- Stay calm
- Try to retrace your steps
- Stay put (Hug a tree)
- Make yourself visible
- Keep warm and hydrated
- Be prepared for emergencies
Please note: the best thing to do if lost in the woods is to prepare beforehand. Tell someone where you’re going, where you’re parking, how long you’ll be there, and when you’ll be back. Learn basic navigational skills such as reading a map, using a compass, and orienteering can help you stay aware of the situation. Don’t rely on only cellphone service or GPS communication, as that can fail.
What To Do If Lost In The Woods
If you find yourself lost in the woods, it’s critical to remain calm and take steps to ensure your safety. Here are some tips on what to do if you find yourself in this situation. You’re not the first person to get lost hiking, and you won’t be the last. Two thousand people get lost while hiking every year, per National Geographic.
First, retrace your steps (keep in mind that wandering off-trail is likely how you got lost in the first place) if possible. If you remember how you got to where you are, you can find your way back to the trail or road. If you need help remembering how you got there, try to find a high point, such as a hill or ridge, from which you can get a better view of your surroundings. But stay close to where you first realized that you were lost. Your goal is to avoid becoming even more lost, nor do you want to injure yourself.
Stay Put (Hug a tree)
Second, stay put. If you need help determining where you are or how to get back, staying in one place is best. Moving around will make it more difficult for rescue teams to find you. Staying put will also help you conserve energy and prevent you from getting even more lost.
Make Yourself Visible
Third, make yourself visible. If you have a whistle, flashlight, or mirror (many compasses have a mirror-you can use this for signaling and navigation), these can signal for help. You can use the sun or a fire to signal for help if you don’t have any of these items. Build a fire and keep it burning. It will help you stay warm and make finding you easier for rescue teams. I like to carry a bit of fluorescent orange flagging tape in my emergency kit on any hike or trek in the woods.
Fourth, keep yourself warm (see above) and hydrated. (Camping in the winter? Check out our cold-weather camping tips) Staying warm can be challenging, but it’s imperative to consider. The weather can quickly change when lost in the woods, and staying warm and hydrated is essential. If you have a jacket or blanket, use it to keep yourself warm. If you don’t have any extra clothing, build a shelter to protect yourself from the elements. Look for sources of water and try to filter or boil it before drinking.
Fifth, be prepared for emergencies. Before going on a hike, let someone know your plans and when you expect to be back. Bring a map, compass, and a charged cell phone, and know how to use them. Also, bring a first-aid kit, a flashlight, a whistle, a space blanket, and a fire starter. It’s always a good idea to have some survival tools with you. You can put a good survival kit together without much cost and size.
Getting lost in the woods can be a nerve-wracking experience, but with the right mindset and preparation, you can increase your chances of being found. Don’t let the fear of getting lost keep you from venturing outdoors. Remember to stay calm, stay put, make yourself visible, keep yourself warm and hydrated, and be prepared for emergencies. If you follow these tips, you will increase your chances of survival and rescue.
Finally, are you looking for a good backpacking or hiking knife? Check out a few of our recommendations here. Also, here’s a new article on some of the best Valentine’s Day gift ideas for your hiking partner.