Lost in the Woods? Use this Guide to Quickly Navigate Back

Lost in the Woods? Use this Guide to Quickly Navigate Back

August 13, 2018 0 By catalystwp

lost in the woods

Words by Sean Gu of VentureSeekr-


lost in the woods

Image by Tirachard Kumtanom


As avid adventurists and explorers, we are tempted to take the road less traveled – occupational hazard we supposed. Each year, explorers and wilderness enthusiasts find themselves in similar situations. Many don’t need to imagine the scenario of not knowing where the heck you are while losing light. 

Today, we explore trail-proven strategies and best practices to find your way back while increasing your odds of “staying found” by following these tips…

Better your odds – Keep Maps and Devices High and Dry

The first piece of advice is obvious but often overlooked. When your mobile device is used on a daily basis to tweet about adventures, it places itself lower on the ladder or importance when compared to, lets say, a dire situation where light is escaping by the minute and you find yourself (seemingly) miles away from camp.

Simply keeping your map in front of you at all time and keeping essentials dry while actively identifying landmarks on the map during your trek is normally all that’s needed to keep from being ‘disorientated’. Another handy trick is to get into the habit of turning that map so it’s always pointed the way you’re going. What’s more, Downloading Offline Maps of where you’re going, and the surrounding territories you think you’ll be can be time (and life!) saving.

Keep Calm and Assess of Your Situation

This may be the most important tip, precisely when coming to the realisation of a predicament. Everyone has been moulded to confronting challenges differently and it’s crucial to keep a clear head when finding yourself in a quandary, which in many cases seems bigger than it actually is.

The biggest help to yourself is simply to stop and think. All too often, we run off and take action, even if it’s the wrong action without realising that Direction is so much more important than Speed. Set a plan, assess and come up with a strategy to save daylight and energy by asking yourself:

  • Where did I come from and what do I recognise?
  • What do I have with me and what is available?
  • What are my immediate priorities?

Answer these questions and find a simple and clear strategy out of the woods.

Find Water, above all else

This can’t be stressed enough. The human body needs nutrients and water to survive. We can go for over three weeks without food in dire situations, and have stretched this number further — Mahatma Gandhi survived 21 days of complete starvation. Water is a different story.

More than half of our bodies is made of this stuff, because it plays crucial roles in so many systems – as a lubricant for our joints, as a regulator for body temperature, and as a garbage disposal for waste.

Find a source of clean water, drink it, and take it with you.


compass for traveler
Image from rawpixel.com


Observe your Surroundings

We all know, and would probably like to avoid the situation of finding our way back and ending up where we started – minutes or hours later. This is why it’s crucial to learn to become a human compass when we find ourselves astray.

Take a good look around. What do you see? If the answer is a dense forest, pinpointing your location will be difficult. If possible, find higher ground, giving you a better view of the surrounding landscape.

And most importantly, keep a super-keen ear out for anything which could hint at making progress in the right direction, other people in the area, campsites or (gasp!) wild animals which may be in the vicinity.

Find Elevation

Supremely helpful and serves multiple purposes of keeping safe, finding your bearings and bettering your chances (worst case) of being rescued if needed.

From a higher vantage point, you have a much better chance of seeing a river, lake, road, or church steeple that can help you orient yourself. Otherwise, you may end up walking directionless – and possibly in circles. If you don’t know what’s in your vicinity, you might walk by a building or landmark hidden by trees.

Bonus: Find or Build Shelter

If daylight becomes a challenge, your priorities will tend to shift – and quickly. This is where ones ingenuity and craftiness comes into great use – you never know when the need will arise to quickly build temporary shelter to survive comfortably in the elements.

Without structures, housing, or portable buildings in the vicinity, an adventurist quickly turns into a survivalist of sorts. Many types of variables will help make the decision on the type and location of your temporary home – which is exactly why this topic deems a need for a separate article.

Turn your experience into a Valuable Learning Experience

We don’t suggest to bask in the situation of getting lost of going out to find trouble during your next trip – not in the least. However, challenges are rewarding when we take something from the experience. Prepare to ‘expect’ the unexpected and have the correct mindset to adapt quickly in unknown places. Even if you are going out for just a short day trip lasting a (expected!) few hours, pack enough essentials that you can stay hydrated, fueled and prepared for any type of weather.