Lost in the wilderness -- we've all heard the horror stories. Fact is, sometimes people lost in the wilderness never make it out. Even when things do go well and these people are found - 'found' becomes the keyword. In other words, those lost in the wilderness don't often find a way out on their own.
This fact will be important later on.
Regardless, when it comes to dealing with being lost in the wilderness, planning in advance is the key:
Planning for your Trip into the Forest or Wilderness
Before you take that trip into the desert, woods, or hills, it would be wise to imagine all of the worst case scenarios. In other words, what kinds of problems could you encounter? Further, what would you do in these situations? In order to know this, of course, you would have to know something about the area in which you're traveling.
Therefore, here are a couple of things you could do to accomplish this.
1. Get a very detailed map of the area.
2. Talk to a safety council member, park ranger, or general expert on the wilderness area in question. Don't be afraid to contact these people as they are usually more than happy to assist.
By doing this in advance of your trip into the wilderness, you might learn about the weather, animal life, appropriate food sources, and possible problems you could encounter beforehand. This, of course, could help you to avoid problems.
After these conversations, you will be more able to determine the kinds of materials / clothing that would be needed in a worst case scenario. Regardless, there are things you must bring with you that will make up what is called your survival kit.
How to Survive in the Wilderness
A survival kit is a must during any wilderness exploration. Further, the contents needed in a survival kit may change depending on the kind of place you're going. Regardless, you should know how to use everything in your survival kit. Beyond that, here are some things that should be in every such kit.
1. A firestarter (consider a butane lighter).
2. An instant body shelter. In other words, you want something that can protect you instantaneously. Some examples of instant body shelters are tarps, sleeping bags, tube tents, and trash bags. Regardless, you need an instant body shelter that can protect from the kind of weather you might encounter on your trip (heat, cold, rain, etc.).
3. First Aid Kit
4. Signaling devices like flares, whistles, strobe lights, dye markers, signal mirrors, rescue flags, and smoke signal makers.
5. A metal water container. After all, you might need something to boil water in.
6. A water purifier.
7. Something to keep money in.
8. Something to keep your extra supplies of pills in. For example, if you have high blood pressure and take medication for it, you'll need something to hold pills in if your stay in the wilderness is extended.
9. A general water container.
11. Bug repellant
12. A mobile phone (this may not help you, then again it may).
14. That map you were supposed to acquire on the area. If you know how to use a compass, that could also be beneficial.
15. Extra clothes appropriate to the environment you'll be staying in. Remember that in cold environments, appropriate boots and gloves should be used to protect the extremities. Also, long sleeve shirts and clothing that covers the skin could serve to keep the bugs off of you in warmer environments.
16. Rope and a hammock to stay off the ground in case of wet conditions.
18. Food and water.
Of course, there are always more things that might pertain to you depending on your situation and the kind of wilderness you are about to enter. However, in terms of advance planning, there is one thing that is just as important as anything.
LET SOMEONE KNOW WHERE YOU ARE GOING. NO ONE WILL LOOK FOR YOU WHEN YOU GET LOST IF THEY DON'T KNOW THAT YOU'RE MISSING!
Which by the way, is a main point when you decide what to do if you become lost.
Before You Embark into the Wild... Know Essential Wilderness Survival Skills
How to Find Water in the Wilderness
How to Survive in the Desert
How to Find True North Without a Compass
Top 10 Edible Insects in North America
Elk Hunting - When Elk Are Hard To Find
Surviving in the Cold: Starting a Fire in Wet Conditions
15 Steps to Starting a Fire Without a Match -- Even in the Rain
Wild Food - Foraging for Food and Edible Plants
Survival Food: Baiting Reptiles, Birds, Small Mammals, Large Game, and Predators
"The Way Back" - How to Survive in Extreme Conditions -- Siberia
What to do if You Become Lost in the Wilderness
This one is simple. STOP! Actually, this is an acronym that serves more than one purpose. Still, the first thing to do is simply stop what you're doing and calm down. Your gut reaction will be to panic. Don't. Instead, do the following.
'S'- This is for stop. Take a deep breath and sit down for awhile. During this time you must simply acknowledge, without going over the problems that caused you to get lost again and again, that you are lost. Thus, it's time to do something about it.
'T'- This is for think. Don't do anything at all until you assess your situation. It is during this time that you must remember whether or not anyone will miss you if you don't return when you're supposed to. This is why it's imperative to tell more than one person if you decide to go out into the wilderness. Further, let them know when to expect you back.
Beyond this, decide on what you will need to do in order to make a plan of action here. Also, begin toconsider the possible pros and cons of each idea. Remember when you thought about the worst case scenarios before leaving as this will help you during the thinking stage.
'O'- This is for observe. This should be done in conjunction with the thinking stage. What do you see around you that could help? What's the terrain like? How about the weather?
'P'- This is for plan -- survival plan. Once you've observed the terrain, thought about all the possible scenarios, and generally accepted your situation, it's time for the plan. First take care of immediate issues like injuries, a storm on the horizon, etc. From there, note what you will do depending on which scenario- that you thought through earlier- is presenting itself.
The first part of a survival plan is usually to stay put
Here's the thing. If people know that you're out in the wilderness and are missing, someone will eventually come looking for you. So as long as others understand that you are lost and know where to look if you, usually the best thing to do is stay put (unless by doing so you put yourself in harm's way).
If you keep moving around, you'll just make it harder on the rescue party.
So, if you decide to stay and wait it out, here are some things to put high on your consideration list.
Shelter - Consider that instant body shelter you brought. Further, look around for caves and or tree cover that could serve to protect you from the elements. If you're in a hot area, look for something cool.
In a cold area, look for something that might serve to warm you up. Also, try not to sit on wet or snow covered ground. Rather, use a hammock, shrubbery, or some other device to keep you off the wet stuff. One of the purposes of shelter, obviously, is to keep your body temperature at a nice level.
Let people know where you are- Here's where you use those signaling devices that you hopefully brought in your survival kit. If not, find another way to attract attention. Obviously, you want to make it as easy as possible for a rescue party to find you.
Hydration - On one hand, don't just drink everything you've got on you as soon as you figure out that you're lost. On the other, don't wait forever to consume your water (don't wait until you're panting). Beyond what you have on you, look for other water sources.
If you have a water purifier, that will help with lakes, streams, and such. However, if you don't, you're likely going to have to take a chance on the water available to you if stranded for a significant amount of time. Avoid pond water, which is the most likely to be either contaminated or have organisms that will make you sick.
Food - Maybe you have a fishing pole? If so, great: that could help depending on the area. If not, then hopefully you talked to an expert on the area before you left. If you did, then you may know what plants are edible.
In the end, some insects could also serve as food to keep you alive.
What to do if there's no one to come for you
Well, the good thing is that if you are reading this article, then this should never happen to you. Why? Because you're smart enough to think ahead and map your trip out before you leave for a wilderness area.
There is an obvious problem with being lost in the wilderness. Simply put, if you are lost then that likely means you're not the type of person that has a lot of experience navigating such areas. Thus, that puts you in a problem spot. Still, here are some things that might help you with direction if you don't have a compass and you're sure that no one will be coming to look for you.
1. Moss usually grows most plentifully on the northern side of rocks.
2. Spider webs tend to be on the south side of trees.
3. Remember that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Further, you could try putting a stick in the ground and noting where the shadow ends. Then wait a while before you note where it ends a second time. The line going between those two points should run approximately east to west. From there, the sun should tell you where north is.
4. Know how to find true north by identifying the North Star.
5. The best case scenario, of course, is that the map you brought with you helps you out.
Obviously, if you were to try to get out of the woods and didn't know where you were going at all, you would likely want to travel in only one direction (north, south, east, or west) or risk going in circles. Also, every time you stopped you'd want to bring attention to where you were (so a passerby might see).
Avoid Being Lost - Maps, Compass, and Planning
Getting lost in the wilderness is something that can be avoided. That said, as long as you told people where you were going and when you were coming back, rescuers will eventually come for you. In these situations, it is oftentimes best to stay put and wait for someone to find you.
Regardless, don't just go out into the wilderness without any forethought -- such as forgetting to pack a map, compass, knife, and lighters. Plenty of people that have done this would tell you -- if they could -- that it is a bad idea to go into the wilderness unprepared.
Or you might be flying in a small or mid-size plane -- don't assume that you're going to land safely. Many small planes have gone down while flying over wilderness areas too many times to count.
Before you hit the trail ... remember to tell people where you are going and when to expect you back. Further, talk to those knowledgeable about the area before going in (these people can give you more detailed and specific information than any article), bring an appropriate survival kit, and have a map. This and the aforementioned could just save your life.