LIFE

How To Survive The First 72 Hours When Lost In The Woods

by Elyse Wanshel
Elyse is a Senior Writer at LittleThings.com. She enjoys tacos, kickboxing, and naming animals. In fact, she named two of her mother’s six cockatiels Mr. and Mrs. Featherbottom.

We all get lost sometimes. It’s so easy to get turned around in a new city, large mall, or sometimes, even your own neighborhood.

These kinds of instances are annoying, but we usually figure things out by asking someone for directions or looking at a map.

What’s worrisome, however, is when someone gets lost in an unfamiliar, isolated place where there are no modern conveniences, like what happened to this grandma that went missing in the woods.

Yet, you don’t have to be an old lady to get lost in a place as disorienting as a forest. University of Stirling psychologist Paul Dudchenko and the author of Why People Get Lost claims that we all have an innate sense of direction or a “mental compass.”

“It usually is very good because we walk around familiar landmarks by which we can orient ourselves,” he says. “But if we are someplace where there is no ability to correct it, our compass starts to drift.”

People’s senses of directions do vary, but it’s easy for anyone to lose their bearings. If you like to hike, camp, or are just a fan of the great outdoors, this can very easily happen to you.

And in order to survive your first 72 hours, you need to know these specific tips and tricks. They could be the difference between life and death!

Survival Tip #1: Let someone know you’re going out before leaving.

Survival Tip #1: Let someone know you’re going out before leaving.
LittleThings / Maya Borenstein

If something does happen to you in the woods, your best chance of surviving is getting rescued.

By telling someone who cares about you exactly where you are going, they can contact the right officials and start a rescue operation if you don’t return.

Unfortunately, most people don’t bother with this step, because they want to live their lives independently — but this step could be key to survival.

Survival Tip #2: Carry essential tools and supplies with you.

Survival Tip #2: Carry essential tools and supplies with you.
LittleThings / Maya Borenstein

According to the New York State Department of Environment Conservation, you should never go into the woods alone with out a full water bottle, food, a knife, waterproof matches, a watch and a small flashlight.

It is also wise to carry a garbage bag (preferably filled with a dry set of clothes), a fully charged cell phone, and watch. It may sound like a lot, but all of these items can easily fit into a standard-sized book bag.

Survival Tip #3: When you realize you are lost, sit down!

Survival Tip #3: When you realize you are lost, sit down!
LittleThings / Maya Borenstein

Robert Koester, a search and rescue expert and author of Lost Person Behavior, says that when you realize you are lost, the first thing you should do is sit down.

“Take a deep breath, sit down, and calm yourself,” he advises.

Making rash decisions because you feel anxious might worsen your situation. Most people don’t think they will ever get lost in the woods, but it does happen — and often. Panic leads to wasted time and bad decisions.

Survival Tip #4: While you are sitting, begin to think.

Survival Tip #4: While you are sitting, begin to think.
LittleThings / Maya Borenstein

Ask yourself important questions like, “How did I get here?” and, “How much time is left before it gets dark?”

If you did not bring a phone or a watch, you can tell how much daylight you have left with your hand.

To do this, extend your hand flat in front of you, as demonstrated above. Align your index finger right beneath the sun — but be careful not to look directly into it!

Each finger measures about 15 minutes, so your entire hand equals about an hour.  Count how many fingers can fit between the bottom of the sun and the horizon. This will give you an approximation of the hours (or minutes) you have before the sun sets.

Survival Tip #5: Pinpoint your position with observations.

Survival Tip #5: Pinpoint your position with observations.
LittleThings / Maya Borenstein

Once you are calm and know much time you have before sunset, try to identify landmarks that can help tell you where you are. These can include distinctive visuals, like mountains and trees, or sounds, like traffic and running water, which can help you find your way back to safety.

If none of these things are available to you, try the moss method. According to Popular Mechanics, moss typically grows on the north side of trees and rocks.

You can also look at spider webs, which usually hang on south side of trees.

Click “Page 2” to learn other live-saving tips, like how to find water!

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