How to Find Your Way Back After Getting Lost in Nature
Sometimes technology and the modern world becomes too much, and you want to retreat into nature.
This is a great plan until you get lost and realize that Google has been the source of all “how-to” information in your life. Without GPS or an internet connection, what would you do?
First, read the following tips and suggestions. Second, print this page and take it with you since bookmarking will be useless in the wild.
With this page now in hand, the first thing to know is STOP. This is an acronym that stands for stop, think, observe, and plan. Once you realize you are lost, do the following:
- Stop – When you realize you are lost, stay put and stay calm.
- Think – If you are panicking, take deep breaths, then look for landmarks, think about how you got here, and if you can see anything. If you can safely get to higher ground, do that. If you aren’t safe, move to somewhere that is.
- Observe – If you have a compass, use it as a guide. If you are on a trail, don’t leave it. If there is a stream or river, follow its direction of flow because there is a chance it will meet with another trail or a populated area.
- Plan – Now is the time to decide if you should start moving. If you aren’t confident in your plan, stay put. If it is nightfall or you are injured, stay where you are.
In addition to the above, here are a few self-rescue tips to consider:
- Rest when you feel tired.
- Don’t eat and walk at the same time.
- Avoid dehydration and drink plenty of water, but don’t drink from still bodies of water; drinking any natural source of water can cause illness.
- Don’t push through the pain.
- Avoid the hottest times of day (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.)
- Before leaving, tell someone where you plan on going, where you are parked, who is with you, and when they should expect to hear from you.
- Try to stay positive and don’t let your mind drift away from your goal.
- Avoid letting fear creep into your mind, because this will distract you and your decision making may suffer.
To make finding your way home easier, always come prepared. Here are the supplies you should bring with you:
- Enough food and water for the trip, plus enough to survive if you get lost.
- A knife.
- A first aid kit.
- A compass or a GPS device that is rugged and has a long battery life.
- Paracord to build shelter, but everyone will bring this.
- A signaling device like a flair, mirror, or whistle.
- A folding saw to cut wood.
- Fishing equipment.
- Map of the area (check U.S. Forest Service stations or visitors centers for this information.)
- The right gear, including hiking boots, clothing you can layer if the weather turns bad, and extra socks in case your pair gets wet.
- Blankets and flashlights, matches in a water-tight container (learn how to start a fire without these), and overnight gear.
Getting out into nature can be good for your mental and physical health, but be humbled by its greatness. Come prepared for the worst and increase your chances of survival.