What To Do If You Get Lost In The Woods

Every year, around 2,000 individuals get lost in the woods. We all hope that we will not be among those unlucky individuals. However, none of us can ever be certain. As such, we need to be prepared to face any situation if we do get lost in the wilderness. 

In this article, we will share tips on what to do if you do indeed get lost in the woods.

What to do if you get lost in the woods?

what you can when lost in woods
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Here are some things you can do when you find yourself stranded in the woods: 

Use the STOP method

As soon as you realise that you don’t know where you are, remember the famous survival mnemonic, the STOP method.

Stop

When you discover you’re lost, the first thing you should do is stop, relax, and carefully consider your options. Anxiety that is out of control will only distort your judgement and sap your vitality. You don’t want to squander time or energy on initiatives that aren’t clear in their objectives. 

Think

Next, take your time and think about how you arrived at your current location. What should you be able to see as far as landmarks go? Do not move until you have a compelling cause to do so.

Observe

The next step is to observe and gather the information that will assist you in determining your location. If you have a compass on you, use it to determine directions depending on your current location. 

You shouldn’t just wander about aimlessly. Stay on the trail if you’re on it. Follow drainage or a stream downwards as the last option. This is usually a rough path that leads to a trail or road. It may be really hazardous, so only do this if it’s your only option.

Plan

The final step in this method is to devise a plan based on the previous steps. Consider all of your options and pick the best one. Whether you should continue down the route or turn around and go back the way you came is up to you. If you’re hurt or nighttime is approaching, it’s probably best to stay put.

Travel downhill

When you’re lost in the mountains or woods, you should walk downhill, according to survival experts. In most wilderness regions, walking downhill should take little more than 20 hours to reach a town or city, or at the very least a road or paved route.

Because most towns were established around sources of water in the past, you’re likely to run across other people. You’ll most probably start to see people walking downward towards a valley. Walking downhill is not only more likely to get you closer to civilization, but it is also easier on your body and saves you energy.

Keep a lookout for other people

You should keep an eye (and an ear) out for any signs of human activity. You can take note of anything such as garbage that was left behind, a trail or walkway, camping sites, or the sounds of people conversing.

Add insulation (if lost at night)

It is always important to preserve your body temperature. Hence, if you are lost in the woods at night, insulation will be required. You’ll have an advantage if you have a sleeping bag with you, but even then, you’ll need some type of water-resistant barrier between you and the weather, and it’ll be even better if it keeps the wind out.

Since you’re lost in the woods, you will have access to a huge amount of leaves. Gather them by the armfuls and stack them on all sides of your shelter. Pack some inside as well, especially if you don’t have a sleeping bag. They’ll offer some much-needed bulk.

When you’re finished, you should have something that resembles a huge mound of leaves rather than a shelter. In addition, you’ll have a windproof, water-resistant shelter that will keep you warm and dry throughout the night, saving you from hypothermia.

Plan ahead

It’s clearly too late to prepare ahead by the time you’re lost, but most of you are probably reading this out of interest rather than in the middle of nowhere. So, it is always a great move to plan ahead.

Here are a few things to think about:

  • Make sure to pack all the camping essentials for your trip, including first-aid supplies, a flashlight and more.
  • Let someone know where you’re heading. Send comprehensive information to numerous individuals if it’s a long journey. If you’re going for a brief walk in the woods, text one friend or family member to let them know where you’re going.
  • In the event of an emergency, have the means to communicate. Your phone (together with a backup battery) is a good place to start.

The biggest risk if you get lost in the woods

what to do if you get lost in the wood
Photo by Caleb Jones on Unsplash

Hunger

Food is vital for giving you the energy you need to build and maintain your shelter, or to trek out to safety, albeit it is not as important as water. You can take inventory of the food you’ve packed and figure out how to stretch it out as long as feasible.

The greatest approach to decrease your need for food is to save your energy for only the things that are absolutely essential. You’ll need less food to survive if you have more energy stored up. 

Slow down, relax, and remember that people can last three weeks without food. Your mind should feel substantially less agitated within a few hours.

Dehydration

Without water, you can only last three days. Though this duration may be much shorter if you’re tracking in a humid location. While you’ll almost certainly have taken water with you on most travels, bringing a water filter like the life straw might save your life by allowing you to drink safely from natural water sources.

If feasible, build your shelter near a stream or river to save time and energy. Despite the fact that hunger sensations may be more intense than dehydration symptoms, hydration should always take precedence over hunger.

Hypothermia 

Hypothermia generally develops gradually, so you must keep a close eye on yourself before the severe symptoms appear. Hypothermia is much simpler to acquire at night, especially if you’re in a wet environment.

Remove any damp clothing you have on if you feel your temperature decreasing since this will only raise your risk of hypothermia. To get external heat, use your emergency blanket and start a fire nearby. Internally, you may warm yourself by heating water and gently sipping it.

Heat 

One of the primary worries for persons stranded in hot areas will be heat-related illnesses such as heatstroke. Dehydration, of course, is a condition that goes hand in hand with this issue. 

You must once again pay attention to your body and note if you begin to feel any unexpected muscular cramps. Cramps are an indication that you’re dehydrated and need to drink more fluids. As soon as these symptoms develop, seek shade and drink clean water.

What can I do while waiting for the rescue team?

lost in woods
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Here are things you can do while waiting for help to arrive:

  • To avoid dehydration, be sure to drink enough water.
  • Stop and address minor issues while they are still minor. If you disregard your body and continue to push through the pain or illness, it will just grow worse and recovery will be more difficult.
  • Keep an eye out for signs of hypothermia.
  • Make a warm, snug shelter with your tarp, puffy jacket, and quilt.
  • Use tarps and clothes that are brightly coloured, so that you can be easily identified by the rescue team if they’re travelling by helicopter.

Conclusion

No one wants to get lost in the woods while camping, so make sure to notify trusted friends and family about your journey. 

Bring all of your necessary travel gear with you on the path. It’s much better to be safe than sorry.