Personally, getting lost in the woods sounds like a dream come true but for many people, even if you have the right gear and fair weather, getting lost can be scary and it can happen quickly. Maybe you stepped off the trail to answer Nature’s Call, you spotted something interesting in the distance, followed an animal out of curiosity, or thought you knew the way to your destination off-trail – whatever the reason may have been, nothing looks familiar. Your breath quickens, your heart rate increases and your blood gathers to your vital organs. But it’s going to be OK! Let’s talk about how to get found! This is a basic intro.
Fun Fact: According to remotefootprints.org the furthest you can get from a road in the State of Maine is 6 miles. The most remote spot in Maine is Russell Pond, Baxter State Park.
The moment you find yourself “turned around”, the term people use when they don’t want to admit that they are lost, it’s important to stop where you are and breathe slowly – remain calm. Panicking causes you to make poor decisions, hinders you from remembering critical details about your surroundings and if you’re on the move panicking can get you injured.
Here are a few ideas to keep yourself calm:
Drink some water or have a snack – not too much though, you may need it if you are indeed lost, especially in a very remote spot. Take a few minutes to consider your surroundings before you move. Do what it takes to make yourself feel better.
Don’t worry about critters – they don’t want to have anything to do with you. Unless you knocked on a Mama Bear’s den and she’s got cubs at home, there’s nothing Maine that you need to worry about. People smell and animals don’t like to be near people.
RULES FOR GETTING FOUND
- Stay Put
The moment you think you are lost, stop moving. Sit down. When people realize you are lost they will come looking for you. If you continue to move it will be harder for searchers to locate you. Sit under the nearest and largest tree. It will be your temporary shelter by giving you shade and some protection from the wind and rain.
- Stay Together
Do not separate if you are with a friend or a pet. In colder weather you’ll be able to keep each other warm. Play games or tell jokes to pass the time and keep your mind from despair or panic. Do not let your pet run loose since they may alert you of searchers before you hear or see them coming.
- Stay Warm
Do not remove clothing in cooler weather. In the summer time it would be appropriate to remove clothing and hang it in tree branches that are immediately around you so that you are able to be seen better. In cold weather you can stuff your pants and shirt with dry leaves. It will act as insulation. Unless you are in danger of frostbite or hypothermia, do not cover yourself in leaves as you will be difficult to find. Keep out of the wind.
Do not lie on the ground in cool or cold weather as it will draw heat from your body and you cause hypothermia. Create a bed of debris made from moss, leaves, and sticks. If you are in danger of freezing or hypothermia then make a shelter out of fallen trees, branches and “roof” it with hemlock boughs (branch tips pointing downwards).
- Be Seen & Heard
Without leaving your spot, set up sticks and logs that look like a human made it. Write on the ground “SOS” or “HELP” within close proximity of your tree. For strategic purposes, when picking your spot to stop and stay put, pick a tree near an open space if there is one at hand. If you hear a noise, make a noise back. Check the sternum strap of your backpack for a whistle, there may be one that is built in. Blowing a whistle is a lot easier to make a lot of noise for a long time rather than yelling because you will eventually lose your voice and require more water (which you need to preserve).
- Reduce Risk
Do not eat wild foods such as berries, mushrooms, flowers etc unless you are absolutely certain you KNOW they are safe. Advise children to NEVER forage for food. There are too many look-a-likes that are deadly. You can survive many days without food.
Water is much more important but can be very dangerous to consume in the wild without sanitation. Water can appear clean but upstream there could be a dead animal that is floating parasites downstream to your mouth or even fecal particulate AKA poop.
If you are properly outfitted and skilled in water filtration through a pump, UV treatment, tablet or boiling then go for it. A day without water is better than a stomach full of parasites that will cause you to have violent diarrhea and dehydration worse than a day without water.
Do not waste calories (calories keep you warm and keep your body functioning – it’s your fuel) on unnecessary activities or untested skills that could harm you. Kids should not attempt fire making unless they have been properly trained.
It’s a good idea that if you plan to spend time in the woods that you are equipped with some potentially life saving gear.
- Survival Kit with basic first aid
- Fire Kit – include multiple methods of fire starting (can be included in survival kit)
- Water Purification Tablets – take up almost no room in comparison to a pump
- Knife and/or Multitool such as a Leatherman
- A whistle – the real deal metal ones are the best
- Water Bottle – steel containers provide the ability to boil water in the container
- Map of area & Compass
- Notepad & Pencil
As important as carrying the proper gear is the knowledge to use it.
FoxTrick Adventures would be delighted & honored to be part of teaching you how to build survival & fire kits, shelters, purify water, use a map & compass or discuss these concepts in depth and hands-on.
We’re available for presentations at schools, youth groups, homeschool groups, scouts, etc.
If you don’t see a course scheduled – speak up & we’ll book it!
Make sure you find us on FaceBook
May The Woods Welcome You
Written By: Kasey Marsters “Fox”
Edited By: Squirrel
Suggested Reading Materials
- Bushcraft and Camping – George W. Sears “Nessmuk”
- Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival – Dave Canterbury
- How To Stay Alive In The Woods – Bradford Angier
- Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills – The Mountaineers
- Staying Found: The Complete Map & Compass Book – June Fleming
- Survive!: Essential Skills and Tactics to Get You Out of Anywhere – Alive – Les Stroud
- The Essential Wilderness Navigator: How to Find Your Way in the Great Outdoors – David Seidman
- Wilderness Navigation: Finding Your Way Using Map, Compass, Altimeter & GPS – Bob Burns