the Australian wilderness. The “cooo-eee” - and that is how I was rescued.
Of course, there are better ways to signal for help. A flashlight, a whistle, a fire, etc.
So there you have it. 3 important lessons on what to do if you become lost in the wilderness.
Of course the best thing to do is not become lost in the first place, and the best way to achieve this is by being aware of your surroundings and where you are going, especially if you are exploring a new location.
One easy way to do this is to look back and make mental notes about what you see. This has saved me numerous times during my adventures in the wilderness.
To learn more about wilderness survival, check out: www.survivalfitnessplan.com/evasive-wilderness-survival-techniques.
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Sam Fury is the creator and owner of the Survival Fitness Plan.
He has had a passion for martial arts and outdoor pursuits since he was a young boy growing up in Australia.
As a young adult he joined the military and studied outdoor leadership in college. After that, to further his skills, Sam started traveling to learn from the best in the world in various fields related to the Survival Fitness Plan including various martial arts in China, SE Asia and Brazil, Parkour in Singapore, Surf Life Saving in Australia, and others.
These days, he still enjoys learning new things, traveling and sharing what he has learned via the Survival Fitness Plan.
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