Surviving in The Wilderness… after getting completely lost.

Beautiful fall time is here again, at least in this part of the planet…

One of the most amazing things to do right now, is go hiking to the magnificent nature, to wilderness, and just enjoy the beautiful views, pristine nature, colors, fresh air, the sometimes warm but usually little chilly and crisp fall sunshine…

Fall is very inspiring and magical time, very atmospheric time, and most of all, perfect for outdoor recreation and wilderness adventures. The weather’s not too hot, but at its best can be fresh and nicely warm and ideal for hiking and walking. The colors of the nature are mesmerizing, the landscapes awe-inspiring. The irritating injects are gone…

So you decide to have a wilderness adventure for a long day from early morning till as late evening as you can before it becomes dark, or, even for two days, or perhaps for a long weekend. You decide to go hiking to some beautiful mountainous wilderness forests by yourself, or with your loved one or a friend.

Is there anything more adventurous and romantic than to go hiking for example to magnificent mountain forests with your loved one for a day or two in fantastically beautiful fall weather…? No there’s not – that’s one of the most romantic and exciting experiences you two can share.

Or.. is there anything more relaxing and inspiring than to take a whole day off just by yourself and go hiking to wilderness for a long day from morning till evening…?

So you pack your things and start your adventure in one sunny, crisp Friday or Saturday morning.

BUT what happens when you go out there, have amazing time, AND, get completely lost by the end of the day..? Or something else happens…?

Anything can happen to anyone when going hiking to large forest areas, mountains and complete wilderness, even if you are somewhat experienced, are pretty familiar with the area, or go there just for a one day’s outdoor recreation.

It can also happen if you go there with someone else instead of going alone (don’t think you can’t get lost if you’re there with your loved one and feel safe..!).

Perhaps you plan a one-day relaxing hike in a large forest area you hiked in before and feel that one bottle of water and an energy bar is enough.

The weather is fine and heavy clothes would be a burden. You decide not to take your survival kit with you. You go hiking and enjoy every moment…

At some point, you step out of the marked routea little, just to see that gorgeous mountain better you just noticed… You hike a little in the forest and admire the views with full focus.

And by the end of the day, you’re completely lost…It’s also getting dark fast. You start feeling cold and become slowly more and more scared. Before you know the sun has set and it’s dark and there you are in some mountainous forest area and have no idea where you are.

This scene plays out across the country and the world every day.

A one day’s normal hike can turn into a nightmare of days wandering lost in the woods. Injuries, unexpected weather events, encounters with wild animals or simply disorientation can leave anyone lost or stranded.

Rescue personnel have repeatedly documented finding lost hikers, campers, hunters, nature enthusiasts and cross country skiers sometimes just a few miles from civilization. Some had already succumbed to dehydration and hypothermia before rescue personnel could find them cause they had nothing with them other than light equipment. But regardless that they’ve been pretty nearby civilization, they haven’t been able to get out of the woods because they didn’t know what to do and/or acted inefficiently based on fear.

People obviously never expect that they would need to be in the woods for any longer than they planned originally.

The younger and more inexperienced you are, the cockier you usually are for what comes to having adventures in the woods or wilderness vs your safety. Or you can be all grown up too, any age, and still feel over-safe when going to wilderness.

And what comes to really adventurous kids… like I was when I was under or barely over 10 years. Well it’s not a good combination; an over-adventurous, over-confindent and bold kid wandering to large forest area by her/himself without any safety equipment whatsoever and without telling anyone where she/he went, and not even realizing that something could go wrong.

I did this once when I was about 10 years; there was this one magnificent and large rocky formation far away in the forests and high on the hillsides in the area where our family’s winter vacation home is, and I wanted to go there to see how it looks like in winter time, cause I loved the place. There weren’t (and still aren’t) any kinds of paths or anything that way in winter time, just deep snow and steep hills to climb. So, first, I walked along one larger road, and then went to a smaller road and walked there for some time, and finally went to the snowy forest after walking on the road for some time. After about 2 and half hours I was almost there. But then  I got caught in the snow as there was snow almost till my waist, I remember that clearly. My feet got caught in some under-snow crack between some rocks. I remember that I was not worried or scared at all in that point, although I couldn’t get out of there, I was just like “damn…” But I was able get out of there by myself after some time and after a few hours I got back finally, it was already late afternoon. (My parents were already worried by that time as I had disappeared and they had no idea where I was.)

So please, teach your kids to be careful and always to tell where they are going!

I recall also one incident that happened to my dad many years ago; he went to some wilderness forest and swamp area in late morning and had nothing with him other than the needed equipment to pick berries and a bottle of water.  He planned on picking berries for a couple of hours. He ended up lost and could finally get back after midnight more than 12 hrs later, little bit after the police was called.

NOTE; cell phone is not always enough, and it does NOT replace the survival kit even if it was!

When you go to wilderness, you must take into account that even in today’s world there are plenty of areas that are not covered by cellphone networks. And even if you were in an area that is covered by the network, there MAY be shade areas where you can’t use your cell phone. Luckily though in today’s world a person usually can be tracked down based on the cellphone signal in a case of emergency, even if it was just a weak signal.

However when you go out to wilderness, this is not enough alone. Still you need to have a basic survival kit with you.

An important note regarding cell phones; remember to make sure that your cell phone is fully charged before you go!

You must be prepared with a basic survival kit when going hiking, no matter what kind of trip you’ve planned on doing.

If it’s a serious hiking trip for one day in large wilderness forest areas, it’s enough of a reason to prepare with a survival kit.

It don’t matter, if it’s just a one day’s hiking trip, if you’ve been in the area before, or, if it’s just a quick idea you got a moment ago and decide to go immediately to some forests, reachable after a short car-drive, to hiking for the rest of the day.

Even more so you need to be well prepared with a survival kit, if your hiking trip is going to be more demanding, such as an over-night hiking trip or hiking for couple of days, and if the area is very demanding and/or un-known to you. Don’t be cocky for what comes to safety.

Also, always, always inform someone close to you, such as a family member or a friend if you decide to hiking. This way someone knows where you’ve gone – and if they don’t start hearing from you, they can inform the rescuers where you’ve gone.

The survival kit should be adapted to your personal needs to include extra contacts or eyeglasses, prescription medications and any medical devices that may be required, or anything else that you personally may require should you need to say out there for longer time than you expected.

You should update and adapt your survival kit according to the seasons and geography of your planned hiking area.

An example for adaptation for geography would include rope and cold weather gear if you were planning a hike in a mountainous region. Weather at higher altitudes changes rapidly and you must pack accordingly.

Keep in mind the items in your survival kit would be in addition to any standard supplies you would normally carry along on a hike or camping trip. The items in the kit can easily be packed into any backpack.

Survival Kit Essentials for a pretty demanding one-day hiking in large wilderness forest areas or for a demanding hiking trip (anything longer and more demanding than the previous one)

– Multi-Tool

– Fixed Bladed Knife

– Fishing Line/Monofilament

– Assortment of Fishhooks

– Quality Rope/String/Twine

– First Aid Kit Add A Suture Kit (A Suture Kit Has Surgical Thread Along With Various Sized Needles For Stitching Up Wounds )

– 2% Liquid Iodine With Dropper For Water Purification (Can Use Iodine Pills Or Crystals As Well)

– Two (2)  One-Quart/Liter Canteens (Recommend Stainless)

–  Small Metal Container That Can Be Used To Boil Water Such As A Camp Coffee Pot

–  Coffee Filters For Water Filtration

–  Magnesium Stick

–  Signal Mirror

–  Cotton Cloth

–  Rain Gear/ Ponchos/Tarps

–  Petroleum Jelly

–  Cotton Balls

–  Light Gauge Wire (20 to 24 Gauge)

–  Camp Axe

–  Lensatic Compass And A Topographical Map Of Your Intended Camping Or Hiking Area

– Entrenching Tool/Folding Shovel

– Flashlight and Batteries

Always carry your emergency kit on every outdoor outing and carry one in your vehicle as well. Purchase multiples of each item so you can practice when on an outing. Knowledge and skill will quell panic, so it is important you become familiar with all your survival tools and materials.

Pack with a little creativity, and you will see that most of the items will fit quite easily in with your other gear.

You may be wondering why not just pack enough water for an extended period. Water weighs roughly 8.5lbs/ 3.6kgs per gallon in its container, and each person needs, on average one gallon of water per day. Typically, a person on a day hike will carry about two quarts/liters. Water simply weighs too much to carry enough for an extended period. That is why it is extremely important you know how to collect and purify any water source if you become stranded.

The same theory applies when packing food. You will of course pack food supplies for overnight camping and typically will have easy to eat foods for hiking such as protein bars, trail mix and so forth. Once again, your survival kit is in addition to any food or water supplies you would traditionally carry.

Your survival kit provides you the means to survive extended periods in the wilderness, after the food and water you packed have run out.


What to do if you get lost?

If your wonderful hiking trip turns into a little more adventurous than you originally expected, or even starts reminding of some nightmare – this is what you must do.

If, by the end of the day, or after hiking for pretty long time, you get lost and just suddenly don’t know at all where you’re at, there are some simple things you need to remember and do.

You Must Have Shelter

The rules of three states that shelter is required within three hours of becoming stranded whereas, you can live for three days without water. Logic therefore, would dictate that shelter is the main priority. This is true to some extent but in the hours leading up to dehydration, the body’s functions are limited. Your vision becomes blurred and you will develop severe headaches, possibly even hallucinations. In other word if you cannot find a water source and or do not have the means to collect or purify that water you will not physically be able to build a shelter and forage for food. Subsequently, you must compromise by constructing a field expedient shelter to meet your immediate needs. Once you have secured a reliable water source you can improve upon the shelter.

To build a substantial protective shelter that will serve as a more permanent structure you will need a, hand axe/machete, poles trimmed and cut about five or six feet long, rope or wire and the cutters from a multi-tool. Begin by crossing the pole ends over another and binding together. It is just a matter of securing the first three poles together so they stand. From there just fill in as needed with forest debris.

Quick shelters can be constructed from tarps or rain ponchos without any tools by draping the material over several poles that are interlocked.  Find a fallen log and pile forest debris on one side leaving room for you lay down as a quick shelter . If you have a shovel or you can use a rock, blunt stick, to scoop out some dirt next to the log to provide more space and you can use the excavated soil for more protection from the elements.

Shelter can be the clothes you are wearing, a pile of leaves or a branch/ tree that shades you from the hot sun or cold wind. In frigid climates without proper clothing, you can develop life threatening hypothermia in less than an hour if you cannot find or construct adequate shelter.


Water is a priority in any situation, and during the course of your daily life, you may not be aware of the various ways you hydrate yourself. Juice, coffee, sports drinks, tea and even foods can add to the body’s required daily fluid intake. The body to replace fluid loss through urination, perspiration, and breathing, needs on average two-quarts/liters daily. You can only go for 72-hours without adequate fluids before you begin to dehydrate. Untreated dehydration is fatal 100 percent of the time.

Any water source you find in the wilderness must be filtered and purified before it is considered safe to drink. Sources include rivers, streams, lakes, cisterns and ponds.

Filtering is important because debris and sediments in the water will make boiling and chemical purification less effective. Filter using sand/gravel, which can be found along most streams and rivers, coffee filters, cloth and charcoal. Use an empty can with a hole in the bottom as a filtering device or use a two-liter plastic soda bottle with the top half cut off. Layer the filtering mediums in whatever container you use. Pour the contaminated water from the vessel used to collect the water and allow it to filter into a clean canteen for chemical purification or a container to boil the water.

Boiling Water

Filter all water sources before boiling to purify water. Water must rapid boil for at least one minute at sea level and up to three minutes if you are in a mountainous/high elevation region. Water boils at a lower temperature at higher elevations because of less air pressure. Water therefore, must boil longer at lower temperatures to destroy all waterborne contaminates.

Two Percent Liquid Iodine

Filter the water from the container used to collect water into a clean container for purification. The container used to collect the contaminated water will have contaminates around the drink line and it can be hazardous to drink from the container until it has been properly disinfected. The ratio is based on a one-quart/liter container. Add five drops of iodine to the container, seal, shake well and allow 30 minutes before drinking. If the water is cloudy even after filtration, you can double the drops and wait an additional 30 minutes. Never exceed 10 drops of iodine per quart/liter of water.

Do you stay in place or try to walk out?

Don’t start panicking if you realize you’re lost and it’s getting dark and colder. This is the worst thing you can do. Instead maintain your head and mind clear, calm down, and start thinking calmly and clearly which of the two options RIGHT NOW in that moment is the best.

Logically if you knew your way, you would not be lost in the first place, and thus logic can tell you that by wandering around you can make it more difficult for rescue personnel to find you.

But on the other hand, it’s not a good idea either to let yourself get too inactive and just remain where you are for long time and get little by little more scared and mentally frozen. This way you can ultimately make yourself weaker as you mentally decide to give up.

Think of the situation; if it’s yet daylight and you have some time before it gets dark, you can take action and start moving strategically.

If it’s very soon dark, you should just find a safe place where to stay for the night.

Even if you have a good flashlight and extra batteries, don’t start aimlessly wandering in the dark forest.  Safe the batteries rather than use them all now in one night.

Thrashing and stumbling through the brush in a panic will cause injury, burn up precious energy and you will become dehydrated more quickly.

Rescuers will attempt to track from where they believe you began your adventure. They will have a more difficult time finding you if you continue to wander aimlessly.

So stay in place if it gets dark soon and it is safe, and, you have shelter and water. You can survive up to three weeks without food and it is very likely you will be rescued before starvation.

If you decide to leave or feel you have to self-rescue, leave markers along the way for rescue personnel. Follow any stream or river down-stream or if you are in a coastal area try and find the ocean. Look for railroad tracks and power lines and follow in whatever direction your instinct tells you. You should walk slowly and never run or jog. You will injure yourself, burn energy, and deplete body fluids needlessly.


Wilderness Survival  – Finding Your Way Out

Coming to the realization you are lost is a process than can induce panic. Your heart begins to race and every tree and turn of the trail looks familiar yet when you run to the next turn or familiar looking tree you see emptiness ahead.

Your instinct is to literally run in circles and crash through the brush. Your panicked mind believes that running faster will get you home quicker.

As difficult as it is once you realize you are lost, you must stop all what you’re doing for a while, and calmly and clearly evaluate the situation. Keep yourself together!

Blundering through the woods will cause injuries and you will use up valuable energy and water. Stop and attempt to relax. Your ability to think will be as important in saving your life, as any tools or materials you have in your pack.

Do all it takes to get yourself to calm down before doing anything else. You MUST be able to think clearly and calmly, that’s the number one thing in finding your way out.

First, inventory your supplies.

How much food and water do you have? You must begin rationing food and water immediately. Small sips of water are more beneficial than drinking large amounts all at once. Do not begin eating from stress. Do not drink all your water now – save it for later.

You will need the energy from what food you do have, to hike out of the wilderness, so save your food until you are ready to begin hiking.

Water is critical and you must have an adequate amount everyday to prevent dehydration.

Your body loses fluids by breathing, which is more evident in colder climates, when you can literally see the fluids (your breath) evaporating from your body. Heavy breathing from stress or exertion will increase fluid loss as well as perspiring, urination, and digesting high protein foods.

Do you have a shelter in your pack or the means to make shelter? If your immediate area is safe, make camp where you are before it gets dark. You must have a shelter and fire for the night. Don’t start wandering around blindly in the darkness!

It cannot be stressed enough you must stop and assess your situation before it gets to dark to make camp.

Unless your life is in immediate danger, from being pursued, you should never attempt to hike through the woods at night because the hazards are simply too great.

The dangers of trying to make your way out at night include possible encounters with active nocturnal predators including dangerous reptiles. You can also walk off the edge of a cliff or gorge in the dark, fall into a hole, collide with, or trip over any number of things and break a bone.

Keep your mind busy with camp chores, set up your tent/shelter or build a shelter with available forest debris and get a fire started. Now is also the ideal time to collect and purify more drinking water for the hike out beginning in the morning. You do not know if you will find any water sources on your hike, so when you have the opportunity, always top off your water supply using approved collection and purification methods.

Secondly think of any possibly signs you can create for the rescuers.

If you can safely start several fires, do so for signaling rescue personnel. Forest rangers in some areas scan continually for forest fires by looking for smoke and flame. Some rescue units may not search at night but campers or others may spot your signal fire.

To help make it easier for rescue personnel to find you, leave markers by hanging cloth from tree branches or forming arrows on the ground, with sticks or stones pointing in the direction of travel. Rescue personnel will attempt to locate your point of entry and track you. Running in circles will only make it more difficult for rescuers to find you. Travel in one direction as the terrain allows, and be mindful that most people will walk in circles if they cannot focus visually on a landmark.

Thirdly, you must have energy to make the hike out so if your food supply is limited, save eating. You will need the energy for walking and not sleeping.  

Make sure you save foods and drink water intelligently. The most important thing is the water, so if your own water bottles are getting empty, you will need to find a source for water, then filter and boil it and use it as drinking water. The warmer the weather, the more you’re gonna need water, even if it’s pretty mild fall weather .

Fourthly, when you start walking, proceed systemically and calmly.

Following rivers or streams or finding the coast can lead to civilization. Many towns and cities got their start near rivers and large bodies of water because of the need for water, power for mills and commerce from shipping.

Always walk downstream, upstream will lead you farther into the wilderness in most cases.

Railroad tracks lead to towns and cities, as do utility lines.

Deciding which way to follow the tracks or power lines is based on your own instincts keeping in mind the tracks came from somewhere and are headed somewhere else, and this generally applies to overhead power lines as well.

Pick a tree or large rock to walk to, and once there focus on another prominent landmark, walk toward it, and so on.

You can also use the sun to stay on course, by knowing the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.

As you face the rising sun, north is to your left and south to your right. Once the sun has reached its zenith, keep it on one shoulder to stay on course and as it lowers, keep the setting sun ahead of you. Use this method if you are not walking along railroad tracks or moving downstream alongside a river or stream.

It is never a good idea to walk fast if you are hiking your way out.

You will have the urge to hurry but you must suppress it. Speed walking or jogging is not the answer even if the terrain would allow it. You will burn too much energy and increase your risk of dehydration and injuries such as a twisted or broken ankle. Walk slowly and if you have a walking or hiking stick use it and if not make one. You will need it for balance and for help getting up and down inclines.

Take breaks and sip your water, and always top off your water supply when you have the chance. Do not rush and be ready long before sundown to make camp for another night. You need time for your shelter and collecting more water. You will survive if you can keep hydrated and do not panic and injure yourself.

If rescue personnel realize from tracking you, that you are moving in a straight line they will attempt to predict your course and determine where you might be at a certain time.

Self-guessing yourself is not helpful so maintain the state of mind that you will be found or you will find civilization. If you are following a watercourse, railroad tracks or power lines you will come to a town or highway eventually.

You can walk your way out of the wilderness and depending on the terrain, your physical capabilities and other factors it may take several days. However, it can be done and has been done by hundreds if not thousands of campers, hunters, nature enthusiast and campers.

People panic because they simply do not know what to do next.

Training, knowledge and confidence in yourself will quell panic allowing you to go about the business of finding your way home.

If you love the idea of hiking in the wilderness, remember also to practice your bush craft such as shelter building, water collection, purification and fire starting so you will know what to do when the time comes.

Happy hiking…!



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