A (Hitchhiker’s) Guide to The Outdoors
Getting lost while hiking in the great outdoors happens even to the best of us! And although reading about what to do in case we find ourselves in such a situation is not something that most of us do until it happens, it’s good to be prepared for all kinds of scenarios before you leave home and dive deep into the outback. So, let’s get started!
Remain Calm, Focused and Don’t Panic
Getting lost is no fun but remaining calm and focused is the best way to prevent panic and dread from setting in and becoming paralyzed with fear.
First off, observe your surroundings, try to pinpoint your location, think and make a plan. Depending on how you got where you got, you need to get a basic sense of your surroundings. Are you uphill, by a river, in the woods, in a desert? All these things can factor in how you’re going to proceed. To do this, you need to be like Obi-Wan Kenobi and have the high ground. Once you know where you are from a higher vantage point, you can make a plan on what to do next. Try to look for signs of life like campsites, marks of deforestation, even litter and garbage is a good sign that people were near.
Sure, who doesn’t dream of following a trail of manmade garbage and waste to civilization, but if you find yourself in a forest that’s un-yet-soiled by humanity, you have to go about it differently. For starters, travel downhill and in open country. Usually, rivers tend to form near the bases of hills and mountains, so if you can find a river, not only do you have fresh water for survival, but by following it downstream, you will most likely reach some form of settlement or civilization. If not, this is your home now. Planes, drones and paragliders often fly by any piece of land, so sticking to the open country gives you a better chance of being seen. If nothing else, you can write a huge cartoonish “HELP” sign from rocks and pebbles you find, who knows, someone might see it. Setting a fire at night might also do the trick, though it might also attract animals and you risk the chance of the fire getting out of control, so avoid this if possible.
Speaking of hiking at nighttime, unless you’re stranded in your local park, chances are you’re not going to reach civilization within a couple of hours and night time will catch up to you. But worry not, we’ve got you covered. Try to establish a camping ground well before nightfall because the woods can be full of perils in pitch-black. Pitching a makeshift tent or finding a dry empty cave can give you shelter from the elements. Seriously, don’t try to do this after nightfall, stay put and wait out for the morning. Also, avoid settling within a 100-meter range of any nearby river. Nocturnal animals tend to go to rivers for a sip and the last thing you want is to be attacked by some man-bear-pig creature while you’re snoring.
Given enough time, you will most likely find your way back, but in order to hold out for that long, you need perseverance, stubbornness and sheer willpower.
(Mostly Harmless) Survival Gear
Packing some essential pieces of survival equipment wouldn’t hurt, even if you’re just going camping, prepare yourself for a Bear Grylls style adventure every time you go in the wild.
Good for chopping, slicing, carving, edging, there’s nothing this sharp pointy thing can’t be used for. A good blade can be the difference between life and death, so you want something small, durable, strong and very sharp with you at all times. Doesn’t have to be just a knife, a machete or an axe would do as well, as long as it’s able to cut. It would be redundant to get into what a blade will do for you, mainly because of the old caveman adage “pointy sharp thing=much survive”.
Shockingly enough, if you accidentally packed a rope in your duffle bag before you went on this little excursion, you are well on your way to surviving this darkly humorous ordeal. If by some strange twist of fate, you have to climb down the rough side of a mountain, it’s foolish to even attempt such a thing without harnessing yourself up proper with a durable multistrand high tensile rope. Also build a tree harness so you can sleep up in a tree, away from vicious fauna without the fear of falling to your death. This is basic outdoor survival gear people.
Now compasses, these are neat. Unless you’re a boy scout or a 17th-century ship’s captain, you probably left your bio and stellar navigation notes in your other pair of pants or you don’t know the first thing about tracking the astronomical objects to find your way in nature. Leave astronomy to the astronomers and just pack a small compass. Finding your way North or South can help immensely when stranded, so a compass should be first on your “dang, why didn’t I pack that” outdoor survival equipment list.
Ever tried starting a fire by rubbing two stick together? Not that easy. Sure, you probably have a cigarette lighter or matches with you, but those things won’t last long and won’t do much for you in case of windy weather. Pack your fire-making devices in a waterproof container to prevent getting them wet, or just pack a battery-powered fire starter that will give you an ignition spark no matter the conditions outside.
Lighting and Signalling
Signal flare and glow sticks are not just for raves and mass protests. Their uses are mainly survival-oriented for when the lights are out, fire is not an option, or you want to send fiery signal hundreds of meters into the air. You want to be seen by people. Even a whistle is a great way to be heard over vast kilometres because no one would mistake that sound for anything else.