LOST IN THE WILDERNESS
The wilderness looks pretty inviting as you drive by it on the Interstate. It also looks really neat on TV, in movies and novels. It’s a wonder why you hear every now and again about missing hikers, missing hunters and missing groups of people getting lost in the woods. Surely there’s got to be a highway nearby or at least a corner grocery store or cell service. Well, the sad reality is that a lot of people who camp and hike away from the cell towers and highways tend to not take the right precautions and only realize this once it dawns on them that they are lost.
But there is good news.
If you do prepare properly, even for that short 20-minute hike away from the rest stop on the busy road, you will increase your odds of survival. But in order to do this, you have to have the right gear with you from the very beginning. Let’s take a look at some of those things and why they are so important.
Sure, for some, packing along some snack food just makes sense. All you need to do is make a trail of it as you work your way on and off the marked trail and you should be able to find your way back to the car without issue. In a perfect world that would work but since your trail of snacks is in the wild, critters are going to get to it before they get to you.
In fact, leaving a trail of food does two things. First, it creates a path for wild animals to follow in order to find you. Second, as the wild animals munch on your trail of snack food, you are increasing their appetite for when they finally do meet up with you.
Here’s why you really want to carry snack food with you, even to the outhouse 50 yards away. It will prevent you from starving to death. Oh, sure, laugh it up, but if you suddenly got separated from your travelling partners, you’ll be glad that you had a few sticks of beef jerky, a granola bar and a box of Smarties stashed in your fanny pack.
The best snack foods to have with you include jerky, granola/energy bars, trail mix and a jar of peanut butter. These items alone will give you the edge you need when nightfall comes and you are huddled against a boulder.
CELL PHONE / MOBILE PHONE
We know, there are few cell towers in the woods. But you just may luck out and connect with one just when you need it most. But your cellphone serves a couple of other good purposes when lost in the woods.
First, it will give others a tracking tool to aid in locating you providing you don’t turn off the GPS system that your smartphone has already built into it. Second, you could use the phone to take photos as you make your way into the woods. By taking many, many photos as you hike along the trail and even when you veer off of it, you may be able to actually find your way out on your own.
Plus, if your smartphone has any cool apps on it, you’ll be able to keep yourself occupied playing games until the battery is dead.
We’re not talking about a giant lantern here. Luckily, there are countless styles of mini flashlights that are so bright that you’ll be glad you had one slipped into your jacket pocket when you pull it out.
If batteries are a concern, there are crank style and solar powered options as well. Thanks to the technological advances in portable flashlight technology, you won’t be in the dark for long and you’ll be able to at least find your way around the location you’ve chosen to bed down for the night.
Even if you get lost in the wilderness somewhere in a warm climate, the evening is going to cool down considerably. This is why you’re survive rate depends on fire. Well, more accurately heat. With some kind of fire starter – waterproof matches for example – you have a fighting chance.
Plus, with an awesome campfire burning you will not only be able to stay warm, but you can use it for cooking purposes as well. That is if you’ve got some cooking gear in your backpack. Even if you don’t, you can fashion things out of the branches, rocks and debris you’ll find around you to be able to at least boil water.
Any idea why they are called a pocket knife? It’s because they are small enough to fit comfortably in your pocket. The beauty of having a knife along for the ride is that you’ll have something to talk to and keep you company. Plus, you’ll be able to cut things with it to make your situation a little bit more bearable. For example, with the right knife, you’ll be able to cut and trim branches and sticks to build a lean-to shelter. You’ll also be able to carve messages into tree bark, the ground and other places to help searchers find you or your body.
Again, a handy tool that takes up very little space. Provided you know how to use a compass, you may be able to find your way out of the wilderness. At the very least, if you use it right you will prevent yourself from walking in circles for the entire time you spend out there.
WATER BOTTLE & WATER FILTRATION
Bringing your own water in a durable, reusable water bottle is more important than you think. Not only is it always a good idea, the water bottle full of water will keep you from dehydration and from death!
One of the good things about getting lost in the woods is that sooner or later you are going to come across a river, babbling brook or stream of water somewhere. Now you have something to fill all that water with.
As tempting as it may be to plunge right in and drink as much as you can, you have no idea whether or not the pristine, crystal clear water is contaminated or not. It’s usually wise to just automatically assume that any water source you encounter is dangerous.
But if you have a water filtration device of some kind, you can turn that sketchy looking pool of swill into a delicious drink of water. Water is going to keep you alive longer than your box of Smarties, just so you know.
FIRST AID KIT
Although you may not be able to treat cuts and bruises that result from a cougar or bear attack, a first aid kit will be pretty handy when you do end up with a minor boo-boo. Nowadays, you can just go to your local pharmacy or survival/hunting store and grab a ready made first aid kit and be assured that it will contain the kinds of things you’ll need in case of some cuts, burns or rashes.
THE RIGHT CLOTHING
We know, it was sunny, bright and freakishly hot when you started your day and it was even hotter by the time you got lost in the woods. That isn’t a good enough excuse to be wandering aimlessly in the trees in a string bikini and flip flops.
Oddly enough, the clothing that would almost always guarantee you getting picked up while hitchhiking is not going to have the same effect when lost hiking. The main reason is that you are going to get cold. You are going to get cut and bruised up. Plus, you can’t stash too much survival gear in a thong, so you do have to think this one out long before you arrive at the trailhead.
Expect to be out longer than you planned and dress accordingly. Proper hiking boots and socks will keep your feet warm and comfy. By dressing in layers, you can at least peel off one or two but still have those items for when the temperature starts to drop and is no longer fun to be in.
It doesn’t matter if you actually do scream like a girl. Nothing can travel further like the shrill sound of a whistle cutting through the sound barrier. A whistle can be your best friend for many reasons including being able to signal people when you are unable to yell or scream. It happens, you could have been yelling and screaming for the past six hours and now your voice is hoarse. At least with a whistle you can still make some kind of noise.
THERE ARE TWO MORE THINGS THAT CAN CONTRIBUTE GREATLY TO YOUR CHANCE OF SURVIVAL
So you have most of the physical tools, but do you have the mental tools that will guarantee success following getting lost in the wild? Here are the two key ‘brain’ elements you will need to make it happen.
SOME KNOWLEDGE ABOUT YOUR SURVIVAL TOOLS
It’s great to have a collection of items that will help you to survive should you get lost out there somewhere. However, having the gear is only part of the puzzle. You also need to know how to use those things. Sure, the snack food and flashlight are easy ones. No-brainers, really.
But what about the water filtration device and the fire starter? You can’t just light a leaf up and expect it to turn into a nice, raging fire. Building a fire takes a certain kind of skill. So does not getting lost in the first place but we’ve gone way beyond that point.
Okay, you are probably going to argue this point, but if you are not physically and mentally fit, your survival rate in the wild is about as promising as finding a Denny’s on the other side of the rock bluff you’ve spent your first night alone.
You are going to need to draw on your stamina, smarts and resolve in order to make it through this particular challenge. That’s why you will see that people who have some level of mental and physical fitness – who are properly prepared – can survive lost long enough for the search and rescue crew to find them.
SO, HOW DO YOU ENJOY THE GREAT OUTDOORS WITH THE FEAR OF GETTING LOST?
Hey, nobody plans to get lost wandering in the woods. But it happens. You misread a crudely drawn trail map or someone moved a sign as a gag a week ago and you end up taking a wrong turn and suddenly you are lost. It happens in some pretty unplanned ways. Stopping at the highway rest stop and deciding to get a bit of a leg stretch and before you know it, you’ve wandered away from the RV about a mile and a half and can’t retrace your steps because you weren’t paying attention.
You don’t really want to get lost in the wild. Not so much because you’ll die out there but because it can really put a damper on your vacation. The upside is that if you take the proper precautions, pack the right gear and carry some important items with you at all times, you will be able to survive most any circumstance.
But it really does depend on you. If you have the mental and physical strength to pull through the “I’m lost in the middle of nowhere” problem, you’ll be fine and end up with a great story to tell the family, friends and grandchildren. However, if you are not prepared and choose to hike in a bikini and flip flops, you may just end up being a pretty corpse and just a footnote minus the grandkids.
What we are saying here is that getting lost is really no big deal if you are ready for just about anything. In reality, if you do get lost and either find your way out or others discover your campsite and bring you back to civilization, you didn’t get lost – you just had a little adventure. Hopefully these tips will help you to enjoy that little adventure a bit better than you might have otherwise.