If you get lost in the wilderness – following these guidelines may help

Doug Williams

While exploring new areas in the wilderness can be fun and exciting, it can often be dangerous too. A fun hike, backpacking or camping trip can quickly turn from outdoor fun to a life-or-death situation if you get lost. Before embarking on an adventurous trip, there are a few things you can do to avoid getting lost and prepare for an emergency scenario.

The fact is that each year hundreds of people get lost in the wilderness. By preparing, you can reduce the risk of being stranded and enjoy nature without worry. Make sure you always use common sense and precaution and follow these steps before you head on out and while on the trail to prevent getting lost.

Getting lost in the wilderness
Getting lost in the wilderness

Here is a short list of things to do, that will reduce your risk of getting lost in the wilderness.

Tell someone about your plans

The number one thing you need to do to mitigate any emergency you may encounter when you head out into the wilderness is to inform someone of your plans. The areas you intend visiting and the general direction you plan to take need to be communicated to someone.

Tell someone where you are going and when you will be back
Tell someone where you are going and when you will be back

Also, they will need to have an idea of the approximate time and day you expect to return. If you do not return in reasonable time, it can be assumed that you have run into difficulties and rescue teams may well need to be deployed to search for you. When you feel assured that somebody will be out looking for you, it will be best to set up camp and do everything you can to make it easier for them to find you.

Finding your way

If you are on a great outdoors adventure close to nature you’re likely to be having a great time – unless you find yourself lost. When you have no idea in which direction you should be heading in to reach safety, you can consider yourself well and truly lost. And if you don’t know which way to go, you will want to begin considering your options for dealing with the situation. Attempting to either just keep walking or to try and retrace your steps is probably not the best idea. There is a good chance you are already way off the track and you could find yourself walking in circles.

Don’t panic

Stay calm
Stay calm

Reality bites! No matter how many articles you have read about survival in the wilderness, the chances are you will begin to panic. The first thing most people panic about is food. Because you will automatically feel hungry as soon as there is a possible threat of scarcity, hunger will be your focus, and it is likely to distract you from the other very real issues at hand.

Be careful with your food

Do not attempt to find food in the wilderness where you are. It has been known for people to eat poisonous berries, mushrooms or insects when there are much more pressing things to do.

These things may fill your stomach, but the effect is more psychological than nutritional. It is unlikely that you will starve to death, but eating these toxic things is likely to kill you or at the very least make you very ill. Focus rather on shelter, making a fire and having enough water. These three things will keep you alive until your rescuers find you.

Stay warm

Setting a fire in the wilderness – so important on many levels
Setting a fire in the wilderness – so important on many levels

In cold weather, you will obviously need to pay attention to keeping warm so don’t spend too much time designing the perfect roof at the expense of ensuring that there is enough insulation between the icy ground and where you will be lying. You need to ensure that there is enough in the way of leaves and dried grasses and the like to prevent hypothermia. It would be tragic and unnecessary for you to fall asleep and never wake up.

Rescue signal

If you have told a reliable person to alert the authorities in the case of you not returning on time, then rescuers will surely be out looking for you, and you need to lead them to where you are. A signal fire is one way.

If you are near a large body of water, light a fire along the water’s edge or build it on high ground. It is imperative that your signals can be seen from the air or from a boat if rescuers are likely to be traveling along the coastline. Anything brightly colored will attract attention such as a tent, life jackets, a colored scarf or clothes. Do not keep moving your camp about but rather wait for them to reach you, otherwise, you could both be following trails for days. Bushwhacking in a panic, while you are tired and hungry, increases your chances of getting hurt.

Purify your water

Boiling water to purify it
Boiling water to purify it

You may have been told that running water is safe, but even clear water may well contain nasties. It would be best for you to purify it. That said, if you drink it, sickness is not a guaranteed outcome, but dehydration without adequate water is. Better that you are rescued feeling sick than being found dead. Such decisions are yours to make. If you have no way of filtering and purifying the water, you will just have to drink it, Preparing For SHTF reported.

Know your basic survival skills

The upshot of all of this is that you should not leave home without the necessary things you will need to survive if disaster strikes. This preparedness begins with the means to collect and purify water, which is clearly vital.  Fire starting materials are also essential as is a form of shelter, or the kit required to build one. It is good to carry enough food with you to keep up your energy and morale.

If these get lost or washed away for any reason, you will need to improvise, and you will need to do what you can to signal your rescuers.  And because you practiced the first rule for any adventurer, that is, you informed someone of your trip details, they will be on their way.

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fmssolution is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival