How to Find Your Way If You Get Lost

There is nothing quite as exciting as reconnecting with nature by going on a hiking trip with nothing but a backpack. However, there is nothing quite as scary as ending up lost in an unfamiliar place where your ability to call for help is limited. While the GPS on a cell phone has made it easier than ever before to keep you from getting lost, it still does not eliminate the need to prepare a plan of action. Such a plan can help you remember all the steps to take to find your way back home if the place where you get lost happens to be a place that does not have any cell phone reception. Fortunately, you have a few options if you prepare ahead of time and you familiarize yourself with the signs of human life to look out for in your surroundings.

Using a Map or a Compass to Find Your Way Back

It makes little sense to go somewhere unfamiliar at random without a physical record of its location. In the absence of a functioning GPS, the next best thing is a map. It features printed street names along with layouts of forests and lakes in parks. In addition to street names, try to remember visual details of the area where you parked your car.

If you don’t have a map and can’t access GPS, then use a compass. Even cell phones have them these days, and they do not need internet access. However, it helps to have a real compass as a backup in case your cell phone runs out of power. The trade-off is that your cell phone’s compass might be less complicated to see in case you still are lost at night. Always remember to bring a flashlight with you if you are still outside when it gets dark.

Using the Sun, Moon, and Stars to Find Your Way Back

A map and a compass are the easiest ways to get home without a GPS. However, if you do not have them, then avoid panicking. You can still get back the old-fashioned way: nature’s way. If you get lost during the daytime, then find a stick, point it upright into a flat patch of the ground, and mark the shadow in the dirt every fifteen minutes. Based on what part of the world you are in, you can use that to determine north, south, east, and west. The southern sides of objects in the Northern Hemisphere get more light than the northern side; the inverse is the case in the Southern Hemisphere.

If it is nighttime, then it helps to have some knowledge of the stars and what their positions mean. Constellations do more than illuminate the sky; they have helped wayward explorers find their destinations for generations. The star at the very tip of the Little Dipper’s handle is known as Polaris, the North Star. Point to it and draw a line down to the horizon with your finger. That point where it intersects is due north.

It also helps to remember that moonlight is just reflected sunlight. Use the phase of the moon to find east and west. If the shape is like a crescent, then draw a line between its two points and bring it down to the horizon. North is where the line hits the ground.

Signs of Human Activity to Look Out For

As you continue your journey through unfamiliar territory, you will need to familiarize yourself with the signs of what to look for so that you will know you are headed closer toward a place where there will be other people. Footprints are a visible sign of life proving that other people have been in the area recently. Another sign of life that may be helpful, albeit in an unconventional way, is that if there are fresh animal feces on the ground from an animal such as a dog or a horse, then the smell might lead back to civilization. Other waste humans left behind can prove useful, whether it is litter or an old campsite. At night, look around for signs of artificial light.

In addition to visual cues, it helps to listen for aural signals that may indicate other humans in the vicinity. Listen for church bells, footprints, or vehicles’ engines. Those are the most common signs of life that can help you find your way back.

Staying Safe in Case of a Natural Disaster

Most of the time, you should always be moving to get back to the place where you came from originally. However, sometimes that might not only be a bad idea but one that might be hazardous to your health. Such natural disasters as fires or floods may be among those times. Venturing any further into unfamiliar territory than you already have may ultimately prove fatal. If a worst case scenario such as that should occur, do not move around as soon as you find a safe place. Stay where you are so that rescue services can get to you before the situation gets any worse.

Wrap Up

Getting lost in nature is never fun. Not only can it spoil your plans, but it can be dangerous if it happens in an unfamiliar place with very little development or wifi access, such as a forest in a high mountain range or a rural area that is far from the main road. It is wise to take all precautions to keep yourself from getting lost, but it is wiser yet to make sure to prepare yourself for the worst case scenario just in case yours is the one time that happens to be it. There is always a way to get back without the need to fall back on computer technology; some of them take more effort than others. All of them may prove to be essential tools to have at your disposal in case you find yourself in such a situation.