When you get lost, this means that you are not able to orient or make out your present location and you have no means or way of reorienting yourself. This a terrifying experience especially when it finally dawns on you that you are actually lost, and you are now faced with the threat of having to deal with a hostile environment, and the threat of starvation and exposure among other things.
So what steps should you take to reorient yourself back to civilization?
Identify any telltale signs
If you have no clue where you are, you may need to rely on certain cues like trail markings, tire tracks, tree stumps, roads etc to help you navigate back to civilization. Look for any kind of signs that may indicate that somebody has either been there or has passed there. Take a look around and see if you can find actual human footprints.
It may be a long short, but you need to try anything and everything possible to get yourself unlost. Most importantly, avoid going into panic mode, as this will lead to bad decisions. Try to stay calm and collected as this will help you think more clearly and hence help you make informed decisions.
Apply conventional wisdom
One typical strategy that has been used for centuries is following a stream or river downhill when lost. Of course, you would not go uphill, as you will be heading in the direction of the water source, where chances are you will not find civilization. You are more likely to find civilization, downriver or downstream. Again, you will also save a lot of energy going downhill than uphill and in survival situation, you should always try to preserve your energy.
Another advantage of following a river or stream is that you will stay hydrated. Humans are capable of going for days even weeks without food, but they cannot go for more than 72 hours without water. Of course, you need to purify the water before drinking it, if it possible. If not, it does not matter, at least there water available for you to drink.
Get to High Ground
Knowing what surrounds can be of great help, but if you cannot mark out anything to help you find your way back, trying getting to high ground for a better view. To make an informed decision on where to go, you need to at least see what is around you. Mark out any landmarks that you feel can be of help. You may be even lucky enough to spot a campfire in the distance.
This strategy is very useful; however, great care is needed, especially if you have to climb a tall tree to scout the place. The last thing you absolutely need is to fall off a tree and get injured. If you feel it is risky, try to see if there is a hill or some high ground that is easy to climb. Steep hills provide great vantage points, but the risk is also great, especially if are likely to slip. The desperation to get home intensifies with every minute, but you have to be extremely cautious. In a survival situation, if you get injured or if your health fails, your chances of survival are drastically reduced.
Head for clear ground
If you are in densely wooded area, and climbing a tree seems far too risky, try to get to clear ground. Glades make it easier to identify your surroundings, and this will help you know which direction to take or what to do next. Another advantage of heading to clear ground is that you may find cows or sheep grazing, which means there are people nearby. It could also be a landing area for small aircrafts. The bottom line is heading to clear ground, as long as it is not too far or too dangerous to get to, is a pretty smart thing to do.
To be able to identify which way is downhill from your present location, you need to find high ground if possible in order to know what is around you. Always apply the conventional wisdom of following a river or stream downhill to civilization. By traveling downhill, you are more than likely to come across a water body, which is definitely a good sign. Moreover, you will be able to conserve more of your energy traveling downhill and consequently, increase your chances of finding help.
The Bottom Line – how to find your way back when no idea where you are
Getting lost can happen to anyone, even the most skillful navigators. If you find yourself lost in the wilderness and you do not have a compass, a smartphone or any kind of device that can help you orient yourself back to civilization, than you will need to rely on conventional methods.
It is also advisable to use whatever you have on you to improve your chances of survival if you get lost. Whatever you may have, may prove to be quite valuable, so avoid throwing anything away, even if it is paper bag.
Another thing that you need to avoid is freaking out. While it is natural for a person to panic, once they realize that they are actually lost, panicking can through you into disarray, and as a result, it can cause you to make some really bad decisions that will compound the problem.
It is also important that you inform a friend, relative or neighbor of your expedition. Let them know exactly where you are going, when you are leaving and when you intend to get back. So that if you do not check-in or come back home, they will notice and they will report it to the authorities.
Having pointed out some of the thing you could do if you find yourself lost, it is also important to point out some of the things you should avoid doing if you get lost.
So here are some things you should try to avoid doing if you are lost in the wilderness.
- Do not drink urine unless you really have to. Drinking your own urine may keep you hydrated, but do this only if you are extremely dehydrated and there is no water body nearby and no more than twice. This is because when you drink your pee the second time, it more concentrated than the first time. So each time you do this, it will be like taking seawater and this could lead to some adverse effects, such as fatigue, diarrhea, itchiness and fever.
- If you are temporarily lost, conserve your energy as much as possible and use your time wisely. A human being can survive up to three days without water and can go for three weeks without food, so unless you will be stuck there for long, avoid doing things that are in no way going to help you find your way back home.
- Do not wait for help. When you are pretty sure that you are lost, it is never advisable to sit and wait for help. This will in no way help you get rescued faster. The sooner you start making some solid decisions, and act on them, the higher you increase your chances of getting back to civilization or finding help.
- Do not build a fire. Many people who get lost in the wilderness often get rescued or make it out in a matter of hours. So there is actually no need of wasting time and energy trying to build a fire.
- Do not make any decisions based on assumptions, but rather on facts, having evaluated your situation. If you are trying to self-rescue, you need to be practical. For example, it is not wise to stay put, when you know that you did not inform anyone where you were going and when you were intending to be back.
You need to learn how to find your way back when no idea where you are, as especially in survival situations you might find yourself in strange places. Of course it’s important to do whatever you can to avoid getting lost. Make sure you have always maps about the local area, and compass. Make sure that you also know how to read map and how to use compass.