Friday, September 6, 2013

Getting Lost in the Woods - Prevention and Resolution

Got that big backpacking trip coming up? Take a second to read this and learn how to help prevent getting lost in the woods and what to do if you get lost.

Don’t pull an “Into the Wild”

Have you ever read Into the Wild? I wouldn't recommend doing anything that kid did. It is your life and safety at risk. Use your resources and think smart. If you choose not to prepare (please prepare) then look for help. If that kid had checked out the terrain, like any smart camper or explore should do, he would have found his salvation about a mile away down the river from the broken down bus he was found in.

Get on the move

Don’t stay in one spot. Staying in one spot will, literally, not get you anywhere.  Only by moving are you going to get yourself back to where you want to be.

Track yourself

 Chances are you weren't on a trail. There should be signs that you have been through there. Footprints, disturbed terrain, snapped branches, etc. On a prevention note, take a leaf out of Hansel and Gretel’s book and leave a trail. Not of bread crumbs or garbage but just occasionally take the time to mark your way. Roll a rock into an open area on at an odd angle or lay a thick stick against a tree.

Get to a high spot

If there is an elevated point available, get to higher ground so that you can better see your surroundings. This will allow you to see whether or not there are barriers in any particular direction, land marks, or perhaps even your destination.

Get Loud

If you are separated from your group, get loud. If you are concerned about wild life, put your worries at rest. Animals are deterred by noise. This can do nothing but help your situation.

Check the map

Bring a topographic map and a good compass with you. Be sure to mark your vehicles location on it, your camp site and the location of any roads if they are not on there already.


Use a GPS or even a light weight mini GPS tracker. A GPS will give you an overview of your surrounding area. A GPS tracker can attach to whatever you want. Attach it to your truck or something in your campsite. If you get lost switch on your GPS tracker and it will guide you straight back to your vehicle.

Follow a river

Depending on how serious your situation is, if you are very far out and need to find civilization, follow a river. There is always life along a river and a road (or even town) will eventually meet up with it. If we are looking at a potentially long haul, it has the means to sustain you. If you get desperate, it has water and food, whether it is fish or plants or whatever critters that go to the river. 

Thanks go out to Dave for an excellent guest post.

Dave Burr is a freelance writer for Spyville. In his free time, he enjoys backpacking in the Seven Devils with his kids or reading in his backyard. 

Staying above the water line!



Unknown said...

One thing I taught my step-daughter, when she would decide to go exploring from our campsite, was to look behind her frequently. The scenery is different on your way back, so try to pick out landmarks...oversize trees, especially those with odd shaped branches, rocks, breaks in landscape appearance, etc.

Home on the Range said...

I grew up in a wilderness area. These are all outstanding pointers. One thing my Dad always drilled into me as well was to let someone know where you are going (general hike,camp plans) and when you will be back. Always take food for more than one day and water, even if going for a couple hour hike if you're outside of a city park.

Anonymous said...

I'd also suggest breaking a branch when you change direction of travel, the'white' on side of expected viewing. Arrows scratched in dirt where path 'forks', though wind / rain can smooth over these.

Anonymous said...

Lost-in-the-woods...isn't that in Missouri?

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure that everything I've ever read about being lost in the woods says to stay put, not get on the move. It makes it that much more difficult for someone to find you if you're constantly on the move, as well as deplete your energy. Now, if you've simply lost your bearings, and aren't actually stranded in the wilderness, maybe you can get on the move and find your way out, but I had to do a double take when I read "get on the move."

riverwalker said...

To: anonymous 12:24

There are good reasons for both staying put and being on the move. It really depends upon your individual circumstances.

If you are low on water, you may need to move from your current position to perhaps find a needed water source to prevent hydration.

If you are under the 24 hour mark, it may be wiser to remain where you are but this is also dependent upon who you informed of your whereabouts and when they expect you to return. If no one is expecting you for several days, you may need to get a move on.

Common sense will be your best guide in deciding to stay put or get moving.


Related Posts with Thumbnails