by Mountain House July 28, 2014

What to Do If You Get Lost

Being lost in the woods is a common theme in fairy tales and fantasy adventure books. However, as anyone who has realized they are honesty, truly lost will tell you, it can be a harrowing experience. As a rule, stick to the trail unless you are being chased by Sasquatch. You’ll be far less likely to be lost if you never create the opportunity. However, if you find yourself lost follow these tips to help you make it through.

Step #0 Be Prepared

Before you set out into the outdoors, let someone know your planned path, when you are leaving and when you are returning. If you are parking your car at the trailhead, leave a detailed plan for your trip in the front seat of your car. This way if you do get lost, rescuers will know where to start their search. Also, make sure you have everything with you necessary to stay at least one night in the outdoors alone. That means matches, a good knife and warm clothes. Food and water are also important to bring along. Not just for calories but for morale. Emergency Mylar blankets take up very little room and can serve multiple uses in a pinch.

Step #1 Don’t Panic

This is the standard rule for any emergency situation for a reason. Panicking literally makes it impossible to think or act rationally and the consequences can be dire. To help avoid panicking go to Rule #2.

Step #2 Stop

Don’t move another muscle. As long as it is safe to do so, i.e. above mentioned Sasquatch has stopped chasing you, you should simply stop where you are. This will keep you from wandering and getting yourself even more lost. Move on to Rule #3

Step #3 Observe

Take several minutes to observe your surroundings and calm down. Take stock of where you are and check yourself for any injuries. Use all of your senses and notice everything around you. What do you see, smell and hear? Make note of any landmarks. These will be useful later if you establish contact with rescuers.

Step #4 Find or Make Shelter

Finding or making a shelter from the elements will improve your chance for survival. Look for low overhanging branches or rocks. Caves also serve as a natural shelter. If nothing is in the immediate area is available move on to rule #5.

Step#5 Make a Fire

Clear an area (you don’t want to burn down the forest after all), and gather sticks or twigs for your fire. Use those matches you brought with you and build a fire. A fire will not only keep you warm and other animals at bay but smoky fires will help rescuers find you. Green leaves will produce a thick, white smoke. One word of warning, if you are thinking of ringing your fire with river rocks don’t! Rocks in or near water can have moisture inside which will turn to steam and cause the them to explode!

Step #6 Stay Warm, Stay Put and Signal Regularly

Even on warm summer days, nights can get very cold very fast. With the extra clothes you brought with you, the shelter you made or found, and the fire you made, you should wait until rescuers find you. Make their jobs easier by announcing where you are. Use a rescue whistle, shout, and make lots of smoke with your fire.

Step#7 Keep a Positive Outlook

As frightening as the situation may be, it is important to keep a positive outlook. Here some tips from Howstuffworks.com
  • Stay busy to keep your mind occupied
  • Repeat to yourself affirming statements about surviving
  • Recognize your negative emotions and address them
  • Do not blame yourself for getting into the situation

Conclusion:

Being lost can be frightening but it is entirely survivable if you keep your head and follow these tips. Do you have any other tips? Let everyone know by posting them in the comments below!

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