Surviving the outdoors (Finding your way safely back home)

It just takes a minute to get turned around.

There are ever so many ways to lose your way “Out There”, and before you know it, you can be faced with Surviving the outdoors, and/or finding your way back home .. Ideally arriving there Relatively Unscathed.

The most common ways that people get in trouble “Out There”:

  • Wandering off of the trail: This is one of the major causes of people finding themselves lost. Whether you are looking for something in particular .. Following an “animal trail” .. Or just not paying attention, eventually you might note that “One Tree Looks pretty much Like All The Others” .. And unless you are one of that rare breed of woodsman, with an unerring sense of direction, in no time at all, Panic will grab you, and you will lose hope of ever getting out of there.
  • Bad weather: The Weather is one of the things that you really can’t do anything about. A sudden downpour of rain (or Snow or Hail) can leave you soaked and traversing suddenly slippery and treacherous terrain .. Which can lead to Hypothermia as well as Injury due to the now problematic footing. Or, Perhaps a sudden Cold front moves in – that you are not dressed or prepared for .. And you now face an unexpected night in the woods .. Or perhaps High winds cause falling limbs or even trees – making even standing still a chance for things to take a turn for the worst.
  • Falling off trail: Perhaps, due to the conditions above, Or perhaps just difficult trail conditions – and a moment of In attention, and a Fall could leave you in a serious situation.
  • Getting separated from your group: For any number of reasons, you might find yourself separated from your companions .. And that can put all of you in danger, as you will want to reconnect with your fellows, and as that might not be possible, you might be expending too much energy and thought on finding them, instead of caring for your own personal situation.
  • Injury: There is no end of ways that you might become injured or incapacitated – A Fall .. Something falling on you .. Getting something in your eye .. Being attacked by a ticked-off squirrel etc .. And being able to deal with your injuries is covered in another post, but you should be able to deal with at least minor Owies, and at least Not Die from Major Owies, till help arrives …
  • Darkness: People who find themselves away from their familiar locale, when darkness begins to fall, tend to panic, and accidents can happen even quicker, with less light and mounting anxiety ..
  • Loss or failure of equipment: Having the right gear and equipment can mean the difference between a fun adventure, and a Disaster .. Yet, If some of your equipment Fails, it could be just as bad as not having any at all. From something as simple as a Match gets wet, to your GPS unit that gets dropped in the creek .. Or your knife that gets left behind, when you stopped to get a drink from the creek …..
  • Other:

Wayfinding in the wilderness

Many Moons ago – early to mid 50s? – My Father Taught me many things about Wandering Through The Wilderness, and Surviving the outdoors .. And one thing that he taught me (that he thought was quite important) was the use of a Map and Compass. So by the time I joined the Boy Scouts, I already had that skill down pat .. As well as many others.

To this day, I Never Wander or go Trekking without a Compass (and as often as possible, A Large-scale Topographical Map (typically 7.5-minute or 15-minute / 1:24,000 .. 1:50,000) of the expected AO

The 2 compasses I usually have with me are:

Marbles Pin-On Compass: I picked this compass up at a gun show back in the early 80s – and I have had it either attached to my Trekking Bag, or to myself, when I am actually hiking. It is definitely Not an Orienteering compass, nor a ‘sighting’ compass .. But, it will definitely keep me on a straight track, and has never failed to get met back to camp.

I never liked the “Pin On” part of it, so I cut that mostly off, leaving a loop that I have a leather boot lace attached to, and when I am wandering, I attach it through one of the button holes on my Trekking ‘shirt’, where it is always readily available to take a peek at – just to keep myself on track.

Silva Guide Compass: This is a relatively cheap compass, that I picked up somewhere years back, and it has been Many Miles with me.

It folds for safety and to protect the element and mirror inside .. The rotating bezel makes for setting an azimuth easy, and is simple to use in conjunction with your Map, in plotting routes – and staying on course. (Note – The internal mirror can be used for Signaling – as well as ‘seeing’ places that you cannot see directly – like looking for something in your eye)

Pace Beads: Another useful “tool” you might want to learn to us, is a simple set of Pace Beads (these can be purchased cheap – or you can make them yourself quite easily, once you understand their function.

Using these in conjunction with your Compass (and Map?) will give you a complete Navigation System .. That will allow you to get from Point-A to Point-B .. And as importantly, to get Back.

A Few other methods:

There are other ways to determine direction – and/or keep you on track.

One of the best/ the easiest ways – assuming you have an initial bearing, is to look for a landmark in that direction .. A Tree .. A Rock .. A hilltop .. And then head to that spot .. And then find another along the same direction and head to it .. etc etc ………..

Another way to ‘stay in track’ is to determine the direction you are wanting to go to .. And then observe where The Sun is in the sky .. And keep it there (‘tho the relative location changes over time, so you will need to re-calculate every so long (every 1,000 meters?) .. Note – This gets easier with practice – and is just a rough estimate method, but can keep you from Circling.

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