What to Do if You’re Lost in the Woods Alone

It happens—sometimes things don’t go as planned and you find yourself off the beaten path and you just aren’t sure where you are.

Don’t panic—we’ve got some tips for you to arm yourself with next time you head out for a woodland adventure.

Be as prepared as you can be

You never know when you’re going to find yourself lost, but if you’re traveling to a new area, you can make sure that you have some key items on you to ensure that you keep safe if you get lost.

Make sure you have plenty of water, a first aid kit, a compass, and some nutritiously-dense food packed in a traveling backpack. If you’re planning on spending a certain amount of time in the woods, pack more food and water than you think you'll need.

Make sure that you have fire starts, water purifiers, basic tools, and a blanket if the temperatures are dropping at night.

Also, take a look at a map of the area before you start your journey, and bring a map with you. Familiarizing yourself with the terrain could help set you back on the right path later in the day.

Stay calm and take time to think and prioritize

Saving your energy is extremely important because you don’t know when you’re going to find your place or your way back to where you were going or came from. If rescuers are out looking for you, keeping in one place is going to make their job easier.

So, stay put and get to building a shelter and fire—this will help to protect you from hyperthermia and wild animals. Shelters to look for are caves (be careful that these aren’t already occupied by wildlife), rock outcroppings, or beneath trees. Make sure that your fire is in a safe location as to not cause any wildfires or damage the area at all.

Next, find water. This is where your water purifiers come into play, too. You can also boil water if you build a fire and have a pot—just make sure it’s at a rolling boil for at least three minutes to kill any bacteria. Only leave your shelter to get water, and make sure you leave a clear path so you can find your way back or rescuers can find their way to you.

The best place to find water is in a valley—water runs downhill, so travel in that direction. This is a great place to set up your shelter as well—easy access to water throughout your time will only help you.

Signaling rescuers regularly

One of the best precautions you can take before heading out into the wild is letting someone know where you’re going. This is one of the best steps you can take to help out if you happen to find yourself alone in the woods.

If you have a whistle, sound it off regularly and wait to see if you hear the response of a rescue team. While this won’t give off your exact location, whistling frequently will help them travel towards the sound.

If you have a mirror, use it to try and send your location to an aircraft overhead—three smoke fires/signals work in the same way as they are a signal of distress.

Overall, don’t panic. If you take the right precautions beforehand and the right actions during, you’ll be well on your way to finding your way back home.