Being lost anywhere is incredibly frightening. Being lost in the outdoors is even scarier. You might be alone, or with others, but having no idea where you are or how to get back to safety or camp can be a serious problem and will definitely be a scary experience. Even if you don’t know where you are, or where you’re going, there are always some basic navigation rules to follow.
Look For Evidence
If you find yourself lost in the wilderness then you’ll notice that you quickly become a detective. Start looking for signs of humans. Figurately and literally – look for footprints. As you explore the area you are in you’ll want to be extra mindful of any indicators that humans have been there. Other than looking for literal human footprints you may see signs of humans by seeing domesticated animals, abandoned fire pits, tire tracks, chopped tree stumps, or any sort of lodging or sleep space. In addition, I hope you don’t ever see evidence of humans in the form of garbage or trash, but it is possible.
If you do see any of these signs then you can make the assumption that humans have been through this area, and it’s likely they will come back at some point. Depending on how patient you’re willing to be and what supplies you have available you may want to wait and see if anyone comes back through. Be sure you can safely search the area to see if anyone is in the area, if not, try to be patient in case someone does come back through.
Depending on your surroundings it may be pretty difficult to spot any evidence of humans. Finding human footprints will be significantly easier if you are at a higher vantage point. This may come in the way of climbing a hill or a large rock or boulder, or it may be scaling the sound of a mountainside or climbing a tree. No matter what you decide to do in order to get a higher vantage point – be sure you are doing it safely! Obviously, you won’t want to climb the tree if you aren’t well-versed in climbing. You wouldn’t want to climb a hill that is incredibly steep and muddy. Make the smartest choice for your skillset, current environment, and available supplies.
Follow The Water
If you have any knowledge of early exploration or ancient civilizations then you know that more often than not, cities and communities are built fairly close to a waterway. This is because, before there were piping systems, communities needed water for survival, and in order to make their life a bit easier, they’d set up shop close to a body of water. This is pretty much the same for people anywhere.
If you can find a water source, follow it. You will eventually run into someone. When deciding which direction you should be following, it’s usually easier to move in a downward motion. Moving downhill exerts less energy, and if you’re lost, then you should be trying to conserve your energy as much as possible in case you are lost for a significant period of time.
Another benefit of following the water is quite obvious. It’s an easy source of hydration. If you’re unsure if you should be drinking the water…. don’t. Always err on the side of caution. To learn more about how to purify your water, check here.
Look For Clearings
If you’re unable to find water and unable to find a high vantage point due to the denseness of the surroundings, then try to find a clearing. Finding a clearing will enable you to see farther and see if there are any signs of human activity nearby. This might also allow you to see the sky and spot some type of aircraft that you could signal for help.
Worst case scenario, you aren’t able to find a clearing, you aren’t able to climb a tree or a rock or a hill, and you haven’t found any source of water. Now what? Go down. Start moving downhill. Not only will this be easier to conserve energy, as mentioned above, but water also flows downward so the more likely you are to run into a water source. Also, be sure to use your senses. You can often hear water before you can see it, so don’t be afraid to stop and listen.
My hope is that if you do find yourself somewhere you are unfamiliar that you have a map of some sort. If not, be sure to remember these easy navigation rules to help bring you back to safety.